Archive for August 2012

Superfoods- scientifically speaking what are they?

Superfoods is yet another ambiguous food phrase to go along with “all-natural,” “no sugar added,” and “no artificial flavours or colours”.Superfoods- scientifically speaking what are they?There really are foods that many nutritionists consider superfoods. But these foods won’t come from your nearest take away or processed, pre-packaged food from the grocery store.

Why? Because they are all going to be a real (unprocessed) food.

What makes them so super? There isn’t a universally or nutritionally tested way of determining what foods are actually “super.”

But many health experts consider any whole food that is low in calories and has a high nutrient density or above average nutritional benefits is a superfood.

These nutritional benefits vary greatly depending upon the particular superfood, but according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), many of these antioxidant-rich foods may help reduce your risk for fatal diseases like cancer. In fact, according to the 2011 ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, a third of the annual cancer deaths in the United States are caused by poor diet and lack of adequate physical activity.

Here are three nutritious, real, and tasty foods that could easily be considered superfoods because of their numerous health benefits. The etxra good news is that they are all in season?

Blueberries — These sweet and naturally blue berries are crammed with disease-fighting antioxidants, known to help alleviate the damage done by inflammation. Other benefits come in the form of ellagitannin and anthocyanin, both of which are believed to be effective against certain types of cancers, including breast and esophageal cancers. They are great in smoothies or as a sweet pairing with some grilled pork chops fresh off the barbecue.

Red bell peppers — While all peppers are low in calories and are a healthy option for any meal, red peppers — which taste sweeter and aren’t as spicy as other varieties — pack a special nutritional punch. They contain 11 times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers and also give you 240 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. Fajitas, anyone?

Watermelon — Yes, it’s hard to believe, but this tasty summer treat provides some awesome nutritional support for your body. Aside from refreshing you on a hot day, this fruit also delivers significant amounts of lycopene, a carotenoid present in many superfoods. A recent study led by food scientists at Florida State University even suggests that watermelon can be an effective weapon against prehypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.

So now you have a little background into what makes a food “super.”

Hopefully this has got you thinking about the foods you’re putting in your body and how they might be affecting your long term health.

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Why women may live longer than men

The reason why women tend to live longer than men could be because a crucial part of their cells has fewer harmful flaws than men new reserach suggests.Why women may live longer than menResearchers have found that faults in a part of the “engine rooms” of cells known as the mitochondria have a greater effect on men than women.

That’s because of a quirk of evolution their make-up or DNA is inherited solely from the mother and so is only screened by natural selection for mutations harmful to women.

Any that are damaging to men but not women slip through the net and slowly over time undermine the health of male cells.

“While children receive copies of most of their genes from both their mothers and fathers, they only receive mitochondrial genes from their mothers,” said lead scientist Dr Damian Dowling, from Monash University in Australia.

“This means that evolution’s quality control process, known as natural selection, only screens the quality of mitochondrial genes in mothers. If a mitochondrial mutation occurs that harms fathers, but has no effect on mothers, this mutation will slip through the gaze of natural selection, unnoticed.  Over thousands of generations, many such mutations have accumulated that harm only males, while leaving females unscathed.”

Co-researcher Dr David Clancy from the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster University said this is a major advance in biology.

“We show that Mother’s Curse is much broader in its effects on male life history than previously envisaged, resulting in the build-up of mutations that cause males to age faster, and live shorter lives than females.

“These findings …offer a new and compelling explanation to one of life’s greatest puzzles – why the female of many species, including humans, live longer than the males. “

The evidence emerged from studies of male and female fruit flies. The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

It found that genetic variation across mitochondria was a reliable predictor of life expectancy in male, but not female, flies.  Most inherited DNA, comprising the majority of genes, is wrapped up in the nucleus at a cell’s heart.

The mitochondria have their own separate DNA, which is also passed down to offspring – but only by mothers.

In earlier research, Dr Dowling’s team linked the maternal inheritance of mitochondria to male infertility.

“Together, our research shows that the mitochondria are hot spots for mutations affecting male health,” said the doctor. “What we seek to do now is investigate the genetic mechanisms that males might arm themselves with to nullify the effects of these harmful mutations and remain healthy.”

The average life expectancy for women in the UK is 82.1 compared with 78.1 in men. Around the world there are nine times as many women over the age of 100 than there are men.

