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  • CDC: Most Americans Are Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017
    New Science
    CDC: Most Americans Are Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables

    The vast majority of Americans aren’t eating the recommended 1½ to 2 cups of fruit, and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables, per day, according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report included data from 441,456 adults, age 18 and older, who responded to the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). BRFSS is an annual, state-based, random-dialed telephone survey about health and health risk behaviors related to chronic disease. For the survey, participants were asked how often they consumed 100% fruit juice, whole fruit, dried beans, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and other vegetables, during the previous month. Researchers analyzed these answers by state along with information about the participants’ gender, age, ethnicity, and income-to-poverty ratio—a measure of income based on the poverty standard. They found:

    • Across the US, 12.2% of adults consumed the recommended amount of fruit each day. West Virginia had the lowest percentage (7.3%) of adults meeting this recommendation and Washington DC had the highest (15.5%).
    • Across the US, 9.3% of adults consumed the recommended amount of vegetables each day. West Virginia had the lowest percentage (5.8%) of adults meeting this recommendation and Alaska had the highest (12%).
    • Higher percentages of women (15.1%), adults in the age range of 31 to 50 (13.8%), and Hispanics (15.7%) met the fruit recommendations.
    • Higher percentages of women (10.9%), adults in the age range of 51 and older (10.9%), and people in the highest income group (11.4%) met the vegetable recommendations.
    • Gender was most strongly correlated with fruit intake and income was most strongly correlated with vegetable intake.

    These low numbers are concerning because inadequate fruit and vegetable intakes have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. The CDC report noted that previous research has identified certain barriers to eating fruits and vegetables, including high cost, limited access and availability, and perceived lack of preparation time. To address these obstacles, the CDC recommended strategies such as:

    • Increasing farm-to-institution programs in childcare facilities, schools, hospitals, and other places;
    • Improving access to high-quality fruits and vegetables in retail stores and markets;
    • Ensuring availability of fruits and vegetables in cafeterias and other food service venues; and,
    • Providing incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables for low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

    Source: CDC

  • Exercise Machine Showdown: Recumbent Bikes vs. Upright Bikes

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017
    Exercise Machine Showdown: Recumbent Bikes vs. Upright Bikes

    Has winter restricted you to indoor training at a gym? If so, you’re probably thinking about which exercise machine will best keep your body well-tuned for the sunny return of spring and summer. Since there are differences between machines, it’s important to keep in mind what will work best for your fitness goals. This is especially true if you’re a cyclist or are looking for an effective cardio workout, and you’re deciding between an upright exercise bike and a recumbent one.

    A recumbent exercise bike has you sitting in a low-slung, seated position, with your spine supported and your legs stretched out. This is a great option if you have balance problems—it’s very difficult to topple over—or back problems that make cycling on an upright exercise bike uncomfortable. And you still get a good workout—research shows recumbent exercise bikes give your hamstrings more of a workout than upright exercise bikes. But there are a few drawbacks. Because you are so supported in the recumbent position, you don’t work nearly as many muscles as you do on an upright exercise bike, which engages your glutes, abdomen, lower back, shoulders, neck, and arms. In addition, if you’re a cyclist training for the upcoming riding season, an upright exercise bike will be much closer to the real thing. Bottom line? Recumbent bikes are a good choice if you have physical restrictions—otherwise, go upright.

    Source: New York Times

  • Matcha: The Hottest Tea Trend

    Monday, November 20, 2017
    Matcha: The Hottest Tea Trend

    From a bar in NYC that only serves matcha, to matcha sold in bottles and cans, to matcha cookies, it’s likely that in the near future you won’t be able to open your eyes in the supermarket without seeing the word “matcha” in your field of vision. So what is it? Matcha is a beverage served traditionally in Japan. Essentially, it’s green tea—but with an important difference: rather than steeping whole green tea leaves in hot water, matcha consists of green tea leaves that have been pulverized into a powder and then added to water. Since you consume the whole tea leaf when drinking matcha, there are claims, supported by at least one study, that the amount of antioxidants in a cup of matcha exceeds the amount of antioxidants in a cup of regular green tea. Yet, regardless of its potential health benefits, which would be similar to those of regular green tea, matcha has a distinctive earthy flavor that makes it a delicious option simply for pure culinary enjoyment.

    Source: Yahoo Health

  • Blueberries May Give Your Brain a Boost

    Friday, November 17, 2017
    New Science
    Blueberries May Give Your Brain a Boost

    Blueberries have a well-deserved reputation for making pancakes, muffins, and smoothies better, and now, research suggests they could help make your brain better, too. The double-blind study was published in European Journal of Nutrition and included 13 men and 24 women, age 60 to 75. The participants were randomly assigned to receive 24 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to 1 cup of fresh blueberries) or placebo blueberry powder every day for 90 days. At the beginning, middle, and end of the study, participants underwent a series of balance, gait, and cognitive tests from which researchers concluded:

    • Participants receiving freeze-dried blueberries had significantly fewer repetition errors on the California Verbal Learning test (an assessment of verbal learning and memory) relative to those receiving the placebo.
    • Participants receiving freeze-dried blueberries performed better on a task-switching test relative to those receiving the placebo.
    • There were no differences between the two groups in performance on tests of balance and gait.

    Why are blueberries a boon for your brain? The flavonoids in blueberries may hold the answer. Flavonoids are plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and previous research has associated high flavonoid intake with a decreased risk of age-related cognitive decline. In addition, dietary flavonoids have been associated with reduced weight gain, lower diabetes risk, and increased longevity. So, while the blueberry–brain connection is still being illuminated, there’s no reason you shouldn’t top yogurt with blueberries for breakfast, or toss them in a salad for dinner, to bump up your flavonoid intake.

    Source: European Journal of Nutrition

  • Exercise May Help Protect Eyesight

    Friday, November 17, 2017
    New Science
    Exercise May Help Protect Eyesight

    Reading an engaging book may seem like the best exercise for your eyes, but a brisk walk may be even better: new research has found walking could reduce the risk of glaucoma—a leading cause of blindness. The findings were presented at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and included data from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)—a large study that has tracked the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US since the 1960s. The researchers assessed physical activity by measuring exercise duration and intensity using readings from individual pedometers. They also followed the participants to identify cases of glaucoma. The data showed that more physical activity at faster speeds was correlated with greater glaucoma risk reduction, specifically:

    • Every ten-unit increase in walking speed decreased the risk of developing glaucoma by 6%.
    • Every ten-minute increase in moderate-to-vigorous activity per week decreased the risk of developing glaucoma by 25%.

    These findings suggest that it’s not just the act of exercising that protects against glaucoma, but also the intensity of that exercise. While more research is needed to understand how physical activity affects eye physiology, past research suggests exercise may lower glaucoma risk by altering blood flow and pressure in the eyes. Regardless, the wealth of other known health benefits should give you all the reasons you need to get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, per week—the equivalent of taking about 7,000 steps every day. And if you’re not into walking, there are other low-cost exercises, like dancing, biking, and hiking, that can help you log your minutes.

    Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.