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Southern Cuisine Increases Stroke Risk

Courtesy: Augusta Chronicle

By Tom Corwin

Fried chicken, salty ham and sweet tea have long been staples of Southern cuisine but it could also be the reason the region has a much higher stroke rate, research released Thursday found.

In findings presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that those with the greatest adherence to a “Southern” diet had a 41 percent increased risk of stroke. Conversely, those who had a “plant-based” diet heavy in fruits, vegetables and beans had a 29 percent lower risk of stroke, according to the study.

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Known as the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke or the REGARDS study, researchers were trying to determine why Southerners have a 20 percent higher stroke risk and why stroke risk is higher among blacks.

“We thought diet was a likely target,” said Dr. Suzanne E. Judd, the lead researcher on the study and a nutritional epidemiologist at UAB.

Surveying more than 20,000 people nationwide about their eating habits, the analysis revealed five broad dietary patterns with one, the Southern diet, associated with higher risk of stroke and the plant-based with a lower risk of stroke. Blacks were much more likely to eat the Southern diet as well, which also adds to the racial disparity.

“It explains about 63 percent of the racial difference in stroke,” Judd said. “We’ve also looked at differences in hypertension because African Americans tend to have more hypertension than their white counterparts. Hypertension explains about 40-50 percent of the racial disparity and diet explains an additional 63 percent. The reason that those numbers overlap a little is obviously diet can lead to high blood pressure, which leads to a stroke.”

While fried food is a well-known dietary risk factor, the sweetened beverages should not be overlooked, she said.

“We’re hearing a lot more recently about the danger of sweetened beverages,” Judd said. “It’s important to minimize those as well.”

It is an eating pattern that Sunitha Zechariah sees often as clinical nutrition manager at University Hospital.

“That is the diet,” she said. “It is heavy with bacon and fried foods and sweets. That’s their everyday intake.”

And that is the problem – it is a steady dose of the diet, six or more times a week, that creates the problem where one or two times a month doesn’t seem to raise the risk, Judd said.

“It’s not a ‘never eat these foods,’ it’s just to minimize them,” she said.

That might be the next step, to try and persuade study participants to change.

“I definitely think it is a lifestyle intervention,” Judd said. “Because clearly we’re seeing from heart disease, we’re hearing it from cancer and now we’re hearing it from stroke that diet is an important factor in all of these diseases. So the big question becomes how do we get people to change their diet?”

That is easier said than done, Zechariah said.

“If someone is doing it six times a week, it is impossible to tell them, ‘Okay, tomorrow you’re not going to eat this any more,’ ” she said. Instead, the staff try to work with the patient to make small but meaningful changes to their lifestyle that they can live with.

“Instead of eating bacon five times a week, can you cut it down to two and add a fruit or a yogurt or oatmeal or some other healthier kind of breakfast?” she said.

It’s also important for patients to get active as well. Zechariah said.

“We emphasize exercise too,” she said. “That’s as important as this diet. It’s a package.”

| Food

Obese Girls Have Higher Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

Although a rare condition, multiple sclerosis (MS) appears to be more common among overweight and obese girls, to the point where extremely obese girls have nearly four times the risk of developing the neurological disease, or its precursor clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). This was the finding of a new study whose authors urge parents to consult a doctor should their obese children develop symptoms like numbness and tingling.

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Multiple Sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disease that damages the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord, making it difficult for various signals, such as for muscle control, touch and vision, to travel. MS has varying, unpredictable symptoms, and they affect each person differently. Common symptoms include blurring of vision, numbness and tingling, muscle weakness and tightness, and problems with balance and mobility.

Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is a term that describes a first clinical episode (lasting at least 24 hours) with features suggestive of MS. Although patients usually recover, it is often the first sign of MS.  While there is currently no cure for MS, many researchers believe it is just a matter of time before one is found, especially as we find out more and more about the disease and the underlying biological mechanisms.  For instance, a study published in November 2012, describes how scientists working on lab mice found an early trigger for MS. It appears that a clotting protein that leaks across the blood-brain barrier, triggers an immune response and causes a toxic environment that damages nerve cells.

Childhood Obesity In US: According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity in the US has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, to the point where more than one in three American children and adolescents is overweight or obese.

