Dr. Sharron Louie

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Wellness Trend Corner
Focus on nutrition, weight management and probiotics

Fructose and the brain: think fat

A study published in the January 2, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association may help explain why fructose, a common additive in processed foods, has been implicated in the obesity epidemic. Using brain magnetic resonance imaging on adult volunteers, a team led by Kathleen A. Page of the Yale University School of Medicine looked at the ways that different sugars were metabolized. They found that ingestion of glucose — but not fructose — correlated with higher levels of hormones that produce feelings of fullness and satiety. This suggests that fructose has a lesser or perhaps no effect on this natural weight-regulation mechanism. (Medical News Today, January 2, 2013.)

Nutrition helps preserve muscle in seniors

It’s known that regular exercise is a factor in retaining muscle tissue as we age. But new evidence identifies specific nutrients that can do the same. The International Osteoporosis Foundation Nutrition Working Group considered sarcopenia (gradual loss of muscle), and its relation to protein, vitamins D and B and pH balance. “Adequate nutritional intake and an optimal dietary acid-base balance are also very important elements of any strategy to preserve muscle mass and strength during aging,” said Professor Jean-Philippe Bonjour, coauthor and professor of medicine at the Service of Bone Diseases, University of Geneva. The review concluded that protein plays an integral part in muscle health, and that excess amounts of acid-producing nutrients (meat and cereal grains) in combination with low consumption of alkalizing fruits and vegetables may have negative effects. (Science Daily, January 18, 2013.)

Probiotics may support healthy cholesterol levels

The beneficial microbes inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract help keep digestive and immune systems in shape and even improve mood. Now it appears that probiotics may have a positive effect in another regard. A recent study tracked adults with high cholesterol who consumed probiotic supplements twice daily for nine weeks.  These subjects saw their levels of total cholesterol lowered by 9% and LDL cholesterol by nearly 12% compared to placebo, according to the article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Probiotics decrease the amount of cholesterol the body produces and help reduce the amount the gut absorbs, so less cholesterol makes it into the bloodstream,” says Mitchell Jones, M.D., Ph.D., one of the study’s authors. (Men’s Health News, November 26, 2012.)

Small changes in diet can produce lasting results

Minor modifications to eating habits — when followed on a regular basis — can lead to sustainable weight loss, according to research by Professor Brian Wansink in the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Participants were given customized dietary suggestions based on their individual backgrounds and goals.

At the end of each month they responded to a follow-up survey. Of the 504 participants who completed at least one of these questionnaires, more than two thirds either lost weight or maintained their current weight. Highest success rates were obtained by those who adhered to the program 25 days or more per month. “These results confirm that small, consistent changes in our daily eating behavior can result in gradual weight loss and in developing healthier eating habits,” said Wansink. (Medical News Today, December 31, 2012.)

Probiotics ease misery of common cold

A team led by researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey monitored college undergraduates over 12 weeks to determine the effects of probiotic supplementation while they endured cold symptoms. The scientists found that while all students caught colds at roughly the same rate, those who took the probiotics experienced on average a shorter duration of illness (four days, as opposed to six days in the group receiving placebo), symptoms that the subjects rated as 34% less severe, and fewer missed school days — 15, compared to 34 for those not taking the supplements. “We know that certain probiotic strains support immune health and may improve health-related quality of life during upper-respiratory infections,” said Tracey J. Smith, adjunct professor at the institution. “This double-blind study assessed how probiotic supplementation affects the duration and severity of symptoms, and the impact of symptoms on the daily life of infected students.” (News-medical.net, October 24, 2012.)