Sunday, December 21, 2008

Interesting Research

I found some interesting research this week! I'll talk about a lot of it tonight on the X Gym radio show on KVI AM 570 at 5 pm.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave some support to past studies finding that breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight -- and that eating a high-quality breakfast (especially protein), rather than grabbing a pastry, is the key.

The Food and Drug Administration has finally approved the use of two new zero-calorie sweeteners made from the stevia plant. Coca-Cola and other companies plan to introduce drinks sweetened with stevia-based products. Coca-Cola Co. is expected to launch a drink in the U.S. this week containing a natural, calorie-free sweetener, intensifying a race with PepsiCo Inc. to dominate a new generation of noncarbonated beverages. Stevia has been used in Paraguay for centuries and in Japan for decades, and until now, it has been available in the United States only as a nutritional supplement.

People tend to either love or loathe yoga poses like Pigeon. Regardless of which camp you inhabit, keep in mind that Pigeon can help safeguard your precious knees and low back and make myriad poses infinitely more pleasant. Here's a look at the tremendous benefits of hip openers. Open hips can mean less back pain. Tight hip flexors pull your pelvis forward and exaggerate the curve in your lower back. Picture your entire pelvis as a bowl of water spilling toward your toes, with the back side of the bowl raised up. When your lumbar becomes shortened, you're likely to feel compression and discomfort over time. You'll notice it in your poses, too. If your hip flexors are short in a pose like Warrior I or Camel, your lower back will overdo the arch, and you'll feel pain. Open hip flexors help bring the pelvis back to neutral and mitigate pain.

Exercise only (without dieting) shows fat loss comes mostly from dangerous belly fat. Women who increased their activity by 3,500 steps a day lost five pounds. Men doing the same lost 8 1/2 pounds. Participants who exercised the most decreased their belly fat by 10 percent to 20 percent. The study points up the good news: Belly fat is actually quite sensitive to exercise. “That’s where you’re most likely to lose the weight,” said David Robbins, endocrinologist and professor of medicine at KU Med in Kansas City. “These fat cells shut off very quickly.” But even a small weight loss shuts down some very dangerous signals from belly fat cells, the kind that put people at risk of disease, Robbins said. “So even losing five to 10 pounds can have a disproportionate benefit to your health,” he said.

Phenol Power
Cinnamon and cinnamon sticks were clear standouts for healthy spices in a recent test, not only because of their total antioxidant ranking but also because they scored high marks for phenolics -- health-protective compounds credited with thwarting cell-damaging processes in the body. Cinnamon phenols in particular may also help bring down blood sugar. Ground or stick, sprinkled or stirred -- cinnamon packs an antioxidant wallop. Cinnamon is used in many of the recipes on the X Gym website at so check it out!

High blood levels of vitamin C could cut stroke risk by as much as 42 percent and reduce your odds of developing type 2 diabetes by a whopping 62 percent. That’s exactly what happened in two recent studies involving middle-aged and older adults. As blood levels of C went up, risks went down. Researchers suspect that the vitamin’s strong antioxidant qualities may be the reason for its protective effects. And there’s no better way to raise your blood levels of C than to start filling your body with C-rich winter foods like broccoli and other dark greens!

A new study found that overweight men and women burned more post-meal fat when they ate a high-protein breakfast and lunch than when they had lower-protein meals. The added protein seemed to modify the fat-burning deficit seen in heavy individuals.
This isn't the only study to show the metabolic benefits of high protein. A large number of other studies have also suggested that high-protein diets may help people shed weight more easily. [Nutrition & Dietetics June 5, 2008; 65(4): 246-52]

Turns out people who regularly quench their thirsts with water consume a whopping 9 percent fewer daily calories than non-water drinkers. Not only do water drinkers seem to drink fewer sugary and calorie-heavy beverages (like eggnog, mulled wine, and champagne), but they also have healthier eating habits overall, according to a recent study. [Water and food consumption patterns of U.S. adults from 1999 to 2001. Popkin, B.M., et al., Obesity Research 2005 Dec;13(12):2146-2152]

In a study, people who ate at least 27 grams of fiber per day had better lung capacity than people who got less than 10 grams. The high-fiber eaters were also 15 percent less likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an irreversible lung condition that makes it hard to breathe. Fiber may protect lungs by reducing tissue-damaging inflammation. The antioxidants in fiber probably help protect lung cells, too. [Dietary fiber, lung function, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the atherosclerosis risk in communities study. Kan, H., et al., American Journal of Epidemiology 2008 Mar 1;167(5):570-578]

Remember to filter your water! Tap water has too much fluoride, and now researchers are finding this chemical may be partly responsible for early onset puberty in girls.
Up until the 1990s, no research had ever been conducted to determine the impact of fluoride on the pineal gland -- a small gland located between the two hemispheres of the brain that regulates the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the onset of puberty and helps protect the body from cell damage caused by free radicals. It is now known -- thanks to the meticulous research of Dr. Jennifer Luke from the University of Surrey in England -- that the pineal gland is the primary target of fluoride accumulation within your body. After finding that the pineal gland is a major target for fluoride accumulation in humans, Dr. Luke conducted animal experiments to determine if the accumulated fluoride could impact the functioning of the gland -- particularly the gland's regulation of melatonin. Luke found that animals treated with fluoride had lower levels of circulating melatonin, as reflected by reduced levels of melatonin metabolites in the animals' urine. This reduced level of circulating melatonin was accompanied -- as might be expected -- by an earlier onset of puberty in the fluoride-treated female animals.

According to neuroscientists, obesity gradually numbs the taste sensation of rats to sweet foods, and drives them to consume larger and sweeter meals. There is apparently a critical link between taste and body weight. The researchers implanted electrodes in the rodents' brains to record the firing of nerve cells when the rats' tongues were exposed to various tastes. The obese rats had about 50 percent fewer neurons firing when their tongues were exposed to sucrose, suggesting that they have become desensitized to sucrose.

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