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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

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What’s Healthier: Peanut Butter vs Almond Butter

http://www.prevention.com/whats-healthier-peanut-butter-or-almond-butter

Wondering About a Vegan Diet? Infographic

How Food Affects High Triglycerides Joy Bauer Food Cures

For those diagnosed with high triglycerides, it’s important to take action to lower your levels and improve your heart health.

High Triglycerides, Food Cures

Triglyceride is just a fancy word for fat — the fat in our bodies is stored in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides are found in foods and manufactured in our bodies. Normal triglyceride levels are defined as less than 150 mg/dL; 150 to 199 is considered borderline high; 200 to 499 is high; and 500 or higher is officially called very high. To me, anything over 150 is a red flag indicating my client needs to take immediate steps to get the situation under control.

High triglyceride levels make blood thicker and stickier, which means that it is more likely to form clots. Studies have shown that triglyceride levels are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke — in both men and women — alone or in combination with other risk factors (high triglycerides combined with high LDL cholesterol can be a particularly deadly combination). For example, in one ground–breaking study, high triglycerides alone increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 percent in men, and by 37 percent in women. But when the test subjects also had low HDL cholesterol (that’s the good cholesterol) and other risk factors, high triglycerides increased the risk of disease by 32 percent in men and 76 percent in women.

Fortunately, triglycerides can often be easily controlled with several diet and lifestyle changes — many of the same changes that I outlined in my High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol sections.

What Factors Can Increase Triglycerides?

As with cholesterol, eating too much of the wrong kinds of fats will raise your blood triglycerides. Therefore, it’s important to restrict the amounts of saturated fats and trans fats you allow into your diet. Triglyceride levels can also shoot up after eating foods that are high in carbohydrates or after drinking alcohol. That’s why triglyceride blood tests require an overnight fast. If you have elevated triglycerides, it’s especially important to avoid sugary and refined carbohydrates, including sugar, honey, and other sweeteners, soda and other sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and anything made with white (refined or enriched) flour, including white bread, rolls, cereals, buns, pastries, regular pasta, and white rice. You’ll also want to limit dried fruit and fruit juice since they’re dense in simple sugar. All of these low–quality carbs cause a sudden rise in insulin, which may lead to a spike in triglycerides.

Triglycerides can also become elevated as a reaction to having diabetes, hypothyroidism, or kidney disease. As with most other heart–related factors, being overweight and inactive also contribute to abnormal triglycerides. And unfortunately, some people have a genetic predisposition that causes them to manufacture way too much triglycerides on their own, no matter how carefully they eat.

How Can You Lower Your Triglyceride Levels?

If you are diagnosed with high triglycerides, it’s important to take action. There are several things you can do to help lower your triglyceride levels and improve your heart health:

