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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Public Enemy #1

Sugar its all around us. An almost unoticed part of many of our daily meals
but there are increasing concerns that sugar is harming us.

It comes in different forms; such as sucrose naturally found in sugar cane and fructose naturally found in fruit.
Over the last century it has been deliberatley added to many foods. Lots of which you wouldnt expect,
from low fat spreads, salad dresssings, fizzy drinks and even some fruit juices. Experts have been concerned for some time that this gives us extra calories that we do not need.

Sugary food often contains lots of fat and other calorie rich ingredients too. The more excess calories we eat the more likely we are to become obese, and obesity is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers and other serious illnesses.
Increasingly it isn't just the calorie content in sugar that worries scientist, some say our bodies do not deal with all calories in the same way. The calories found in sugar may be more harmful than those found in some other foods.

A number of experts are concerned that the sugar we take in in liquid form may be dealt with in a different way to the sugar we get from whole fruit. The chemistry behind the quick spikes in blood sugar we get from things such as fizzy drinks, chocolates, sweets and cakes might in itself be linked to diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

People will be advised to halve the amount of sugar in their diet, under new World Health Organization guidance.

The World Health organization's recommended sugar intake will stay below 10% of total daily calorie intake, with a recommended target of 5%

The Director  of Nutrition and Diet, Alison Tedstone, said "our surveys show that the UK population should reduce their sugar intake as average intake for adults is 11.6% and for children is 15.2%, which is above the 2002 recommendation of 10%

Monday, 30 December 2013

The Resolution: 30 Days later

10 ways to make your diet and fitness resolutions last

Lose weight. Eat healthy foods. Exercise daily. Drink less.
Many people make these or similar pledges during the annual New Year's Day ritual of resolving to improve our health. Resolutions are easy to start; the challenge is sustaining them. One month later, have you held true to your good intentions?

Some would have you believe that New Year's resolutions are a waste of time. In fact, the very act of making resolutions improves your odds of success.
Studies show that people who resolve to change behaviours do much better than non-resolvers who have the same habits that need to be changed.

Statistics show that, at the end of January, some 64% of resolvers are still hanging in there; six months later, that number drops to 44%.

It's All in the Planning
Making resolutions is the first step, but, experts say, you need a plan and a healthy dose of perseverance if you want to succeed.
People most often resolve to lose weight; quit smoking; get more exercise; and reduce their alcohol consumption, in that order.

These habits and behaviours are very difficult to change, and when you don't have a well-thought-out plan on how you are going to make sustainable changes that fit into your lifestyle, it leads to failure.
t's not enough to simply say, "I want to lose weight and exercise more." You need a detailed blueprint that addresses how you'll reach these goals.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, If you want to succeed, you need to have a concrete plan that plays into your strengths and avoids distractions from your goals by your weaknesses.

Realistic Expectations
Part of that planning is anticipating situations in which you're likely to slip up -- such as when you're stressed out, eating at a restaurant, or travelling.
For example, if you plan ahead and pack a meal for the plane or carry some nuts, you won't just grab anything because you are famished, and are more likely to minimize the slip-ups and stick with your resolution for healthier eating.

Experts say it's also important to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. A realistic resolution is one you can sustain for at least a year -- not just for a few weeks.

Of course you'd like to see those extra pounds gone in a hurry, but quick weight loss is usually not permanent weight loss. Diets that have strict rules, eliminate or severely restrict certain foods, or otherwise take a lot of effort are usually only successful in the short term. After all, anyone can lose weight eating mostly cabbage soup -- but how long could you keep that up?

Very low-calorie diets lead to quick weight loss of not only fat but muscle, too. These diets also lower metabolism and when an individual goes back to eating the way they used to (because no one can live on cabbage soup), their slower metabolism will require fewer calories and, ultimately, they gain all the weight back and then some.

Tips to help you stick with your own New Year's vows:

1. Have a Realistic Eating Plan
An eating plan that has plenty of variety, yet is simple, interesting, and tastes good -- such as the Mediterranean-style diet with its "good carbs" from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; healthy fats from nuts, fish, and olive and canola oils; and lean protein.

2. Believe in Yourself
Seeing is believing; once you see you are capable of making changes in your behaviour, it inspires confidence. Try to imagine changing a particular behaviour for two weeks, two months or two years. If you can't visualise yourself realistically sticking to this change in behaviour, re-evaluate to make sure the goal is do-able.
Breaking down a lofty goal into smaller steps is often what is needed to gain the belief that you can do it.

