How Foods Labeled ‘Healthy’ Can Still Make You Fat

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . .

Be careful when you reach for foods labeled “healthy” — new research suggests if they have hidden high levels of sugar, you may snack more later.

Prior studies have shown that sugary foods can make a person feel hungrier later in the day, said lead researcher Naomi Mandel, a professor of marketing at Arizona State University.

But these latest findings reveal that people can exercise some self-control over sugar-driven hunger, if they are given fair warning through product packaging, Mandel said.

“When people think something is healthy, they don’t psychologically process it that much and so the physiological factors take over,” Mandel said. “But when they think something is unhealthy, they’re able to override their physical impulses.”

For the study, Mandel and her colleagues created two types of “protein” shakes that tasted the same and contained the same amount of protein and total calories. One shake contained high sugar and low fat, while the other had low sugar and high fat.

The first phase of the experiment involved 76 college students who were randomly given either a high-sugar or low-sugar shake to drink, and then provided potato chips to snack on while watching a video, the study authors said.

The researchers chose potato chips because they wanted to see if the sugar effect “would transfer over to a different kind of snack,” Mandel said.

As expected, the students who had the high-sugar shake ate more potato chips.

In the second phase, researchers explored whether changing participants’ perception of the shakes’ healthiness would influence their snacking habits.

The sugar and non-sugar shakes were randomly passed out to another group of 193 students, but this time they included labeling.

Some shakes were labeled “healthy living” and carried nutrition information claiming they were low in fat, sugar and calories. Others labeled “indulgent” carried info showing they were high in fat, sugar and calories.

People who drank a high-sugar shake labeled “indulgent” ate the least amount of potato chips, even fewer chips than people who drank low-sugar shakes marked as either “healthy” or “indulgent.”

Those who drank a high-sugar shake labeled “healthy” ate more potato chips than any of the other three groups, the findings showed.

Mandel said she’s particularly concerned about the impact from breakfast foods like cereal, yogurt or instant oatmeal, which are marketed as healthy but often contain loads of sugar.

“People think they’re starting out having a healthy breakfast, but they may be setting themselves up to be hungry all day and eat too much over the course of a day because of that,” Mandel said.

Dr. Reshmi Srinathe is an assistant professor of medicine, diabetes, endocrinology and bone disease with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She said the study shows the importance of food labels and the need for stricter regulation of claims made by product manufacturers.

“Labeling matters,” Srinath said. “When people think something is healthy, they think it gives them a pass to make other food choices that may not be as healthy.”

Srinath and Mandel recommend that people read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list included on food packaging, and figure out for themselves whether a product is healthy or not.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the process of expanding the Nutrition Facts label to show the amount of added sugar in food, Mandel said.

“I think that’s a good first step,” Mandel said. “Ideally, I would like to see more regulation of a marketing term claiming that a food is healthy or healthful. If it has a lot of added sugar, then it really should not be called healthy.”

The study was published in the journal Appetite.

Source: HealthDay


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This Slow Cooker Cookbook by A James Bead Award-winning Chef Has Delicious Gourmet Recipes

Deena Shanker and Polly Mosendz wrote . . . . .

The season of the slow cooker is nigh.

Once relegated to the back of the deepest kitchen cabinet, the inexpensive, no-frills appliance is taking its rightful place as a stalwart of the cold weather home cook. U.S. sales are up 50 percent, from $473 million in 2007 to $712.5 million in 2016, according to data from Euromonitor, as are consumers’ options. Buy a basic two-mode, two-quart slow cooker for less than $20, or choose among an array of $200+ Wi-Fi-controlled, timer-enabled, seven-plus-quart, multitasking machines.

Recipe searches show that people are actually using, or planning to use, their new pots. There are over 20 million slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, making them one of the most popular types of recipes on the content-sharing site, according to a spokeswoman. Interest over time, as measured by Google Trends, has gone from a score of 16 out of 100 in January 2004 to 99 in the same month this year. The recipes show a 143 percent year-over-year increase in saves on Pinterest. The possibilities have never seemed so endless.

The beauty of slow cooking is in removing, not adding, complication. The best recipes are those that require the least amount of work. Simply throw the ingredients in, turn the slow cooker on, walk away, and be done with it for anywhere from one to 24 hours. But just as easily as a cooker can turn a tough piece of meat into a succulent one, with the wrong recipe it can also yield a pile of bland, brown mush instead of the promised warming winter stew.