  1. Lose weight if you are overweight. There is a clear correlation between obesity and high triglycerides — the heavier people are, the higher their triglyceride levels are likely to be. The good news is that losing weight can significantly lower triglycerides. In a large study of individuals with type 2 diabetes, those assigned to the “lifestyle intervention group” — which involved counseling, a low–calorie meal plan, and customized exercise program — lost 8.6% of their body weight and lowered their triglyceride levels by more than 16%. If you’re overweight, find a weight loss plan that works for you and commit to shedding the pounds and getting healthier.
  2. Reduce the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in your diet. Start by avoiding or dramatically limiting butter, cream cheese, lard, sour cream, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, candy bars, regular ice cream, fried foods, pizza, cheese sauce, cream–based sauces and salad dressings, high–fat meats (including fatty hamburgers, bologna, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, salami, pastrami, spareribs, and hot dogs), high–fat cuts of beef and pork, and whole-milk dairy products. Other ways to cut back:
    • Choose lean meats only (including skinless chicken and turkey, lean beef, lean pork), fish, and reduced–fat or fat–free dairy products. Experiment with adding whole soy foods to your diet. Although soy itself may not reduce risk of heart disease, it replaces hazardous animal fats with healthier proteins. Choose high–quality soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame (whole soybeans).
    • Always remove skin from poultry.
    • Prepare foods by baking, roasting, broiling, boiling, poaching, steaming, grilling, or stir–frying in vegetable oil.
    • Most stick margarines contain trans fats, and trans fats are also found in some packaged baked goods, potato chips, snack foods, fried foods, and fast food that use or create hydrogenated oils. (All food labels must now list the amount of trans fats, right after the amount of saturated fats — good news for consumers. As a result, many food companies have now reformulated their products to be trans fat free…many, but not all! So it’s still just as important to read labels and make sure the packaged foods you buy don’t contain trans fats.) If you use margarine, purchase soft-tub margarine spreads that contain 0 grams trans fats and don’t list any partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list. By substituting olive oil or vegetable oil for trans fats in just 2 percent of your daily calories, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by 53 percent. There is no safe amount of trans fats, so try to keep them as far from your plate as possible.
  3. Avoid foods that are concentrated in sugar (even dried fruit and fruit juice). Sugary foods can elevate triglyceride levels in the blood, so keep them to a bare minimum.
  4. Swap out refined carbohydrates for whole grains. Refined carbohydrates — like white rice, regular pasta, and anything made with white or “enriched” flour (including white bread, rolls, cereals, buns, and crackers) — raise blood sugar and insulin levels more than fiber-rich whole grains. Higher insulin levels, in turn, can lead to a higher rise in triglycerides after a meal. So, make the switch to whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown or wild rice, and whole grain versions of cereals, crackers, and other bread products. However, it’s important to know that individuals with high triglycerides should moderate even their intake of high–quality starches (since all starches raise blood sugar) — I recommend 1 to 2 servings per meal.
  5. Cut way back on alcohol. If you have high triglycerides, alcohol should be considered a rare treat — if you indulge at all, since even small amounts of alcohol can dramatically increase triglyceride levels.
  6. Incorporate omega-3 fats. Heart–healthy fish oils are especially rich in omega–3 fatty acids. In multiple studies over the past two decades, people who ate diets high in omega–3s had 30 to 40 percent reductions in heart disease. Although we don’t yet know why fish oil works so well, there are several possibilities. Omega–3s seem to reduce inflammation, reduce high blood pressure, decrease triglycerides, raise HDL cholesterol, and make blood thinner and less sticky so it is less likely to clot. It’s as close to a food prescription for heart health as it gets. If you have high triglycerides, I recommend eating at least three servings of one of the omega–3–rich fish every week (fatty fish is the most concentrated food form of omega three fats). If you cannot manage to eat that much fish, speak with your physician about taking fish oil capsules, which offer similar benefits.The best foods for omega–3 fatty acids include wild salmon (fresh, canned), herring, mackerel (not king), sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, and Pacific oysters. Non-fish sources of omega–3 fats include omega–3–fortified eggs, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, butternuts (white walnuts), seaweed, walnut oil, canola oil, and soybeans.
  7. Quit smoking. Smoking causes inflammation, not just in your lungs, but throughout your body. Inflammation can contribute to atherosclerosis, blood clots, and risk of heart attack. Smoking makes all heart health indicators worse. If you have high cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood pressure, smoking magnifies the danger.
  8. Become more physically active. Even moderate exercise can help improve cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Aerobic exercise seems to be able to stop the sharp rise of triglycerides after eating, perhaps because of a decrease in the amount of triglyceride released by the liver, or because active muscle clears triglycerides out of the blood stream more quickly than inactive muscle. If you haven’t exercised regularly (or at all) for years, I recommend starting slowly, by walking at an easy pace for 15 minutes a day. Then, as you feel more comfortable, increase the amount. Your ultimate goal should be at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, at least five days a week.

Learn more about Food Cures for high triglycerides.

http://www.joybauer.com/high-triglycerides/about-high-triglycerides.aspx

Preventing Heart Disease – At Any Age American Heart Association

You’re never too young— or too old — to take care of your heart.

Multi-Generational Family Outdoor Portrait

 

Preventing heart disease (and allcardiovascular diseases) means making smart choices now that will pay off the rest of your life.

Lack of exercise, a poor diet and other bad habits can take their toll over the years. Anyone at any age can benefit from simple steps to keep their heart healthy during each decade of life. Here’s how:

All Age Groups
No matter what your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and adequate physical activity.

  • Choose a healthy eating plan.  The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fatcholesterolsodium and added sugars and sweeteners.  As part of a healthy diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetablesfiber-rich whole grainsfish (preferably oily fish — at least twice per week), nuts, legumes and seeds.  Also try eating some meals without meat.  Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products and lean meats and poultry (skinless).  Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Be physically active.  You can slowly work up to at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (like brisk walking) every week or an hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or running) or a combination of both every week. Additionally, on two or more days a week you need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders and arms).