3. Get Support
Support is critical, especially after the first few weeks when your motivation flags. Seek out someone who will be there for you long-term.
Some people find success with on-line support groups while others do better with an exercise buddy.
You need to figure out what kind of support will help you during the tough times that are inevitable when changing your behaviours.

4. Spell Out the Details
So you want to lose weight or exercise more -- just how do you plan to do it? How will you handle eating out, or a schedule that allows for exercise? Devise a sensible plan for how you'll shop, cook, and fit in fitness.
Think through how you'll deal with cravings, but don't deprive yourself. If you give yourself permission to eat what really matters to you, it puts you in control (instead of the diet), and empowers you to make a healthy decision on portion size.
Eliminating your favourite foods can be a recipe for disaster, instead, allow yourself small portions, on occasion. Otherwise, the denial may create an obsession that derails your goals."

5. Set Mini-Goals
Maybe you want to lose 50 pounds, but you'll be more motivated to succeed if you celebrate every 10 pounds lost. Realistic resolutions are ones you can live with.
Look at them as lots of "baby steps" strung together. Setting the bar too high can be demoralizing. People who set attainable, realistic goals are more likely to succeed.

6. Manage Your Cravings
Cravings for foods are caused by swings in your blood sugar. If you eat the right kinds of foods and snack strategically, you can eliminate cravings. Almost everyone who is overweight has cravings, typically late-afternoon hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). They frequently choose simple carbs (like sweets, soda, and refined bread products) that give them a quick boost.
The problem is that a quick rise in blood sugar is usually followed by a quick fall, and hunger strikes again. Eating every 3-4 hours, and always including lean protein (from nuts, low-fat dairy, lean meats, or beans) will satisfy your hunger for fewer calories and without the dramatic swings in blood sugar.

7. Control Your Environment
Stack the deck in your favour by eliminating tempting, fattening treats from your surroundings. Instead, stock the pantry and refrigerator with plenty of healthy foods. Surround yourself with people, places, and things that will help you change your behaviour.
Avoid those that invite problems, like going to happy hour or eating at a buffet restaurant.

8. Do the Opposite
Do the opposite of the problem behaviour. The opposite of sedentary behaviour is an active behaviour. It is not good enough to diet; instead, you need to replace the unhealthy foods with more nutritious foods."

9. Reward Yourself
Reward yourself all along the way for continued motivation and success. A reward can be a massage, flowers, or removing chores you dislike. Figure out what will work for you, and reward yourself whenever you achieve a mini-goal (such as losing 10 pounds or exercising every day for a week).

10. Anticipate Slips, and Deal with Them Constructively
Don't let a slip-up derail your resolve to improve your health. Setbacks are inevitable; it's how you respond to them that matters. One of the most important things is how to recover from slips. Successful resolvers use slip-ups to help them get back on track, serving as a reminder that they need to be strong.
People who see slips as a failure often use one as an excuse to give up.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

5 steps to reduce Dementia risk


Related Stories

Exercise throughout a person's life plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing dementia.
The Cardiff University study which began with 2,235 men from Caerphilly in 1979 found factors including diet and not smoking had an impact on preventing illnesses developing in older age.
The research by Cardiff University found the five factors that were integral to helping avoid disease were:
  • regular exercise
  • not smoking
  • low bodyweight
  • healthy diet
  • low alcohol intake.
People in the study who followed four of these had a 60% decline in dementia and cognitive decline rates, with exercise named as the strongest mitigating factor.
They also had 70% fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, compared with people who followed none of the factors.
Exercise had the single biggest influence on dementia levels.
Professor Peter Elwood, who led the study on behalf of Cardiff School of Medicine, said healthy behaviour was far more beneficial than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.
"The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an ageing population," he said.
"Taking up and following a healthy lifestyle is however the responsibility of the individual him or herself.
"Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle."
'More active lifestyle'
Prof Elwood stressed that while one aspect of the five strands of behaviour mentioned may have more impact on certain illnesses, the emphasis was on an overall healthy lifestyle.
"Exercise happens to be the most important but the other factors come in very close behind," he added.
He told BBC Wales while the recommended levels of exercise were half an hour five times a week, it did not mean having to go to a gym.
"We should all live a more active lifestyle. If I park my car a mile from work - that makes me likely to do more than the half an hour a day. Any exercise has some benefit and the more, the better."
The research showed that while smoking levels had dropped over the 35 years, the number of people leading what the team described as a fully healthy lifestyle had not changed.

