High Protein Diets not as Healthy as once Thought

Most people are familiar with the Atkins diet. It’s a diet where people up their intake of protein and fat while cutting down on carbohydrates. The diet became very popular during the early 2000s and many people swear by it and owe their weight loss success to it. However, while it may be effective for fat loss, there may be unwanted side effects involved. A new study now shows that the Atkins diet may increase the risk of heart disease.

The research was conducted by Pagona Lagiou, who works out of the University of Athens Medical School. The long-term study consisted of 43,000 women between the ages of 30-49. The study lasted for about 16 year, during which the women’s dietary habits were closely monitored. The results showed that the women who followed a low carb and high protein diet were five percent more likely to develop heart complications. When the study came to an end, 1,270 of the women have contracted some form of heart disease.

The researchers also found that even consuming an extra five grams of protein and cutting carbs by 20 grams a day can contribute to heart disease.

This study, however, does contradict the results of prior research. An earlier study done in 1991 showed no correlation between an Atkins-like diet and heart disease. More recent studies, on the other hand, do show that these kinds of diets are only beneficial for short-term weight loss, as they are very difficult to maintain.

Researchers believe that such diets can still be applied in a healthy way if the extra protein intake comes from plant-based foods. As for carbs, it is best to cut down on refined and simple carbohydrates, such as white bread and sugary based foods.

As always, the best diet is one that involves a balance of all the food groups where everything is consumed in healthy moderation.

Obesity Linked to Discount Grocery Stores

Obesity is clearly linked to people’s dietary habits and what they decide to put in their mouths. It has long been thought that obesity is linked to the nearby presence of fast food diners and stores that sell unhealthy food options. This argument was used to account for the high obesity rate in poor neighborhoods, where there is a greater concentration of fast food joints. However, new study shows that this may not be the case.

Research found that those who shop at pricier supermarkets have a lower rate of obesity, as opposed to those who primarily obtain their foods from lower priced stores.

The study consisted of a survey over the phone in which participants were asked questions about their shopping habits, such as where they shopped and food brands they normally pick out. Information regarding the surveyor’s income, education and demographics were also collected.

The findings showed that only about one in seven people selected their shopping location based on its proximity from their home. This suggests that grocery store location may not influence obesity to the degree previously suspected.

What the study did show was that the obesity rate was 27 percent for the category of those who reported shopping at low-cost and thrift supermarkets. This is compared to just nine percent for those who shop at higher priced grocery outlets.

According to a report from the American Public Health Association, the key to combating obesity is to make healthier food options more affordable, especially in low income cities.

The problem is that a box of Twinkies tends to be cheaper than a bag of apples or oranges. It is hard to make informed decisions about food choice when your selection is seriously limited by your income. People will gravitate towards healthier and natural foods when their price is eliminated as a roadblock.

Why Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

You may have heard the phrase that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Going about your day on an empty stomach can have an adverse effect on your concentration and energy levels. A new study now reveals that breakfast may even be more beneficial than previously thought.

According to recent research, eating breakfast daily can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Of course, this is not definitive proof that breakfast in itself is the sole contributor to a healthier lifestyle. Those who eat breakfast are also less likely to consume snacks and junk food between meals, which can attribute to weight gain and unhealthy spikes or drops in blood pressure.

The study findings were presented at a conference for the American Diabetes Association. The experiment consisted of 5,000 participants, none of whom had type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. The long-term research lasted 18 years, and seven years into it, participants completed surveys regarding their eating habits. What the questionnaire showed was that those who regularly ate breakfast were 30 percent less likely to become diabetic as well as 40 percent less likely to become obese.

Even those who skipped breakfast occasionally – one to three times a week – were 20 percent less likely to be obese or diabetic than those who would skip breakfast four times or more a week.

Other conditions were taken into consideration as well, such as whether the participants smoked, consumed alcohol, exercised or ate fast food.

Also, those who ate breakfast appeared to have benefited regardless of what they ate. Even so, it is common sense to stick with healthy options. Instead of a doughnut, bear claw or pancakes drenched in maple syrup, your breakfast choice should consist of fruit and vegetables with a serving of whole grains and lean protein.

Bananas just as Beneficial as Sports Beverages

Beginning an exercise session is one thing, but maintaining it is a whole other story. Fatigue can cut a workout short; if you feel like there is nothing left in your gas tank, then your performance will suffer.

For these reasons, people often turn to sports drinks to give themselves a boost in energy. It’s not uncommon to guzzle down a bottle of Gatorade right before and after a trip to the gym. Sports drinks restore lost electrolytes and can offset the feeling of fatigue and being out of breath.

