How Many Times Do You Eat a Day?

eatProper nutrition has a lot of benefits. It can help fight disease, improve overall health, and keep your internal organs functioning efficiently, while giving you the required energy to get through your day.

We all know about the obesity problem in this country and it obviously ties to nutrition. The problem many have, however, is deciding what approach to weight loss and nutrition they should take. Continue reading

Environmental Toxins Linked to Childhood Obesity

pacifiersAre toys, pacifiers and even shampoo driving the epidemic of childhood obesity? 

Researchers from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York have found an association between a class of chemical substances known as “phthalates” Continue reading

Important News if You Have a Beer Belly

Beer bellies are even more dangerous than we thought.

While it’s long been known that men with excess fat around their abdomens are at elevated risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and other problems, new evidence has emerged that links the common condition to osteoporosis. Continue reading

Good Fat Most Prevalent in Thin Children

Study at Joslin Diabetes Center and Children’s Hospital Boston Finds Boosting Brown Fat Levels May Combat Obesity Epidemic

Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center and Children’s Hospital Boston have shown that a type of “good” fat known as brown fat occurs in varying amounts in children – increasing until puberty and then declining — and is most active in leaner children.

The study used PET imaging data to document children’s amounts and activity of brown fat, which, unlike white fat, burns energy instead of storing it. Results were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

“Increasing the amount of brown fat in children may be an effective approach at combating the ever increasing rate of obesity and diabetes in children,” said Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD, an assistant investigator and staff physician at Joslin and senior author of the paper. Continue reading

Breastfeeding by Diabetic Moms Cuts Babies Obesity Risk

Breastfeeding for six months or more may reduce the risk that babies born to diabetic mothers become obese later in life, a new study shows.

“This is perhaps the first study to show that, indeed, if these babies are breastfed as recommended, or more, then their increased risk of obesity is reduced to levels seen in offspring not exposed to diabetes during pregnancy,” says study researcher Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Other experts hailed the study, which is published in Diabetes Care, as well-designed and important.

“I really think they did an excellent job,” says Kathleen Marinelli, MD, director of lactation support services at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and member of the United States Breastfeeding Committee. “It was very clever the way they defined their breast milk intake or their exclusivity. … A sticking point in all studies on breastfeeding is ‘How do you define how much breast milk the baby actually got?’ And I thought this was very cleverly done and well done.”

“They thought they might see a big difference between those babies whose mothers did not have diabetes and those babies whose mothers did have diabetes in terms of obesity protection down the road, depending on how much breast milk they got,” says Marinelli, who was not involved in the study. “And if they got more than six months of breast milk, they didn’t. And that’s actually a good thing, because it shows that you can sort of wipe out that negative potential effect on the baby, if you breastfeed long enough.”

And experts say the metabolic benefits of breastfeeding extend to mom, too, by helping her recover from gestational diabetes and protecting her against developing diabetes again later in life.

Maternal Diabetes and Childhood Obesity

In the womb, babies of mothers who have diabetes are exposed to more glucose and free fatty acids than babies whose mothers don’t have diabetes.

“So these fetuses are over nourished, even before the babies are born, so that makes them more heavy at birth, but also they have a higher percent of fat mass, not just a higher birth weight at birth,” Dabelea tells WebMD.

“Now the interesting question is why do these effects persist over the life course? And here is where we don’t quite know everything,” Dabelea says, “But one of the proposed mechanisms is that since these offspring are over nourished in utero, this hyper nutrition changes their satiety point so they only feel full when they’re overfed.”

“And they tend to consume increased amounts of food throughout their life because their satiety point has been altered, permanently,” she adds.

Breastfeeding Combats Obesity

For the study, Dabelea and her colleagues compared the fat distribution, height, waist measurements, and body mass index (BMI) of 89 children born to diabetic mothers to those of 379 children who had not been exposed to diabetes in utero. The average age of the children in the study was 10.

Mothers were asked about whether they breastfed their babies or used formula. They were also asked how long they breastfed and when they introduced solid foods and other beverages.

