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Too much health food?

Misconceptions about healthy foods could be contributing to the incidence of obesity in the U.S.

Misconceptions about healthy foods could be contributing to the incidence of obesity in the U.S.

The current popularity of foods labeled as “healthy” may actually be adding to the nation’s obesity epidemic, according to findings of new research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

A series of studies involving undergraduate and graduate college students found that consumers tend to assume that foods labeled as “healthy” will be less filling than unhealthy foods. As a result, people tend to overeat when consuming foods that are good for them, even though they report feelings of greater fullness after eating healthy versus unhealthy foods. Because consumers commonly exceed recommended serving sizes when eating foods that are good for them, they tend to pack on unwanted pounds.

Researchers said their findings suggest that if people lose the misconception that healthy foods are less filling and instead learn to regard healthy foods as nourishing they will be less likely to overeat.

Long-term goals, long-term success

For those who have resolved to lose weight in the new year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has some advice: Set long-term goals, but focus on the short term.

“One of the best methods towards a healthy weight and overall healthful lifestyle is, while setting long-term goals, focus on the short term,” said Alissa Rumsey, Academy spokesperson. “If you want to lose 10 pounds, plan to lose one pound every two weeks.  Or, if your goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables, start by adding one piece of fruit to breakfast and one vegetable to dinner. Smaller goals are easier to achieve, and the results add up over time.”

It also is easier to alter a short-term goal than a long-term goal, which gives a dieter greater flexibility.

“If you happen to waver from smaller goals, it is easier to get back on track,” Rumsey said. “Also, if you decide the small goals are too simple or too hard to reach, a small tweak is any easy next step.”

The Academy also recommends avoiding fad diets that offer quick fixes, involve rigid menus, odd food quantities, special food combinations and little or no exercise.

When it comes to nutrition guidance, Rumsey said people need to be aware of who is dispensing the advice.

“Almost anyone can call themselves a ‘nutritionist’ these days,” she said. “Registered dietitian nutritionists have the education, training and experience to provide personalized, safe and science-based nutrition guidance you can trust.”

Sugar dangers

New findings published online this month in Cancer Research suggest high sugar intake increases breast cancer risk and its metastasis to the lungs.

Previous studies have suggested that dietary sugar impacts the incidence of breast cancer, so researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer investigated the effect of sugar consumption on the development of mammary gland tumors in mice.

“We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable to levels [of sugar intake in humans] in Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis, when compared to a non-sugar starch diet,” researcher Peiying Yang reported.

Yang said the study results showed it was the fructose in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup that was responsible for producing breast tumors and facilitating their metastasis to the lungs.

Researchers concluded that moderate sugar consumption is critical, given that the per capita consumption of sugar in the U.S. now exceeds 100 pounds annually and an increase in sugary beverage consumption has been shown to contribute to the global epidemic of obesity, heart disease and cancer.

• • •

Just like sweetened sodas and other sugar-laden beverages, drinks that do not contain sugar can do serious damage to tooth enamel.

Scientists at the University Melbourne tested 23 types of drinks, including soft drinks and sports drinks, and found that those containing acidic additives and having low pH levels damaged teeth, regardless of sugar content.

Specifically, the study found that:

• Most soft drinks and sports drinks softened dental enamel by 30-50 percent.

• Sugar-free and sugar-containing soft drinks, including flavored mineral waters, produced measurable loss of tooth surface, with no significant difference between the two types of drinks.

• Of the eight sports drinks tested, six caused a loss of dental enamel. [The two that did not had higher calcium content.]

To prevent dental erosion, study authors recommended that consumers:

• Check ingredients for acidic additives, especially citric acid.

• Drink more water, preferably fluoridated, and limit soft drink and sports drink consumption.

• After eating or drinking acidic products, do not immediately brush your teeth, because that can remove the softened tooth layer. Instead, rinse your mouth with water and wait one hour before brushing.

Tummy tuck troubles

Abdominoplasty – commonly know as a “tummy tuck” – was found to pose a higher risk for major complications than other cosmetic plastic surgeries, particularly when performed in combination with other procedures.