Annette Langer-Gould who is with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena and first author of the study, says in a statement from the American Academy of Neurology, of which she is a member: “In our study, the risk of pediatric MS was highest among moderately and extremely obese teenage girls, suggesting that the rate of pediatric MS cases is likely to increase as the childhood obesity epidemic continues.”

The Study: For their analysis, Langer-Gould and colleagues used data from a large children’s health study in Southern California that included nearly a million children. They identified 75 children and adolescents diagnosed with pediatric MS/CSI between the ages of 2 and 18. The children’s Body Mass Index (BMI) had been measured before the disease symptoms appeared.  The researchers compared the children with MS/CSI with over 913,000 children who did not have the disease. They grouped the data according to four weight categories: normal weight, overweight, moderate obesity and extreme obesity. Nearly 51% of the children with MS/CSI were overweight or obese, compared to under 37% who did not have MS/CSI. When they analyzed the results, the researchers found that compared to girls of normal weight, the risk of developing MS/CSI was more than 1.5 times higher for overweight girls and nearly 1.8 times higher for moderately obese girls.

For extremely obese girls the risk of developing MS/CSI was nearly 4 times higher.  No such associations were found for boys, note the researchers. MS In Children Likely to Increase with Obesity Epidemic.  The authors suggest their findings show the childhood obesity epidemic is likely to lead to more cases of MS and CIS in children, and adolescent girls in particular.

Langer-Gould says: “Even though pediatric MS remains rare, our study suggests that parents or caregivers of obese teenagers should pay attention to symptoms such as tingling and numbness or limb weakness, and bring them to a doctor’s attention.”  Funds from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, and Kaiser Permanente Direct Community Benefit Funds helped pay for the study.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD

Copyright: Medical News Today

| News

Vending Machines Showing Calorie Counts of Sodas

NEW YORK — As criticism of sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that will put calorie counts right at your fingertips.

The move comes ahead of a regulation that would require restaurant chains and vending machines to post the information as early as next year, although the specifics for complying with the requirement are still being worked out.

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“They’re seeing the writing on the wall and want to say that it’s corporate responsibility,” said Mike Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety and nutrition.

Still, he noted that it was an important step forward.

“Currently, people don’t think about calories when they go up to a vending machine,” he said. “Having the calories right on the button will help them make choices.”

The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., said the calorie counts will be on the buttons people press to select a drink. Vending machines will also feature small decals, such as “Calories Count: Check Then Choose.”

The vending machines will launch in Chicago and San Antonio municipal buildings in 2013 before appearing nationally.

Without providing specifics, the American Beverage Association said the machines will also boost the availability of lower- and zero-calorie drinks.

“We have market research that says consumers really like this – they like choice, they like the ability to make choices,” said Susan Neely, the president of the industry group.

A mock-up of a new machine provided by Coca-Cola showed 20-ounce bottles of its flagship drink and Sprite inside vending machines, with labels on the buttons stating “240 calories.”

The decision to post calorie information follows the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to uphold President Obama’s health care overhaul, which includes a regulation that would require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations and vending operators with more than 20 machines to post calorie information.

McDonald’s Corp. also announced last month that it would begin posting calorie information on its menus nationwide. Like the soda industry, the fast-food giant said it was a voluntary decision and not spurred by the pending requirement.

There is no timetable for when all vending machines will be converted. Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper often work with third-party operators to provide drinks in vending machines; Neely said the companies will work with those outside operators to convert all machines over time.

Vending machines account for about 13 percent of sales, a figure that has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, according to Beverage Digest.

Soda consumption is often identified for playing a role in rising obesity rates, although other factors such as a lack of physical activity and overeating also contribute.

Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a decades-long study of more than 33,000 Americans that showed sugary beverages interact with genes that affect weight, meaning they are especially harmful to people who are hereditarily predisposed to weight gain.

Bonnie Sashin, who works as a communications director for a nonprofit in Brookline, Mass., says she stays away from sugary drinks, limiting herself to a can of Diet Dr Pepper or Diet Coke about twice a month. But she thought the move to display calorie information on vending machines was a positive development.

