Fitness apps lack evidence-based tools

ID-100132827A new study shows smartphone fitness apps aren’t always effective in helping people stay healthy. More than half of American adults own smartphones – and half of those owners use some type of fitness app, explains David Conroy, the study’s lead researcher from Northwestern University in Chicago. Unfortunately, a vast number of them have no research defending their effectiveness. In November 2013, Conroy and colleagues identified the 100 top-selling health and fitness apps in the Apple iTunes and Google Play marketplaces. Researchers looked for any of 93 possible behavior-changing techniques and found only an average of 7 techniques per app. The study shows that social media integration is pervasive, Conroy said, even though there is only limited research showing social media can positively affect behavior. “A lot of these apps, it turns out, are kind of hollow,” he said, adding they look nice and have many features, but no techniques to motivate people who are not currently active. What do you think of fitness apps? Do youfavorite ones that truly help you to stay active?

 

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Asthma is not more prevalent in the inner city, researchers say

asthmaFor decades, childhood asthma was linked to living in urban areas. This is not the case anymore, says researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Race, ethnicity and poverty are actually more closely associated with the lung disease than location in urban neighborhoods. Looking at data from 23,065 children across the United States, they found that self-reported asthma attacks were equally found between inner city areas and all others areas. Interestingly, researchers found that “black race, Puerto Rican ethnicity and poverty rather than residence in an urban area per se are the major risk factors for prevalent asthma.” For African-Americans and Puerto Ricans, higher risk of asthma may be genetic, says Corrine Keet, assistant professor of pediatrics. For the poor, it may be stresses such as exposure to mouse and cockroach allergens, cigarette smoke, a higher rate of pre-term births and more maternal stress, she said. It is unclear whether inner-city children who have asthma may suffer more severe symptoms as a result of allergens there. Another study is currently being conducted to determine this. How often do you counsel patients with asthma symptoms?  Are you in agreement with the latest findings?

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How Vitamin D May Fight Colon Cancer

ID-100130112New observational research performed at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School was just published in the journal Gut.  Researchers have associated higher levels of vitamin D with a reduced risk of colon cancer, stating that the higher the levels in the blood, the less is the likelihood of developing malignant tumors in the colon. The authors discuss how vitamin D boosts immunity in cancer as well as any other type of infection leading to greater number of T cells which target tumor cells and limit their growth. When did you have your vitamin D level check last?

 

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Blueberries May Lower Blood Pressure

ID-10069469In a new study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found eating a cup of blueberries a day has a moderate effect on lowering blood pressure. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 postmenopausal women, those women who ate a cup of blueberries a day for 8 weeks saw an average decrease in systolic blood pressure by 5.1 % and a 6.3 % decrease in diastolic blood pressure. The levels of nitric oxide, responsible for relaxing blood vessels, were increased in the group who consumed blueberries while there was no significant change in the placebo group.Researchers recommend adding blueberries to your diet to help lower blood pressure. What are some of the reasons and best ways you incorporate blueberries into your daily diet?

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Stable childhood may lead to healthy adult heart

ID-100240347A long term study in Finland found adults who had a “stable, healthy” childhood were more likely to have an “ideal cardiovascular health” in adulthood. In this observational study of more than 1,000 men and women, positive psychosocial factors in childhood were associated with healthier behaviors as adults which directly influence overall heart health. Certain behaviors, like eating habits, are developed in childhood and continue into adulthood. Researchers assessed children’s psychosocial upbringing, parents education/income level, alcohol/smoking use and general life satisfaction. When they reach adulthood, researchers looked at an index developed by the American Heart Association which defined ‘ideal cardiovascular health’. This included a healthy body mass index, moderate physical activity, healthy diet, not smoking, and healthy levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar. The larger number of positive psychosocial factors in childhood correlated with better cardiovascular heart health in adults. Parents were advised to spend time with their children, pay attention to mental illness which is linked with cardiovascular health, and lead by example because children develop important behaviors from what they see. What advice would you give parents to help instill healthy habits in children?

 

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Higher-fiber diet linked to lower risk of death

ID-100232441The American Journal of Epidemiology is encouraging individuals to increase their daily dietary fiber intake. Dr. Yang of the Shanghai Cancer Institute in China, collected data from 17 previous studies and reported people who ate the greatest amount of fiber were 16 % less likely to die than those who ate the least amount. The more fiber people ate the less likely they were to die from any cause. Eight of these studies proved increasing dietary fiber by 10 grams a day would decrease risk for any cause of death by 10 %. Researchers say fiber-rich foods lower the risk of chronic diseases by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, insulin and reducing inflammation. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture women should consume 25 grams a day and men about 38 grams a day.It has been reported that the U.S population only consumes half the recommended goal. It is important to remember when increasing your daily fiber intake to do it slowly and drink plenty of water. Fiber-rich foods to add to your daily diet include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. What are some of your favorite recipes/suggestions that incorporate these foods/ingredients?

