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The solution to America's childhood obesity epidemic may be as simple as getting kids to drink more water in school, according to a study co-authored by a Syracuse University professor. The study found making water available through self-serve dispensers in school cafeterias results in student weight loss. The study, published today in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at elementary and middle school students in New York City where many school cafeterias have installed water jets --large, clear electronically powered jugs with a push lever for dispensing water. Students drink the water from plastic disposable cups. The water jets cost about $1,000 each. New York City purchased them with a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers compared body mass index and overweight status for all students before and after the introduction of the water jets. Body mass index, BMI for short, is a measurement calculated from weight and height and used as an indicator of body fatness. Students at schools with water jets for at least three months saw a reduction in BMI of .025 for boys and .022 for girls compared to students in schools without water jets. The water jets also were associated with a .9 percentage point reduction in the likelihood of being overweight for boys and a .6 percentage point reduction for girls. The authors said easy access to water during lunch may prompt kids to substitute it for chocolate milk, juice and soda. Amy Ellen Schwartz, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan chair in public affairs in SU's Maxwell School, was the study's principal author. "Decreasing the amount of caloric beverages consumed and simultaneously increasing water consumption is important to promote children's health and the prevalence of childhood obesity," she said in a prepared statement.Researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center and New York University also were involved in the study. 

Published by James T. Mulder in, January 2016


Even thin kids are at risk, study says, emphasizing importance of exercise

Teenagers who are either overweight or have low fitness levels face a heightened risk of developing high blood pressure by middle age, a large new study finds. People who were both heavy and out of shape in their teens showed the biggest risk, researchers reported Jan. 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine. But even thin teens were at risk of future blood pressure problems if their fitness levels were low. And high blood pressure is serious, raising the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and premature death, the researchers noted. Experts said the findings -- based on more than 1.5 million Swedish men followed for 26 years -- drive home a few major points. One is that physical activity matters, regardless of your weight. And that goes beyond blood pressure, said Dr. Carl "Chip" Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at Ochsner Medical Center, in New Orleans. "We know from many studies, including ones that my colleagues and I have published, that for major cardiovascular disease events and overall survival, fitness is even more important than fatness for predicting someone's risk," said Lavie, co-author of an editorial published with the study. 

Published by Amy Norton in HealthDay News, January 2016


Exercise Aerobic exercise is especially beneficial for brain health, and even better when combined with strength training. Exercising for longer periods-at least 30 minutes or more at a time-appears to be better for brain health than shorter sessions. And it's never too late to start. People older than 65 showed more benefits than those 55 to 65.

Staying socially and intellectually active Activities that challenge your brain-including reading books, writing letters and learning a new language-all help preserve brain function, as do social activities such as volunteering, playing cards, attending worship services and talking to friends. 

Eating a healthy diet Although no specific diet has been proven to maintain or improve brain health, studies of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets justify eating less meat and consuming more nuts, beans, whole grains, vegetables and olive oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, have been shown to help cognition in some studies, though not in others. 

Getting good sleep Poor sleep quality is linked to cognition impairment and Alzheimer's. Breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, also put older people at higher risk for memory problems and dementia. Several studies have found treating sleep apnea helps delay memory problems. 

Keeping your heart healthy What's good for your heart is also for your brain. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes-especially in midlife-are linked to poor brain health later in life. Lowering blood pressure with medication seems to help prevent brain problems, but it's unclear whether lowering cholesterol with drugs helps. 

Published in AARP Bulletin, June 2015


Cheerios "can help lower cholesterol," as anyone who's seen TV commercials or labels for the cereal has heard. (And they can...if you eat three cups a day.) 

But you don't see ads boasting that beans (like black, garbanzo, kidney, or pinto), lentils, split peas, or other legumes do the same. Only soybeans-orsoy foods-have gained a reputation as cholesterol cutters. 

So in 2011, researchers looked at 10 trials that randomly assigned people-often with high cholesterol-to eat either legumes (other than soy) or an alternative food like spaghetti, carrots, or whole-grain breads and cereals. On average, LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels were 8 points lower when they ate the legumes. That's impressive. "Most of the trials before were done just with soy," says Tulane's Lydia Bazzano. "Soybeans have polyunsaturated fats along with soluble fiber." And polys lower LDL. "Kidney, pinto, and other kinds of beans are less fatty, so you're looking more at their soluble fiber," notes Bazzano. 

Unlike wheat bran, which is rich in insoluble fiber, beans (along with oats) are rich in soluble fiber-that is, fiber that dissolves in water. 

"Soluble fiber binds bile acids in the gut and keeps them from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream," Bazzano explains. To make up for the loss, the liver takes cholesterol out of the blood to make more bile acids. That lowers your LDL cholesterol. 

How much do you have to eat? In most studies, people typically ate about 1/2 cup of beans a day. "beans don't get a lot of attention, but they're a great substitute for potatoes or other starchy, carb-laden foods," says Bazzano. "Beans are a nice way to get protein, fiber, and carbs that don't cause a spike in blood sugar levels." 

The bottom line: To lower your LDL cholesterol, serve up some beans as a side dish, in a soup or salad, or as your main dish. 