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Infection following a caesarean is more likely if you are obese new research finds

Obese women increase their risk of a surgical wound infection following a caesarean section finds new research.Infection following a caesarean is more likely if you are obese new research findsThe proportion of births delivered by caesarean section in England has risen substantially over the past 30 years from 9% in 1980 to 25% in 2009-10.

This new study estimates that one in ten women develop a post-surgical infection following the procedure, with between 1.2 and 5% of women developing the infection during their inpatient stay.

A total of 4107 operations were included in this study and women were followed up during their inpatient stay, on readmission to hospital, on day visits to hospital, by community midwives up to the last visit and through a self-completed questionnaire. The volunteers were from 14 hospitals already participating in the Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) Surgical Site Infection Surveillance Scheme.

The average age of the women was 31 years (range 14-56) and the average BMI was 25.3 (interdecile range 20.4-35.0).

In total 394 surgical site infections were identified from 4107 operations representing a risk of 9.6%. Of the 394 infections, 348 (88.3%) were superficial incisional affecting the skin and surface layers, 19 (4.8%) deep incisional (affecting deeper tissues) and 27 (6.9%) organ/space infections (affecting internal organs) including endometritis (infection of the womb lining) and reproductive tract infections.

After adjustment for other patient and operation risk factors, the study found that obesity and young age (under 20 years old) were associated with the development of an infection after a caesarean.

Obesity was strongly associated with development of a surgical site infection, with risk increasing with each successive category of BMI.

Compared to women with a normal BMI (18.5 to 25) overweight women (BMI 25-30) were found to have a 1.6 times greater risk of infection than normal weight women, and obese women (BMI more than 30) 2.4 times greater risk.

There was some evidence of an increased likelihood of infection in women aged less than 20 who had a 1.9 times greater risk compared to women 25-30 years following adjustment for other patient and operation risk factors.

Dr Catherine Wloch, Department of Healthcare Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance, Health Protection Agency and lead author of the paper said:

“This study has identified high rates of surgical infection following a caesarean with one in ten women developing an infection. Whilst our study didn’t measure this, these infections are likely to have an impact on a woman’s experience and quality of life.

“Although most caesarean section wound infections are not serious, they do represent a substantial burden to the health system, given the high number of women undergoing this type of surgery. Minor infections can still result in pain and discomfort for the woman and may spread to affect deeper tissues. The more serious infections will require extended hospital stays or readmission to hospital.  Prevention of these infections should be a clinical and public health priority.”

John Thorp, BJOG Deputy-Editor-in-Chief added: “With the rise in numbers of women having a caesarean section and the rise in obesity rates, this issue is an important one. Post-surgical infection can seriously affect a woman’s quality of life at a critical time when she is recovering from an operation and has a new born baby to look after. More needs to be done to look into this and address ways of reducing infection.”


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Smiling is good for the heart

Smiling, grinning and bearing it really might work suggest scientists following research that smiling really can reduce stress and help the heart.Smiling is good for the heartResearchers found smiling can reduce stress levels and lower the heart rate while performing difficult tasks.

Writing in Psychological Science, the authors tell how they studied the effects of different types of smiling in difficult situations.

Tara Kraft, of the University of Kansas, said: “Age old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events.

“We wanted to examine whether these adages had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health relevant benefits.”

She and Dr Sarah Pressman divided smiles into two categories – standard smiles, which use the muscles surrounding the mouth, and genuine or Duchenne smiles, which engage the muscles surrounding both the mouth and the eyes.

Kraft and Pressman worked to manipulate the types of smiles to examine the effects on stress.

They recruited 169 participants from a Midwestern university and divided them into three groups, with each group was trained to hold a different facial expression.

They were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they engaged facial muscles used to create a neutral facial expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile.

Chopsticks were essential to the task because they forced people to smile without the people being aware that they were doing so: only half of the group members were actually instructed to smile.

Participants were then asked to work on multitasking activities which, unknown to them, were designed to be stressful.

During both of the stressful tasks, participants held the chopsticks in their mouth just as they were taught in training and the researchers measured participants’ heart rates and self stress levels.

Compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.

The participants who held chopsticks in a manner that forced them to smile, but were not explicitly told to smile as part of the training, also reported a smaller decrease in positive affect compared to those who held neutral facial expressions.

Dr Pressman said that the findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

She said: “The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment.  Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well.”


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Eating two apples a day reduces heart disease by quarter

Eating two apples a day for six months could help protect women against heart disease by cutting their cholesterol levels by almost a quarter according to new research.Eating two apples a day reduces heart disease by quarterScientists found apples significantly lowered blood fat levels in postmenopausal women, the group most at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Snacking on the fruit every day for six months slashed cholesterol by almost a quarter.