Start Quote

This study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia”
Dr Doug BrownAlzheimer's Society
Prof Elwood added: "If the men had been urged to adopt just one additional healthy behaviour at the start of the study 35 years ago, and if only half of them complied, then during the ensuing 35 years there would have been a 13% reduction in dementia, a 12% drop in diabetes, 6% less vascular disease and a 5% reduction in deaths."
Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer's Society said: "'We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the study "threw into sharp relief" the extent to which preventing illness lay in a person's own hands.
The research is being published in the PLOS One journal.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Healthy and overweight

Can you be obese and healthy?

The idea of "healthy obesity" is a myth, research suggests.

Excess fat still carries health risks even when cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels are normal, according to a study of more than 60,000 people.

It has been argued that being overweight does not necessarily imply health risks if individuals remain healthy in other ways.

The research, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, contradicts this idea.

The study looked at findings from published studies tracking heart health and weight in more than 60,000 adults.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, found there was no healthy pattern of increased weight when heart health was monitored for more than 10 years.

They argue that people who are metabolically healthy but overweight probably have underlying risk factors that worsen over time.

"This really casts doubt on the existence of healthy obesity", study leader Dr Ravi Retnakaran.

"This data is suggesting that both patients who are obese and metabolically unhealthy and patients who are obese and metabolically healthy are both at increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, such that benign obesity may indeed be a myth."

Heart risk

The British Heart Foundation says obesity is a known risk factor for heart disease and the research shows there is no healthy level of obesity.

Senior cardiac nurse, Doireann Maddock, said: "even if your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are normal, being obese can still put your heart at risk."

She said it was useful to think of lifestyle overall rather than individual risk factors.

"As well as watching your weight, if you stop smoking, get regular physical activity and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels at a healthy level, you can make a real difference in reducing your risk of heart disease.

"If you are concerned about your weight and want to know more about the changes you should make, visit your GP to talk it through."

Helen Briggs

Friday, 22 November 2013

Eating nuts 'may prolong life'

People who regularly eat nuts appear to live longer, according to the largest study of its kind.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested the greatest benefit was in those munching on a daily portion.
The US team said nut eaters were likely to also have healthy lifestyles, but the nuts themselves were also contributing to their longer lifespan.
The British Heart Foundation said more research was needed to prove the link

The study followed nearly 120,000 people for 30 years. The more regularly people consumed nuts, the less likely they were to die during the study.
People eating nuts once a week were 11% less likely to have died during the study than those who never ate nuts.
Up to four portions was linked to a 13% reduction in deaths and a daily handful of nuts cut the death rate during the study by 20%.

Lead researcher Dr Charles Fuchs, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, said: "The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease, but we also saw a significant reduction - 11% - in the risk of dying from cancer."

Eating nuts was linked to a healthier lifestyle - including being less likely to smoke or be overweight and more likely to exercise.
This was accounted for during the study, for example to eliminate the impact of smoking on cancer rates.
The researchers acknowledge that this process could not completely account for all of the differences between those regularly eating nuts and those not.
However, they said it was "unlikely" to change the results.
They suggest nuts are lowering cholesterol, inflammation and insulin resistance.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study shows an association between regularly eating a small handful of nuts and a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease.

"While this is an interesting link, we need further research to confirm if it's the nuts that protect heart health, or other aspects of people's lifestyle.

"Nuts contain unsaturated fats, protein and a range of vitamins and minerals and make a good swap for snacks like chocolate bars, cakes and biscuits.
"Choosing plain, unsalted options rather than honeyed, salted, dry-roasted or chocolate-covered will keep your salt and sugar intake down."

The study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Men are we destined to be fat at 40?


Middle-aged British men are more likely than women to be overweight, but less likely to diet, as they were less likely to realise they were carrying excess weight, say researchers at the University of London.
A study found more than two-thirds of men and around half of women in their early 40s were overweight or obese.

The findings come from a study following 10,000 UK men and women born during one week in 1970.

