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Why You’re Overeating at Breakfast

If you’ve started counting calories, be wary when it comes to pouring that bowl of corn flakes. Compact cereals can cause you to accidentally overeat, reports a new study from Penn State University.

Researchers crushed standard wheat flakes into various sizes—full size and then 80 percent, 60 percent, and 40 percent the original size—and packed them into containers so that each weighed the same despite the differing volume. Once a week for a month, 40 adults were then given a random container for their breakfast and were told to pour and eat as much cereal as they pleased.

Even though the volume of the subjects’ portions in the bowl reduced when they ate the smaller flakes, they consumed 34 percent more calories compared to the standard size because they thought they were getting less cereal due to the broken pieces. “We have a notion of how much we should eat, but the physical properties, like the size and shape, of the individual pieces can often mislead us,” says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., study coauthor. These participants were habitual cereal eaters and they reported that they thought they were consuming the same amount of calories each week. Instead, they were actually overeating.

If cereal is your kryptonite each morning, try choosing brands with bigger pieces—ones that are more like puffs, flakes, or wheat bites. “You’re going to get more satisfaction from foods that give you larger portions for the same number of calories,” says Rolls. This doesn’t mean you should avoid compact cereals like Cheerios—especially if they’re your favorite—just be aware of your inclination to chow down and cut your serving size down more than normal.

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The Best Foods for Making Babies

Your food choices can affect both the size of your belt and what goes on below it. Healthy folate and zinc levels may improve semen quality, a study from Iran reveals. The researchers found that infertile men’s average intake of folate and zinc was significantly lower than that of fertile men, who on average met the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for each nutrient. The study authors suspect that these antioxidants protect sperm from damage. To keep your swimmers strong eat two good sources of zinc and folate daily,


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Pick Apples with the Most Nutrition

So you want to compare apples to apples? Okay, here’s what all 7,500 varieties have in common: They’re high in fiber, low in calories, and filled to the core with phytonutrients, including heart-protective quercetin and kaempferol. That’s a powerful trifecta—so powerful, in fact, that eating an apple a day for just a month may lower your LDL cholesterol by 40 percent, according to new research from Ohio State University. That’s not to say, however, that Galas and Granny Smiths are nutritional twins or that you can’t maximize a McIntosh’s health boost. Just follow our tips below to reap a bigger return on your investment in apple.

Bet on Skins
One reason apple pie isn’t health food: The peel has six to eight times the polyphenols of the flesh, plus other compounds, says Vasantha Rupasinghe, Ph.D., an associate professor of agriculture at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. At the farmers’ market, he recommends, ask the vendor which local varieties have the thickest peels. And at the supermarket, try two thick-skinned varieties, Red Delicious and Idared.

Opt for Organic
Conventionally grown apples tend to be larger than organic ones because synthetic fertilizers promote water retention, says Rong Tsao, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Guelph Food Research Centre in Ontario. This dilutes the nutrients in the flesh, so you’re consuming fewer with each bite. Plus, 99 percent of conventional apples tested by the USDA had some pesticide, while only 33 percent of organic apples did.

Stop on Red . . .
But go right past green. The rosy hue in red apples is due to anthocyanins, a class of heart-disease-fighting polyphenols that are also found in red wine, says Tsao. And the redder the better, which is why you should try Red Delicious: Tsao’s research showed that this kind had the highest concentration of polyphenols out of eight common North American varieties, followed by Northern Spy and Idared apples.

Shop Like a Snob
Don’t buy apples with bruises or soft spots. Not only will people think you’re a guy who doesn’t know ugly fruit when he sees it, but the damage to the skin may be a sign of decay or infection. Once you weed out the losers, bring the winners home and stow them in the fridge. In a German study, apples that were refrigerated maintained a higher concentration of polyphenols than those left at room temperature did.

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Organic food does not reduce women’s risk of cancer

Women who mostly or always eat organic foods have the same overall chance of developing cancer as women who never eat it, according to a new study from the UK’s University of Oxford and published in the British Journal of Cancer that followed over 600,000 middle-aged women for nearly a decade.

One of the investigators, Tim Key, professor of epidemiology and deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford, says:

“In this large study of middle-aged women in the UK we found no evidence that a woman’s overall cancer risk was decreased if she generally ate organic food.”

In the European Union, the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan and other countries, to produce and market organic food you have to obtain a special licence.

The word “organic” and the standards that apply to it are slightly different in various countries, but generally it forbids the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers in the production of food.

