Tips to Keeping Slim When You’re Stuck at Home

Beware of your fridge, pantry and couch during the coronavirus pandemic.

Being cooped up at home with easy access to food can lead to overeating. Couple that with routine housekeeping, working from home, homeschooling your kids and tending to loved ones, and it’s a sure-fire recipe for weight gain, experts at the University of Georgia in Athens warn.

“These tasks have been added to our many other responsibilities,” said Emma Laing, director of dietetics in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “So if something has to give as we strive to find our new normal, routines surrounding eating and physical activity might go out the window.”

To stay on track, get up off the couch. Try to set times during the day for physical activity you enjoy, and to eat regular meals and snacks that provide adequate energy and hydration.

“In creating this schedule, do so while maintaining flexibility,” Laing said. “It’s important to trust our bodies’ cues for hunger, so listen to those first.”

Try to avoid mindless snacking.

Social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. In fact, physical activity is a crucial stress management strategy.

Ali Berg, a Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist, pointed out that “physical activity is good for maintaining immunity, in addition to adequate nutrition. Being active is also good for mental health.”

Even though gyms and yoga studios are closed, you can find other ways to be active, said Tracey Brigman, a clinical assistant professor.

“I start each day with a 2-mile walk,” said Brigman. “Anytime I cook, I dance (and embarrass my kids). Music also lifts my spirits so I don’t stress eat. If I have down time waiting for a timer, I jog around the rooms in my house while I wait.”

Other simple ways to stay active include playing with your pets, finding workouts online or through free apps, playing games with the family — and even cleaning the house.

Source: HealthDay

Can Poor Air Quality Make You Gain Weight?

Lisa Marshall wrote . . . . . . . . .

Breathing dirty air takes a heavy toll on gut bacteria, boosting risk of obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and other chronic illnesses, new CU Boulder research suggests.

The study, published online in the journal Environment International, is the first to link air pollution to changes in the structure and function of the human gut microbiome—the collection of trillions of microorganisms residing within us.

The gaseous pollutant ozone, which helps make up Denver’s infamous “brown cloud”—is particularly hazardous, the study found, with young adults exposed to higher levels of ozone showing less microbial diversity and more of certain species associated with obesity and disease.

“We know from previous research that air pollutants can have a whole host of adverse health effects,” said senior author Tanya Alderete, an assistant professor of integrative physiology, pointing to studies linking smog with Type 2 diabetes, weight gain and inflammatory bowel diseases. “The takeaway from this paper is that some of those effects might be due to changes in the gut.”

The study comes at a time when air quality in many U.S. cities is worsening after decades of improvement. In December, the Environmental Protection Agency downgraded the Denver metro and north Front Range regions to “serious non-attainment” status for failing to meet national ozone standards.

Regions of eight other states, including some in California, Texas, Illinois, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin, were also penalized for high ozone. Worldwide, according to research published this month, air pollution kills 8.8 million people annually—more than smoking or war.

While much attention has been paid to respiratory health, Alderete’s previous studies have shown pollution can also impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and influence risk for obesity. Other research has shown visits to emergency rooms for gastrointestinal problems spike on high pollution days, and youth with high exposure to traffic exhaust have greater risk of developing Crohn’s disease.

To investigate just what might be going on inside the gut, Alderete’s team used cutting-edge whole-genome sequencing to analyze fecal samples from 101 young adults in Southern California.

The researchers looked at data from air-monitoring stations near the subjects’ addresses to calculate their previous-year exposure to ozone (which forms when emissions from vehicles are exposed to sunlight), particulate matter (hazardous particles suspended in the air), and nitrous oxide (a toxic byproduct of burning fossil fuel).

Of all the pollutants measured, ozone had the greatest impact on the gut by far, accounting for about 11% of the variation seen between study subjects—more of an impact than gender, ethnicity or even diet. Those with higher exposure to ozone also had less variety of bacteria living in their gut.

“This is important since lower (bacteria) diversity has been linked with obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” noted Alderete.

Subjects with higher exposure to ozone also had a greater abundance of a specific species called Bacteroides caecimuris. That’s important, because some studies have associated high levels of Bacteroides with obesty.

In all, the researchers identified 128 bacterial species influenced by increased ozone exposure. Some may impact the release of insulin, the hormone responsible for ushering sugar into the muscles for energy. Other species can produce metabolites, including fatty acids, which help maintain gut barrier integrity and ward off inflammation.

“Ozone is likely changing the environment of your gut to favor some bacteria over others, and that can have health consequences,” said Alderete.

The study was relatively small and has some limitations, including the fact that stool samples were taken only once.

Alderete is now moving ahead with a larger, more expansive study of young adults in the Denver area. Thanks to a new grant from the nonprofit Health Effects Institute, she’s also exploring how prenatal or early-life exposure to air pollution impacts the formation of the gut microbiome in 240 infants.

She said she hopes her work will ultimately influence policymakers to consider moving parks, playgrounds and housing developments away from busy roads and high pollution areas, and invest more in meeting or exceeding air quality standards.

“A lot of work still needs to be done, but this adds to a growing body of literature showing that human exposure to air pollution can have lasting, harmful effects on human health.”

Source: University of Colorado Boulder

10,000 Steps: Not Quite Magical When It Comes to Weight

Todd Hollingshead wrote . . . . . . . . .