While sports drinks can provide the much needed boost, they also contain nearly as much sugar as the typical fountain drink. They also tend to be more expensive than a bottle of water.

For those looking for an alternative source of fuel, scientists have discovered a more natural solution that is just as effective. Research done at Appalachian State University discovered that bananas produced the same level of energy as carbohydrate sports drinks.

The study was done on athletes who underwent an intense session of cycling. Athletes were fed either a banana or a cup of energy drink every 15 minutes for three hours. The performance output was roughly the same for those who consumed a banana as those who had the energy drink.

Not only were bananas just as effective, it also contains fiber, vitamin B6 and a natural source of sugar. Bananas have long been known for its high potassium, which is beneficial for combating fatigue, though this is one of the first studies where its benefits have been compared to a sports drink.

For those looking for an organic way of replenishing the fuel tank, a banana reigns supreme over sports drinks that have been diluted with chemicals and loads of sugar.

Sugar Can Make You Dumb

It’s no secret that sugar can wreck all sorts of havoc on your body. If you frequently reach for the cookie jar or guzzle down a can of pop, then you greatly increase your risk for weight gain, diabetes and even cancer. This has all been backed up by years of research. However, up until now, very little study has been done on the effects of sugar on the brain.

A new research suggests that frequently giving in to your sweet tooth may actually “make you dumb”. However, this can be counteracted by a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The study was done in UCLA and consisted of lab rats that spent six weeks eating foods that were either rich in omega-3s, deficient in omega-3s, or foods high in fructose corn syrup.

The rats were then placed in a maze. The ones that had a high omega-3 diet outperformed the others in navigating their way to the end. The mice with a high sugar diet performed the worst.

The findings also showed that the mice that lacked omega-3s exhibited a decline in synaptic activity, which is vital for memory and processing new information.

The study, however, was done with artificially manufactured sugar. Naturally occurring fructose like those found in fruits or cane sugar is actually high in antioxidants and beneficial for your body. It’s the processed sweeteners that you have to be on the watch out for.

While fish and other foods high in omega-3s may be able to nullify the effects of fructose, the best course of action is to drastically cut down on sugar intake.

This study gives you another reason to eat artificially sweetened foods in moderation. If you want to keep your brain sharp, then you need to slap your own hand the next time you decide to reach for that extra helping of pie.

Does Milk Really Do the Body Good?

You have probably seen it everywhere in the ads; milk builds strong bones and does the body good. Who isn’t familiar with the “Got Milk?” slogan and the endless list of celebrities who appear on billboards with the milk mustache?

The dairy industry has spent a fortune convincing consumers of the health benefits of milk. However, is milk really good for you, or is it all a ploy by dairy manufacturers to get you to buy and consume cow juice? A newly released documentary “Got the Facts on Milk?” exposes the claims by the dairy industry as deceptive and misleading. The truth is that milk and other dairy products that have been pasteurized can increase the risk of chronic disease and bone depletion.

Pasteurized milk – typically the kind seen in just about every grocery store – is depleted of its organic nutrients. During the pasteurization process, the milk is heated at a very high temperature and then cooled down immediately. While this process is beneficial for killing bacteria, it also strips the milk of its vitamins and minerals. As for the calcium content, it becomes acidic and actually has the opposite effect. Instead of being good for your bones, it actually leeches vital nutrients from it.

Now before you decide to forgo all dairy products, it is important to note that milk in its natural state is actually good for you. Raw milk contains the right balance of alkalizing and acidifying minerals, which helps preserve bone mass and density.

Milk and everything made from it, such as cheese and yogurt, can be healthy or not. It depends on the kind you buy. The ones you see in a typical grocery store tend to be the latter. The good news is that if you love dairy products, then you can continue to enjoy them. You just have to be a little more selective about where you buy them. Try shopping for dairy at an organic food shop or farmer’s market. While organic dairy may be pricier, the health benefits are far superior.

Broccoli Linked to Reduction of Breast Cancer

As a child, you may have had those moments when your parents would not excuse you from the dinner table until you cleared all the vegetables off your plate. While vegetables are not exactly the best tasting foods, they are jam packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Nutritionists are now recommending that people consume one to two serving of vegetables at every meal.

Of course, not all vegetables are created equal. Some veggies are more nutrient-dense than others. Broccoli, for instance, has often been hailed as the “king of vegetables” due to its high nutritional content.

A research conducted in China showed that broccoli may have additional benefits for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The study shows that women who regularly consumed broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables were 62 percent less likely to succumb to breast cancer and up to 35 percent less likely to have the cancer reoccur. Aside from broccoli, the report showed that other vegetables, such as turnip greens, green cabbage and cauliflower were also consumed as a part of a regular diet.