At Vanderbilt University, Dr. Julian Winocour led a study assessing the outcomes of nearly 25,000 tummy tucks performed from 2008-2013. Overall, the major complication rate was 4 percent, compared to a 1.4 percent complication rate following other cosmetic surgeries. Among patients who had abdominoplasty alone, the complication rate was 3.1 percent, but among those who had a tummy tuck in combination with another procedure, the complication rate increased considerably, reaching as high as 10.4 percent when done in conjunction with body contouring plus liposuction.

The most common major complication was hematoma [blood collection], followed by infection, blood clots and lung-related problems.

Researchers concluded that while the overall complication risk from a tummy tuck is small, the surgery “can leave a potentially devastating cosmetic outcome and pose a significant financial burden on the patient and surgeon.”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons [ASPS], abdominoplasty is the sixth most common cosmetic surgery in the U.S., with more than 117,000 performed last year.

Better CPR

A large study comparing two methods of cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR] may change the way emergency medical services [EMS] providers treat patients.

Researchers looked at two CPR methods: one used continuous chest compressions at about 100 per minute, accompanied by manual ventilations at about 10 per minute; the other used 30 chest pumps, a pause to deliver two ventilations, followed by resumed chest pumps. The EMS providers delivered ventilations via a bag and mask for patients in both groups.

Lead researcher Graham Nichol, M.D., said while patients in both groups fared well, those who received chest compressions interrupted for rescue breathing appeared “to survive a bit more often.”

“Current CPR guidelines permit use of either continuous chest compressions or interrupted chest compressions with ventilations. Our trial shows that both types of CPR achieve good outcomes but that compressions with pauses for ventilations appears to be a bit better,” he said.

The study involved more than 23,000 adults with cardiac arrest treated by EMS workers at 114 emergency medical agencies across the U.S. and Canada during a four-year period ending in May 2015.

Study results appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Laser danger

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has issued a reminder warning consumers of the risk of injury posed by laser products.

According to FDA officials, most toys containing lasers are safe, but some laser products, including hand-held laser pointers, are being misused as toys and can cause injuries to eyes and skin.

To avoid injury when using laser products, the FDA recommends consumers adhere to the following safety guidelines:

• Do not buy laser pointers for children or allow children to use them, as they are not toys.

• Do not buy any laser pointer that emits more than 5 mW [milliwatts] of power and does not have the power printed somewhere on the pointer or its packaging. Hand-held laser pointers emitting more than 5 mW and those not labeled at all are illegal and potentially dangerous. Check the label of any laser pointer that you own. If it has a power of greater than 5 mW, dispose of it according to local environmental protection guidelines.

• Never aim or shine a laser beam directly at any person, pet, vehicle or aircraft. The startling effect and temporary flash-blinding can cause serious accidents.

• Do not aim a laser at any reflective surface such as a mirror.

• In the event of laser injury, immediately consult an eye doctor. Keep in mind that laser eye injuries are likely to be painless.

The FDA has found that some lasers are more powerful than what is specified on product labels. For suggestions on how to determine the power of a laser pointer and for additional laser safety information, including a laser pointer safety video, visit fda.gov.

Baby talk

Putting an electronic toy in the hands of an infant may seem like a smart thing to do, but a new study suggests otherwise, at least when it comes to language development.

According to an article published by JAMA Pediatrics, baby toys that produce lights, words and songs were shown in a study to result in decreased quantity and quality of language compared to books and traditional toys.

Researchers at Northern Arizona State University gave to 26 parents of babies 10-16 months old three sets of toys: electronic items, including a baby laptop, talking farm and baby cellphone; traditional toys, including a chunky wooden puzzle, shape sorter and rubber blocks with pictures; and five board books with various themes. Parents were instructed to play at home with the toys alongside their children, and play sessions were recorded.

Results showed that compared to play sessions using books and, play sessions with electronic toys resulted in fewer words used by adults, less verbal back-and-forth between parents and babies, fewer parental responses, fewer baby vocalizations and fewer content-specific words spoken.

Compared to play sessions involving traditional toys, those involving electronic toys resulted in fewer words spoken and fewer content-specific words spoken by parents.

The biggest and most consistent differences were seen between electronic toys and books.  Researchers said their findings add to existing evidence of the potential benefits of reading to very young children and show that playing with traditional toys also seems to lead to beneficial parent-child language interactions.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation funded the study.

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