Category Archives: General Health

What makes potato chips addictive?

Many people may wonder why, when sitting with a bag of potato chips, it seems almost impossible to have only one. The reason for this inability to stop eating may not just be habit: There could be science behind it, found in the food itself.

The danger of junk food
According to a King Features Syndicate column, eating junk food is a real danger. The source notes how people in the U.S. are seemingly addicted to snacks that are high in fat and sugar. In order to deter this, they suggest giving up at least one treat per week and increasing physical activity. Figuring out why these foods are addictive may also be advantageous.

A scientific condition may keep people eating
At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Tobias Hoch, Ph.D., explained why potato chips may have this effect. Hoch conducted a study that looked into the condition, referred to as “hedonic hyperphagia.”

“It’s recreational over-eating that may occur in almost everyone at some time in life,” Hoch said. “And the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity that here in the U.S. threatens health problems for two out of every three people.”

Hoch, along with other researchers in Erlangen, Germany used rats to test how this over-eating worked. The team gave one half of the rats potato chips to eat and the other half plain rat food.

The researchers looked at the brain activity of these rats to see how their reactions differed based on what they ate. They discovered that the reward and addiction brain centers of the potato chip group were most active.

Previously, researchers believed that fat and carbohydrates made people want to eat. The scientists claim that the levels of both these were the same in the potato chips and the rodent chow. Therefore, something else may have been a culprit.

Though scientists were unable to identify the specific element that accounted for the chip consumption, they did note the effect that it had in the reward centers of rats’ brains. The study concluded that because individuals get reward signals from the food, they feel attracted to it.

Finding the reason behind people’s desire to snack on junk food may help stop this bad habit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 715,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack every year. By promoting good health, and eliminating fatty foods like potato chips, more individuals may avoid this issue.

A little extra vitamin E may boost heart function in former smokers

New research shows that taking a specific form of vitamin E may help accelerate the health benefits of quitting smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, linked to 443,000 deaths per year, mostly in the form of lung cancer or ischemic hearth disease. Luckily, quitting smoking shows immediately health benefits to anyone who can put down the pack, notes the American Cancer Society. Within hours of quitting smoking, heart rate and blood pressure fall, and within three months both lung function and circulation are improved. Though the body does heal quickly, the damage brought about by smoking can still require a long healing process. It can take as much as ten years for the heart of a former smoker to resemble one of someone who has never smoked, according to Time magazine.

A University of Ohio research team has recently found that an extra dose of a special form of vitamin E  may help boost  the health effects of quitting smoking. For the study, doctors recruited smokers to quit for seven days, with blood markers of inflammation to be measure before and after the trial. Half of the study participants were given and gama-tocopherol form of vitamin E, in addition to abstaining from cigarettes smoking. While all participants showed a marked increase in cardiac function of at least 2.8 percent, those who took the additionally vitamin E supplement saw an additional 1.5 percent increase on average.

The form of vitamin E used in the study is not the type common in over- the-counter supplements. The most common form of vitamin E, the one which humans have a dietary requirement for, is alpha tocopherol. The gamma version of the vitamin is the most common variant found in foods regularly consumed, including peanuts, soy beans, pistachios and cashews.

“We used the gamma tocopherol type in contrast to virtually all other vitamin E studies that use alpha tocopherol,” said study lead author Dr. Richard Bruno, PhD. “Alpha tocopherol  is the one that we know the most about. It is the form that we know is required for humans, but gamma tocopherol is the most abundant form. We used the gamma tocopherol form because not only does it have antioxidant activity, like alpha tocopherol, but recent evidence indicates that it also has effective ability to lower inflammation and also trap what we call reactive nitrogen species. These are chemicals generated in the body that can lead to damage to various proteins.”

Mediterranean diet may provide health advantage

The Mediterranean diet may offer even more benefits than previously thought, according to a report by the Gerontological Society of America. The “MeDiet” may reduce the risk of hyperuricemia in individuals who adhere to it.

Hyperuricemia is a metabolic disorder characterized by an excess of uric acid in the blood.

Following a Mediterranean diet to inhibit hyperuricemia
The Gerontological Society of America explains that hyperuricemia is associated with a number of health issues including hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular morbidity and chronic kidney disease.

Marta Guasch-Ferre, registered dietician, conducted a five-year study with 11 other researchers to determine if the MeDiet would have benefits for people with hyperuricemia. Over 7,000 elderly participants were in the study group. Men 55 to 80 years old and women 60 to 80 years old followed one of three diets, two of which were Mediterranean-based. The participants either had type 2 diabetes mellitus or a risk of heart disease.

Mediterranean diets, according to the study, consist mainly of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, they are based on nuts, legumes, dairy and poultry. The diet also calls for an optional moderate consumption of wine. Individuals should not consume high quantities of red meat, creams and pastries, but they shouldn’t cut these items out entirely.

The diet has high amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements. These properties may contribute to reducing the amount of uric acid in the blood, according to researchers. Therefore the diet may be beneficial in deterring hyperuricemia.

Overall, the results of the study showed that those participants who closely adhered to the MeDiet had an increase in reversion of hyperuricemia. Researchers found that eating legumes specifically inhibited the condition.

