Running in Moderation May Be Better than Excess!

It is common knowledge that physical activity is good for your health.  Exercising is good for weight maintenance and heart health, and health professionals advocate physical activity in moderation. But how much is too much? There is a growing body of research that has found that excessive endurance exercise may actually be just as bad as being sedentary.  A new study at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation looked at long term marathon and ultra-marathon runners and found that  plaque buildup in their coronary arteries was 62% higher than those who were sedentary.  Don’t take this as an excuse to stay on the couch! Being sedentary is unhealthy; the best long term benefits appears to come from regular, moderate exercise.

Agavins, the Newest Sugar Substitute

There are many sugar substitute on the market, such as Splenda, Equal, and Sweet N Low.  People use sugar substitutes instead of sugar to assist in weight loss and to help control blood sugar levels.  Currently, agavin, which is a new sugar substitute from the agave plant, is now being studied.  Agavins should not be confused with agave nectar or syrup; agavins are not absorbed into the bloodstream and therefore do not raise blood sugar levels or add calories, while agave nectar and syrup do.  The research on agavins is promising; agavins are natural, soluble, and have a low glycemic index. Agavins also may aide in weight loss; they are a type of fiber that increases satiety, and they may increase insulin production and lower blood sugar. However, studies have only been conducted in mice and more research is needed to see if agavins are a viable sugar alternative.

Another Reason to Decrease Sugar

Americans consume far too many processed and packaged foods and eat a diet very high in added sugars. These added sugars put us at risk for obesity and diabetes, and now research shows that it may increase your risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who consumed 21% of their calories from added sugar had double the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, while those who consumed over 25% tripled their risk!  It is important to try to limit added sugar to no more than 10% of your caloric intake, to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and to exercise in order to achieve optimal health.

High Protein Diets – More Harm Than Good?

It seems like a new weight loss diet is on the market every day.  A lot of research has shown success from diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates; further, these diets have been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, two new recent studies in Cell Metabolism suggest there is a risk to eating too much protein. They found that high protein diets did indeed promote weight loss; however, it also increased the risk for cancer and overall mortality for those aged 50-65.

In general, most Americans do not consume enough protein in their diet and eat too much processed food and starches. The take home message is that too much of one thing – as with anything in life – may not always be beneficial. Make sure to eat plenty of vegetables on a high protein diet and avoid starches.  Moderation and a varied diet are always best!

Evening Exercise Will Not Affect Slumber

People who exercise regularly plan the timing of their workouts based on their work schedule, kids, social engagements, level of exhaustion etc. Time of day has frequently played a factor in creating an exercise regimen; people try to squeeze workouts in during lunch, before work, and after work, depending on a host of issues in their lives. Many exercisers have been hesitant to start working out too late in the evening, since it is commonly recommended to avoid exercising before bed because it may affect sleep patterns. However, a new study found that individuals who exercised in the evening reported sleeping just as well as those who did not exercise before bed. However, people who exercised in the morning reported the best sleep, so the timing of exercise may still play a factor in slumber. Everyone is different, so trial and error is important to determine what works best for you.

Acne Linked to Diet

It seems the old adage “You are what you eat,” has even more merit.  New research published in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has linked a high glycemic diet and dairy products to acne. Acne, which affects 17 million Americans – especially adolescents and young adults – can be socially debilitating. It may cause depression, social withdrawal, and negatively impact quality of life.  Recently, food was not thought to have an impact acne, but two recent studies have shown that frequent dairy products and foods with a high glycemic load aggravate, but not cause, the condition.  The glycemic load is how much a particular food will raise a person’s blood sugar after eating it; basically, it is how much carbohydrate is in the food and how much each gram of the food raises blood sugar.  Once again, this study shows how what we eat impacts our health and well being. It is important to become educated and eat properly to be the best you can be!

Longevity Tied to Eating and Sleeping

We all want to live a long, healthy and productive life; however, the majority of Americans knowingly engage in behaviors that do not promote a longer life.  Most of the country is obese, sedentary, stressed, and eats poorly.  A new study in the Journal of the American  College of Nutrition showed that men live longer with good sleep patterns, but women only live longer if they combine good sleep patterns with a diverse diet, especially a diet high in vitamin B6.

Both men and women had poor appetite, poor perceived health, and less physical activity when they slept poorly, but their outlook was improved when they began eating a varied diet.  Lack of sleep has been correlated with increased morbidity and mortality.  The message is clear – eat well, exercise and sleep adequately if you want to live a healthy and long life!

Don’t Turn Up the Thermostat!

This winter has been especially cold in the Northeast. Everyone is looking for ways to keep warm and to stay cozy. However, recent Dutch research shows that our attempts to stay warm may be thwarting our weight loss efforts.  A Dutch researcher found that reducing external temperature causes the human body to burn more calories in order to keep up body heat. So, adaptation to the cold increases energy expenditure.  Colder temperatures brings on shivering, which is a biological response that increases body temperatures to protect the body from hypothermia.  However, shivering also occurs in milder cold temperatures; humans experience non-shivering thermogenesis (NST), which increases heat output, but without the risk of freezing to death.  Therefore,  it seems that keeping the thermostat down in homes and offices may be a great tool to increase metabolism and aid in weight loss. Of course, continue to diet and exercise…but you may save both pounds and dollars if you keep the temperature in your home a little lower!

Exercise of the Week: Straight Leg Deadlift

Proper form is very important with the deadlift. Avoid rounding the back, and don’t bounce at the bottom of the movement.  Taking a shoulder width, overhand grip on the barbell, bend forward at the hip and keep the knees and back straight until the hamstrings become tight. Next, extend at the hip and return to a standing position.

Chocolate, Berries and Tea May Protect Against Diabetes

Flavonoids are compounds found in many fruits, vegetables, and beverages that have antioxidant properties. There are over 4000 flavonoids, including anthocyanins and flavones.  A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition found that a high intake of anthocyanins and flavones, especially in berries, tea, and chocolate, was associated with lower insulin resistance and better glucose regulation.  This study also showed lower chronic inflammation from eating these food groups. It is unclear exactly how much of these compounds is necessary to protect against diabetes, but people who ate these foods were less likely to develop the disease.  Don’t go out and binge on chocolate or red wine – berries and green tea are definitely better choices. However, when you have a sweet tooth, definitely choose chocolate over cheesecake!