Even though it’s widely accepted that moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle, a new study suggests that people who abstain from drinking have the highest levels of wellbeing. And it’s women who stand to benefit the most from giving up the booze. According to the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), men and women who have abstained from drinking alcohol their whole lives had the highest levels of mental wellbeing at the start of the 5-year study. And for females who moderately consumed alcohol (fewer than seven alcoholic drinks per week), quitting was linked with a boost in mental health. Speaking about the findings of the study, Co-author Dr Michael Ni, a brain scientist at the University of Hong Kong, said: “Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed. Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. “Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental wellbeing, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers.”
We recently wrote about how just one rasher of bacon a day can increase bowel cancer risk. Now, new research has revealed that replacing red meat with plant protein can reduce heart disease risk. For the study, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, conducted a meta-analysis of trials comparing the effects of meat vs. other diets on our health. The results are published in the journal Circulation. It was an approach that allowed the researchers to not only examine the health effects of red meat, but also see whether substituting red meat for other protein sources brought benefits. Analyzing data from 36 randomized controlled trials, the researchers looked at the blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins of the participants. They then compared these levels with those of people who ate less red meat and more chicken, fish, legumes, soy, nuts, or carbohydrates. They found that while there wasn’t much difference in lipoproteins, blood pressure, or total cholesterol, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. In addition, diets rich in high-quality plant protein led to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Marta Guasch-Ferré, lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent. “But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”
Consuming even small amounts of red and processed meat each day can increase a person’s risk of bowel cancer, a new study has found. According to the research led by Oxford University and funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), just one rasher of bacon per day can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Eat three rashers per day (around 50g) and the risk of bowel cancer rises by 20%. While meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, the Department of Health in England advises that anyone who eats more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce their consumption to 70g, the average daily amount consumed in the UK. Processed meat, in particular, has previously been linked to a high likelihood of causing cancer. So foods like bacon, salami, hotdogs and some sausages should not be eaten too much on a daily basis. Also, high temperature cooking, such as on a barbecue, is also thought to increase a person’s risk of cancer due to the carcinogenic chemicals that are created during the cooking process. For the research, the study team analysed health data from almost half a million people in the UK. Speaking about the findings of the research, Emma Shields, information manager at CRUK, said “This study shows the more meat you eat, the higher your risk of getting cancer and obviously the reverse is true - the less you eat the less likely you are to get bowel cancer.”
Many people do not get all the nutrients they need from food and so take supplements to compensate. It’s something that’s worth an absolute fortune to the companies that produce them, with people spending around $30 billion per year on supplements in the United States alone. But new research shows that nutrients from supplements are not as good as those from food and that the latter is linked to a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cancer. According to the research paper, published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine, many people would be much better off spending money on fruit and vegetables instead of supplements. By analysing data from 27,725 participants in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Medford, MA, found that supplements do not afford the same benefits as eating different foods. For example, getting enough vitamin K from leafy greens and magnesium from legumes, nuts and whole grains was associated with a lower mortality rate. However, consuming 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium in supplement form was associated with a higher cancer risk, while getting excess calcium from food wasn’t. Speaking about the findings of the research, Fang Fang Zhang of Tufts University and study senior author, said: “Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements.” In other words, while supplements can help people who cannot get certain nutrients from foods due to allergies, they are not a silver bullet for health.
Our daily diets are bigger killers than smoking and account for one in five deaths around the world. In other words, the food you eat could be sending you to an early grave. But which diets are the worst? Well, according to an influential study in The Lancet, salt – whether it be in bread, processed meals or soy sauce – shortens the most lives. The Global Burden of Disease Study used estimates of different countries’ eating habits to determine which diets were shortening the most lives. Here are the three most dangerous diets: Too much salt - three million deaths Too few whole grains - three million deaths Too little fruit - two million deaths Low levels of seeds, nuts, vegetables, fibre and omega-3 from seafood were the other major killers. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound.” Salt is such a big problem because it significantly increases a person’s blood pressure, which in turn increases their chances of heart attacks and strokes. Around 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease, highlighting why diets containing too much salt are such a problem.
