Coca-Cola Joins Fight Against Obesity Epidemic

The estimate that two-thirds of Americans are obese is a statistic that doesn’t even need to be repeated anymore because it has been echoed over and over. In fact, the problem has become such a large epidemic that even Coca-Cola of all companies has joined the anti-obesity crusade.

Coca-Cola, the manufacturer of the world’s most popular and sugar-laden soft drink, has pledged its commitment to curb the rising rate of obesity among adults and children by launching an ad campaign to reinforce its efforts to work with the government and communities to find real-world solutions to reducing America’s growing waistline.

The ad points out that of its 650 beverage products, 180 of them offer zero or reduced calories. The ad was a response to increased attacks made by health advocates against the beverage company, which was led mostly by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Back in October, the CSPI released its own animated short film known as “The Real Bears,” which was aimed at mocking Coca-Cola’s polar bear mascot and urged Americans to ditch sodas and other sugary beverages.

Coca-Cola refuted CSPI’s video and stated that the real key to combating obesity is to cut back on calories, no matter where the source of the calories comes from. CSPI, however, fired back and said that Coca-Cola only released its own ad to protect its own image and has no real intention or interest of fighting national obesity.

CSPI did, however, concede that soda, if consumed in moderation, can be a part of a healthy diet. It added that the problem is the fact that people are now guzzling soda in huge containers on nearly a daily basis. This is something that even Coca-Cola has agreed on and has pledged to address through the release of new portion-controlled sizes.

Chewing Foods for Longer Periods may Help Curb Appetite

Christmas is normally one of those rare moments when you allow yourself to indulge whatever is on the dinner table. This means scarfing down that extra helping of turkey and following up with a large plate of pie with a scooping of ice cream. Now that Christmas is over and New Year’s is approaching, dieting may be a part of your resolution for 2013. If so, then you may want to consider chewing your food for longer periods as a way of reducing appetite.

New research suggests that chewing every mouthful of food for a minimum duration of 30 seconds can serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. This means less snacking after a meal, which means less calories consumed.

The experiment was conducted at the University of Birmingham and consisted of 43 student volunteers who were all given identical meals of the same type and portion. A third of the participants were simply instructed to eat as they usually would without any deviation. Another third was told to pause for 10 seconds between each swallowing of food and the final third told to chew for 30 seconds with each bite.

Two hours after the meal, they were given a plateful of sweets and were monitored on the amount they consumed. The results showed that those that ate the meal in their normal manner and those that paused between bites ate twice the amount of sweets on their plate as those that chewed their meals for 30 seconds.

However, further analysis showed that chewing foods for prolonged periods also came with a price. Those in the study that were instructed to chew their foods for 30 seconds also reported less enjoyment of the food as it felt more like a chore.

Nevertheless, chewing your foods for longer duration may be worth a try if you are trying to fit into a new dress of pair of jeans for 2013.

Changes in the Nutrition Label for 2013

Maybe you look at them, maybe you don’t. However, for health buffs, the nutrition label is an integral piece of information that determines whether a particular type of food should go in their shopping cart. Some experts, however, agree that the nutrition label is outdated and needs to be revamped. As 2013 approaches, some changes may be made to the nutrition label that we are so accustomed to seeing on food packages.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the changes should place more emphasis on the total calories and remove the section that indicates the amount of calories from fat. CSPI also expressed the need for changes in the food itself. This includes pressuring manufacturers to put an end to the use of partially hydrogenated oils.

In addition, it also added that labels should use the word “high” to indicate when a food is high in cholesterol, sodium, added sugar and saturated fat. Also, the CSPI is recommending that nutrition labels be moved to the front of the package rather than being on the back or the side.

On top of the changes, CSPI is also mounting an effort to put a halt to labeling that is deemed to be deceptive. This includes using terms like “heart healthy,” “natural,” “antioxidants” and “0g trans-fat.” That last one is especially deceptive as any food that contains partially hydrogenated oils contains some level of trans-fat.

Other health experts have all echoed similar sentiments and believe that the nutrition label should actually contain less information as this makes it easier for consumers to skim and read.

Even with changes in the label, a lot of it still comes down to common sense. If you are trying to slim down, then it is not rocket science to know that a bag of potato chips or cookies is not going to do you any favors regardless of what the label says.