For years now, 10,000 steps a day has become the gold standard for people trying to improve their health — and recent research shows some benefits can come from even just 7,500 steps. But if you’re trying to prevent weight gain, a new Brigham Young University study suggests no number of steps alone will do the trick.

Researchers from BYU’s Exercise Science Department, along with colleagues from the Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science Department, studied 120 freshmen over their first six months of college as they participated in a step-counting experiment. Participants walked either 10,000, 12,500 or 15,000 steps a day, six days a week for 24 weeks, while researchers tracked their caloric intake and weight.

The goal of the study was to evaluate if progressively exceeding the recommended step count of 10,000 steps per day (in 25% increments) would minimize weight and fat gain in college freshmen students. In the end, it didn’t matter if the students walked more than even 15,000 steps; they still gained weight. Students in the study gained on average about 1.5 kg (roughly 3.5 lbs.) over the study period; a 1 to 4 kg average weight gain is commonly observed during the first academic year of college, according to previous studies.

“Exercise alone is not always the most effective way to lose weight,” said lead author Bruce Bailey, professor of exercise science at BYU. “If you track steps, it might have a benefit in increasing physical activity, but our study showed it won’t translate into maintaining weight or preventing weight gain.”

Study subjects wore pedometers 24 hours a day for the six-week study window. On average, students walked approximately 9,600 steps per day prior to the study. By the end of the study, the participants in the 10,000-step group averaged 11,066 steps, those in the 12,500-step group averaged 13,638 steps and those in the 15,000-step group averaged 14,557 steps a day.

Although weight was not affected by the increased steps, there was a positive impact on physical activity patterns, which “may have other emotional and health benefits,” study authors said. One positive, if not unsurprising, outcome of the study was that sedentary time was drastically reduced in both the 12,500- and 15,000-step groups. In the 15,000-step group, sedentary time decreased by as much as 77 minutes a day.

“The biggest benefit of step recommendations is getting people out of a sedentary lifestyle,” Bailey. “Even though it won’t prevent weight gain on its own, more steps is always better for you.”

The study was published in the Journal of Obesity.

Source: Brigham Young University


Today’s Comic

Study: Children Who Drank Whole Milk had Lower Risk of Being Overweight or Obese

Jennifer Stranges wrote . . . . . . . . .

A systematic review and meta-analysis led by St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto found children who drank whole milk had 40 per cent lower odds of being overweight or obese compared with children who consumed reduced-fat milk.

The research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed 28 studies from seven countries that explored the relationship between children drinking cow’s milk and the risk of being overweight or obese. None of the studies – which involved a total almost 21,000 children between the ages of one and 18 years old – showed that kids who drank reduced-fat milk had a lower risk of being overweight or obese. Eighteen of the 28 studies suggested children who drank whole milk were less likely to be overweight or obese.

The findings challenge Canadian and international guidelines that recommend children consume reduced-fat cow milk instead of whole milk starting at age two to reduce the risk of obesity.

“The majority of children in Canada and the United States consume cow’s milk on a daily basis and it is a major contributor of dietary fat for many children,” said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead author of the review and a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“In our review, children following the current recommendation of switching to reduced-fat milk at age two were not leaner than those consuming whole milk.”

Dr. Maguire, who is also a scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, next hopes to establish the cause and effect of whole milk and lower risk of obesity in a randomized controlled trial.

“All of the studies we examined were observational studies, meaning that we cannot be sure if whole milk caused the lower risk of overweight or obesity. Whole milk may have been related to other factors which lowered the risk of overweight or obesity,” Dr. Maguire said.

“A randomized controlled trial would help to establish cause and effect but none were found in the literature.”

Source: St. Michael’s Hospital

Shedding Pounds May Shrink Breast Cancer Risk

Losing weight might be a powerful weapon against breast cancer, a new study suggests.

“Our results suggest that even a modest amount of sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50,” said study author Lauren Teras, a senior principal scientist with the Behavioral and Epidemiology Research Group at the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of American women who are overweight to lose some of that weight. Even if you gain weight after age 50, it is not too late to lower your risk of breast cancer,” Teras said in an ACS news release.

One breast cancer expert agreed.

“Perhaps women that lost weight made a conscious effort to live a healthier lifestyle overall, which may have included a healthy diet, more exercise and less drinking, all of which contribute to a lower risk of cancer,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai West in New York City. “In the United States, where obesity is the norm, hopefully studies like this will help women understand the importance of healthy living.”

Teras’ team analyzed data from more than 180,000 U.S. women, 50 and older, who took part in 10 studies. Their weight was assessed periodically over about 10 years: at study enrollment; about five years later; and again about four years later.

Women with sustained weight loss had a lower risk of breast cancer than those whose weight remained the same. The more weight a woman lost, the lower her risk of breast cancer.

Compared to women whose weight remained stable, those who lost between roughly 4 and 10 pounds had a 13% lower risk of breast cancer. Those who lost between 10 and 20 pounds had a 16% lower risk, and those who lost 20 pounds or more had a 26% lower risk.

The researchers also found that women who lost 20 pounds or more and gained some, but not all, of that weight back had a lower risk of breast cancer than those whose weight remained stable, according to the study published Dec. 17 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The reduced breast cancer risk associated with sustained weight loss was seen only among women who weren’t using hormone replacement therapy.

Overweight and obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer in older women, but it hasn’t been clear whether losing weight can reduce the risk, the researchers noted. Still, the study only showed an association between the two.

Source: HealthDay