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Obese Brain May Thwart Weight Loss: Diets High in Saturated Fat, Refined Sugar May Cause Brain Changes That Fuel Overconsumption

Diets high in saturated fat and refined sugar may cause changes to the brains of obese people that in turn may fuel overconsumption of those same foods and make weight loss more challenging, new research indicates. (Credit: iStockphoto/Geo Martinez)

Just because you lose the weight doesn’t mean you regain the brain function. This could help explain why it is so difficult for formerly obese people to keep the weight off.”

 

ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2012) — “Betcha can’t eat just one!” For obese people trying to lose weight, advertising slogans such as this one hit a bit too close to home as it describes the daily battle to resist high calorie foods.

But new research by Terry Davidson, director of American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, indicates that diets that lead to obesity — diets high in saturated fat and refined sugar — may cause changes to the brains of obese people that in turn may fuel overconsumption of those same foods and make weight loss more challenging.

“It is a vicious cycle that may explain why obesity is so difficult to overcome,” said Davidson, also a professor of psychology at AU.

Davidson recently published his research, “The Effects of a High-Energy Diet on Hippocampal-Dependent Discrimination Performance and Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity Differ for Diet-Induced Obese and Diet-Resistant Rats,” in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

Fat Rats Suffer Memory Impairment, Damage to Brain’s Armor

Davidson, formerly with Purdue University, focuses his research on the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

For this study, Davidson and his team trained rats given restricted access to low-fat “lab chow” on two problems — one that tested the rats’ hippocampal-dependent learning and memory abilities and one that did not. Once the training phase completed, the rats were split into two groups: one group had unlimited access to the low-fat lab chow, while the other had unlimited access to high-energy (high-fat/calorie) food.

The high-energy food was high in saturated fat (animal fats, such as those found in cheese or meat or certain plant-based fats, such as cottonseed oil and coconut oil) — considered to be the most unhealthful dietary fat as research has linked it to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

When both groups of rats were presented the problems again, the rats that became obese from the high-energy diet performed much more poorly than the non-obese rats did on the problem designed to test hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. They tested the same as the non-obese rats on the other problem.

When the researchers later examined all of the rats’ blood-brain barriers (if the brain were an exclusive nightclub, the blood-brain barrier — a tight network of blood vessels protecting the brain — would be the bouncer at the door carefully policing who gets in), they found that the obese rats’ blood-brain barriers had become impaired as they allowed a much larger amount of a dye that does not freely cross the blood-brain barrier into the hippocampus than did blood-brain barriers of the non-obese rats (the dye was administered to all of the rats).

Interestingly, the non-obese rats group included rats from both the low-fat lab chow group and the high-energy diet group. But this isn’t a matter of some rats having a super-high metabolism that allowed them eat to large amounts of the high-energy food and remain a reasonable weight.

“The rats without blood-brain barrier and memory impairment also ate less of the high-energy diet than did our impaired rats,” Davidson said. “Some rats and some people have a lower preference for high-energy diets. Our results suggest that whatever allows them to eat less and keep the pounds off also helps to keep their brains cognitively healthy.”

A Vicious Cycle

The hippocampus is also responsible for suppressing memories. If Davidson’s findings apply to people, it could be that a diet high in saturated fat and refined sugar impacts the hippocampus’s ability to suppress unwanted thoughts — such as those about high-calorie foods, making it more likely that an obese person will consume those foods and not be able to stop at what would be considered a reasonable serving.

“What I think is happening is a vicious cycle of obesity and cognitive decline,” Davidson said. “The idea is, you eat the high fat/high calorie diet and it causes you to overeat because this inhibitory system is progressively getting fouled up. And unfortunately, this inhibitory system is also for remembering things and suppressing other kinds of thought interference.”

Davidson’s findings are compatible with other studies finding a link between human obesity in middle age and an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive dementias later in life.

“We are trying to figure out that link,” Davidson said. “We have compelling evidence that overconsumption of a high fat diet damages or alters the blood-brain barrier. Now we are interested in the fact that substances that are not supposed to get to the brain are getting to it because of this breakdown. You start throwing things into the brain that don’t belong there, and it makes sense that brain function would be affected.”

A Lifelong Battle

As evidenced by contestants of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser,” formerly obese celebrities who undergo gastric by-pass surgery, and other numerous examples of extreme weight loss, it is possible for obese people to win the battle of the bulge. Unfortunately, the attempt to keep it off is, more often than not, a lifelong battle that requires permanent lifestyle changes. Davidson says this could be due in part to permanent changes in the brain.