Coconut Water may not be Worth the Hype as Previously Thought

Every now and then, a certain type of food makes headlines after research suggests that it is rich in antioxidants and contains nutrients that can fight off disease and premature aging. Some of these foods include pink salmon, wild berries, dark chocolate and flax seeds. For the most part, most of these foods are well deserving of its reputation. However, once in a while, some foods and supplements also make it on the list that could probably benefit from a little more research before it earns a spot among the list of wonder foods.

Coconut water is one beverage that is being touted for its health benefits though some experts are beginning to suspect that most of the claims by manufacturers are mostly fluff and hype. Most brands of coconut water are derived from the liquid in ripe green coconuts. To enhance the flavor, sugar and additional ingredients have been added in some brands.

Coconuts contain a high amount of potassium, so coconut water found on store shelves do actually contain some nutritional benefits. The problem is whether the benefits warrant the high cost. A 14 ounce bottle of the beverage from a popular brand can run as high as $3.50. You have to wonder whether such a beverage is worth that price when other foods like bananas and potatoes contain just as much potassium and are also much cheaper.

At an annual meeting held by the American Chemical Society, researchers submitted findings that showed that coconuts also contain electrolytes, which makes it a useful pre and post workout beverage. It is also a low glycemic food, which means it will not cause your blood sugar to spike.

Coconut is a legitimate health food; as long as you choose a brand of coconut water that is sugar-free and have no issue with the high price tag, then it is something that you can definitely benefit from. Just keep in mind that the nutritional content found in coconuts can also be easily found in most other foods at a much lower cost.

Study Shows that Organic Foods are No More Nutritious than Non-Organic Foods

Organic food has often been touted as being superior to conventional foods, which have been extensively modified through the spray of pesticides and being genetically modified in laboratories. Despite costing more, more people are beginning to spend more on organic produce, dairy and meat for their perceived superior health benefits. However, those perceptions are now being challenged after a study concluded that organic food is no more nutritious than normal foods.

The study was conducted at Stanford University where the nutritional content of organic fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and nuts were tested and compared with their conventional counterparts. The results showed that in terms of nutritional content, the organic foods were no better than the normal ones.

Does this mean that consumers are throwing their money away by buying organic? Not quite; while organic and conventional foods may be equal in terms of vitamins and nutrition, organic options are free of fertilizers and synthetic pesticides as well as artificial hormones and antibiotics. Organic farms are also required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow their livestock to graze freely in pastures instead of keeping them cooped up in cramped cages and stables.

The study did, however, conclude that most organic foods do have a slightly higher concentration of phosphorus. Organic chicken and milk also had slightly higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. Furthermore, conventional produce and fruits did show higher traces of residue from pesticides. In addition, organic meat and poultry were less likely to contain traces of bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics.

The verdict is still out there on the validity of organic foods and whether it is really worth the extra cost. That is something the consumers have to decide for themselves. The study, however, does give shoppers something to think about when they make their next trip to the grocery store.

Eating Eggs as Bad for Your Health as Smoking?

Whether you enjoy them scrambled, hard boiled or sunny side up, eggs are enjoyed by people all over the world. In addition, they are also a good protein source for vegetarians. Eggs are normally vilified for its high cholesterol content though there is some debate whether the cholesterol in eggs really contributes to bad cholesterol in your body. The health implications of eating eggs are being questioned once again as a new study suggests that too much eggs for breakfast can actually be as detrimental to your health as smoking.

The study consisted of over 1,200 participants who were questioned about the amount of eggs they consumed per week. On Average, those who ate two or more showed slightly higher levels of plaque building up around their arteries, a problem that is exhibited by those who regularly light up. Through this study, some would conclude that egg consumption contributes to the hardening of the arteries.

Does this mean eggs should be eliminated from your diet? Not necessarily, according to Alan Aragon, M.S., a nutrition consultant for Men’s Health magazine. He cites that previous research have showed no correlation between egg consumption and heart disease. Aragon also points out that the study was an observational one, which shows that while egg yolk may have some sort of association with plaque formation, it does not mean that they cause plaque in the arteries.

This is sure to be a sigh of relief for egg lovers. In fact, if you love eggs, then you may also be pleased to learn that other studies have shown that eggs may actually contribute to the increase of HDL, which is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol in your body. If you normally crack an egg into the frying pan every morning, then it looks like there is no need for you to stop.

