Category: Obesity

Health Benefits of Going Green

House plants have always been a staple of many people interior and exterior design. Our fascination and attraction to greenery is long-ingrained in human history. However, new research is show that there may be serious health benefits to being exposed to greenery. A UCLA study has shown that increasing “greenness” in urban settings can improve mental health.

In addition to this, there are a number of other studies which suggest positive relationships between greenness and a number of disease outcomes, such as obesity, preterm birth outcomes, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. These studies provide interesting and exciting glances into an emerging field, which highlights the importance of greenness and preserving natural landscapes. These things can improve public health, and likewise benefit our natural environment.

 

 

http://dailybruin.com/2019/04/09/ucla-study-suggests-spending-time-in-green-spaces-may-improve-mental-health/

https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Abstract/2017/11000/Interrelationships_Between_Walkability,_Air.4.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4181932/

http://med.miami.edu/news/residential-blocks-with-greater-greenness-linked-to-lower-risk-for-alzheime/

 

 

 

 

Media Misconceptions: Why Juicing is NOT a Healthy Trend

Misleading health trends are nothing new in the age of social media. Every week there seems to be a new diet to “cleanse” or lose weight. Amongst these things, “juice cleanses” are a trend which have been popularized multiple times. There is a common misconception that drinking only fruit juice is as good for you as eating whole fruits. Drinking fruit and vegetable juice can provide some health benefits in moderation. However, a recent Harvard study shows that juicing may cause more harm than good. Consuming whole fruits does bestow a number of health benefits and can actually reduce risk for type 2 diabetes. In comparison, drinking juice alone does not provide the same benefits and can actually increase risk for type 2 diabetes.

Much of this has to with nutrient loss in the juicing process. When fruits and vegetables are juiced down, the final product contains concentrated amounts of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. However, important nutritious components – such as fiber and antioxidants – are left behind. This is problematic because it omits some of the key elements which make fruits and veggies so healthy. In addition to this, juice is very concentrated, and so there are relatively higher levels of sugar when drinking juice than when eating whole fruits. It is important to take everything in moderation, and to not jump on trends before understanding the issue.

 

 

 

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/pa34n7/juice-diets-are-bullshit

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23990623

https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/21/health/juicing-fruit-vegetables-food-drayer/index.html

 

 

 

Food for Thought: How Our Diet Affects Our Mental Health

Few would argue that a healthy diet can provide a wide variety of physical health benefits, such as reducing risk of heart disease, protecting against certain cancers, and preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, few have talked about the potential mental health benefits that may go hand-in-hand with a nutritious diet. Now, research is showing that a diet full of fruits and vegetables may influence an individual’s life satisfaction.

The study was based in Australia and followed a large cohort of nearly 40,000 individuals who increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Over the course of five years, this work showed that individuals reported increased mental well-being and life satisfaction as they ate more fruits and veggies.

Although this study is quite recent, the idea that a healthy diet might impact our mental health is not new. Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit, has been promoting similar messages for quite some time. Their group has shown that involving key nutrients in your diet and avoiding negative substances can have huge impacts on mental health. These messages promote a healthy diet, but do not advocate that this is curative or causative. It’s important to take these things into consideration when choosing a meal, and to never discount the power of nutrition.

 

 

 

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-nutrients-health

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953618306907?via%3Dihub

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/healthy-diet-eating-mental-health-mind

 

 

Brown Fat is Good Fat

Picture this: near-freezing temperatures, more darkness than daylight, and the pain of breathing in brittle, cold air. These conditions sound pretty terrible for exercise, right? Think again. Taking the time to exercise outside during winter can have a range of benefits, as long as one is also mindful of the risks.

Research has shown that exercising outside in cold weather (50°F or colder) can actually be beneficial for your health in a number of ways. This experience has been shown to boost one’s metabolism. Exercising in cold weather increases the production of brown fat by 45%, which is a type of fat that is highly calorie-burning. Having more of this type of fat generally aids metabolic function, and can contribute to active weight loss. Alongside this, it has been shown that outdoor recreation is in general a healthier choice than the indoor alternative. Studies have found that those who exercise outdoor regularly have lower risks for cardiovascular disease.

These studies are promising, but it’s always important to keep in mind the risks of exercising in frigid weather. Those who have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and/or sedentary lifestyle should be extra careful during these conditions, as exercising in cold weather can lead to higher risk of heart attacks.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423363

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27089974

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/25/health/winter-exercise-jampolis/index.html

 

Yogurt: a health food packing stealthy sugar

It seems as if everyone is always trying to find foods that are both nutritious AND delicious. Recently, it seems as if yogurt has become many people’s go-to option. Yogurt is praised for its nutritious profile: it’s high in protein, calcium, and “healthy” probiotics. While all this remains true, it’s important to consider the looming sugar content within these products.

