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September 2014

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Articles

Reality Check on Resveratrol’s Health Benefits —Subscribers Only

Proponents of resveratrol, the antioxidant compound found in red wine and grapes whose near-miraculous health claims have created a $30 billion supplement industry, must have felt a bit of whiplash lately. First, a new study of dietary intake of resveratrol in the Chianti wine-making region of Italy made headlines by reporting no correlation with longevity or lower risks of cancer or cardiovascular disease. “Resveratrol Health Benefits a Myth?,” one news article asked. Then, just three weeks later, another new study reported that resveratrol supplements improved memory in overweight older people—raising hopes once again.

Do You Need to Drink Extra Nutrition? —Subscribers Only

Nutrition “shakes,” originally developed for hospital patients at risk of malnourishment because of difficulty eating conventional food, are now being marketed to healthy people of all ages as a convenient form of nutritional insurance—sort of like a multivitamin in a bottle. But the American Geriatrics Society recently advised against using the popular liquid supplements even for most older adults suffering unintentional weight loss. “There is no evidence that they affect other important clinical outcomes, such as quality of life, mood, functional status or survival,” according to the society’s latest Choosing Wisely guidance for physicians and patients.

Drinking More Coffee Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk —Subscribers Only

Go ahead, have another cup of coffee. A new study suggests that increasing your coffee consumption might actually lower your risk of developing diabetes.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Heart

In women over age 30, a new Australian study reports, physical inactivity is the single biggest contributor to heart-disease risk. Researchers followed 32,154 women in three age groups, calculating how smoking, high blood pressure, physical inactivity and excess weight contributed to their heart risk. In younger women, smoking status was the most important factor in heart disease risk. But for women in their 70s, for example, being physically active would lower the risk almost three times as much as quitting smoking, and significantly more than losing weight or reducing blood pressure.

Ask Tufts Experts

Q. I’ve seen media reports about the negative effects of protein, and yet others that recommend protein powders, such as those made with whey, which I use. Is the problem with animal protein in general or with the saturated fat that comes with the protein in so many foods? Is whey protein OK? —Subscribers Only

Q. I’ve seen media reports about the negative effects of protein, and yet others that recommend protein powders, such as those made with whey, which I use. Is the problem with animal protein in general or with the saturated fat that comes with the protein in so many foods? Is whey protein OK?

Q. Do powdered green-tea beverage mixes contain any of the beneficial compounds found in brewed green tea?

Q. Do powdered green-tea beverage mixes contain any of the beneficial compounds found in brewed green tea?

Q. Our daughter-in-law won’t give her children cow’s milk because she read a book where it says the acid in milk leaches calcium from your bones. Is there really any cause for concern about this?

Q. Our daughter-in-law won’t give her children cow’s milk because she read a book where it says the acid in milk leaches calcium from your bones. Is there really any cause for concern about this?

Q. I have been hearing some good things about vitamin K2 with vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium in the bones. Is this supported by science? If so, how is it best to get K2?

Q. I have been hearing some good things about vitamin K2 with vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium in the bones. Is this supported by science? If so, how is it best to get K2?

NewsBites

Unearthing the Real Paleo Diet

Thanks to a study of 50,000-year-old Neanderthal feces, scientists now have a better understanding of what made up the real “Paleo diet.” The study examined fecal matter found in soil collected at a previously unearthed Neanderthal gathering place in Spain. A biomarker that’s produced when cholesterol is digested was used to determine that prehistoric people produced the sample, because humans break down more cholesterol than other animals.

Consumers Look for “Locally Grown,” “Natural”

The most popular food label term that consumers say they look for is “locally grown,” cited by 67% in a survey by Consumer Reports. That’s followed by “natural” at 59%, even though that term is only loosely defined by US regulators.

Hold the Salt, Experts Agree —Subscribers Only

This summer, the New York City Department of Health and the American Heart Association brought together 34 of the world’s leading nutrition scientists and epidemiologists to tackle the link between dietary sodium and heart disease. The experts issued a joint statement concluding that “the evidence is clear. Population-wide reduction of sodium intake is an integral approach to reducing cardiovascular disease events and mortality in the United States.” They cited a “compelling body of evidence from laboratory, clinical and population research.”

Exercisers May Overestimate Their Exertion Level

How hard do you exercise? It’s probably not as vigorously as you think, suggests a new Canadian study published in PLOS One. Researchers tested 129 sedentary volunteers, ages 18 to 64, and found that most overestimated how intensely they were exercising. When asked to walk at the lowest intensity they thought qualified as “moderate,” only 25% got their heart rates high enough; most barely exceeded a leisurely stroll. Few hit 65% of their maximum heart rate (in beats per minute, 220 minus your age) when told to exercise “moderately.” Even fewer achieved more than 75% when instructed to amp up to “vigorous” exercise.

Jury Still Out on Routine Vitamin D Testing

An independent panel of health experts that advises the federal government says there’s not enough evidence to recommend for or against screening healthy adults for vitamin D levels. The US Preventive Services Task Force weighed more than a dozen studies before issuing its draft recommendation.

Special Reports

Best Food Choices to Reduce Your Cancer Risk —Subscribers Only

Reporting on the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research earlier this year, the New York Times noted, “The latest results about diet and cancer were relegated to a single poster session and a few scattered presentations.” Previous high hopes that specific dietary changes might combat cancer risk have largely evaporated, the Times reported, in the wake of “more thorough” epidemiology. The report summed up: “About all that can be said with any assurance is that controlling obesity is important, as it is for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and other threats to life. Avoiding an excess of alcohol has clear benefits. But unless a person is seriously malnourished, the influence of specific foods is so weak that the signal is easily swamped by noise.”

Smart Substitutes for Sugar —Subscribers Only

Sugar is in the spotlight as a key contributor not only to the obesity epidemic but also to chronic diseases, with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the first time proposing requiring food companies to list “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts label. On average, US adults consume 14.6% of their calories from sugars not naturally occurring in food—in everything from sodas to snack foods, from cereals at breakfast to packaged entrées at dinner.