Previous research done in China, Sweden and the U.S. hinted that normal consumption of such greens can reduce the risk of the cancer developing. However, the current study is the first to show that it can also have a positive effect post diagnosis.

A separate study done by Vanderbilt University also shows a link between consumption of cruciferous vegetables and a reduced risk of heart disease. The results were the same regardless of external factors, such as the consumption of meat, daily exercise and use of vitamin supplements.

Studies like these have long validated the health benefits of having some form of greens on your dinner plate. It does appear that part of the key to longevity lies within fresh vegetables. Even if it feels like a chore to eat your veggies, it’s good for you, so eat up whether you like it or not.

Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in Soft Drinks

Common sense will tell you that any drink loaded with sugar is not exactly a healthy beverage. Even then, refreshments like soda are consumed by millions of people on a daily basis. The irresistible taste and fizz of a soda pop is just so insatiable for some that the immediate satisfaction of having one outweighs the health risks.

A new study now shows that sugar is not the only factor you should be concerned with when consuming soda. A recent study found that most soda beverages – including the globally popular Coke and Pepsi – contain a caramel coloring ingredient that is linked to cancer. The ingredient in question is a chemical known as 4-methylimidazole, also known more simply as 4-MI. The coloring is not derived from natural caramel; it is produced using a mixture of chemicals that involves ammonia.

4-MI has been shown to induce cancer in lab rats, though whether it can have the same harmful effect on humans remains unknown at this time. 4-MI is found in both regular and diet soda. The amount found in a 12-ounce can exceeds the limit that is recommended by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Despite the health risks posed by 4-MI, health experts insist that there is no cause for alarm. The dosage in a single serving is practically negligible. High fructose corn syrup is a far more serious health risk factor than 4-MI.

There are hundreds of reasons you shouldn’t be drinking soda; its contents are nothing but empty calories, it has no nutritional benefits, and it can lead to obesity. However, 4-MI does not appear to be one of those reasons you should be concerned over. As long as you have soda in moderation, then there is no need to worry about any harm from being exposed to a little caramel coloring.

Eat Chocolate to Lose Weight

Who doesn’t love chocolate? It’s one of those foods that people love to set aside as one of their guilty pleasures. For chocolate lovers, there is some good news. A recent study showed that those who consumed chocolate on a regular basis have an overall lower body mass index than those who eat chocolate less often.

Researchers are baffled as to why something that is loaded with calories, fat and sugar can have a positive effect on weight. It is suspected that the antioxidants found in chocolate may play a contribution in boosting metabolism. Separate studies have also concluded that chocolate contains compounds and nutrients that can aid in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The study was headed by Dr. Beatrice Golomb and consisted of roughly 1,000 participating adults. Various data was collected from each test subject, which included how often they exercised and the amount of calories they consumed as well as the type of foods they were eating. Each subject consumed an average of two servings of chocolate a week. The type of chocolate, whether it was dark, white or milk, was not factored into the study. The test results showed that those who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower body mass index. This proved to be the case even for subjects who consumed more calories overall.

Now before you start loading up on Snickers and M&Ms, keep in mind that some common sense is still needed here. Your bodyweight is still largely dependent on the total amount of calories you consume, and chocolate tends to be high in calories. The study, in fact, also showed that those who consumed higher quantities of chocolate in a single sitting exhibited higher body weight. Just because chocolate may be good for you, it doesn’t mean you should indulge without setting limits. What it does mean is that you can have chocolate in moderation without feeling guilty.

Grass-Fed Meat vs. Grain-Fed Meat

Most critics of meat consumption will argue that eating red meat has a connection to heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions associated with poor health and early death. While these critics are not entirely wrong, they are not entirely correct either.

A recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School concluded that regular consumption of red meat has a direct correlation to heart related problems as well as other forms of cancer. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and consisted of 120,000 participants. The study showed that those who were given red meat as a part of their daily dietary plan were 10 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 18 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Where this study falls short, however, is that it does not take into account the type of red meat consumed. Not all meat are created equal. There are two primary ways in which cattle are raised before being taken to the slaughterhouse. Cattle are either grass-fed or grain-fed. The former is the cattle’s natural form of sustenance. Cattle that are fed this way are shown to be healthier and produce meat that is higher in omega-3 fatty acid and conjugated linoleic acid. Most farms, however, often feed its cattle grain because it brings down the cost. Grain-fed cattle produce the quality of meat that is shown to cause health problems in the Harvard study.

The good news is that if you enjoy meat, then you do not have to forgo it completely. You just have to be a little more nitpicky about where you buy your meat. This means there is no need to adopt a green diet and live off of salad and Tofurky for the rest of your life. You can still have your steak; just be sure it came from the right source.