Diet Detective’s Latest News: Large Forks, Less Eating; Junk Food Mom, Junk Food Babies and More

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Larger Fork Leads to Less Eating

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, taking bigger bites leads to eating less ­ in certain circumstances. The researchers observed eating behavior in one particular Italian restaurant. Diners were given either a larger or a smaller fork in order to manipulate their bite size, and all were served either larger or smaller portions. What the study found is that the diners who used the larger forks ate less than those who had been given the smaller forks when both were served large portions. “When the initial quantity of food was more (a well-loaded plate) diners with small forks ate significantly more than those with large forks. When customers were served small servings, the fork size did not affect the amount of food.”

Eat While Pregnant — More likely to have Kids Who Eat Junk Food

A new research report published online in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal indicates that, in one rat study, pregnant mothers who ate high-sugar and high-fat diets had babies who were likely to prefer diets that were higher in fat and sugar. According to the study, a diet high in fat and sugar leads to changes in the fetal brain’s reward pathway, altering food preferences. Researchers at the FOODplus Research Centre at the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia, “studied two groups of rats that, during pregnancy and lactation, were fed either standard ‘rat chow’ or a junk food diet made up of a selection of common human foods high in fat and high in sugar. After the baby rats were weaned, the pups from both groups were allowed to select their own diets from either the same range of junk food or the standard rat chow. Brains from some of the pups also were collected at different times after birth and measured for levels of ‘feel good’ chemicals (dopamine and opioids) and the receptors these chemicals act upon. The scientists found that the group of rats whose mothers had eaten the junk food diet had higher levels of the receptor for opioids after they were weaned. This group also chose to eat more of the fatty foods as compared to the pups whose mothers ate the standard rat chow. This suggests that infants whose mothers eat excessive amounts of high-fat, high-sugar junk foods when pregnant or breastfeeding are likely to have a greater preference for these foods later in life.”

New Exercise Guidelines Issued

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has released new recommendations for the quantity and quality of exercise for adults. A summary of the recommendations follows:

Cardiorespiratory Exercise:

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week.
  • One continuous session or multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate the desired amount of daily exercise.

Resistance Exercise:

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
  • Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise.
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise (Click for examples)

  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
  • Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds, to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.
  • Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.
  • Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective.
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuromotor or Functional Fitness exercises (Click for functional fitness exercises)

  • Should be done two or three days per week.
  • Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive [unconscious perception of movement ]exercise training and multifaceted activities (e.g., yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults.
  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.

Should You Exercise in the Morning or the Evening?

According to The National Sleep Foundation, adults need to get seven to nine hours of sleep per day, but nearly 25 percent of people in the U.S. do not. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to exercise.

Researchers with Appalachian State University studied the effects of exercise timing on the sleep patterns of six male and three female subjects. “Each subject visited the lab on three separate occasions at pre-determined times — one at 7 a.m., one at 1 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. — for 30 minutes of treadmill exercise. At night, subjects wore a sleep-monitoring headband to measure sleep stage time and quality of sleep.

“Aerobic exercise at 7 a.m. invoked significantly greater improvements in quality of sleep compared to exercise at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. When subjects exercised in the morning, they spent more time in light sleep by 85 percent and more time in deep sleep by 75 percent. Exercising at 7 a.m. also caused a 20 percent increase in sleep cycle frequency.”

Moving Backward Can Help an Injured Knee

Do you have a knee injury? Try pedaling backward on an elliptical machine. Participants who used backward locomotion showed significantly greater gains in quadriceps and hamstring strength. Additionally, they had greater aerobic capacity than the forward-locomotion group.

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