A new study is criticizing many popular yogurts for their deceptively high sugar contents. Within the study – which examined over 900 yogurt brands found in UK grocery stores – only 9% of general yogurts can be considered low in sugar. What’s worse, only a measly 2% of yogurts marketed exclusively to children can be classified as low sugar.

Along with these findings, it became apparent that products marketed as “organic” may be among the worst offenders. Organic is a term used to described the processes behind a food’s production. Although items which are USDA Organic Certified may be produced ethically, this label does not have specific nutrition implications. Despite this, people often think an organic product is healthier than a non-organic option. The study found quite the opposite: that organic yogurts have substantial amounts of sugar, especially when compared to their natural and Greek yogurt counterparts.

As a snack, yogurt is not a bad choice. The health benefits prevail, and it often beats out many other sugary snack options. But when picking out your next yogurt at the store, it’s worthwhile to pause and consider the varying sugar contents. This way, you can pick the healthiest option… or just call it dessert.

 

https://invisiverse.wonderhowto.com/news/yogurt-isnt-just-probiotic-its-unique-proteins-kill-bad-bacteria-0178030/

https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/8/e021387

https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/about/live-healthy/consumer-labels?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuafdBRDmARIsAPpBmVXF1IT7cB-KLvFRhzGXTiRjwaGDyUr5wOmO3zPqDxUJn8YLRswira4aAgHiEALw_wcB

 

 

 

The Keto Diet: Healthy or Unhealthy?

It seems like every couple of years a different diet fad takes the world by storm, often touting weight loss and/or a host of health benefits, and the ketogenic “keto” diet is no exception. This latest diet trend has produced quite the buzz in recent years for its potential weight loss benefits, but the verdict seems mixed on just how healthy this diet may be.

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. This includes eating foods such as meats, cheeses, eggs, fish, and oils, and avoiding foods such as breads, fruits, starchy vegetables, and sugars.  Carbohydrates provide our bodies with glucose that gives us energy. By consuming less carbohydrates, our bodies are forced to turn to fats as a source of energy, placing our body in a state of “ketosis.”

While the keto diet has only recently made headlines, it has actually been used for nearly a century as a sort of last medical resort for treating individuals with epilepsy, particularly children. However, while beneficial for these individuals, it may not necessarily benefit those with other health conditions. Further, it is still  unknown what the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet are.

In an interview with Plant Based News, Dr. Kim Williams, former President of the American College of Cardiology, claimed that, while it may offer short-term weight loss, the keto diet offers limited health benefits. Furthermore, in a recent study by Seidelmann et al. (2018), researchers found that low-carbohydrate diets that relied on animal proteins and fats were associated with greater risk of death. As Dr. Marcelo Campos, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, describes, the keto diet can include heavy red meat and unhealthy foods that are fatty and processed. Further, the keto diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies given its high-fat diet. Ultimately, Dr. Campos suggests that individuals engage in long-term, sustainable change, consuming a balanced, unprocessed diet as opposed to a short-term diet like the keto diet.

What are your thoughts on the keto diet? Let us know in the comments below!

References

Belluz, Julia. (2018, June 13). The keto diet, explained. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/2/21/16965122/keto-diet-reset

Campos, Marcelo. (2017, July 27). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

Chiorando, Maria. (2018, August 24). ‘No One Should Be Doing Keto Diet’ Says Leading Cardiologist. Retrieved from https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/no-one-should-be-doing-keto-diet-leading-cardiologist

Epilepsy Society. (2016, March). Ketogenic Diet. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/ketogenic-diet

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (N.d.). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/

Seidelmann, S. B., Claggett, B., Cheng, S., Henglin, M., Shah, A., Steffen, L. M., … & Solomon, S. D. (2018). Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health.