“Anything that helps us be more educated about calories is a good thing,” Sashin said.

| Food, News

Spreading Himself Even Thinner

Maybe you’ve noticed. Randy Halfacre has dropped a few. Pounds, that is, and inches, and most importantly, two of his four medications. In fact, he’s feeling better than he has in years, thanks to Bee Healthy Medical Weight Loss & Wellness.“I feel like I’m 40,” Halfacre said. “My blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are within healthy parameters, and that’s the first time I can remember that happening in a long time.”

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While losing 30 pounds and three inches in eight months truly is something to cheer, good health is more important to him and the Bee Healthy staff.  They knew his was a special and public case: As president/CEO of the Greater Lexington Chamber and Lexington’s mayor, Halfacre attends meetings throughout the day and at night. Those meetings often come with food and drink.

“He is surrounded by food,” said Dr. Allan Hicks, Bee Healthy’s supervising physician. “We realized our program would be an extra challenge for him.”

As with all Bee Healthy patients, Halfacre’s blood was drawn for staff to study and formulate a health plan. Lab work revealed slightly elevated cholesterol and moderately elevated triglycerides, for which he was already taking medication. To reduce the triglycerides, Hicks and Vickie Gore, Bee Healthy’s nurse practitioner, recommended Omega 3 fish oil. It seems to have made a difference. Halfacre’s triglycerides dropped from 224 in February to 128 by the end of August.

“Remarkable” is Gore’s comment. The fish oil wasn’t the only reason for the good news, she says. Halfacre’s healthier diet and increased exercise—he walks a mile and a half on a treadmill three times a week—helped too.

Gore is particular about the vitamins and supplements Bee Healthy recommends. After much research, she settled on Douglas Laboratories in Pittsburg for Bee Healthy’s physician-grade products, including the fish oil.

Weight loss aided Halfacre’s quest for improved health. “He was a good candidate to put on an appetite suppressant to help him minimize his meals and eat the right foods,” Hicks said. Phentermine was prescribed, which Halfacre took and is now weaning.

“I wasn’t as hungry,” he said. “I noticed I ate only half a sandwich at lunch instead of a whole one. Consequently, my stomach shrank and requires less food to feel full.”

Bee Healthy also suggested and administered weekly B12 injections. The injections include vitamin B12, which are natural to the body, as well as three amino acids that help target and break down fat cells, Gore explains. “The injections help increase one’s energy level, which assists in weight loss.”

Halfacre likes the extra energy. “That’s something I need due to my long days.”

Results were heartening, and pretty fast. “I’ve lost 10 pounds—actually 10.1 pounds,” he announced Feb. 22, less than a month after he started. “My pants aren’t tight anymore.”

He’d also lost three inches from his waist, and had started to change some habits. “Losing weight motivates you to lose more and it makes me focus on what I eat,” he noted. “I’m eating hardly any fried food.”

By April 25, Halfacre had dropped 16 pounds. “I don’t roll over my belt anymore,” he said. At the Chamber’s breakfast meeting in May, he jokingly posed for a photo—opening his jacket for a side view. “There’s no roll over that belt!”

He’s done so well he’s become the Bee Healthy “poster boy.” Gore says her patient has more confidence and energy, and that his lab results are more dramatic than his weight loss. “They’re excellent,” she says, adding that she may use them for a study she’s conducting.

“I think his success comes because of his commitment,” Gore said. “There is no magic pill you take; you have to believe you can do this. And it is a change—a lifestyle change. It teaches you to live in the real world and eat real foods.”

Halfacre plans to continue the B12 shots and taper off on the phentermine. His goal is around 215 pounds. “I’ve got a little more than 10 pounds to go,” he says. He has two goals for next year: “I don’t want to gain my weight back, and I want to be as healthy as a 30-year-old!”

| Weight Loss

Half of Americans Will Be Obese By 2030, Report Says

A report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projects that obesity rates will be at least 44% in each state, and more than 60% in 13 states, by 2030. Researchers also estimated there will be up to 7.9 million new cases of diabetes and 6.8 million new cases of chronic heart disease and stroke every year. Reuters 

Obesity study shows fruits and veggies matter: The annual ranking of states by obesity rates shows that obesity rates are lower in states where people eat more fruits and vegetables, including California, Vermont, New Hampshire and Oregon, and in the District of Columbia. But even in those areas, just 1 in 4 adults consumes five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  National Public Radio/The Salt blog

| News, Nutrition, Weight Loss