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Micro-size me, please!
February 9th, 2012
11:39 AM ET

Micro-size me, please!

How many times have you been to the movie theater, ordered a regular-sized popcorn or soda and been asked, “Would you like a large for a quarter more?” What about ordering a sandwich at your local deli? "Make it a combo!" you probably say.

We’re trained early on, oftentimes by our parents, to clean our plates or no dessert. Frequently, regardless of how hungry we are, that’s exactly what we’ll do. 

Sure, the medium-sized popcorn would’ve been entirely satisfying, but if offered the larger portion, we’re going to take it and eat it – all of it.

This phenomenon, in part, is was what sparked a series of studies conducted at a fast-food Chinese restaurant on Tulane’s New Orleans campus.

The researchers conclude, in a study published in this month’s Health Affairs,  that up to one-third of customers accepted a verbal offer to downsize their lunch, regardless of whether they were offered a minor monetary incentive to do so. Customers who accepted the downsized meals ate, on average, 200 fewer calories than did those who ordered the full-sized meals.
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Hold the salt
February 7th, 2012
03:19 PM ET

Hold the salt

Nine out of ten adult Americans eat too much salt each day, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's not what we add at the dinner table that's the problem.

People are consuming high amounts of salt in processed foods and at restaurants.  High sodium levels increase blood pressure, putting people at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

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Access to unhealthy snacks at school unchanged
February 6th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Access to unhealthy snacks at school unchanged

About half of public and private elementary students could buy unhealthy snacks at school during the 2009-2010 school year from stores, vending machines and snack bars according to survey results released Monday.  The survey was part of a report published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Given increasing attention in recent years to the problem of childhood obesity, we would have hoped to see decreases in the availability of junk food in schools over time," said study author Lindsey Turner, health psychologist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Our research demonstrates the continued need for changes to make schools healthier," she added.

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Study: High-fat foods cause brain scarring
January 6th, 2012
01:31 PM ET

Study: High-fat foods cause brain scarring

Keeping pounds off long-term is difficult for even the most successful dieter, and scientists may now be on the path to determining why.

A study published recently in The Journal of Clinical Investigation shows that high-fat foods cause damage to the hypothalamus - an area in the brain responsible for hunger, thirst and the body's natural rhythms and cycles - in rodents.

“These are really important papers that begin to push the idea out that we’re not in control as much as we think we are,” says Dr. Steven R. Smith, co-director for the Sanford-Burnham Diabetes and Obesity Research Center, who wasn’t involved with the study.

However, Smith says researchers must first determine if the scarring happening in the rodent models will translate to the human condition. Not everything that scientists observe in rodents also applies to humans, of course, but it is a starting point.

“This is the tip of the spear. We’ve been talking a lot about diet and willpower and exercise and this sort of thing.  This is radically different [thinking] - that diets can actually re-program the structure of the brain.”
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U.S. News ranks best diets for 2012
January 4th, 2012
01:15 PM ET

U.S. News ranks best diets for 2012

The beginning of the year is when many people vow to lose weight, and it's also when U.S. News & World Report releases their annual Best Diet rankings, which is based on information from scientific journals, government reports and various health and nutrition experts nationwide.

There are several categories for the top spot.  No. 1 on the Best Diets Overall list (out of 25 contenders) for 2012 is the DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension - diet.

The publication ranks Weight Watchers. as the No. 1 "Easiest Diet to Follow." The best diet for diabetics is the Biggest Loser Diet and No. 1 in "Best Heart-Healthy Diets" is the Ornish diet, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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Study: Fat hormone increases risk of dementia in women
January 2nd, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Study: Fat hormone increases risk of dementia in women

Some risk factors for dementia like getting old and having a family history cannot be prevented, but a new study shows that hormones produced in excess weight around the middle may be another risk factor, particularly for women. 

A report in Monday’s Archives of Neurology has found that an increased presence of the hormone adiponectin can increase the risk for loss of brain function and Alzheimer's disease.

According to the World Alzheimer’s Report, currently, 36 million people are affected by dementia worldwide, and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, impacting 80% of the elderly. The Alzheimer’s Association says two-thirds of those with Alzheimer’s are women, and today, of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, 96% are over the age of 65.
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Teenagers buy fewer sugary drinks with posted calorie count
December 15th, 2011
04:01 PM ET

Teenagers buy fewer sugary drinks with posted calorie count

Signs that bring attention to the number of calories in sugary beverages have the power to dissuade teens from buying them, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Previous research has shown that the average American teenager drinks approximately 300 calories a day in sugar-sweetened beverages including soda, which can lead to obesity and other related health problems.

"Most consumers underestimate the number of calories in a can of soda, and they often do not realize that such calories can add up quickly," lead researcher Sara Bleich said in a press release about the study.
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December 7th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Sugar is on the menu for kids’ breakfast

Only one in four children’s cereals meets government guidelines for limits on sugar, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization.

Proposed government guidelines recommend that cereals have no more than 26% added sugar by weight, according to the report, and the Environmental Working Group found that many popular cereals, including Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch and Honey Smacks, had more than 40% added sugar.

“Our children deserve better,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said in a press release issued by the Environmental Working Group.
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Sugary drinks expand women's waists
November 14th, 2011
07:53 AM ET

Sugary drinks expand women's waists

Doctors have warned people for years that too many sodas or sugary drinks can cause weight gain. But now a new study finds two or more sugary beverages a day can expand a woman's waistline, even if she doesn't  gain weight. And that can be dangerous to a woman's health.

Studies show weight carried around the middle can increase a person's risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers looked at five years of data on more than 4,000 people, middle-aged and older, and compared those who drank two or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day with those who drank one or less. They assessed risk factors in follow-up exams, monitoring the participants' weight gain, increase in waist size, their HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, sugar levels, triglycerides and their possible development of diabetes. FULL POST

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Filed under: Heart • Nutrition • Obesity

Cholesterol screening recommended for 9-year-olds
November 11th, 2011
02:40 PM ET

Cholesterol screening recommended for 9-year-olds

Children should all be tested for high cholesterol between ages 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21 years of age, regardless of their family history, according to new guidelines released Friday.

The updated recommendations, aimed at fighting cardiovascular disease before it starts, came in a report released by the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The more we learn about heart disease and stroke in adults, the more we know that the process begins in childhood and progresses over time,” wrote Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, chairman of the panel that reviewed the guidelines. “By working with families, we can keep kids at a lower lifetime risk and prevent more serious problems in adulthood.”

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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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