Monthly Archives: August 2014

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

I’m back from vacation and a busy week of catching up, and happy to share some health news again! This week, read about health messaging for nutrition, a brilliant way to prevent heart disease, Tim Noakes disregarding science, and more.

How Much Sugar?

Are you confused when you hear gram amounts of nutrients in foods? For example, do you know what 70 grams of sugar represents? If you said no, you’re not alone.  A recent study by researchers at the University of Alabama shows that most people need more concrete information to translate nutrition data into something meaningful. In the case of sugar, using sugar cubes to illustrate the amount of sugar in a beverage was much better understood than using the gram amount, and helped people decrease their sugar consumption. (If you’re wondering, 1 sugar cube contains 4 grams of sugar, about 1 teaspoon).

A great example of using such messaging is this website, which uses sugar cubes to illustrate the amount of sugar in various foods and beverages.

A Brilliant Way to Prevent Heart Disease

I think it would be wonderful if physicians would prescribe lifestyle changes (healthy eating and exercise) more than they do medications for preventable diseases.  But changing health behaviors is tough, and most physicians don’t have the time or expertise to counsel patients.  But what about automatically referring at-risk patients for lifestyle change counseling?

A report released this week by the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends offering or referring adults who are overweight or obese and have other heart disease risk factors to intensive behavioral counseling interventions. The interventions would promote a healthful diet and physical activity.

The report backs up recommendations with a thorough review of studies showing that behavioral counseling for diet and exercise can reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, glucose levels, and the incidence of diabetes.

Tim Noakes in the News

Many hold sports physiologist Tim Noakes in high esteem after reading his popular books (e.g. Lore of Running). But he is losing respect among scientists: recently he seems to be in the anti-establishment/conspiracy theorist camp, disregarding science (that doesn’t support his opinions), promoting his high-fat low-carb diet as evidence-based, and stating that a proven link between vaccines and autism have been covered up.

More links of interest this week:

You Can Learn Anything

A terrific video by Khan Academy.


Photo Credits

See More Issues of This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

Share This:

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about how attractive-looking stairs might encourage physical activity, inspiring masters athletes, the truth about light bikes and performance, a surprising way to shave 1-minute off a  40k  cycling time trial, a terrific free cookbook featuring inexpensive meals, and more.

Dali Stairs PhiladelphiaTime to Celebrate the Stairs!

Would you take the stairs instead of the elevator more often if stairs were prominently displayed and inviting? This week NPR Health featured New York City’s Take the Stairs Campaign, which calls on architects and designers to make stairs more attractive, and urges New Yorkers to take the stairs for these reasons:

  • Walking up the stairs burns almost 700% the number of calories burned standing in an elevator
  • 2 minutes of stair-climbing/day burns enough calories to eliminate the 1 pound the average adult gains each year
  • In one study, men who climbed at least 20 floors a week (about 3 floors a day) had a 20% lower risk of stroke or death from all causes
  • Stair-climbing can raise good cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health

Unfortunately, stair entrances are often hard to find, sometimes behind doors labeled as fire or emergency, and even when discovered can be uninviting concrete structures. Contrast that with the sedentary option (elevators), that have shiny and inviting doors that open with a finger touch to good lighting, carpeting, and music (well, most of us could probably do without the music!).  The New York campaign is part of a bigger movement called Active Design, a behaviour change strategy that involves making the healthy choice an attractive and easy one.

Here’s another fun stair design to encourage physical activity (piano stairs), based on the idea that that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour.

Inspiring Masters Athletes

A few stories on impressive masters athletes this week. . .

  • Jo Pavey, a 40-year-old mother-of-two (one a 10-month old!), won Commonwealth bronze in the 5,000m track race.
  • The 77-Year-Old Fitness Guru. Henry Hawk is 77 and still obsessed with fitness. But lately he’s also been focusing on a new passion project: helping spinal injury patients move again. (Outside Magazine).

Read about more inspiring masters athletes here.

Cycling News – Looking to Ride Faster?

A couple of surprising stories in the cycling world . . . bike weight might not make that much difference, but shaving your legs might (although probably not on uphills . . . )!

  • Bike weight and the myth of ‘fast’ bikes. Spending a lot of money to lighten up your bike may not be saving you as much time as you think.   Jim Gourley explains the common overestimation of how much bike weight matters for most riding. (Velo News)
  • Will Shaving Your Legs Improve Cycling Speed? Ask a cyclist why they shave their legs, and you’ll get answers ranging from “better for massages” to “skin heals better after a crash.”   Specialized wind-tunnel testers revealed what might be another important reason: to increase speed.  As shown in the video below, they estimate that shaved legs may  save up to 70 seconds over a 40 km time trial.