Because so many moms mixed breast milk and formula feedings, the researchers developed a sliding scale, between 0 and 1, which they used to statistically weight each child’s exposure to breast milk.

The researchers found that among those children who were exposed to diabetes in the womb, those who were breastfed for less than six months had significantly higher BMIs, had thicker waists, and stored more fat around their midsections compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months.

What’s more, when they compared children who were exposed to diabetes to those who weren’t, they only saw significant differences in those who were breastfed for less than six months. The groups looked nearly the same when they were breastfed for six months or more, indicating that the disadvantage conveyed by being exposed to diabetes had been wiped out.

Breastfeeding May Protect Mother and Infant

“What we wanted to do was look at what we would consider a high-risk group and to see if breastfeeding had an impact on obesity in that setting,” says study researcher Stephen Daniels, MD, PhD, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital in Denver. “And what we found, in fact, is that breastfeeding does seem to be protective.”

“Certainly all women should be breastfeeding, but women who have diabetes and who have babies that are exposed to diabetes in utero should be especially aware that breastfeeding could have an important benefit to their child over time,” Daniels tells WebMD.

And other research suggests that the benefits may extend to mom, as well.

“If a mother has gestational diabetes and she nurses her baby, she lowers her risk for developing diabetes down the road,” Marinelli says. “Real diabetes, not just diabetes during the pregnancy, so that’s her benefit. If she breastfeeds her baby, she lowers her baby’s risk for becoming obese. And she lowers her baby’s risk for not only becoming obese, but for developing diabetes, because there is a genetic component to diabetes so if you’re born to a parent who has diabetes, you are at risk for getting diabetes. But if you’re breastfed, that risk is lowered.”

The important thing to remember, Marinelli notes, is that the benefits appear to be related to how long a mom continues; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed for six months or longer after their babies are born.

“The longer you do it, the more benefit you accrue,” she says.

High Earners Who Munch Frequently at Work, Stay Healthier

WASHINGTON – People who earn more money are more likely to munch on muffins or chocolate bars while working, according to researchers at University of Texas at Austin.

What’s more, such people boost their chances of staying healthy – thanks to the regular munching.

Economist Daniel Hamermesh and his colleagues used data from the American Time Use Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to reach the conclusion.

And they examined how much time Americans spend eating meals each day and how much time they spend “grazing” – snacking or drinking while working, watching TV or doing some other activity.

“When their time becomes more valuable, people substitute grazing for eating, essentially switching to multi-tasking. Overall, better health is associated with more time spent eating, but especially with spreading that time over more meals per day,” said Hamermesh.

It was found that over fifty percent of all adults graze each day, with their grazing time almost equalling the time they spend eating meals.

The average American adult spends about two-and-a-half hours eating or grazing every day.

The study also revealed that men graze less but spend more time eating meals than women. Overall, men spend about three-and-a-half more minutes a day eating meals than women.

It was also found that better-educated people eat more frequently, spend more total time eating, graze more frequently and spend more total time grazing than those with less education.

Higher earners also spend more time eating individual meals, graze more frequently and spend more time during each individual grazing episode.

Those who spend more time eating have a lower body mass index (BMI), on average, and view themselves as healthier than those who spend less time eating.

High-BMI Teens Risk Hypertension

Study suggests those with “normal blood pressure” still at risk.

The body mass index (BMI) of seemingly healthy teens in 11th or 12th grade should be checked to predict whether they are likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) as young adults. This is the lesson of a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers who just published their findings in the journal Hypertension of the American Heart Association.

The BMI can easily be calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilos by the square of one’s height in meters (or in non-metric countries, the number of pounds multiplied by 703 and divided by one’s height in inches squared). Anyone with a BMI over 25 is considered overweight; if it is over 30, the person is obese.

BGU clinical biochemistry Prof. Assaf Rudich, who headed the large-scale prospective study, said that despite “normal” blood pressure at age 17, hypertension can develop a few years later. The team also found that teenage boys are three to four times more likely to develop high blood pressure in early adulthood than girls.