Other studies note the benefits of the Mediterranean diet 
According to a recent Newsmax Health report, the New England Journal of Medicine unveiled research suggesting that adhering to a Mediterranean diet may also prevent cancer and heart disease.

“…what we’re finding out is that these people live longer, they have a lower incidence of heart disease, they have a lower incidence of cancer. And this is a very basic diet, one that probably most of us would have followed if we had lived 300 years ago,” Chauncey Crandall, M.D., head of preventive medicine and cardiology services at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic, told the source.

Choosing a Mediterranean diet may therefore be an easy way for individuals to avoid a number of health risks.

Balancing exercise with making a good dinner

A recent study from Ohio State University showed that Americans are not likely to both make dinner and engage in daily physical exercise. According to the study’s lead author, Rachel Tumin, an OSU student, preparing food for 10 minutes daily caused a lower probability of exercising for those 10 minutes.

The study looked at both men and women, single and married, with or without children.

“As the amount of time men and women spend on food preparation increases, the likelihood that those same people will exercise more decreases. The data suggest that one behavior substitutes for the other,” Tumin said.

The 112,000 adults participating in the survey reported their activities from the previous day. Overall, the survey showed that the average individual, regardless of sex, spent less than an hour both preparing food and exercising everyday.

In the results, 12 percent of women had engaged in some form of cardiovascular activity and 16 percent of men did. Women spent about nine minutes a day doing this activity while men did so for approximately 19 minutes a day. On average, women spent 44 minutes preparing food during the day while men spent 17 minutes doing so.

By looking at statistical models, Tumin and her colleagues saw that a substitution occurred within the participants. Given only a certain amount of time say, after their work-day, Americans have to choose to spend it exercising or preparing dinner.

“If we assume, for example, that adults have 45 minutes of free time to allocate to health-promoting behaviors, maybe we need to look at that holistically and determine the optimal way to use that time,” Tumin said.

The study found that these activities are time-consuming. Therefore, instead of doing both, individuals often can only do one. In theory, exercise and food preparation could go hand-in-hand. For example, an individual might go on a run for 20 minutes and prepare a healthy dinner afterward. The survey showed that for many, there may not be enough time in the day for this.

Finding a balance
Preparing good food and having a healthy diet are important. King 5 News noted that in response to these findings, doctors might remember that a patient only has a certain amount of time every day. These medical specialists may therefore provide tips on squeezing in daily diet and exercise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 47 percent of adults met the CDC’s Physical Activity Guidelines in 2010. If people can find time to do this exercise and eat well by preparing good dinners, they may benefit health-wise.

Walking has increased benefits

A recent study shows that walking may have the same or greater benefit as running in terms of reducing an individual’s risk of heart problems and diabetes, according to a report from the American Heart Association.

There are advantages to walking
The report explains a study led by Paul Williams, Ph.D., which looked at participants in two groups: Individuals from the National Runners’ Health Study and people from the National Walkers’ Health Study. The energy used by walkers was equal to that of runners, and both groups similarly reduced their risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and coronary heart disease through the exercise.

The specific results also showed that walking may have been more beneficial than running. The individuals reported their energy expenditure through walking or running and researchers compared this to their medical records.

While running reduced the risk of hypertension by 4.2 percent in individuals, walking did so by 7.2 percent. In terms of reducing high cholesterol and coronary heart disease, walking had almost double the effectiveness in patients than running. The reduced risk of diabetes was about the same between the two groups.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said Williams, quoted by the AHA.

Running may be more efficient
As they both reduce the risk of heart problems, individuals can choose between walking and running in their daily routines.

A report published by MedPage Today explains the intensity differences between walking and running. Walking is grouped in the “moderate intensity” category while running falls in the “vigorous” group.

Those individuals who run, according to Williams, can expel double the energy that walkers do in an hour. When a runner and a walker cover the same distance, they use equal amounts of energy. However, the time it takes for the runners to do so is vastly less than that of the walkers. This makes running more efficient.

Nonetheless, for many, walking may be the option that works, simply because it isn’t so vigorous. “Walking may be a more sustainable activity for some people when compared to running,” said Williams.

Heart health is a major concern in the United States. According to a 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600,000 Americans die from heart disease yearly. Knowing that activity, whether walking or running, amounts to better cardiovascular health may get more people to put their sneakers on and get moving.

Physical fitness may support immune health

Individuals who are looking to boost their immune health this winter may simply need to increase their level of physical activity. New research published in the British Journal of Medicine indicates that individuals who are more physically fit get fewer colds.

A team of researchers from Appalachian State tracked the medical records of 1,000 adults up to age 85. They then asked the participants about how much aerobic exercise they got on a weekly basis. The findings showed that individuals who reported being physically fit had nearly 50 percent fewer days with cold or flu symptoms.

Additionally, the severity of symptoms were significantly lower among those who had a higher level of fitness.

Researchers said that physical exercise temporarily increases the amount of immune cells that circulate through the blood stream. When exercise is done frequently enough, it may have significant long-term effects on immune health.

The average American adult gets anywhere from two to four colds per year. The findings could help millions of people avoid illness and time away from work or school.