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Oreos as 'addictive' as cocaine in lab rat study
October 16th, 2013
12:21 PM ET

Oreos as 'addictive' as cocaine in lab rat study

Anyone who's ever eaten an Oreo knows how difficult it can be to eat just one.

Scientists have long suspected that our brains crave junk food in the same way they crave other pleasurable substances, such as illegal drugs. Previous studies in rodents and in humans have shown the same area of the brain that lights up on scans when people use drugs, also shows increased activity when study participants consume, or even look at, high fat, high sugar foods like ice cream or bacon.

Some scientists believe certain foods trigger the brain to signal for more, similar to the way addictive drugs prompt cravings; if we don't fulfill the brain's request, the body could produce a physical response (like caffeine headaches) similar to withdrawal symptoms.

New research from undergraduate students at Connecticut College adds to the growing evidence suggesting that food can be addictive. The students were interested in understanding how the availability of junk food in low-income areas has contributed to America's obesity epidemic.

“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat, high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” study designer and neuroscience major Jamie Honohan said in a statement.
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Fatty fish may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis
August 12th, 2013
06:35 PM ET

Fatty fish may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis

Numerous medical studies have shown that fatty fish is healthy for the heart. Now researchers say it may also help prevent a debilitating type of arthritis.

Just one serving a week of a fatty fish such as salmon, or four servings a week of a leaner fish such as cod, may cut your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by half, according to a study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The study

Researchers reviewed the diets of 32,000 Swedish women who filled out two food questionnaires, one in the late 1980s and another a decade later.
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Study: Kids who drink soda, juice weigh more
August 5th, 2013
01:47 PM ET

Study: Kids who drink soda, juice weigh more

There's a strong link between sugary drinks and obesity. Scientific studies have shown that adults who consume more sugar-sweetened beverages tend to have higher body mass indexes, or BMIs, than their water-drinking counterparts.

But until now, this association hadn't been closely examined in kids younger than 5.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children avoid all sugar-sweetened beverages. A new study, published in the organization's journal Pediatrics, offers further evidence to support that recommendation.
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Study: Diet soda may do more harm than good
July 10th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Study: Diet soda may do more harm than good

Diet soda drinkers have the same health issues as those who drink regular soda, according to a new report published Wednesday.

Purdue University researchers reviewed a dozen studies published in past five years that examined the relationship between consuming diet soda and health outcomes. They then published an opinion piece on their findings in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, saying they were “shocked” by the results.

"Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health," said Susan Swithers, the report's author and a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences. “But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect.”

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You're eating more calories than you think
May 23rd, 2013
06:31 PM ET

You're eating more calories than you think

Calorie counting has long been touted as an effective tool for losing pounds or maintaining a healthy weight. But new research published in the British Medical Journal shows many of us are underestimating the calories we're eating, especially when we visit fast food restaurants.

The study

Researchers interviewed more than 1,800 adults, 1,100 adolescents and 330 children at several fast food chains in New England. The interviews were done at McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Dunkin' Donuts and Wendy's around dinnertime and lunchtime.

Study participants were asked to estimate their meal's calorie count. Researchers then collected the bill to later tally the correct amount of calories using nutrition info posted on the chain's website. FULL POST


Report questions benefits of salt reduction
May 14th, 2013
02:28 PM ET

Report questions benefits of salt reduction

Reducing salt consumption below the currently recommended 2,300 milligrams - about 1 1/2 teaspoons– per day maybe unnecessary, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The news follows a decades-long push to get Americans to reduce the amount of salt in their diet because of strong links between high sodium consumption and hypertension, a known risk factor for heart disease.

The IOM, at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reviewed recent studies published through 2012 that explored ties between salt consumption and direct health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and death. The organization describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public."

Researchers determined there wasn't enough evidence to say whether lowering salt consumption to levels between 1,500 and 2,300 mg per day could increase or decrease your risk of heart disease and mortality. But lowering sodium intake might adversely affect your health, the panel found.

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Too-early solid food could lead to problems for babies
March 25th, 2013
02:36 PM ET

Too-early solid food could lead to problems for babies

At least 40% of moms are feeding their infants solid foods far too early, according a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, and that may lead to problems for their children later in life.

Researchers wanted to know how many babies were being fed solid foods (including cereal and baby food) sooner than recommended, whether breast-feeding or formula feeding made a difference and why solids were being introduced early. When the study began in 2005,  the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which also publishes the journal Pediatrics, recommended introducing solid foods when babies were between 4 and 6 months old.

In 2012, the AAP changed those recommendations. Now it says babies shouldn't be eating solid food until they are about 6 months old.

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Lessons about disease...from mummies
March 10th, 2013
07:58 PM ET

Lessons about disease...from mummies

Talk about a startling juxtaposition: A mummy in a CT scanner. You may be wondering: Why in the world would a mummy get a CT scan?

It turns out that preserved peoples are great study subjects, especially when you are trying to figure out the roots of health problems that span millennia.

A study released Sunday in The Lancet suggests that atherosclerosis - the disease that makes arteries go rigid, and is a leading cause of death worldwide - may have been around for thousands of years.

"We like to say that we found the serial killer that's stalked mankind for 4,000 years," said Dr. Randall Thompson, attending cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, and lead author of the study.
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We're eating less fast food - but not by much
February 21st, 2013
12:01 AM ET

We're eating less fast food - but not by much

Americans are eating less fast food daily than they used to, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  But it's not much less.

Using data from 2007 to 2010, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics determined adults eat, on average, 11.3% of their daily calories from fast food. That number was 12.8% in 2006– a one and half point difference.

As you would expect, younger adults tend to eat more fast food than seniors. People older than 60 eat approximately 6% of their daily calories from fast food. Among the younger age groups, non-Hispanic black adults eat the most fast food - using more than one-fifth of their daily calories at fast food establishments.

The CDC did not see a significant difference in fast food consumption based on income, according to the report. Only in the 20-to-39 age group did fast food consumption drop as income increased.

Fast food has been linked to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Not surprisingly, obese adults in each age group ate more of their calories from fast food.

Photos: Worst fast-food meals for sodium


Meal times may affect weight loss success
January 29th, 2013
05:01 AM ET

Meal times may affect weight loss success

Losing weight may not be just about WHAT you eat but WHEN you eat it, according to a new study. Participants in the study who ate a bigger meal later in the day lost less weight than those who ate earlier.

Study authors Marta Garaulet and Dr. Frank Scheer, director of the medical chronobiology program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, followed 420 people in Spain during a 20-week weight loss treatment program.

The participants were split into two groups – early eaters who ate lunch before 3 p.m. and late eaters who ate lunch after 3 p.m. In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal of the day, comprising about 40% of a person’s daily calories.

The early eaters, on average, lost 25% more weight than the late eaters over the course of the study, according to Scheer.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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