Outside the organic movement, pesticides are widely used in agriculture, and there are concerns that residues from these get into the food chain and could increase the risk of cancer. But so far, the evidence for this is not strong enough to give any clear answers.

No difference in overall cancer risk between women who did or did not eat organic food
For this latest study, the researchers examined data on 623,080 middle-aged UK women being followed in the Million Women Study, a large national study of UK women’s health that is funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council.

The investigators asked women whether they ate organic foods, and over a 9-year period, looked at how many developed 16 of the most common types of cancer.

Fruit and veg
Cancer risks do not differ between women who eat organic food and those who do not, researchers found.
The researchers could find no difference in overall cancer risk when they compared 180,000 women who said they never ate organic food with 45,000 who said they always or usually ate it.

Fruit and veg

When they looked in more detail at each of the 16 different cancers, the researchers found a slightly higher risk for breast cancer and a lower risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women who said they mostly ate organic food. But they said this result could be due to chance and other factors.

Dr. Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, says the study adds to increasing evidence that eating organic food does not lower the risk of developing cancer, but she suggests people should wash their fruits and vegetables before eating them if they are worried about pesticide residue.

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Like obesity, being underweight is also tied to earlier death

A new Canadian review of research on the relationship between weight and risk of premature death finds that having a body mass index in the underweight range is linked to an even higher risk of death than having a body mass index in the obese range.

Led by Dr. Joel Ray, a physician-researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, the review is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The investigators found that for both adults and fetuses, being underweight is linked to higher risk of death from any cause.

For their meta-analysis, they reviewed and pooled data from 51 studies that examined the link between body mass index (BMI) and deaths from any cause, and also data on newborn weight and stillbirths in Ontario, Canada.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on weight and height that applies to adult men and women. It is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres (kg/m2).

According to the World Health Organization BMI classification, a BMI under 18.50 is classed as “underweight,” 18.50 to 24.99 is classed as “normal,” 25.00 to 29.99 is classed as “overweight,” and a BMI over 30.00 is classed as “obese.”

For example, an adult who weighs 70 kg (154 lbs) and whose height is 1.75 m (5 ft 9 ins) will have a BMI of 22.9 which is in the “normal” weight range.

overweight and underweight lady, back to back

Being underweight linked to higher risk of death than being obeseoverweight and underweight lady, back to back
Having a BMI in the underweight range is linked to an even higher risk of death than having a BMI in the obese range.
In their review, Dr. Ray and colleagues found that adults with a BMI classed as underweight (under 18.50 or less) had a 1.8 times higher risk of dying from any cause than adults with a BMI classed as normal. This was even higher than for people classed as obese.

For people with a BMI in the range 30.00 to 34.99 (obese), the risk of dying was 1.2 times higher than that of people with BMI classed as normal, and for those with a BMI higher than 35.00 (severely obese), the risk was 1.3 times higher.

The analysis only included studies that had followed people for 5 years or more, to rule out those who were underweight simply because of illnesses like cancer, heart failure and lung disease.

The researchers note that common causes of being underweight include malnutrition, heavy use of drugs or alcohol, low-income background, smoking, poor self-care and poor mental health.

BMI reflects muscle mass, not only body fat
Dr. Ray says it is important that we realize:

“BMI reflects not only body fat, but also muscle mass. If we want to continue to use BMI in health care and public health initiatives, we must realize that a robust and healthy individual is someone who has a reasonable amount of body fat and also sufficient bone and muscle.”

He suggests if we are trying to look at the problems of excess body fat, then perhaps we should replace BMI with a proper measure of body fat, such as waist size.

As we fight to curb the obesity epidemic, he warns that we also need to “avoid creating an epidemic of underweight adults and fetuses who are otherwise at the correct weight. We are, therefore, obliged to use the right measurement tool.”

In 2011, Medical News Today reported a study that found being underweight was linked to raised risk of death following surgery. Writing in the Archives of Surgery journal, a team from the US found that people under or on the slightly lighter side of normal weight appeared to have a higher risk of death in the 30 days following surgery than people on the heavier side.

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Married cancer patients ‘likely to live longer’

People who are married when they are diagnosed with cancer are more likely to live longer, compared with those who are unmarried. This is according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of 734,889 people from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program who were diagnosed with cancer between 2004 and 2008.

The study focused on the 10 cancers that are the leading cause of deaths in the US:

Liver/bile duct
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Head and neck
Ovarian, and
The data was adjusted to account for certain demographic factors that may have an effect on health outcome. These included age, sex, race, residence type, education and median household income.