If you or someone you know suffers with knee osteoarthritis, a new study may provide some hope. One of the most widespread forms of arthritis in the United States, osteoarthritis affects around 10% of men and 13% of women over the age of 60. Moreover, some estimates say it affects almost 40% of people over the age of 70. What’s worse is there is currently no cure, with doctors and medical professionals usually prescribing painkillers to help alleviate symptoms. Knee replacement surgery is also an option that’s considered. However, a new study led by Robert Sorge, Ph.D., who is the director of the PAIN Collective in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Psychology, has found that a diet low in carbohydrates could help relieve knee osteoarthritis symptoms. Having followed either a low-carb or low-fat diet for 12 weeks, the 21 adults aged 65–75 who had knee osteoarthritis and participated in the study were examined to see what the effect had been. The participants’ functional pain levels were analyzed, as well as their serum blood levels for oxidative stress, both at the beginning of the study and at the end. Participants that followed the low-carb diet had reduced functional pain levels and levels of self-reported pain. Furthermore, they also showed less oxidative stress in their serum blood levels. Speaking about the findings of the study, Sorge said: “Our work shows [that] people can reduce their pain with a change in diet.”
People all over the world routinely sit down to eat breakfast every day. And while menus and traditions vary depending on where you are, many people are in agreement that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” That’s because it provides the body with the energy and nutrients needed to start the day. But what bearing does eating breakfast each day have when you are trying to lose weight? Well, according to a new study – the findings of which were published in the BMJ - the answer is not a lot at all. In fact, not only did the study find no evidence that eating breakfast aids weight loss, it also found that skipping breakfast doesn’t have a negative effect and isn’t linked to people feeling hungrier. For the study, the team from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, analyzed 13 randomized controlled trials. They found that daily calorie intake was higher in individuals who ate breakfast than in those who didn’t. The authors concluded: “Although eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it may have the opposite effect.” In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Eating or skipping breakfast has different effects depending on the person’s unique metabolism.
Cutting down on meat is something many people say they are striving to do nowadays. Initiatives like Veganuary and Meat-free Mondays are helping to drive the trend and highlight the benefits of consuming less meat. But what’s the reality? Has meat consumption gone up or down over the past 50 years? Well, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organization data, meat production today is nearly five times higher than it was in the 1960s. That is down to two main factors: first, there are more people to feed today. Second, people around the world have become richer, which is associated with a rise in meat consumption. In a nutshell, there are more people in the world and more of those people can afford to eat meat. This is highlighted when you consider the countries that eat the most meat. For example, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina all have annual meat consumption levels of more than 100kg per person. In fact, most countries in Western Europe have annual meat consumption levels of between 80kg and 90kg per person, while individuals in lower-income nations eat considerably less meat. For example, annual meat consumption levels in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nigerians are 7kg, 8kg and 9kg per person respectively. The bottom line is that meat is still a luxury in many countries today. So, despite the initiatives and the seeming shift to people consuming less meat, the reality is that meat consumption isn’t falling. One point that is worthy of note, however, is that meat eating habits are changing. For example, in the West, people are eating more poultry and less red meat (namely beef and pork). Have your meat eating habits changed in recent times? If they have, was it a conscious decision on your part? [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
The health benefits of eating fiber have long been hailed, but how much fiber should we all be eating to prevent chronic disease and premature death? A new study reveals just that… Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the research is the culmination of a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials that took place over almost 40 years. The results appear in the journal The Lancet. One of the objectives of the research was to help in the development of new guidelines for dietary fiber consumption, as well as discover which carbs protect us the most against noncommunicable diseases. So how much fiber should we be eating? Well, the research found that a daily intake of 25–29 grams of fiber is ideal. People who consumed this amount of fiber each day were 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause and had a 16–24 percent lower incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. The researchers also say that consuming more than 29 grams of fiber per day could lead to even more health benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said: “The health benefits of fiber are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology, and effects on metabolism. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels. “The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.” Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Are you consuming enough fiber?
The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.