In Your 20s
Getting smart about your heart early on puts you far ahead of the curve. The things you do — and don’t — are a tell-tale sign of how long and how well you’re going to live, said Richard Stein, M.D. “There’s no one I know who said: ‘I felt better being sedentary. I felt better eating a terrible diet,’” said Stein, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine. “All these things actually make you feel better while they help you.”

  • Find a doctor and have regular wellness exams. Healthy people need doctors, too. Establishing a relationship with a physician means you can start heart-health screenings now. Talk to your doctor about your diet, lifestyle and checking your blood pressurecholesterolheart ratebody mass index and waist circumference. You may also need your blood sugar checked if you are pregnant, overweight or havediabetes. Knowing where your numbers stand early makes it easier to spot a possible change in the future.
  • Be physically active. It’s a lot easier to be active and stay active if you start at a young age. “If you’re accustomed to physical activity, you’ll sustain it,” Dr. Stein said. Keep your workout routine interesting by mixing it up and finding new motivators.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. If you picked up smoking as a teen, it’s time to quit smoking. Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard. Nonsmokers are up to 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from secondhand smoke exposure at home or work, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report.

In Your 30s
Juggling family and career leaves many adults with little time to worry about their hearts. Here are some ways to balance all three.

  • Make heart-healthy living a family affair. Create and sustain heart-healthy habits in your kids and you’ll reap the benefits, too. Spend less time on the couch and more time on the move. Explore a nearby park on foot or bike. Shoot some hoops or walk the dog. Plant a vegetable and fruit garden together in the yard, and invite your kids into the kitchen to help cook.
  • Know your family history. Shake your family tree to learn about heart health. Having a relative with heart disease increases your risk, especially if the relative is a parent or sibling. That means you need to focus on risk factors you can control by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking and eating right. Also, keep your doctor informed about any heart problems you learn about in your family.
  • Tame your stress. Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls. Learning stress management techniques benefits your body and your quality of life. Try deep breathing exercises and find time each day to do something you enjoy. Giving back through volunteering also does wonders for knocking out stress.

In Your 40s
If heart health hasn’t been a priority, don’t worry. Healthy choices you make now can strengthen your heart for the long haul. Understand why you need to make lifestyle changes and have the confidence to make them. Then, tackle them one at a time. “Each success makes you more confident to take on the next one,” said Dr. Stein, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer.

  • Watch your weight. In your 40s, your metabolism starts slowing down. But you can avoid weight gain by following a heart-healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. The trick is to find a workout routine you enjoy. If you need motivation to get moving, find a workout buddy or join American Heart Association Walking Paths and Walking Clubs.
  • Have your blood sugar level checked. In addition to blood pressure checks and other heart-health screenings, you should have a fasting blood glucose test by the time you’re 45. This first test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years. Testing may be done earlier or more often if you are overweight, diabetic or at risk for becoming diabetic.
  • Don’t brush off snoring. Listen to your sleeping partner’s complaints about your snoring. One in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

In Your 50s
Unlike the emergence of wrinkles and gray hair, what you can’t see as you get older is the impact aging has on your heart. So starting in the 50s, you need to take extra steps.

In Your 60s+
With age comes an increased risk for heart disease. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise. Watching your numbers closely and managing any health problems that arise — along with the requisite healthy eating and exercise — can help you live longer and better.

  • Have an ankle-brachial index test. Starting in your 60s, an ankle-brachial index test should be done every one to two years as part of a physical exam. The test assesses the pulses in the feet to help diagnoseperipheral artery disease (PAD), a lesser-known cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up in the leg arteries.
  • Watch your weight. Your body burns fewer calories as you get older. Excess weight causes your heart to work harder and increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Exercising regularly and eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods may help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Learn the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke. Heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men. Knowing when you’re having a heart attack or stroke means you’re more likely to get immediate help. Quick treatment can save your life and prevent serious disability.

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Preventing-Heart-Disease—At-Any-Age_UCM_442925_Article.jsp

High Cholesterol? Does Your Doctor Jump Right to Medications or Does He/She Follow Official Guidelines and Recommend a Dietary/Lifestyle Change?

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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