Currently, systolic blood pressures (the top number of the reading) of 100 to 110 and even up to 120 are considered within the normal range for adolescents. But if their BMI is too high, they may be in trouble and having a lower blood pressure at 17 should now be regarded as desirable, Rudich said.

Known as the “silent killer,” hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and vascular diseases like stroke, he said. “It is increasing along with the obesity epidemic, but regrettably young adults who are otherwise healthy frequently are not screened for becoming hypertensive.”

The BGU researchers examined the development of blood pressure from adolescence to young adulthood in 23,191 men and 3,789 women from the ages of 17 when undergoing medical tests for the Israel Defense Forces and followed them up until the age of 42. They took regular readings of blood pressure and BMI of teenagers who did not have high blood pressure at 17.

The study showed that in boys, there is a strong correlation between blood pressure and BMI at 17, meaning that while the blood pressure reading may be in the “normal range,” there is a greater risk for hypertension when BMI is also evaluated.

The rate of progression to hypertension is higher in boys whose systolic blood pressure is 110 versus those whose blood pressure is 100.

For girls, only the sub-group considered obese had substantially higher risk of high blood pressure. The researchers believe that the hormone estrogen may protect against hypertension.

The study also confirmed the observation that 17-year-old boys have higher blood pressure than girls of the same age. During a follow-up period with these adolescents, 14 percent or 3,810 people developed hypertension.

“Collectively, the study suggests that pediatricians caring for adolescents and physicians caring for young adults should be more aware of the need to monitor weight and blood pressure even when they are considered normal,” said Prof. Iris Shai of the Faculty of Health Sciences‚ epidemiology department.

“For the individual person, a ‘normal value’ may still be associated with a significant elevated risk of disease when the BMI and sex of the patient is also considered,” she concluded.

Calorie Restriction Reduces Disease and Extends Life

In literally thousands of experiments, on a wide range of animals (almost certainly to include humans!), calorie restriction has greatly extended maximum and average lifespans and improved disease resistance, including resistance to many cancers. There is still uncertainty about why calorie restriction has these desired effects. Two important reasons proposed for the benefits of calorie restriction are: 1) fewer calories mean that there will be a reduction in the accumulation of oxidant and free-radical damage, and 2) fewer calories alter fat deposition, obesity, and hormones. The practical effect of this is improve the immune response of calorie-restricted (hereafter CR) animals.

There are numerous reputable websites to learn more about the underlying animal studies (preliminary corroborative results are now coming out on the rhesus monkey experiments currently underway). Indeed, there are already convincing studies demonstrating the health benefits (and, no doubt, the longevity benefits…though not enough time has passed to observe these!) in humans.

For present purposes, that CR—with adequate or optimal nutrition (the first controversy)–is good for your prospects for a long, healthy life will be taken as a given. The science is unambiguous and the life extension benefits have been known (surprisingly) since 1935. The interesting questions revolve around related issues.

What is Calorie Restriction?

You might (in an ideal world) want to get an extensive blood test, so that you can verify for yourself the benefits of CR as they occur. Also, in an ideal world, you would want to calculate how many calories you are currently eating. This will add some useful precision, if others are to learn from your experience with CR—remember that you are a pioneer and that leaving a record is a good thing. But, unfortunately, I did not do the latter, so I have only a loose understanding of what percentage of CR I am engaged in at any particular time.

The range of recommended calorie restriction levels is from 10% to 25% from the unrestricted diet (Walford believes most people should start CR with 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day). But, you don’t want to lose too much weight and you don’t want to lose it too fast! A number of ways of thinking about CR have emerged. If you feel weak, lightheaded, or are overly tired and sleep a lot, you are either losing too fast or not getting enough nutrition with your reduced caloric intake—you should feel better, not worse, if things are going right.