USDA Retracts its Support for Meatless Mondays

Some advocates are lobbying for the country to embrace meatless Mondays. This is an initiative for people to eliminate meat from their diets one day out of the week. With this policy, participating schools and restaurants will remove all meat from its lunches and menus on Mondays. Advocates say this will help the environment tremendously, as the production of meat, especially cattle, creates waste water, fossil fuel and fertilizer, all of which can ultimately have an effect on climate change.

The policy initially received support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the USDA quickly did a 180 and retracted the support after receiving harsh criticism from cattle farmers who say that such a policy could hurt their livelihood. The USDA has now tweeted that it no longer supports meatless Mondays.

Peggy Nue, who runs Monday Campaigns, an organization that supports Meatless Mondays, says that giving up meat just one day a week can greatly reduce one’s overall intake of saturated fats, which can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. She added that this would also cut down on the production of meat, which can be beneficial for the environment. Cattle and other livestock produce manure that contains methane gas, which emits greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Cattle ranchers and republican lawmakers are intervening to put a halt to Meatless Mondays, citing that the production of cattle is vital for most businesses that are involved in meat export and trade. The American Meat Institute has also stepped in and said that the daily consumption of meat by the average American is within recommended dietary guidelines.

Meatless Mondays is turning out to be a complex issue; while people want to help out the environment and improve their health while at it, they also need to be careful about the businesses that could be hurt by their decisions.

Almonds a Healthy Substitute for Weight Loss

When people go on a diet, not only do they need to cut down on the total amount of calories they consume daily, but they also have to be more selective with the type of calories they eat. This means substituting potato chips, cookies and soda for healthier options.

There are plenty of healthy snacks that are just as tasty. Nuts, and particularly almonds, for example, are one such type of snack. A new study was conducted that consisted of 123 obese adults who followed a specific calorie-controlled diet for 18 months.

While all the subjects were given the same amount of total calories, half of them were given two 28-gram packages of almonds to consume every day. The other half were told to avoid any type of nuts completely.

About six months into the study, the group that consumed the nuts had a higher average weight loss than the group that refrained from them. The group that ate the almonds also showed a higher drop in cholesterol levels. After 18 months, the cholesterol levels from both groups have risen though the group that consumed the almonds still showed a slight lower average.

The results seem to indicate that almonds, when eaten in moderation, can be useful for weight loss and have additional benefits as well. Past studies do indicate that nuts play a role in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat that forms in the blood.

Nuts have traditionally been vilified due to its high fat content. However, most health experts believe that nuts can be beneficial for a dieter because of their rich levels of vitamin E, potassium, magnesium and fiber. Researchers also believe that nuts can help fight off cravings due to its crunchy texture and taste. The take-home message here is not to eat all the almonds you want, but that they can be incorporated into any diet plan for healthy weight loss.

Vitamin D at High Doses May Reduce Risk of Bone Fracture

Health experts have long advised not to over rely on supplements. They should only be taken in conjunction with a balanced diet to ensure that you receive your daily dose of vitamins and minerals.

Seniors are often told by their doctor to take a vitamin D supplement, which can aid in preserving bone density and health. However, there are some mixed opinions about vitamin D in pill form. In fact, various studies yield conflicting reports about the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements.

Due to the inconsistency from prior research, a new study has collected data from 11 previous clinical studies, which consist of a total of over 31,000 participants over the age of 65. It found that vitamin D is in fact capable of reducing the risk of bone fracture, though only when taken in high doses.

The report showed that when combined with calcium, those who consumed more than 800 international units of vitamin D daily reduced the likelihood of bone fracture by up to 14 percent.

The high dose would account for the inconsistent findings in previous studies, in which subjects consumed vitamin D in various amounts.

Despite the findings, some experts still say that consuming more than 800 IU of vitamin D in capsule form is unnecessary. This is because vitamin D can be found in most foods and is even produced in the body naturally when exposed to sunlight.

Even with the recent research, some researchers say there is still not enough evidence to conclude that vitamin D plays a role in preventing bone fracture. Even the recommended dose of 800 IU a day is not a set figure, as the daily amount really differs from one person to the next.

As always, the best recommendation is to eat a balanced diet and never look to supplements as a substitute. This goes for Vitamin D as well as for all other vitamins and minerals.