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In search of a personalised diet

ID-100123942A new study lead by BBC Science and obesity experts explains every person has different eating habits and specific diets are needed for each person based on their hormones, genes,cognitive behavior etc. Instead of following a standard diet it is important to focus on your eating habits first to develop a diet specific for you. Scientists from Oxford and Cambridge followed and observed eating trends of 5 dieters for three months in their homes. The study looked at three types of over eaters, feasters, constant cravers and emotional eaters. The study found diets are based off habits. The feasters, people who have a hard time stopping eating, have a problem with their gut hormone balance. Constant cravers, people that are always hungry, have certain genes that disrupt the signals sent to the brain so they do not know when they are full. Emotional eaters eat when they feel anxious or stressed which is a habit they have developed. Overall, feasters lost the most weight and constant cravers had the hardest time losing weight. Dieters learned what type of eater they were and experts came up with plans to help them change their eating habits and practice the best diet for them. Although personalized diets are a new trend, experts say there is a lot of potential to help people lose more weight once they know more about their own body and how it affects their eating habits. Depending on the type of eater you are determines the type of diet you should try.

Would a personalized diet help people to lose weight?

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A Blast of Cold Jump-Starts Fat Burning and Generates Body Heat

obesity_lThere seems to be some good news coming from the recent Arctic blast of cold air. Brown fat cells (the “good” fat cells) are activated every time the body feels the icy cold wind. Full of mitochondria, brown fat cells are responsible for protecting vital organs. During the winter, that calls for burning extra glucose the body stores as white fat (the “bad” fat) cells for heat. Researchers found that men who slept in 66 degree temperatures for a month saw an increase of brown fat cells by 30-40%. On the other hand, brown fat cell levels fell below baseline when they slept in rooms where the temperature was above 80 degrees. This led to the question of whether stimulating these fat cells would help in obesity and type 2 diabetes. A study led by Dr. Hei Sook Sul of the University of California, Berkeley, showed that when mice were fed high fat diet, those who were exposed to transcription factor Zfp516 (the protein critical to brown fat cell formation) gained 30% less weight than those mice who were not exposed. While the exact time one has to be outside is unknown, Sul recommends giving it a try at a safe exposure. How do you feel about recommending colder sleeping environment?  What other recommendations would you be comfortable to provide based on the results of this research?

For additional information please visit the Washington Post.

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Tea, citrus products could lower ovarian cancer risk, new research finds

chinese-green-tea-pot-and-cups-100204803According to new study from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, consuming tea and citrus juices could correspond to a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. This was the first large-scale study to determine the role of flavanoids on ovarian cancer, and followed 172,000 patients over three decades. The research team found that women who consumed flavonols and flavanones, which are two sub-types of flavanoids, experienced much less of a risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer. Since these flavanoids are found in tea and citrus juices and fruits, it is fairly easy to incorporate them to get the associated benefits. This was a promising find, as roughly 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States each year and it also happens to be the fifth leading cause of death from cancer among women. What other dietary sources of flavanoids do you recommend to your patients for health benefits?

For additional information, go to ScienceDaily.
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Food Scores, a New Web Service, Ranks Grocery Items on Ingredients and Nutrition

nutritious-apple-with-health-facts-10055103On Monday, The Environmental Working Group launched a new program known as the Food Scores Database, which encompasses the nutritional values of over 80,000 foods you may find in your local supermarket. Each product has been rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the most nutritious. The current push from consumers to know what is in packaged foods or how heavily processed they are, has helped to fuel this project. Also included, is product information from food companies and research conducted by The Environmental Working Group themselves, regarding pesticides, additives, preservatives, and dyes. Food Scores will soon be available as a phone app and allow consumers to scan product bar codes. Thus far, the scoring system has faced ridicule from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, but the founder of the environmental group trusts that the general public will both embrace and utilize this new program. As your patients become more health conscious, how do you teach them to evaluate the quality of their food? What other programs are available at this time to help consumers purchase healthier choices?

 

For additional information on the Food Scores Database, go to The New York Times.
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