To give a reference, it would be difficult for most people to lose more than a pound a week of true weight (ignoring water) in a healthy way. Since a pound loss (3500 calories, roughly) in a week breaks down to 500 calories per day, that is a quite substantial restriction (16.7% CR if one is initially at 3,000 calories a day, which is plenty of food). Note that the “Percent Daily Values” on all of the food packages these days refer to a 2,000-calorie diet, with gram numbers also being given for the 2,500 calorie diet. If you were eating at those levels before restriction, losing one pound a week would be 25% and 20% CR respectively.

So, you are “safer” to take six weeks to lose 6 pounds, though this, too, is likely to vary with the individual. When I lost 12 pounds in that time (2 per week), I felt very bad, but Ray (another CR Society member) lost 15 pounds in 6 weeks and felt fine. The key is to be guided by how you feel–you are supposed to feel better, not worse. If you feel worse, lose more slowly. Remember that when you are losing fat you are also losing muscle along with that fat; you may also be releasing toxins stored in fat too rapidly.

Also, and especially if you are moderately to very active, you will find your fat percentage declining steadily as you lose weight. Walford believes that you should not let that fall below 6-10% for men and 10-15% for women. This is not terribly likely to happen for most people on CR—the 1990 mean values for males between 40 and 75 years old varied from 25.3 to 26.8% while the female means were 34.9 to 39.0% for those age groups! For men between 40 and 75, a 13 to16% body fat will put you in the lowest 5% of the nation, while for women, a 25 to 28% body fat will also make them leaner than 19 out of 20 people!

And, we’ve gotten a bit fatter since 1990. So, it’s not too likely that you will acquire a dangerously low fat percentage. Despite Walford’s warning, having quite low body fat percentages may not be so terribly undesirable at least for particular individuals (Frank Shorter was estimated to be only 1-3% fat when he won the Olympic marathon in 1972!).

A rough measure of how fat people are is the Body Mass Index or BMI. This can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms (2.2 pounds to a kilogram) by the square of your height in meters (39.4 inches to a meter). Thus, if you weigh 150 lbs. (68.2kg) at a height of 5’9″ (69″ or 1.75m) tall and weigh 150 lbs., your BMI is 68.2kg/3.0625 = 22.3. Traditional nutrition/health sources say that the BMI for “normal” men and women should be in the range of 20-27, which roughly corresponded to the 10th and 75th percentile values in 1971-74. For a flavor of where you stand, from 1990 data (we’ve gotten fatter since then!)

Women generally have lower BMIs, except among the very obese, where there are more women than men. The reconciliation of these BMI data with the earlier data that indicated that women have higher fat percentages (true at every BMI) than men comes via the greater amount of lean body mass among men. I would guess that the average BMI of the members of the CR Society (a newsgroup on the web) would be well under 21, with many as low as 17. A recent study has indicated that those with lower BMIs are much healthier and less prone to disease and premature death than those with high BMIs.

While perhaps a depressing revelation for many, it turns out that you do not get CR’s health benefits by losing weight via increased caloric expenditure. It is true that a typical person could lose 1 pound a week either by restricting calories an average of 500 per day or by running 5 miles every day (losing an average of 100 calories per mile more-or-less regardless of speed) and eating the original number of calories.

The reason exercise does not give CR benefits even if it gave equivalent CR weight stems from how CR is hypothesized to work. Food is the source of 90% of the oxidants or free radicals in the body—reducing food reduces oxidative damage. Exercise, ironically, actually contributes to free radical formation by burning that food faster. These negative effects are for most people (the non-CRers) more than offset by the health benefits of exercise, so that average lifespan is certainly increased by exercise. [Probably the oxidative damage is more than offset by positive effects of improved fat deposition, reduced obesity, and improved hormone status.] But a number of rodent experiments indicate that exercise doesn’t add anything to the maximum lifespan and fairly little to the average lifespan when animals are already calorie restricted.

It is the CR that gives the benefits—exercise to feel better and to maintain independence in old age, but don’t exercise as a substitute for calorie restriction. Note, too, that while CR won’t make you stronger, it will make you relatively stronger—you’ll be able to do more push-ups and chin-ups, for example, just because you have less weight to lift! These benefits will be manifest in everything you do as you move around in your lighter body throughout the day.