Friday, August 30, 2013

Pick Blueberries or Apple Over Juice to Cut Diabetes Risk

August 29, 2013

Blueberries, like these arranged for this photo in Groton, Connecticut. Photographer: Claudia DiMartino/Bloomberg
If you want to reduce your chances of becoming a diabetic, you’re better off munching apples or blueberries instead of sipping fruit juice, researchers found.
Eating more blueberries, apples and grapes was shown to lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, while increased consumption of fruit juice was linked to a higher risk, according to a study published in The BMJ.
People should “replace fruit juice with solid fruits, maintaining the same energy level” while substituting a less healthy option with a healthier one, Qi Sun, the senior author of the study, said in a telephone interview. He’s an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School.
This adds to a growing body of evidence that eating fruit is beneficial for health, and is the strongest confirmation to date that it can also lower Type 2 diabetes risk.
Previous studies showed links between increased fruit consumption and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and hypertension. According to one published last year in the Annals of Neurology, berries are good for the brain and can help fend off the mental decline of aging.
For the study published today, researchers from the U.K., the U.S. and Singapore set out to examine the relations between consumption of different kinds of fruits and diabetes, analyzing data from three groups of U.S. nurses and health workers who were surveyed about their eating habits and physical activity over the course of about two decades. The participants included 151,209 women and 36,173 men.

Three Groups

The results are convincing as they are consistent among the three groups, said Sun, also an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Among study participants who had three servings a week of blueberries, grapes, raisins, apples and pears rather than juice, the risk of diabetes was reduced by 7 percent, the study showed.
The study is part of a body of evidence showing benefits from fruit. Eating at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and fruits a day is associated with lower risk of carduivascular disease, according to U.S. government dietary guidelines, which encourage the increased consumption of fruit. Most Americans don’t eat enough fruit, according to the guidelines, which were last updated in 2010.
Fruit juices are probably less healthy for a number of reasons, Sun said. In the juicing processes, some beneficial nutrients, for example flavonoids and dietary fibers, are lost, he said. Juices also pass through the gastrointestinal tract more quickly, leading to more rapid and more dramatic changes in blood sugar and insulin levels after eating, he said.

Eating Habits

Researchers asked about consumption of grapes or raisins, peaches, plums or apricots, prunes, bananas, cantaloupe, apples or pears, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries and blueberries. The juices used included orange, apple and grapefruit. Participants were submitted a questionnaire every four years to assess their eating habits, and were asked how often they consumed each food in a standard portion size.
Greater consumption of fruit juice was associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, the study showed. Substitution of juices with fruits was linked with a lower risk, with the exception of strawberries and cantaloupe, the researchers said.
“Some fruits are more beneficial than others, in terms of diabetes prevention,” Sun said. “Based on our data, blueberries, apples, grapes and raisins are preferred.”

Future Studies

Such results will have to be corroborated in future studies, he added.
Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin the body needs to convert blood sugar into energy. Lifestyle changes around the globe have kindled a surge in cases. The number of sufferers worldwide will reach an estimated 552 million by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
Some diabetics, suffering from Type 1 diabetes, have a lifelong inability to produce insulin. The Type 2 variant tends to strike later in life, brought on by obesity and sedentary lifestyles, as people become resistant to the insulin their own body produces.
The study was funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Professor Sun also was supported by a career development award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
For Related News and Information: Eating More Berries May Delay Memory Decline, Research Shows

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is BMI Really The Best Gauge Of Health?


Not all fat people are metabolically equal. And a simple number like the body mass index (or BMI) does not take that key fact into account. A growing number of studies over the past few years have made the pitfalls of relying solely on the BMI to make health predictions increasingly clear. The latest--and in some ways most comprehensive--of these reports was published today in the journal Science.

But there's no need to abandon the BMI, which is the calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by the square of your height in meters. The formula, which was developed back in the 1800s by a Belgian statistician and sociologist, is still a good first-order approximation of health risk for most people. And there are ways of determining if you fall into one of the groups for which it is not relevant.

The BMI's flaws as a health indicator first attained widespread popular attention when a scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported seemingly counterintuitive results based on national mortality statistics. In studies published in 2005 and again in 2013, Katherine Flegal and her co-authors found that people who fall into the overweight but not obese category as measured by the BMI tend to live longer, as a group, than folks who fall into the normal weight range.

Flegal herself cautioned against over-interpreting her results. Once you start delving deeper into the data, you understand why. There is so much variation between individuals in each of the half-dozen usual groupings of BMI numbers that it can mask a wide range of problems. The standard BMI groupings are underweight (less than 18.5), normal (18.5 to 24.9), overweight (25 to 29.9), obesity class I 30 to 34.9, obesity class 2 35 to 39.9 and obesity class 3 (greater than 40).

As the Science paper points out, it is possible to have a normal BMI and be metabolically abnormal, meaning the body has trouble processing various nutrients and other compounds found in the blood. Increasingly, researchers are documenting the many ways that insulin resistance, for example, increases the risk for heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and other life-shortening ailments. People with a normal BMI who are also alcoholic with fatty liver disease or cirrhosis are simply not healthy by anyone's definition. According to one analysis from 2008, nearly one in four people with a normal BMI are metabolically unhealthy while about half of overweight individuals are metabolically normal.