Married patients ‘receive better therapy’
The results of the analysis revealed that patients who were unmarried or widowed were 17% more likely to suffer from metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread beyond its original location), compared with patients who were married.

Additionally, the findings showed that unmarried patients were also 53% less likely to receive the appropriate therapy for their cancer, compared with patients who were married, as they more were likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage.

Ayal Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program and first author of the paper, says:

“Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer, and this was consistent among every cancer that we reviewed.


A family hugging

We suspect that social support from spouses is what’s driving the striking improvement in survival. Spouses often accompany patients on their visits and make sure they understand the recommendations and complete all their treatments.”

Loving support ‘as important as chemotherapy’A family hugging
The researchers hypothesize that social support from spouses may drive prolonged survival in cancer patients who are married, compared with those who are unmarried.
Paul Nguyen, a radiation oncologist from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says that the findings of this study are not an affirmation of marriage, but more a message to anyone who has a friend or loved one with cancer.

“By being there for that person and helping them navigate their appointments and make it through all their treatments, you can make a real difference to that person’s outcome,” he adds.

“As oncologists, we need to be aware of our patients’ available social supports and encourage them to seek and accept support from friends and family during this potentially difficult time.”

In an editorial linked to the study, David W. Kissane of Monash University in Australia, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, says this study shows that support from loved ones is just as important as chemotherapy in treating cancer.

“[The study authors] stress why medicine ought not to be governed by money but by humanistic, culturally sensitive, and comprehensive care,” he adds.

“Our response must be to develop targeted supportive programs to attend to those most in need – a paradigmatic change in the focus of healing care that truly accompanies the biologic and scientific pursuits of medicine.”

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Marriage linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

As Frank Sinatra once sang, “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” But according to new research, so do marriage and a healthy heart.

A study from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, NY, led by Dr. Carlos L. Alviar, suggests that people who are married are much less likely to develop any kind of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who are single, widowed or divorced.

The research team recently presented their findings at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

Past research has associated marriage with lower risk of cardiovascular problems. Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that unmarried women are more likely to die from heart disease.

But the researchers from this most recent study say it is the largest of its kind, analyzing surveys of more than 3.5 million men and women from 20,000 health centers across the US.

All participants, who were aged between 21 and 99 years old, underwent physical examinations and imaging tests between 2004 and 2008. Their risk factors for cardiovascular disease were also measured, including blood pressure, obesity, smoking history, family history of disease, diabetes and blood cholesterol level.

‘When it comes to cardiovascular disease, marital status does matter’
The research team found that overall, individuals who were married had a 5% lower risk of developing any kind of cardiovascular disease than those who were single.

Married man and woman

Researchers found that people who were married had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who were single, widowed or divorced.
People who were widowed were 3% more likely to develop any kind of cardiovascular disease – including peripheral artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, abdominal aortic aneurism and coronary artery disease – than those who were married, while divorced individuals had a 5% higher risk.

Breaking the results down by age, the researchers found that married people under the age of 50 had a 12% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with single people younger than 50 years.

Married couples between the ages of 51 and 60 had a 7% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with single individuals of the same age group, while married couples over the age of 60 had a 4% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Berger, senior study author and assistant professor at the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology of the Department of Medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center, says these findings suggest that doctors should consider the marital status of patients when assessing them for heart problems.

He adds:

“Our survey results clearly show that when it comes to cardiovascular disease, marital status does indeed matter.

If one of my patients is recently widowed or divorced, I’m increasingly vigilant about examining that patient for signs of any type of cardiovascular disease and depression.”

Marriage may offer physical and emotional support
Dr. Berger says further research is warranted to fully understand why marital status appears to affect an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease. But he hypothesizes that during periods of illness and when it comes to looking after general health, marriage can provide an “emotional and physical support system.”

“Married people can look after each other, making sure their spouse eats healthy, exercises regularly and takes medication as prescribed,” says Dr. Berger.

“A spouse can also help keep doctors’ appointments and provide transportation, making for easier access to health care services.”

The investigators conclude that because of the large number of participants in their study, and since they accounted for known risk factors for heart disease, their research offers “reliable and statistically valid results” on the association between marital status and cardiovascular disease.

The team says they plan to conduct further research that will look at marital status and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease by race. They note that although around 80% of the participants in this study were white, there were enough individuals of other races to reach certain conclusions based on ethnic origin and race.

Furthermore, the researchers wish to look at how socioeconomic risk factors, such as education, income and employment status, affect the link between marital status and risk of cardiovascular disease.

It is not just a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease that marriage has been hailed for. Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that married cancer patients are more likely to live longer, compared with those who are unmarried.