“I do think it [the damage] becomes permanent, but I don’t know at what point it becomes permanent,” Davidson said. “Other research has found that obese people and formerly obese people have weaker hippocampal activity when consuming food than do people who have never been obese. Just because you lose the weight doesn’t mean you regain the brain function. This could help explain why it is so difficult for formerly obese people to keep the weight off.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121001171115.htm

9 Surprising Foods That May Raise Your Cholesterol Web MD

Did you know that ground turkey could boost your cholesterol? Learn about these nine surprising artery-clogging foods. Which one shocked you the most?

9 Surprising Foods That Do Increase Cholesterol

  1. Ground turkey. Even when ground turkey is labeled as 85% lean, it has 12.5 grams of fat in a 3-ounce portion, says Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, Georgia State University nutrition professor emerita. Her advice: Ground turkey breast can be a heart-healthy substitute for ground beef, but watch the portion size because it’s not without fat.”
  2. Added sugars (such as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup). One of the biggest surprises is that added sugars in processed and prepared foods are associated with decreased HDL levels. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in April 2010 found an association between added sugars and blood lipid levels and discovered adults averaged 21 teaspoons of added sugars daily. “Increased added sugars are associated with blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of Guide to Better Digestion.  Everyone would benefit by reducing the amount of added sugars in the diet because they can also lead to obesityand type 2 diabetes, Bonci says. The AHA recommends getting no more than 100 calories from added sugars on a 2,000 calories-per-day diet.
  3. Mashed potatoes. “Most mashed potatoes, especially at restaurants, include hefty portions of butter, cream, whole milk, sour cream, and/or cream cheese, turning a perfectly healthy potato into a saturated fat bomb,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Marissa Moore, MBA, RD. Order a plain baked potato and top it with vegetables, salsa, or low-fat sour cream. Another option: Enjoy the natural sweetness of a vitamin A-rich plain baked sweet potato.
  4. Pizza. Just one slice of plain pizza has 10 grams of fat and 4.4 grams of saturated fat — and we all know that one slice without any pepperoni is not the usual order. Stick to one slice and top it with lots of high-fiber, filling vegetables.
  5. Whole-fat dairy products. “Dairy foods are nutrient-rich, loaded withcalciumprotein, vitamins, and minerals, but if your choice is full-fat, you could be getting a hefty dose of saturated fat,” says nutrition consultant and author Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD. For example, one cup of Fage Total Plain Classic Greek yogurt has 18g saturated fat, but if you choose their 0% variety, it has no fat. When you choose nonfat or low-fat, you get all the nutritional benefits without the extra calories or fat. If you love full-fat cheese, “portion control is the answer,” Ward says.
  6. Plant foods from the tropics. Coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter all sound healthy but they are the only plant foods that contain saturated fat, says Connie Diekman, Med, RD, Washington University nutrition director. “Read labels for these terms and enjoy them in small doses so they won’t sabotage your cholesterol level,” she says. Karmally calls pina coladas “heart attack in a glass — there are 602 calories and 20 grams saturated fat in a 12-ounce glass.” And Moore says, “Don’t forget about chocolate, when eaten in excess can lead to increased cholesterol levels.”
  7. Ghee (clarified butter). In India, ghee is associated with healthful eating and honoring your guests but it is very high in saturated fat, just like butter, says Karmally. “It is also high in palmitic acid which is artery clogging.” Use heart healthy olive oil or a trans fat-free margarine instead of ghee.
  8. Pie and pastries. “Flaky crusts, streusel topping, custard filling, cheese filled pastries — these all promise a hefty dose of saturated fat because they often include butter, shortening, cream, cream cheese, and/or whole milk,” Moore says. It is the butter or shortening that makes the crust so nice and flaky. Choose fruit pies and eat mostly filling and only a few bites of the crust for a lower-fat and calorie treat.
  9. Movie theater tub popcorn. Regal Cinema’s medium-sized popcorn has a whopping 60 grams of saturated fat and 1,200 calories. Why? Because it is popped in fats, then topped off with more fat, earning it a spot on foods that can wreck your cholesterol level. Shave the fat and calories by skipping the buttery topping and opt for a smaller portion.

Read the Label

Reading food labels can help you avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats. To limit trans fat, avoid fried foods, foods with vegetable shortening, margarine, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

When reading labels, keep these numbers in mind: Saturated fat should not exceed 7% of calories and trans fats less than 1%, according to the AHA. That’s less than 16 grams saturated fat and 2 grams trans fat on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Read more at:  http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/9-surprising-foods-that-may-raise-your-cholesterol

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