Diets that are low in carbohydrates, such as the Atkins Diet, have become increasingly popular among people wanting to lose weight. But while some swear that cutting carbs is the key to weight loss and a long, healthy life, a new study suggests it could actually shorten your life expectancy by up to four years. The 25-year study in the US found that moderate carbohydrate consumption and/or replacing meat with plant-based protein and fats is healthier than a low-carb diet. Based on questionnaires completed by some 15,400 people and published in The Lancet Public Health journal, the study found that individuals who got around half of their energy from carbohydrates had a slightly lower risk of death compared to people who had low and high card intakes. From the age of 50, people in the moderate carb group were expected to live, on average, for another 33 years, the researchers found. That’s four years more than the individuals in the extra low-carb group and 2.3 years more than the low-card group. Dr Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist from Boston and leader of the study, said: “Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight-loss strategy. “However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall life span and should be discouraged. “Instead, if one chooses to follow a low carbohydrate diet, then exchanging carbohydrates for more plant-based fats and proteins might actually promote healthy ageing in the long term.” [Recommended reading: Serving food on smaller plates doesn't fool hungry people - study]
If you’re trying desperately to lose weight, you’ll know that diets are difficult. But did you also know that the old trick of using a smaller plate when you eat to reduce portion sizes also (apparently) doesn’t work? That’s the finding of a new study that analysed how tricking the brain with a smaller plate doesn’t work when someone is hungry. According to the study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), “plate size doesn’t matter as much as we think it does” – especially when people are food deprived. For the study, the results of which were published in the peer-reviewed journal Appetite, the researchers set to out to see if people could identify pizza portion sizes when they were placed on plates of differing sizes. They found that people who had not eaten for at least three hours prior to the test were more likely to identify the pizza portions on both smaller and larger plates than their counterparts who were not hungry. Interestingly, this only happened when applied to food, with both groups similarly inaccurate when asked to compare the size of black circles placed within different sized circles. The researchers say this shows that hunger plays a role in heightening the analytical abilities of individuals. "Over the last decade, restaurants and other food businesses have been using progressively smaller dishes to conform to the perceptual bias that it will reduce food consumption," says Dr. Ganel, head of the Laboratory for Visual Perception and Action in BGU's Department of Psychology. "This study debunks that notion. When people are hungry, especially when dieting, they are less likely to be fooled by the plate size, more likely to realize they are eating less and more prone to overeating later."
A new study suggests that eating nuts regularly can improve both a man’s sperm count and the quality of the sperm produced. Experts say the finding is significant given that sperm counts across the Western world are in decline, a reality that’s been attributed to pollution, smoking and diet. At present, around one in seven couples have difficulty getting pregnant and figures show that 40-50% of infertility cases are attributable to men. For the study, scientists randomly split 119 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 35 into two groups. One group had 60 grams (2oz) of nuts added to their normal diet each day, while the other continued to eat as they always had done. The group that had the nuts added to their diet were found to have improved sperm – 14% greater count, 4% better vitality, 6% better motility (movement) and 1% better morphology (shape and size) – all of which are considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be measures of sperm quality. Dr Albert Salas-Huetos, from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, who led the study, said: "Evidence is accumulating in the literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern might help conception”. The results of the study were recently presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.
Have you ever encountered someone who calls themself ‘fat but fit’? It’s not uncommon to meet people who are clearly overweight, yet not perturbed by their situation because they consider themselves to be fit and healthy. However, a large study conducted in America has found that women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke tracked the health of some 90,257 women in the US over a 30-year period. They found that women who were overweight or obese, but had none of the typical cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes, were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their normal weight and metabolically healthy peers. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Matthias Schulze, who led it, said: "Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events.” The study also found women who were of normal weight, but metabolically unhealthy, were over two-times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women."