In The Chef and the Slow Cooker, out Tuesday from Clarkson Potter, the James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and restaurateur Hugh Acheson offers his take. “The beauty of the cooker is that it’s a shortcut that doesn’t sacrifice quality or taste,” he writes in the introduction. It’s “a device that makes life more productive and enjoyable by freeing you up to do other things.”

With recipes from such a decorated foodie, far from the masses of Pinterest, the promise is not just low-effort meals but the impressive, gourmet kind that will lead your dinner guests to exclaim, “You made that in a slow cooker?”

Acheson’s recipes can generally be broken down into two main categories: the standards (short ribs) and the surprises (poached cod). Where Acheson excels is in his use of the slow cooker to offer improvements on, or variations of, the standards that don’t substantially increase prep time or cost—and in techniques most home cooks might not have considered.

A two-hour chickpea-and-eggplant stew (plus 35 minutes of prep time, assuming you ignore Acheson’s call for dried beans and go with the much easier canned version) fits well into a Crock Pot cook’s repertoire. Even without featuring a single particularly rare ingredient, the result is a spicy, complex, and vibrant meal that will not only please on day one but make for hearty lunches all week and even freeze well. The vegetable stock ingredients list doesn’t need to be followed exactly; using an assortment of vegetable ends stored in the freezer is a tried-and-true method, though adding a lemon makes for a nice twist. The technique turns an annoying chore into a painless one.

The short ribs, paired with maple syrup-dosed mashed sweet potatoes, were classic, as the recipe promised, yet elegant. The port wine sauce elevated the dish, making it slightly more complex than the old school version. The dish also lacked the mushiness that makes many slow cooker recipes, while yummy, not particularly photogenic. These ribs had Instagram appeal.

Where Acheson falls flat: Rare, expensive ingredients, such as ground black cardamom in a recipe for apple butter, or exactly 10 dried juniper berries in the braised short ribs, appear to be so indispensable that no substitute is recommended. Nor will certain time-consuming prep work, such as chopping three onions two different ways, ultimately make a noticeable difference in the final product, 12 hours of cooking later. In a recipe for tomatillo salsa verde, a companion to pork tacos, the chef calls for “coarsely chopped” ingredients, only to later have them thrown into a blender, where they will be pulped.

The beer-braised pork tacos, a beloved cuisine among carnivores, were surprisingly complex for a recipe that called for drinking five cans of beer as you wait for the meat to cook. The end result was delectable and enough to feed a small army. Good thing, since a pricey, eight-pound, bone-in pork shoulder is used as the base.

As with other recipes in the book, some ingredients were hard to come by (lard, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce), and again, substitutions weren’t listed. Unsure whether Crisco or butter would suffice as a replacement, the home cook may travel to a half-dozen grocery stores and receive a shaming from just as many store clerks, who wonder why, in the age of clean eating, lard might be necessary.

Those cooking for a family will appreciate the quantities in which Acheson works, but home cooks feeding fewer than a half-dozen mouths, or looking to avoid trays of leftovers, might be disappointed by the lack of halving directions in the book. Reducing the short ribs recipe, for example, seemed pretty simple, as the ingredients were all listed in round numbers (six pounds to three, four sprigs of fresh rosemary to two), while cooking time was a bit of a mystery. The recipe called for a lengthy 12 to 15 hours, and while six hours certainly seemed too short, is the full time necessary for half the meat?

The home cook will need to make such decisions alone. Those with the time, sense of adventure, and deep pockets to hunt for gochugaru, or Korean chile, for their poached cod will probably enjoy cooking with a new spice. Those without can be consoled: You can’t taste it. Same with the suggested garnish of edible flowers.

But poaching cod in leeks, celery, butter, and vermouth produces a delicate flavor and silky texture in just the right amount of time—an hour and 20 minutes—to cook whatever else you decide to serve it with. It takes the slow cooker from an advance-planning-only appliance to part of the weeknight rotation.

And a $20 machine works just fine. No Wi-Fi required.

Source: Bloomberg

Diabetes Pill Might Replace Injection to Control Blood Sugar

Serena Gordon wrote . . . . . .

An injectable class of diabetes medication — called glucagon-like peptide-1 or GLP-1 — might one day be available in pill form, research suggests.

Based on the results of a global phase 2 clinical trial, the study authors reported a significant drop in blood sugar levels for people on the oral medication, and no significant increase in low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) compared to a placebo over six months.