The biggest reduction was seen in low density lipoprotein, the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol that furs up arteries and raises the risk of a life-threatening clot forming near the heart or brain.

The findings, by a team of researchers at Florida State University in the US, support previous evidence that apples could be good for the heart.

But the latest study suggests they could benefit one of the highest risk groups.

Around 45 per cent of British women will suffer from heart disease or a stroke and it is the biggest single cause of death among post-menopausal women.

Up to the menopause, women appear to have a natural immunity to heart disease and the rate of illness is only a third of that seen in men.

But from the age of around 50 onwards, the incidence increases sharply.

Researchers wanted to see if eating the equivalent of two apples every day could have a significant effect on heart disease risk.

They recruited 160 women who had been through the menopause and got half to eat 75 grammes a day of dried apple – the equivalent of two medium sized fresh apples.

As a comparison, the other half were told to eat the same quantity of prunes to see if they had a similar effect. Each volunteer underwent blood tests every three months for one year.

The results, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that after three months total cholesterol levels in the apple eating group had dropped by nine per cent and LDL cholesterol by 16 per cent.

After six months, levels were even lower, with total cholesterol down 13 per cent and LDL levels dropping by 24 per cent. There was no further decline in the remaining six months of the experiment.

Prunes lowered cholesterol levels slightly but not to the same extent as the dried apple.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: ‘Consumption of about two medium-sized apples can significantly lower cholesterol levels as early as three months.’


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Office workers burn as many calories as hunter gatherers

Office workers burn as many calories as their hunter gatherer forebears meaning the obesity epidemic cannot be blamed on our lack of exercise research suggests.Office workers burn as many calories as hunter gatherersResearchers found that western men and women used strikingly similar amounts of energy each day compared with peers from a traditional community from the open savannah of Tanzania.

Despite trekking great distances each day to forage and hunt for game, results showed that the members of the Hadza tribe burned no more calories each day than a group of Americans and Europeans.

Experts have long assumed that our hunter gatherer ancestors would have used up more energy than we do today, indicating that a lack of exercise could be behind the current obesity epidemic.

But the study Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity published in the PLoS ONE journal – the first to directly measure how much energy hunter-gatherers use – suggests that the rate at which humans use up calories remains relatively constant regardless of lifestyle.

Herman Pontzer, of Hunter College in New York, who led the study with colleagues from Stanford and Arizona universities, said: “The vast majority of what we spend our calories on is things you will never see like keeping our organs and immune system going. Physical activity is just the tip of the iceberg.

“If you spend a bit more energy on something like physical activity, you spend a bit less on something else but you do not notice it. This study shows that you can have a very different lifestyle, but energy use all adds up tot he same level no matter what.”

It follows that the modern obesity problem is more likely down to our higher consumption of food than our ancestors, rather than our lower rates of physical activity, he added.

“People argue about why it is that westerners are getting so fat, and at the end of the day it has to be the fact that we are taking in more energy from food than we are burning – but is the big problem that we are taking in too many calories, or that we are not burning enough?

“But even if we had a lifestyle like our ancestors did …we would not burn more calories than we do today. That has not changed a lot, but over the last 50 years we are eating a lot more than we need to be, so that gets to the heart of this issue.”

Despite its apparent limited impact on obesity, Pontzer emphasised that exercise has a wide variety of physical benefits and is essential for keeping the body healthy.

The fact that the Hadza spend more of their daily energy output on physical exercise could be behind the good health of older tribe members, who are much more resistant to chronic illnesses such as heart disease than westerners, he said.

“We are not saying that physical activity is not important for health – clearly it is – but it does not appear to be the main cause of obesity.”

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Cheese eaters could reduce diabetes risk

Scientists say that cheese eaters could reduce their chances of developing type two diabetes by 12 per cent.Cheese eaters could reduce diabetes riskWhilst healthy eaters may try to avoid cheese new research suggests it could actually ward off diabetes.

The chance of developing type 2 diabetes, a condition often linked with obesity, could be reduced by around 12 per cent by regularly snacking on cheese, scientists said.

Although high in saturated fat, it may be rich in types of the fat that could be good for the body, they believe.

Fatty foods have long been thought to raise the risks, but uncertainty about the role of dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, has continued.

Most other dairy foods did not have the same beneficial effect as cheese, with the possible exception of yoghurt, the research found.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of the condition and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin for it to function properly.

