Here are some updates on recent health and nutrition findings:
Veggies improve dining experience
According to researchers at Cornell University, adding veggies to your meal will improve your perception of dishes (compared to those served without vegetables) as well as your attitude toward the cook.
“The results showed that meals were favored when a vegetable was included, such as steak vs. steak with broccoli, but also received better descriptions such as 'loving' for the same meal. They also chose much more positive descriptors for the meal preparer that served a vegetable, including much more frequent selection of 'thoughtful,' 'attentive' and 'capable,' accompanied by a decrease in the selections of 'neglectful,' 'selfish' and 'boring.'”
So make sure to include vegetables in all your meals. Your family and friends will thank you.
Green tea can decrease blood sugar spikes
Penn State scientists found that when mice were fed an antioxidant in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) at the same time they were given cornstarch, their blood sugar spiked much less than when they were given the cornstarch alone.
There was a 50 percent reduction in blood sugar with a dose equivalent to about 1.5 cups of green tea for a human. The green tea needs to be consumed while you're eating the starch, not after.
“Green tea could help (people to) control the typical blood sugar increases that are brought on when they eat starchy foods, like breads and bagels that are often a part of typical breakfasts.”
Interestingly, the EGCG had no significant effect on blood sugar spikes in mice that were fed glucose or maltose, according to the researchers. Don't add sugar to your green tea; it will probably counteract the positive effects.
Boost brain levels and slow Alzheimer’s with physical activity
More than 35 million people are suffering from dementia, according to the World Health Organization, but being more active could help.
Dr. Cyrus Raji, a researcher at the University of California in Los Angeles, found that an active lifestyle helps preserve gray matter in the brains of older adults and could reduce dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Raji and colleagues looked at 20 years of data from 876 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study whose average age was 78. They reviewed lifestyle factors, including recreational sports, gardening and yard work, bicycling, dancing and riding an exercise cycle. Then they used MRI and voxel-based morphometry to model the relationships between energy output and gray matter volume.
Larger gray matter volume means a healthier brain. Shrinking volume is seen in Alzheimer's disease. And “greater caloric expenditure was related to larger gray matter volumes in the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes, including the hippocampus, posterior cingulate and basal ganglia.”
Dr. Raji believes the increase in physical activity increases cerebral blood flow and strengthens neuronal connections.
Men with belly fat at risk for osteoporosis
Women are not the only ones at risk for decreased bone strength.
“Visceral, or deep belly, obesity is a risk factor for bone loss and decreased bone strength in men,” according to a study by Dr. Miriam Bredella, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The fat that researchers are finding contributes to decreased bone strength is “visceral or intra-abdominal fat, which is located deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity.”
The researchers used “CT scans of the abdomen and thigh to assess fat and muscle mass, as well as very high resolution CT of the forearm and a technique called finite element analysis (FEA), in order to assess bone strength and predict fracture risk.”
To reduce risk of osteoporosis, increase muscle mass by exercising, strength training regularly (at least three times per week) and eating a healthy diet (mostly fruits and vegetables).
Your kids need at least 7 minutes of vigorous physical activity
University of Alberta medical researchers found that simply taking a brisk walk or engaging in mild to moderate exercise is just not enough to benefit the health of children ages 9 to 17. Vigorous activity would be playing a competitive sport, running, gymnastics or swimming.
More reasons to exercise: You live longer and happier
Even though you may not lose weight, it's still worth getting out and exercising.
According to a study by international researchers published in the journal PLOS Medicine, even when they're overweight, people who do regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, live longer than those who don't do any leisure-time exercise.
Researchers from Sweden and the United States used information on “leisure-time physical activities and BMI (Body Mass Index, body weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) from more than 650,000 people over 40 years in age in a combined analysis of six long-term studies (one from Sweden and five from the U.S.).
They found even leisure-time physical activity at a level equivalent to brisk walking for up to 75 minutes per week was associated with an average increase in life expectancy of 1.8 years compared to those who did not exercise.
The good news: If you do up to 300 minutes of brisk walking, you continue to get more longevity benefits (it plateaus after 300).
Need more convincing? Not only do you get to live longer, but Penn State researchers found people's satisfaction with life was higher on days when they exercised more than usual.
Put heart stickers and other caring messages on healthy foods — it works
Most people probably don't associate veggies with love and caring. However, according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour, reminders of companionate love lead to a greater likelihood of making healthy eating choices.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.