The findings also showed that people taking the highest dose of the pill lost a large amount of weight — about 15 pounds — compared to a weight loss of fewer than 3 pounds for people on the inactive placebo pill.

The research was funded by Novo Nordisk, the company that makes the drug, called oral semaglutide.

“Semaglutide could transform diabetes treatment,” said Dr. Robert Courgi, an endocrinologist at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y.

“Glucagon-like peptide receptor agonists are agents that are highly recommended according to diabetes guidelines, but rarely used because they require injection. Most patients prefer a pill,” Courgi explained.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, agreed that these new findings were exciting.

“This medication looks pretty good. The high dose matched the [injection] version. There was low hypoglycemia. It controls blood glucose. There was weight loss and it’s not an injection. This is the same molecule that’s been shown [as an injection] to decrease cardiovascular mortality,” Zonszein said.

“It has all the ingredients for an excellent medication. If this comes to market, it would be very good for people with type 2 diabetes,” he added.

Zonszein and Courgi were not involved in the current study.

The study included just over 1,100 people with type 2 diabetes recruited from 100 centers in 14 countries around the world.

The volunteers’ average age was 57. The average time they’d had type 2 diabetes was six years. On average, they were considered obese.

The participants’ average hemoglobin (HbA1C) levels were between 7 and 9.5 percent. HbA1C — also called A1C — is a measure of average blood sugar control over two to three months. The American Diabetes Association generally recommends an HbA1C of less than 7 percent for most people with type 2 diabetes.

The study volunteers were randomly placed into treatment groups that lasted 26 weeks. One group was given a once-weekly injection containing 1.0 milligram (mg) of semaglutide. Five groups were given one of five doses of oral semaglutide — 2.5, 5, 10, 20 or 40 mg. Another group was given escalating doses of the pill version, starting with the smallest dose and ending at 40 mg. The final group was given an oral placebo.

The highest dose of the pill performed similarly to the injectable form as far as blood sugar control and weight loss. Those on the 40-mg oral dose and those who got the injection saw an average drop in their HbA1C of 1.9 percent, the study showed. More than 70 percent of those who took the pill saw a weight loss of at least 5 percent.

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Melanie Davies, “The A1C reductions and weight loss were very impressive and similar to what we’ve seen with the weekly injection of semaglutide.” Davies is a professor of diabetes medicine at the Diabetes Research Centre at the University of Leicester in England.

The two forms of the drug were also similar in the reported side effects, which affected up to around 80 percent of those taking both forms of the drug. The most common side effects were mild to moderate digestive concerns that tended to go away with time. Nausea was less common in people who started on the lowest dose and then were given stronger doses.

There were three reported cases of pancreatitis — inflammation of the pancreas — a potentially serious condition that has been linked to this class of medication in previous studies. One person was taking the injectable form of the drug. The other two were on the oral drug — 20 mg and 40 mg.

Zonszein noted that “pancreatitis was a bit more in those who took the drug. This may be an issue we have to pay attention to, and it may help to start with a lower dose.”

He also added that GLP-1 drugs, whether by injection or by mouth, should be given in combination with the standard first line type 2 diabetes drug metformin.

“We get more mileage from combining drugs and patients really do much better,” Zonszein said.

Findings from the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Davies said phase 3 trials of the pill are already well under way.

Source: HealthDay


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The Sea Cucumber Genome Points to Genes for Tissue Regeneration

A new high-definition genome sequence of the sea cucumber provides molecular insights into its ability to regenerate, according to a new study publishing 12 October in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Xiaojun Zhang, Lina Sun, Hongsheng Yang and Jianhai Xiang, of the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues. The genome sequence also helps explain why the sea cucumber has such a radically different skeletal structure from other members of the echinoderm phylum, and may be useful for understanding evolution of the animal kingdom.

Sea cucumbers form one class of the echinoderms, a phylum that also includes sea urchins and sea stars (“star fish”). Echinoderms and chordates (a closely related phylum that includes humans) share a feature that distinguishes them from most other animals: they are so-called deuterostomes, in which the anus, rather than the mouth, forms first in development. Sea cucumbers are unique among echinoderms in not having a hardened calcium exoskeleton, and in their capacity to regenerate damaged or lost body parts and viscera to a much greater extent than sea urchins or sea stars.