Researchers found that those born in 1970 were considerably more likely to be overweight or obese in their early 40s than those born 12 years earlier.
“Worryingly, this research highlights that men seem more inclined to ignore their expanding waistlines than women”
                    Christopher Allen - British Heart Foundation

Men were far more likely than women to carry excess weight - with 45% classed as overweight and a further 23% obese compared with 29% and 20% of women.

Dr Sullivan and colleague Dr Matt Brown say carrying excess weight is seen as more socially acceptable for men than women.

Overweight men are thus less likely to see this as a health problem and do something about it.

Alerting men to their body mass index (BMI) status and the associated health risks should be a priority, they say.

Expanding waistlines
Commenting on the study, Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Being overweight or obese increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Whether you're a man or a woman, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and keeping physically active can help you reduce your weight and your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Saturated fat pledge

The Department of Health says

"cutting the amount of saturated fat in people's diets could save lives"

Someone eating a cheeseburger
 A pledge by food manufacturers to cut saturated fat levels is "a drop in the ocean" in the fight against obesity, a top public health expert has said.

Morrisons, Subway and Nestle are among firms signed up to the voluntary "responsibility deal" between industry and government.

But Prof John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the approach "lacked credibility".

The Department of Health (DoH) said it would "make a huge difference".

It says the average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day, while the average woman should eat no more than 20g.

According to the British Dietetic Association, most people eat about 20% more than the recommended maximum levels - and a survey of 2,000 people for Sainsbury's found 84% of those questioned did not know how much saturated fat was a healthy amount.

Healthy options

Public health minister for England Jane Ellison says more than 500 big companies have pledged their support

The DoH said cutting the amount of saturated fat in people's diets by 15% could prevent around 2,600 premature deaths every year from conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

Almost half of the food manufacturing and retail industry - based on market share - has signed up to this latest pledge to reduce the amount of saturated fat in products, the DoH said.

Measures planned by companies include Nestle altering the make-up of KitKat biscuits, Morrisons reformulating its range of spreads and Subway replacing biscuits and crisps in its Kids' Pak with healthier options.

Other firms which are cutting saturated fat or have pledged to do so include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi and Mondelez International - which will alter products including its Oreo biscuits.

Prof Ashton said that, while it was "a good thing that some companies are making food that has less saturated fat than before", the pledge did not go far enough.

Saturated fat


  • Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and cheese and cream
  • Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease, according to NHS Choices
  • Most of us eat too much saturated fat - about 20% more than the recommended maximum amount
  • The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
  • The average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day

"They need to ensure that at the same time they lower the sugar and salt that they have used to make foods more tasty as a result of lowering the fat content."

He added: "This announcement is a drop in the ocean in comparison with the scale of the obesity crisis.

"We cannot rely on the voluntary approach of the responsibility deal to solve this problem.

"It now lacks credibility and can be seen as a feeble attempt by the industry to save face."

Labour public health spokeswoman Luciana Berger said: "A few company names on a non-binding plan with no timescale stands little chance of delivering the fundamental change needed to improve our national diet.

"In the week that the chief medical officer warned of the long-term dangers of childhood obesity, we need to go much further."

She said Labour had put forward "bold ideas to set legal limits on our food's fat, sugar and salt content and achieve a cross-party ambition for a more physically-active nation".
'Huge progress'
Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, also called for regulation, adding: "The much-vaunted voluntary responsibility deal will never succeed until the government takes a grip and makes everybody sign up to it."

Prof Alan Maryon-Davis of the Faculty of Health is concerned little is being done

The DoH said that "by reducing the amount of saturated fat in everyday foods, manufacturers and retailers are helping us lead healthier lives".

"We have already made huge progress through the responsibility deal - there are reduced salt levels in many products, calories on high street menus and better information about alcohol units and drinking guidelines," a spokesperson said.

"We know there is more to be done but today's pledge will make a huge difference to our health."

Prof Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Responsibility Deal Food Network, said the manufacturers' commitments to help reduce saturated fat were "an important step forward".

The announcement of the pledge comes days after cardiologist Aseem Malhotra, a member of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges' obesity steering group, wrote in the British Medical Journal that the risk from saturated fat in non-processed food was "overstated and demonised".

He said there was too much focus on the fat with other factors such as sugar often overlooked.

He told Radio 4's Today on Saturday that "a sugary drinks tax, banning junk food advertising to children, ensuring compulsory nutritional standards in schools and hospitals... are things that are going to overcome the problems that we face".