Good-and-cheap CoverCookbook Shows How To Eat Well On A Food Stamp Budget

Check out this beautiful cookbook, featured on NPR Food, designed by Canadian Leanne Brown.  Brown designed the book to help people in SNAP (a US Government Nutrition Assistance Program) learn to cook inexpensive, nutritious, and flavorful meals. The Cookbook is free and can be downloaded here.

 More links of interest this week:


Photo Credits

See More Issues of This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

Share This:

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about how stress damages cells and what you can do about it, HONcode certification for my website, the health benefits of nuts for diabetics, and more.

stressStress Damages Cells, but This Trio of Healthy Behaviors Can Protect

During stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, caring for a sick family member, or a overly busy schedule,  it’s common to struggle to maintain habits that promote good health.  But a growing body of research is showing that when stress strikes, it’s even more important to take care of ourselves. Life stresses contribute to poor health, increasing the risk of chronic disease and compromising the body’s immune function.

Telomere_capsSome research suggests that stress influences our health by accelerating cellular aging, as measured by telomere length.  Telomeres are recently-discovered structures on the end of chromosomes that  help protect from DNA damage (the bright “caps” shown on the image ). As cells age, telomeres shorten and don’t function as well, increasing susceptibility to chronic disease. Studies have linked telomere shortening to many conditions, including diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease.

A new study by researchers from UC San Francisco examined how life stressors influence telomere length.  They studied a group of post-menopausal women for 1 year, keeping track of the women’s stressful life events and health habits.  At the end of the year, researchers found that women who experienced stressful events had shorter telomeres, indicating accelerated cellular aging. But not all women with high stress levels had this cellular damage: those who engaged in healthy behaviors were protected from the cell-damaging effects of stress. These behaviors were (1) maintaining a healthy diet, (2) exercising, and (3) sleeping well. Diet quality was assessed by how often participants ate foods from each of “healthy categories” (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds,
low fat dairy and fish), and “unhealthy” categories (starches such
as white potatoes and refined grains, red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods????????????????????????
and sodas).

This is the first study to identify predictors of telomere length change over a short time frame, and builds on earlier research showing that  exercisediet, and sleep can influence telomeres. One of the study’s authors,  Elizabeth Blackburn, is a Nobel prize winner in medicine for her co-discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that helps lengthen telomeres.  (Mol Psychiatry advance online publication, July 29, 2014).

Remember, during stressful times, make time to take care of yourself with a good diet, proper sleep, and exercise.  But since research shows that stressed individuals find it difficult to engage in health promoting behaviors, study authors call on the health care system and policy makers to find “creative and powerful ways to promote engagement and maintenance of health behaviors, which in turn can help allay the destructive effects of the increasing levels of societal stress.”

My Website is HON Certified!

I’m pleased to announce that just received HONcode certification by the Geneva-based Health on the Net (HON) Foundation. HON is the most widely recognized standard-setting organization for improving the quality of health information on the internet.  I’ll provide more details next week.

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Nuts Healthful for Diabetics

Three new studies reveal the health benefits of nuts for adults with Type 2 diabetes. Two studies were conducted by John Sievenpiper of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital .  One study reviewed the results of 12 clinical trials, and found that 2 servings/day (about 1/2 cup) of tree nuts improved glucose control, as measured by the HbA1c test and fasting glucose. Sievenpiper’s second study found that eating tree nuts reduced triglycerides and blood sugars (two out of five markers for metabolic syndrome).  (PlosOne July 30, 2014BMJ Open 2014;4).

 TREE NUTS INCLUDE  almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, coconuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pine nuts and pistachios (but not peanuts). 

Blanched_pistachios (1)In another study, researchers at Penn State found that adults with diabetes who consumed pistachios daily had more favorable physiological responses to stressful events (the physical challenge was immersing a hand into ice water for 2 minutes; the mental challenge was a confusing math test). They showed that 2 servings of pistachios daily lowered vascular constriction and improved the heart’s neural control during these stressful events.  Other improvements on the pistachio diet included lower blood pressure and improved heart rate variability (how well the nervous system controls heart function). (J Am Heart Assoc 2014 Jul 01).

How Are You Intelligent?

While this video “How Are You Intelligent” by creativity and education expert Sir Ken Robinson doesn’t exactly fall under the realm of food, health and fitness, it offers some beautiful images and food for thought.

 Other Links of Interest This Week:


Photo Credits:

See More Issues of This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness




Share This: