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May 2014

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Take a Hike to Lower Your Risk of Stroke —Subscribers Only

Two new studies suggest that one simple way to reduce your risk of suffering a stroke is to lace up your walking shoes and get moving. In a British study of nearly 3,500 initially healthy men ages 60-80, those who spent time walking were less likely to suffer a stroke, with risk declining as walking time increased. In another new finding, reported at a conference, women who walked or engaged in other moderate-intensity exercise were 20% less likely to suffer a stroke.

Discover the Goodness of Cooked Greens

If you listen to advocates of the “raw food” movement, everything is better for you when it’s not cooked. But there’s a whole group of leafy-green vegetables traditionally served cooked—mustard, collard and turnip greens—that, except in the South, most Americans simply skip as they concentrate on fresh salad greens. Cooking helps tame the flavors of some greens, like mustard, that might deter some diners. Cooking can also make chard more palatable, when its leaves and stems are too mature for salads. And of course cooking opens up a whole different menu for spinach and kale.

Diets Rich in Magnesium Associated with Slower Progression to Diabetes

Getting enough magnesium in your diet from foods such as whole grains, nuts, fish and and vegetables may reduce your risk of diabetes. Adequate magnesium may be especially important for those at greatest risk of progression to diabetes.

Added Sugars Add to Your Heart Risk —Subscribers Only

Previous studies have linked added sugar, such as in non-diet soft drinks and other beverages, to increased risk of key factors in heart disease—including weight gain, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Now, for the first time, a new analysis of nationwide dietary data has found an association between consumption of added sugar and higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Ask Tufts Experts

Q. I constantly read in your publication and others about the importance of keeping sodium at a minimum in your diet to help control blood pressure. But as someone who likes to dine out in good restaurants, I am at a loss to know how much sodium I am consuming. Any suggestions as to how to deal with this question?

A. Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, suggests: “You should check the restaurant’s website to see whether nutrition information is available. If it is a smaller, neighborhood restaurant, you can talk to the manager to see whether there are options for lower-sodium preparation if the request is made when ordering.” Some restaurants, too, indicate sodium levels on their menus, either with nutrition numbers or “heart-healthy” logos. It’s also important, Lichtenstein…

Q. I have a new blender that will take a whole fruit and turn it into juice. Is there a loss of nutrients when I do this? Am I destroying the fiber?

A. Kelsey Watson, a dietetic intern at Tufts’ Frances Stern Nutrition Center, answers: “You’re right in recognizing that fruit contains many valuable nutrients, including fiber, a nutrient for which most Americans do not meet the daily recommendation. Most of a fruit’s fiber is contained in its peel and pulp. For example, the edible portion of a medium orange contains 2.66 grams of fiber, while four ounces of orange juice contain only 0.23 grams of fiber.…

Q. I heard that if you exercise on an empty stomach, you will defeat the purpose, because you will burn muscle protein for fuel, instead of building muscles. Is that true?

A. Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, professor at Tufts’ Friedman School and author of the “Strong Women” series, replies: “You might be hungry, but exercising on an empty stomach won’t change what overall fuels your body is using.…

Q. I’d like to know what kinds of cocoa to get to drink in hot chocolate form and also how much per day?

Q. I’d like to know what kinds of cocoa to get to drink in hot chocolate form and also how much per day?


Building Better Broccoli

A pair of discoveries, reported in the journal PLoS One, may lead to better broccoli in the produce aisle. University of Illinois researchers, seeking to boost levels of anti-cancer glucosinolate compounds found in broccoli and similar vegetables, sprayed the plants shortly before harvest with methyl jasmonate. That natural, non-toxic plant signal chemical tells genes in the broccoli to produce the desired anti-cancer agents. Unfortunately, testing showed it also accelerated the production of ethylene, which causes plants to decay. Spraying a second chemical recently discovered in plants, 1-methylcyclopropene, was found to block the ethylene and prolong shelf life. The one-two punch, scientists hope, will help protect against cancer while also protecting the broccoli in your fridge.

Canada OKs First Flax Cholesterol Claim

Flax fans are applauding Health Canada’s Food Directorate, which has approved the first health claim for ground flaxseed as a food that improves cholesterol. Products containing flaxseed can now boast that daily consumption of 40 grams (five tablespoons) of the ground seed lowers unhealthy cholesterol levels. Grinding or milling the seeds, the agency noted, makes nutrients such as omega-3s more bioavailable. Flaxseeds can easily be incorporated into a wide range of food products, and very finely milled ingredients derived from the seeds can even be added to beverages. Canada leads the world in flax production.

FDA Proposes Label Makeover

Administration has proposed the most significant changes in nutrition labels since the government started requiring them in 1992. The Nutrition Facts labels were last modified in 2006, with the addition of trans fat data. The latest FDA proposal goes much further, revising portion sizes, the label’s appearance and which nutrients must be included and even how they’re calculated. But don’t look for the new labels on grocery shelves anytime soon:

Special Reports

Evaluating Alternatives Against Alzheimer’s and Dementia —Subscribers Only

An estimated 5 million Americans age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease—a figure expected to increase 40% by 2025 and to nearly triple by mid-century, according to the Alzheimer’s Association . Many more suffer from other forms of dementia and from cognitive decline. Science is making unprecedented strides toward preventing and slowing such conditions, however. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Scientists have learned more about the brain in the last 10 years than in all previous centuries, because of the accelerating pace of research in neurological and behavioral science and the development of new research techniques.”