News You Should Use

by Charles Platkin, PhD

 “Eating Junk Food While Pregnant May Make Your Child a Junk Food Addict”

What a headline – and it’s right from the press release, too.  Scary, but it does make sense that eating junk food during pregnancy could lead to having a child who has that desire.  The research, published in The FASEB Journal, says that “pregnant mothers who consume junk food actually cause changes in the development of the opioid signaling pathway in the brains of their unborn children.”  The study, conducted by researchers at FOODplus Research Centre at the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at The University of Adelaide in Australia, suggests that the babies born to these women are less sensitive to opioids (the chemicals released when you eat foods high in sugar and fat).   As a result, they need to eat more foods that are high in sugar and fat to get the same “feel good” response.   According to the researchers, junk food engages the same body chemistry as opium, morphine or heroin.   One thing to note – the study was done using rats, not people.

Snack Less and Be Just as Satisfied

According to researchers from Cornell University, you need to snack less than you think— actually less than half as much as you think. The study was designed to determine if people who were given smaller portions of snack foods would feel hungrier or less satisfied 15 minutes after eating. 

The researchers tested two groups with different portion sizes. The larger portion-size group was given 3.5 ounces of chocolate, 7 ounces of apple pie and 3 ounces of potato chips, for a total of 1,370 calories. The other group was given 1/3 ounce, 1.5 ounces and 1/3 ounce of these same foods respectively for a total of 195 calories. “The two groups were given as much time to eat as needed, and were asked to fill out surveys to rate the liking, familiarity and boredom with the food. They were also asked to rate their hunger and craving before the food was presented and 15 minutes after the taste tests ended.”

The results showed that those given larger portions consumed 77% more food, but they did not feel “stronger feelings of satiety than the group with the smaller portions.”

Make sure to portion out your snack foods in advance, and never bring the entire bag or container of any snack to your TV-viewing area or to your desk.

Even a Few Minutes of Exercise is Worth It

Yes, it really can help to exercise for even a few minutes at a time, as long as it adds up to at least 30 minutes per day, say researchers at Oregon State University.  In fact, the researchers concluded that these short bouts can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym.  This is important because most people report lack of time as the single most important reason they don’t exercise.   The study also looked at everyday activities such as raking leaves and found that they also contribute to overall health. So don’t think that if you didn’t make it to the gym today you might as well not exercise at all – every little bit counts.

Can You Teach Yourself to Have More Willpower?

It’s possible, according to researchers at The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center.  Scientists have found that, with practice, you can “strengthen and improve your self-control – and lose more weight.”

According to the center, this is the first study to examine whether practicing acts of self-control during weight loss is linked to an increase in self-control and better weight-loss outcomes.  The idea is that you’re “building a muscle.”  And like any muscle, the more you build it by practicing healthy behaviors (e.g., exercising, eating healthy foods, avoiding unhealthy, high-calorie foods), “the more you’ll increase and strengthen your  self-control ‘muscle’ and quite possibly lose more weight and improve your health,” say the researchers.   It’s sort of like creating automatic behaviors  –  that is, new habits and patterns.  The more you do something, the easier it becomes.   For more on willpower see:

Gender Bias in Exercise?

It may not be politically correct; however, according to research conducted at the University of Missouri, women did not receive the same health benefit after aerobic exercise training as men.  The researchers suggest that obese women with Type 2 diabetes might benefit from longer durations or higher intensities of exercise.

Is Cardio Better than Weight Training for Weight Loss?

Which is better for weight loss – cardio training, resistance exercise (training with weights) or a combination of the two?   I would say you need to do both.   

However, according to research from Duke University appearing in the Journal of Applied Physiology, cardio or aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, running and swimming) appears to be a more efficient and effective way to lose weight. 

So here’s what the researchers did to show this.  They randomly assigned participants in the study to one of three exercise training groups: “resistance training (three days per week of weight lifting, three sets per day, eight-12 repetitions per set), aerobic training (approximately 12 miles per week [walking]) or aerobic plus resistance training (three days a week, three sets per day, eight-12 repetitions per set for resistance training, plus approximately 12 miles per week of aerobic exercise).”

The researchers found that the groups assigned to aerobic training and aerobic plus resistance training lost more weight than those who did resistance training only.  You might be surprised to find that the resistance training group actually gained weight. (Actually this makes sense since you’re building / increasing lean body mass.)  

The combination exercise group required double the amount of time, but the results were mixed. “The regimen helped participants lose weight and fat mass, but did not significantly reduce body mass nor fat mass over aerobic training alone.”  However, this group did notice the “largest decrease in waist circumference, which may be attributed to the amount of time participants spent exercising.” In other words, they were doing double the amount of exercise, and that’s why they had the largest decrease.

One major point the researchers concluded: “It might be time to reconsider the conventional wisdom that resistance training alone can induce changes in body mass or fat mass due to an increase in metabolism, as our study found no change.”

Fried Foods May Increase Risk for Prostate Cancer

More bad news for fried foods!  According to researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, eating deep-fried foods such as french fries, fried chicken, fried fish and even doughnuts on a regular basis (more than once per week) may increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer.  According to the researchers, previous studies had suggested that eating foods made with high-heat cooking methods, such as grilled meats, might increase the risk of prostate cancer, but this is the first to look at fried foods.

The researchers found that men who ate fried foods more than once a week had a 30 to 37 percent increased risk of prostate cancer.   They speculate that deep frying may trigger the formation of cancer-causing agents in food. 

 “When oil is heated to temperatures suitable for deep frying, potentially carcinogenic compounds can form in the fried food. They include acrylamide (found in carbohydrate-rich foods such as french fries), heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures), aldehyde (an organic compound found in perfume) and acrolein (a chemical found in herbicides). These toxic compounds are increased with re-use of oil and increased length of frying time. Foods cooked with high heat also contain high levels of advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, which have been associated with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress,” according to the researchers.

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