Published in Nutrition Action Healthletter, July/August 2014


Gaining weight can boost your risk of breast cancer, whether or not you take estrogen or other hormones after menopause. 

Researchers tracked more than 67,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial for an average of 13 years. The risk of breast cancer was 17 percent higher in overweight women than in normal-weight women, and 58 percent higher in the most obese women. 

Those who started the study at a normal weight and gained more than 5 percent of their initial weight over the 13 years had a 36 percent higher risk of breast cancer than those who gained less weight or none at all.

Unlike in some earlier studies, the scientists found that extra pounds boosted risk whether or not the women took postmenopausal hormones. 

What to do: Try to lose (or not put on) excess pounds. And don't assume that gaining weight doesn't matter if you take hormones after menopause. 

Published in Nutrition Action Healthletter, July/August 2014


A recent, seven-year follow-up study of almost a half-million people in China revealed good news for fruit lovers: Daily consumption of fresh fruit cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 15 percent and for strokes caused by clots (the most common type) by 24 percent. In a separate analysis the researches found that compared with those who never ate fruit, people who consumed about 1 1/2 servings per day lowered their risk for fatal coronary heart disease by 27 percent and for fatal stokes by 40 percent. One possible reason: Fruit eaters had significantly lower blood pressure. 

Source: Presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, September 1, 2014 

Published in Consumer Reports on Health, December 2014


A recent Harvard-led study of more than 120,000 men and women found that those who increased the amount of caffeinated coffee they drank per day by more than one 8-ounce cup, on average, were 11 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those whose coffee habits stayed the same. And those who decreased their daily intake by at least a cup per day, on average, were 17 percent more likely to develop the disease. But nix the doughnut with your morning cup; excess sugar might cancel out any benefit you might get from a balanced blood sugar level. 

Published in Consumer Reports on Health, December 2014


It can, especially if you're not overweight or obese. A recent study conducted at Texas Christian University found that when 35 normal-weight subjects and 35 overweight or obese ones ate pasta lunches quickly one day and slowly another, the lighter participants reduced their calorie intake significantly on the "slow" day. And both groups reported less hunger after eating slowly. 

Published in consumer Reports on Health, December 2014


Go meatless! Seems that vegetarians and vegans have less body fat than meat eaters--even after consuming the same number of calories, say researchers at Loma Linda University in Southern California. The reason? Plant-based meals tend to be richer in antioxidants, fiber and magnesium (all associated with weight loss). What's more, a study in the journal Obesity reported that diets high in animal fat (and also saturated and trans fat), were linked to weight gain in women, whereas diets high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats (e.g., olive and canola oil) were not. So what's a steak lover to do? Try stepping down your meat intake slowly--opt for low-fat meats and dairy, and swap a few meat servings with vegetarian protein sources (e.g., beans, nuts and whole grains). 

Published in Arthritis Healthmonitor, December/January 2014


Nothing beats strength training, or resistance exercises, for building and preserving muscle. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults do strength training at least twice a week. That should include 8 to 12 repetitions of exercises that work all the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. And the exercises should be done to the point where it's hard to do more without help. 

If you don't work out, start with your local Y, community center, or sports club. The CDC offers videos and written materials ( physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines) on how to work out at home. For a free download of simple exercises to get you started, go to ExerciseReport. 

Published in Nutrition Action Healthletter, November 2014


When it comes to relieving certain knee pain, physical therapy (PT) might be just as effective as surgery, according to a study in theNew England Journal of Medicine. Researchers looked at two groups of osteoarthritis patients who had meniscus (knee cartilage) tears. One group had arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear; the other did physical therapy (an average of nine sessions plus exercises at home). After six months, both groups had similar improvement rates and pain scores. The key for success with PT: Doing the home exercises regularly! If you have knee pain, see your health provider to determine the cause and best treatment option for you. 

Published in Arthritis Healthmonitor, December/January 2014


Just 5 to 10 minutes of daily running, even performed at very slow speeds, can significantly lower an individual's risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, according to the results of a new study. Compared with those who didn't run, investigators observed a significantly reduced risk of mortality among those who ran less than six miles per week, among those who ran slower than six miles per hour, and among those who ran just one to two times per week.

"This is very good news because one of the biggest obstacles for exercise is time," Dr Carl 'Chip' Lavie (Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans, LA), one of the investigators, told heartwire. "What people tell me all the time is that they just don't have time to exercise. My answer is that if you don't have 30 minutes to exercise then you better find time for dying. But this is really nice because it lets people know they don't have to do a 30- or 40-minute run each day. You can get substantial benefits from a 5- or 10-minute run, from a 10- or 15-minute run. You don't have to go long to get the benefit."

Lead researcher Dr Duck-chul Lee(Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa) said that prior to the investigation, his thought had been that more running would equate to greater mortality benefits. "It seems like common sense with exercise and health," he told heartwire."The good news is even a little is better than nothing, which is a little different, considering the current exercise guidelines recommend at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. We found that even less than that was good for reducing mortality risk."

Overall, runners gained about three years of life over their nonrunning counterparts and had a 30% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 45% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. 

Published by Michael O'Riordan in Medscape, July 2014