Symptoms can be controlled by eating a healthy diet and monitoring your blood glucose level, but sufferers may also need to take insulin medication.

The findings on the effect of cheese The amount and type of dairy product intake and incident type 2 diabetes: results from the EPIC-InterAct Study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, come from one of the largest ever studies to look at the role of diet in health.

One reason why cheese lovers may be at less risk of diabetes could be that the fermentation process triggers some kind of reaction that protects against diabetes and heart problems, the researchers said.

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Diet high in fish and nuts could cut pancreatic cancer risk

Eating a diet rich in fish, nuts and vegetables could reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by up to two thirds new research finds.Diet high in fish and nuts could cut pancreatic cancer riskResearchers from the University of East Anglia found that people who ate large amounts of vitamins C and E and the mineral Selenium were 67 per cent less likely to develop the condition than people who consumed lower quantities.

If further studies prove that the antioxidants were causing the added protection, the finding could prevent one in 12 cases of pancreatic cancer, the researchers suggested.

The disease is diagnosed in 7,500 people each year and has the worst prognosis of any cancer, with only three per cent of patients surviving for more than five years after diagnosis.

The study, published in the Gut journal- the International Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, used data on almost 24,000 men and women aged 40 to 74, taking into account all the food they ate during a week and how it was prepared.

Results showed that the 25 per cent of people who took in the most selenium – a mineral found in nuts, fish and cereals, had half the risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with those whose intake was in the bottom 25 per cent.

Those who were in the top quartile for consumption of vitamins C, E and selenium together were at 67 per cent lower risk of the disease compared to the bottom quartile.

However, in the cases of vitamins C and E, the people consuming the highest amounts were taking in as much as 16 times the recommended daily allowance stipulated by the NHS.

Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables, while vitamin E is in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, margarines and egg yolk.

The authors wrote: “If a causal association is confirmed by reporting consistent findings from other epidemiological studies, then population based dietary recommendations may help to prevent pancreatic cancer.”

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More than half of over 40s are overweight

Some 52 per cent of people over the age of 40 say they are too heavy, compared with 40 per cent of younger people- but most are reluctant to try to lose weight through exercise.More than half of over 40s are overweightJust one in ten over 50s meet the recommended target of moderate exercise, such as fast walking, for half an hour, five times a week and a third admit to doing none whatsoever, the survey for Saga Health Insurance found.

While 37 per cent of over 50s who do not exercise said they were physically unable to, 31 per cent said they were not motivated to get fitter and 22 per cent described themselves as “too lazy”.

Of the over 50s who do exercise regularly, more than half said walking was their main form of exercise while 13 per cent swim and 10 per cent choose to cycle.

The Populus survey, which also included questions about participants’ diet, found that a third of over 50s eat the recommended five proportions of fruit and vegetable a day, compared with just a fifth of under-50s.

Fourteen per cent of the older group said they regularly exceed the recommended 21 units of alcohol per week, compared with just eight per cent of younger people.

Roger Ramsden, chief executive of Saga Services, said: “Whilst the over 50s tend to get it right with healthy eating, what they appear to need is something to motivate them to exercise.”


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Five cups of coffee a day as bad as smoking for IVF success

Drinking five or more cups of coffee a day – or similar amounts of tea – is as bad as smoking for women who want to get pregnant via IVF, say researchers.Five cups of coffee a day as bad as smoking for IVF successThe Danish team found women who drank that amount halved their chances of getting pregnant via fertility treatment, compared to those who drank none.

Dr Ulrik Kesmodel, of Aarhus University Hospital, said: “Although we were not surprised that coffee consumption appears to affect pregnancy rates in IVF, we were surprised at the magnitude of the effect.”

He described the adverse impact on IVF success as “comparable to the detrimental effect of smoking”.

Caffeine is believed to be the culprit, although nobody knows for sure.

He said: “If we believe it’s caffeine which does the damage, then we need to mention tea.”

A cup of instant coffee contains about 100mg of coffee, while a cup of tea contains half that.

Dr Kesmodel said women who drank 10 or more cups of tea a day should therefore cut down. He said five per cent of the 4,000 women they interviewed admitted drinking five or more cups of coffee daily.

He emphasised they found no effect on IVF pregnancy rates among those who drank less than that.

In 2008 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said pregnant women should consume no more than 200mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy, after studies indicated drinking more than that could increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Its previous limit was 300mg.

At the time, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said that “caffeine consumption has adverse effects on reproduction, including IVF treatment”.


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