Welcoming Spring Sweet

Chocolate Egg Pavlova

The presentation is beautiful, with two layers of hard chocolate — white and milk — drizzled over the baked meringue that forms the pavlova base.

What looks like an egg yolk is mango sherbet flavoured with passion fruit, and sits snugly on a bed of freshly whipped cream.

Peanuts, Peanut Butter May Hold Key to Preventing Obesity

Hispanic middle school children, at high risk for being overweight or obese, reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) when they adhered to a nutrition intervention that included a snack of peanuts, compared to those children who did not.

The 12-week study was conducted by researchers at the University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP), Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Woman’s University. Their findings are published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children.

“Obesity is the most pressing health issue facing us today,” said Craig Johnston, HHP assistant professor. “We’d like to think it’s preventable, but from where I sit right now, there hasn’t been a lot shown to be very effective on a large scale.” Craig Johnston

The study acknowledged that snacking is more common during the adolescent years and that the unhealthy eating habit can lead to an unhealthy weight. This is especially true if a student doesn’t have access to other meals during the school day.

“We have a lot of kids skipping meals for a whole bunch of reasons,” he said. “What we found is that kids get home from school around 4 p.m. There’s less supervision by parents and less structure. Kids are sitting down at the TV and eating, eating, eating because they really didn’t eat at school.”

Instructors guided 257 Latino adolescents from three Houston-area charter schools through a program of physical activity and nutrition education. About half the students received a snack of peanuts or peanut butter three to four times a week, while the rest received the snack fewer than once a week. The snack was administered after school as students were boarding the school bus to go home. Peanuts were chosen because nuts are nutrient-dense snacks that promote a feeling of being full. peanuts

Following the 12-week intervention, students spent 12 more weeks maintaining the healthy snacking habit. At the end of the period, those students who received the snack more regularly experienced a decrease in their overall BMI (-.7kg/m2) compared to those who did not receive the regular peanut snack (-.3kg/m2). The researchers conclude that afterschool programs and schools can replace energy dense, unhealthy snacks with peanuts to provide a healthier alternative for children (researchers in the study ensured students did not suffer from nut allergies).

Johnston says the fight against obesity needs creative solutions that help people manage their weight, appetite and hunger by offering socially acceptable food choices.

“Schools are doing a great job of teaching kids, getting them workforce ready, and a whole bunch of other things. We’ve just got to make sure that our kids are going to live long, happy lives with that kind of education,” he said.

Participants in the study were part of a larger longitudinal study on a school-based obesity intervention program. The Family Lifestyle Overweight (FLOW) Prevention Program is a school-based pediatric intervention for urban, low-income, minority students.

Source: University of Houston

Risotto with Pea and Pancetta


40 g butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
2 cups Arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and cracked black pepper
8 slices (160 g) pancetta


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
  2. Heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and lemon rind and cook for 4 minutes or until softened. Place the mixture in a ceramic ovenproof dish and add the rice and stock. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake for 35 minutes. Stir through the peas, dill and parsley and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the dish (the risotto will be quite liquid) and stir for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. Fold through the Parmesan, salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. To serve, grill the pancetta under a preheated hot grill (broiler) for 3 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serve the risotto with the crisp pancetta.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Donna Hay

In Pictures: Character Bento


Healthier Arteries May Lower Dementia Risk in Old Age

Preventing calcium buildup might thwart mental decline in your 80s and beyond, study finds.

Elderly Americans whose arteries are clear of calcium buildup appear less likely than others to suffer from heart disease or dementia, according to new research.

University of Pittsburgh researchers found that among people in their 80s and 90s, those without calcium buildup in their arteries developed dementia later than those with high levels of calcium. Calcium-clogged arteries — also called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries — are linked to increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and, apparently, dementia as well.

These results suggest that aggressive prevention of elevated heart risk factors that lead to calcium buildup “could result not only in increased longevity and decreased heart attacks, but also substantial reduction of incidences of dementia, especially among older women,” said Dr. Lewis Kuller, an emeritus professor of public health, who led the research team.

However, Kuller cautioned that these findings show only an association between hardening of the arteries and dementia, they don’t prove that calcium buildup causes dementia.

The report was released online Feb. 29 in advance of publication in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The key to warding off heart disease and apparently dementia is to live a healthy lifestyle, Kuller said.

“Lifestyle risk factors measured even in pre-menopause, at age 45 to 50 — such as levels of cholesterol, smoking, blood pressure, higher physical activity — are determinants of calcium levels among these older women,” he said.

For the study, Kuller and colleagues collected data on more than 500 people who took part in a cardiovascular health-cognition (heart health and mental health) study. The participants, average age 80 at the start, were followed from 1998 through 2013.

Each year, the participants were assessed for signs of dementia, and had calcium levels in their heart arteries measured.

People whose coronary artery calcium levels were zero did not show initial signs of dementia until slightly more than seven years from the first measurement. But, those with the highest calcium levels showed signs of dementia in as little as five years, on average, the researchers found.

White women with low calcium buildup scores had a significantly decreased risk of dementia, the findings showed.

These findings have two possible implications, Kuller said. First, as prevention and treatment of heart disease continues to improve, people will live longer and the prevalence of dementia will increase.

Second, risk factors that lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease might also play a role in the risk of dementia.

However, because of the small size of the study, these results need to be replicated to confirm the findings, Kuller said.

But some experts are already believers.

“Cardiovascular disease significantly contributes to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease,” said Walter Swardfager, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto in Canada and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial.

In people who survive to be 80 and older, more than half will likely have dementia before they die, he said. “Even in those who live this long without having a heart attack or stroke, blood vessel disease can predict death and dementia,” Swardfager said.

As more people live longer, dementia and vascular disease will become increasingly common, he added.

“To prevent dementia in the very old, we may need to prevent cardiovascular disease or learn to protect the brain from it,” Swardfager said.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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