Women who regularly eat fast food and don’t consume enough fruit are more likely to experience problems trying to conceive, a study suggests. The study of 5,598 women in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that women who ate fast food four or more times a week took almost a month longer to get pregnant than those who rarely or never ate it. Furthermore, women who regularly eat junk food were also less likely to conceive within a year. Women who had eaten fruit three or more times a day, on average, conceived half a month quicker than those who had eaten it less than one to three times a month. While experts say the study suggests a good diet boosts the chances of getting pregnant, some limitations - including the participants having to remember what they’d eaten in the month before conceiving - have been highlighted. Prof Claire Roberts, from the University of Adelaide, Australia, who led the study, said: "These findings show that eating a good quality diet that includes fruit and minimising fast food consumption improves fertility and reduces the time it takes to get pregnant." [Related reading: UK hit by weight-related fatty liver disease epidemic]
Intermittent fasting is something that’s become more popular in recent times with people looking to shed a few kilograms and now new research shows that it could actually have ‘profound health benefits’. In addition to helping people lose weight, intermittent fasting, according to the research by a team at the University Of Florida College Of Medicine, can also slow down aging and disease. The human body runs on glucose, which it gets from the food we eat. However, periods of fasting force the body to find an alternative energy source. Our bodies begin to convert body fat into fatty acids which are easily absorbed by our blood. Molecules called ketones are then produced from the fatty acids, which our bodies use as a new source of energy. Stephen Anton, a researcher from the University Of Florida College Of Medicine in Gainesville, refers to this process as "flipping the metabolic switch". He says "this switch can happen after a certain period of time fasting. It's a gradation in which your metabolism overtime shifts to use higher and higher amounts of ketones for energy”. Having reviewed numerous studies that focused on the mechanisms and benefits of intermittent fasting, Anton and his team discovered that not only did intermittent fasters experience significant weight loss, they did not lose lean tissue, such as organ tissue, muscular tissue, and bone tissue, which allow our bodies to continue functioning well and could help prolong our lifespans.
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
Do you know how many calories you consume on a daily basis? If you had to estimate, how accurate do you think you would be? An analysis of Office of National Statistics data shows that one-third of people in the UK underestimate how many calories they are eating. The research shows that British men eat more than 3,000 calories a day, but claim to only eat 2,000, while women say they eat around 1,500, when, in fact, it’s closer to 2,500. The NHS says the recommended daily calorie allowance for people who want to maintain their weight is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. So why the discrepancy? It’s actually a pitfall that hampers many diet-related surveys. Many people simply forget to list everything they’ve eaten, while others deliberately underestimate because they know they are part of a poll. Public Health England guidelines state that people should be looking to consume around 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for lunch and then 600 for dinner, which leaves some extra for drinks and snacks throughout the day. Eating out is one of the hardest factors for people trying to count calories. That’s because restaurants rarely list calorie information and portion sizes vary from establishment to establishment. The bottom line is that unless you are specifically counting calories, chances are you’re underestimating your daily consumption. Why not give it a try – estimate how many calories you’re consuming and then make a conscious effort to count them, you might just be surprised at the difference.
When it comes to food allergies, peanut allergies are one of the most deadly. But hope may be on the horizon for people who are allergic to peanuts after a new study has revealed how a particular oral treatment can be effective for up to four years after it is administered. For the study, children were given a probiotic with a peanut protein every day for 18 months. One month later, the children were tested to see whether they could tolerate peanuts without displaying any allergic symptoms – 80% could. Then, after four years, the children were tested again. This time 70% were still able to eat peanuts without showing any allergic symptoms. Lead researcher Prof Mimi Tang, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, said: "The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don't have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanuts”. She added that this is the first time a peanut allergy treatment has proved effective for this long. The Australian research team now wants to determine whether the treatment has improved the children’s quality of life. More than 250 million people worldwide are thought to have peanut allergies – a figure that has more than trebled in the last 20 years alone.
Men with waists over 40 inches and women with waists over 35 inches are at greater risk of certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes. That’s the message to come out of a study by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the World Health Organisation. According to Dr Heinz Freisling, the lead author of the study published in the British Journal of Cancer, a person’s waist measurement is as good at predicting cancer risk as their body mass index (BMI). His advice is for people to know their waistlines. “You only need to put a tape measure around your belly button. This is easy to do and can give a person an indication of whether their risk for specific cancers is increased or not – for instance pancreas or liver cancer which are known to be related to increased body fatness or obesity,” he said. Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast and pancreas. The study combined data from about 43,000 participants who had been followed for an average of 12 years and more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.