Where your body stores its excess fat also turns out to be important. Fatty deposits under the skin of the arms or legs, for example, apparently just sort of sits there (it may also trap certain toxic metals and keep them away from vital organs) and doesn't cause much harm. But fatty deposits around the abdomen, or vital organs (like the liver), are much more hazardous to your health.

Rather than throw out the BMI altogether, some researchers think it makes sense to add another measurement--waist circumference--to the mix. This is easier said than done. Basically, you need to place the tape measure around your middle so that it lines up horizontally with the top of your hip bone (the iliac crest) on either side of your body. Then take that measurement (plus your height, weight, sex and age) and plug them into one of several so-called ABSI (A Body Shape Index) calculators that are available on the web.

Other calculations, such as the one that looks at the ratio between your height and waist circumference, try to get at the same thing--do you have more fat distributed around your middle (bad) or beneath the skin on your legs and buttocks (no harm)?

One of the most accurate ways to measure--as opposed to just estimating--the amount of fat in a person's body is to calculate the amount of water that is displaced when you fully submerge a person underwater. But don't try this at home, or you may wind up with a flood on your bathroom floor. Shades of Archimedes!

But even percentage body fat is not the answer to everything. As an article in the August issue of Scientific American by JoAnn E. Manson and colleagues describes in great detail, whether or not you are physically fit also plays an important role in how healthy your metabolism is.

The point is good health depends on a lot of things--starting with wether or not you smoke, how physically fit you are, the kinds and amounts of food you put in your body, your age, surroundings and the company you keep. And sometimes you can do everything right and still become seriously ill. Changing your lifestyle, behavior, weight or body shape can help to reduce the chances that you will die prematurely, but they will never eliminate the risk entirely.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Heavy coffee consumption linked to higher death risk

Drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week may be harmful for people younger than 55, according to a study.

The debate over coffee's health risks continues to brew. A new study, out Thursday, finds that heavy coffee consumption is associated with a higher death risk in men and women younger than 55.
In the study published online in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, men younger than 55 who drank more than 28 cups of coffee a week (four cups a day) were 56% more likely to have died from any cause. Women in that age range had a twofold greater risk of dying than other women. The study looked at 43,727 men and women ages 20-87 from 1971 to 2002.
"From our study, it seems safe to drink one to three cups of coffee a day," says the study's second co-author Xuemei Sui. "Drinking more than four cups of coffee a day may endanger health," says Sui, assistant professor of exercise science with theArnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She defines a cup of coffee as 6 to 8 ounces.
The study did not find a higher death risk for adults 55 and older. Sui says there may be a bias — the research may not include unhealthy older people because they might have already died.
The reasons for the higher death risk among younger adults are not clear since experts through the years have found both health benefits and problems associated with coffee.
Sui says the caffeine in coffee can elevate heart rate as well as raise blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, coffee is a major source of antioxidants, she says.
Sui says the study didn't find a significant association between coffee consumption and heart disease death. Further research is needed to look at any connection between coffee and cancer, she says.
Gregg Fonarow, co-chief of clinical cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says, "Differences in other dietary factors, marital status and other socioeconomic factors that were not adjusted for in this study may account for some or all of these observations."
Fonarow, who was not involved in this research, says observational studies that survey people about their coffee intake and tie that to how many died from any cause have yielded mixed results.
Consider a 2012 study that found that coffee drinkers ages 50-71 had a lower risk of death than their peers who did not consume coffee. In that study, researchers from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and AARP found that the more coffee consumed, the more a person's death risk declined.
Joseph DeRupo, a spokesman for the National Coffee Association of USA, says the new study "presents findings that are out of step with prevailing science as well as with widely accepted research methods."
Because coffee still stirs debate, Sui says more research is needed. In the meantime, people should watch their coffee intake, she says. "Avoid excessive coffee drinking.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Soybean Compound Genistein Shows Promise For Treating HIV

compound derived from soybeans could be promising in treating HIV, according to a new study.
Plus, the method by which the compound -- called genistein -- stops infection could help to alleviate drug-resistance issues because it acts in a different way from current HIV treatments, said researchers from George Mason University, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"Instead of directly acting on the virus, genistein interferes with the cellular processes that are necessary for the virus to infect cells," study researcher Yuntao Wu, a professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, which is based at George Mason, said in a statement. "Thus, it makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to the drug. Our study is currently [in] its early stage. If clinically proven effective, genistein may be used as a complement treatment for HIV infection."
However, Wu explained that the research is still too early to say that eating a lot of soybeans could actually help people who currently have HIV, as the amount of genistein needed to stop HIV is still uncertain.
The study, published in the journal Retrovirology, involved exposing a type of cell, called CD4 T cells, to genistein, and then seeing if it stopped the cells from being infected with HIV.
Recently, soybeans were in the news for their potential in stopping another deadly disease -- cancer. Researchers from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville found that soybean meal peptides -- which is what's left over after oil is extracted from soybean seeds -- seem to be able to stop lung, liver and colon cancer growth in a lab setting