WebMD. (2017, February 1). What’s a Ketogenic Diet? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-ketogenic-diet

 

 

SNAPFresh Without the Fresh

This week the Trump administration released their proposed change to the longstanding SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) which some would equate to delivery meal services such as HelloFresh, Blue Apron and Purple Carrot. These new delivery meal services have been tremendously popular and my first reaction was this might actually be a good idea. This type of service is more convenient and having groceries delivered without the hassle of going to a grocery store would be a nice perk for program shoppers. I further explored the details of this program and my mind quickly changed when I read about what was included in the boxes and more importantly what was not. These boxes would not contain fresh foods (milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables) and instead would provide canned fruits and vegetables and shelf milk. To be honest I had to do a quick web search to see what was actually shelf milk. Additionally, these Americans would have little to no say over what is included in the boxes versus the current program where they are issued a card and can purchase what they choose to at participating stores. While I could see benefit in this type of service as an OPTION for SNAP shoppers there is a lot of improvements that should be made before bringing this proposed idea into actual implementation particularly thinking about the foods included and would this truly be something that current SNAP shoppers find feasible and/or pragmatic.

References

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/02/12/585130274/trump-administration-wants-to-decide-what-food-snap-recipients-will-get?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

Crash or DASH- choosing the right diet

February is heart month.  We’re often told that in order to keep our hearts healthy we should maintain a healthy weight.  Many people try to do this by dieting, but do diets really make us healthier?

New research has emerged that meal replacement crash diets (typically consuming only 600 to 800 calories each day) can temporarily worsen heart function [1].  This means that if you have heart problems, these diets could actually make your health worse instead of better.  If you’re looking for a healthy way to lose weight, you may want to check out the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute’s DASH diet.  In January, U.S. News and World Report ranked the DASH diet as the best overall diet plan for the eighth year in a row [2].  The DASH diet also claimed first place in the healthy eating and heart disease prevention categories.

If you feel like dieting, stop and ask yourself why you’re doing it.  If you’re trying to get your heart in shape, you may want to rethink that overly restrictive diet.

 

References

[1]   European Society of Cardiology (ESC). “Crash diets can cause transient deterioration in heart function.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180202123836.htm

[2]  National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2018, January 3). DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for eighth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2018/dash-ranked-best-diet-overall-eighth-year-row-us-news-and-world-report

 

UNC alumnus writes about journalism’s role in stopping stigma against obesity

Chioma Ihekweazu is a recent doctoral graduate from our very own School of Media and Journalism here at UNC. Not only was I thrilled to see a kind peer’s work showcased in my newsfeed, I was also drawn in by her accurate criticism of how we talk about weight–obesity in particular.

She makes the very important point that while it’s not likely to hear patients who are suffering from cancer referred to as “cancerous” or “diseased”, it is quite common, even among respected news sources, to see the descriptor “obese people”. Chioma advises us to avoid playing into shaming language and “put the person before the condition”.

Please read her article here, though a few key takeaways are outlined below:

  • Avoid headless imagery (this is a form of shaming)–if needed, use non-stigmatizing stock photos
  • Recognize that weight loss is influenced by many factors–such as location, time, and access to food/physical activity
  • Do not use value-laden language; use “classes”, based on BMI, defined by CDC and NIH to talk about obesity
  • Have an appropriate headline
  • Report on facts

Chioma also provides some great examples and resources in her article, to not only help writers and reporters change their words, but also to recognize the flaws in our perspective.

 

 

Using Mass Communication to Curb Obesity

Internationally we continue to see substantial increases in overweight and obesity rates. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that about 39% of all adults were overweight. Since overnutrition seems to traverse cultures, languages and international waters many people are looking for the most effective and efficient way of promoting positive health behaviors that promote a healthy weight. I believe mass media campaigns could serve as a solution to the problem. Health professionals can use mass media to improve the dietary habits of populations through multimedia-based communication efforts.

Over the past ten years, we have seen considerable changes in mass media communication largely due to increased use of mobile technology, especially social media. As access to mobile technology increases and people use smart-technology at increasing rates, health professionals have increased opportunities to address the importance of nutrition and physical activity. I believe that no other intervention approach has the potential for as wide a reach as mass media. Mass media campaigns that target individual dietary behaviors like increasing vegetable intake or reducing sodium are effective at promoting those behaviors (1). The “5-A-Day” campaign was successful in its efforts to increase fruit and vegetable intake. It was associated with a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and increased awareness of health benefits associated with consuming fruits and vegetables. The success of mass communication in campaigns and interventions is not exclusive to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This method has also proven effective at promoting folic acid supplementation and the maintenance of weight loss The Community Guide (2). I believe mass media campaigns advance nutrition efforts to reduce overweight and obesity rates because of the extent to which media is incorporated into people’s daily lives. Mobile technology gives health professionals a chance to engage in dialogue with individuals outside of clinical settings. I believe engaging with individuals in spaces they already visit may help people feel more comfortable and make them more receptive to adopting health-promoting behaviors.