To explore the genetic underpinnings of these features, and to better understand the evolution of the deuterostomes, the authors performed high-definition genomic sequencing of the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus (also known as the Japanese sea cucumber), covering about 92% of its estimated 880 megabases of DNA, including more than 30,000 genes.

By comparing the genome of A. japonicus with that of other organisms, the authors found evidence that the echinoderms diverged from hemichordates (a small group of marine deuterostomes that includes the acorn worms) about 533 million years ago and the sea cucumbers split off from other the echinoderm classes about 479 million years ago. The authors showed that while the sea urchin genome includes 31 genes for biomineralization, critical for forming a calcified skeleton, the sea cucumber has only seven such genes. They also found that the sea cucumber expressed these biomineralization genes at much lower levels throughout development, likely accounting for their softer bodies compared to sea urchins.

As a strategy to scare off predators, sea cucumbers can expel their viscera, which they can then regenerate within several weeks. The authors found a group of duplicated genes, called PSP94-like genes, that were specifically expressed in the regenerating intestines of the sea cucumber, which had no corresponding genes in other echinoderms, suggesting that these genes may be crucial to the animals’ ability to quickly regrow their viscera. A second group of genes, called fibrinogen-related proteins, were also duplicated and highly expressed during regeneration, indicating they likely contribute to this ability as well.

“The sea cucumber is a particularly promising model animal for regenerative medicine,” said Xiang, and the availability of its genome should aid efforts to study the biology of regeneration and determine if echinoderm regrowth can offer insights that can be applied to human medicine. “Our findings should also facilitate the understanding of the requirements for sustainable utilization and effective breeding of echinoderms, in support of the high-value sea cucumber industry,” which includes its use as a source of food and traditional Chinese medicine.

Source: Science Daily


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The sea cucumber genome provides insights into morphological evolution and visceral regeneration . . . . .

Men Develop Irregular Heartbeat Earlier Than Women; Extra Weight a Factor

Men develop a type of irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, about a decade earlier than women on average, and being overweight is a major risk factor, according to a large new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, quiver instead of beat to move blood effectively. Untreated atrial fibrillation increases the risk of heart-related death and is linked to a five times increased risk of stroke. In the new research, having the condition more than tripled a person’s risk of dying.

“It’s crucial to better understand modifiable risk factors of atrial fibrillation,” said study author Christina Magnussen, M.D., a medical specialist in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University Heart Center in Hamburg, Germany. “If prevention strategies succeed in targeting these risk factors, we expect a noticeable decline in new-onset atrial fibrillation.”

This would lead to less illness, fewer deaths and lower health-related costs, she said.

Researchers reviewed records of 79,793 people (aged 24 to 97) in four community-based studies in Europe. The participants did not have atrial fibrillation at the outset. Later assessments of their health — with a median follow-up period of 12.6 to a maximum of 28.2 years — showed that 4.4 percent of the women and 6.4 percent of the men had been diagnosed with the condition.

Researchers noted atrial fibrillation:

  • diagnosis rates jumped when men were 50 or older and women were 60 or older;
  • developed in about 24 percent of both men and women by age 90;
  • onset was tied to higher blood levels of C-reactive protein (inflammation marker) in men; and
  • new atrial fibrillation cases increased more in men than women with increases in body mass index (BMI): 31 percent in men and 18 percent in women.

“We advise weight reduction for both men and women,” Magnussen said. “As elevated body mass index seems to be more detrimental for men, weight control seems to be essential, particularly in overweight and obese men.”

Researchers were surprised to find that higher total cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, lowered risk for developing atrial fibrillation, especially in women, although exactly why is not clear.

Due to its design, the study could not shed light on pathophysiological factors causing sex differences in atrial fibrillation risk. The authors also note that atrial fibrillation might have been underdiagnosed at the study’s start and later records may not reflect all cases. Strengths of the research include that it studied the condition in the general population and noted how individuals fared over long periods.

Since study participants were from both northern and southern Europe, the findings will probably apply to other Caucasian populations but cannot be generalized to other groups, Magnussen said. However, since BMI in the study was such a strong risk factor for atrial fibrillation, it is likely to also be impactful in other groups, she added.

According to American Heart Association statistics, between 2.7 and 6 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation, and more than 12 million are expected to have the condition in 2030. Risk factors include body mass index, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, previous heart attack or stroke and presence of heart disease.

Source: American Heart Association


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