The soluble fiber found in these and other whole foods can help control cholesterol, and now it appears that it can also reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. New research from the University of Illinois found that soluble fiber can transform immune cells by increasing production of an anti-inflammatory protein, interleukin 4. In the study, laboratory mice were fed diets that were the same except for their fiber content - some received soluble fiber while the others consumed insoluble fiber. After six weeks, the researchers gave the mice injections that made them sick. Those on the diets including soluble fiber became half as sick as the animals on diets with the insoluble fiber; and the mice in the soluble fiber group recovered 50 percent faster. Now the investigators want to study whether soluble fiber can help protect overweight people from the harmful inflammatory effects of a high fat diet. In addition to apples and oats, you can get soluble fiber from beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits and strawberries. The University of Illinois study will be published in the May 2010 issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity and is already available online.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), a form of omega 3 fatty acid, seems to work as well as prescription medication to reduce the number and size of precancerous polyps that can lead to colorectal cancer. A study in England including 55 patients with a genetic mutation that triggers development of precancerous polyps (a condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP) found that six months of treatment with a purified form of EPA reduced the number of polyps that developed by 12 percent; among participants who received a placebo instead, the number of polyps increased by 10 percent. In addition, the size of the polyps declined by more than 12.5 percent in the EPA group, compared to a 17 percent increase among those on the placebo. These effects were similar to those achieved by using celecoxib, a drug that can lead to undesirable cardiovascular side effects in older patients. The researchers suggested that their EPA strategy might help to prevent colorectal cancer in people with non-familial polyps. The study was published on line on March 18, 2010 in the journal Gut.
A low-carbohydrate diet may be more effective to lower blood pressure than the weight-loss drug orlistat combined with a low-fat diet. In a year-long study, investigators at Duke University Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C. compared the effects of the two weight loss strategies in 146 overweight men and women who had obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol and arthritis as well as high blood pressure. One group of participants followed a low-carb diet and the other combined orlistat with a low-fat diet. Over the course of the study, participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight, but 47 percent of those on the low-carb diet were able to reduce or discontinue medication they took for high blood pressure; only 21 percent of those in the other group were able to do the same. Exactly how the low-carb diet achieved those results isn't known yet. The study was published in the Jan. 25, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
My take? These findings are very interesting. If confirmed, we need to learn what it is about a low-carb diet that helps lower blood pressure so much more effectively than losing the same amount of weight with another strategy, or consider why a high-carb diet might raise blood pressure. In addition to weight loss, you may be able to lower high blood pressure by quitting smoking if that's an issue, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, cutting back on salt (processed foods are the biggest sources of sodium in today's western diet) and practicing relaxation methods.
Rethinking your aching back could go a long way toward relieving the pain. A study from England found that patients with chronic lower back pain who underwent up to six group sessions of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) in addition to standard treatment reported greater improvements than a similar group of patients who received standard treatment alone. The CBT was aimed at helping patients change patterns of negative thinking about their back pain, especially thoughts that lead them to avoid being active and, as a consequence, further weaken their backs. Of the 701 patients who participated in the study, those who had CBT showed a 2.4 percent improvement on one disability test and a 13.8 percent improvement on another, compared to improvements of only 1.1 percent on one test and 5.4 percent on the other among those who experienced standard treatment alone. The study was published online in the Feb. 26, 2010 edition of The Lancet. In some respects these findings concur with the work of Dr. John Sarno, a physician and professor of rehabilitation medicine at New York University and author of Healing Back Pain: the Mind Body Connection (Warner Books, 1991) and Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain (Warner Books, 1998). Dr. Sarno believes that treatment for chronic low back pain should be aimed at changing patterns of thinking, feeling and handling stress, all of which contribute to the pain.
In-depth information on low back pain.
Here, the findings come from an analysis of 10 studies that included nearly 280,000 adults. The potassium in question was from foods that provide plenty of this essential nutrient: leafy greens, potatoes, bananas, soybeans, apricots, avocados, prune juice, dried beans and peas and plain nonfat yogurt. Researchers found that participants in the studies who had the highest intake of raw fruits and vegetables, more than 262 grams per day, were 36 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate less than 92 grams per day of raw fruits and vegetables. However, no reduction of stroke risk was seen with consumption of processed fruits and vegetables, regardless of the amounts eaten. In this review, the highest intake of potassium-rich raw fruits and vegetables was also associated with an eight percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. The study’s findings, from the University of Naples, in Italy, were presented on March 3, 2010 at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Conference.
If you live in the U.S., you're most likely to be happiest - and healthiest - if you make your home in the west. Boulder, Colo., came out on top in a study based on interviews with more than 353,000 Americans about such issues as satisfaction with their present life, emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, physical health and access to food, medicine and health insurance. At the bottom:
Companion animals deserve our attention and affection just like other family members. As a caretaker, you can help reduce the risk of health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease in your pets with a few simple steps:
- Daily walk or exercise. Our companions need to move and explore. Fresh air, new experiences and regular exercise all contribute to pet health.
- Regular vet visits. Create a relationship with your vet, and stick to scheduled annual exams.
- Pay attention to your animal(s). By taking in an animal, you make an unspoken agreement that you will provide for its emotional needs, as well as physical.
- Spay or neuter, if you don't have plans to breed your animals.
- Feed a vital diet. If you want a healthy, vital companion, you must feed your pet canned or dry pet foods made from natural, whole foods. Dogs can also receive modest amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and proteins.
- Maintain optimum weight. A healthy weight is indicated by being able to easily find your dog or cat's backbone underneath its coat, but its ribs should not be visible. If you cannot feel ribs under its coat, you likely have an overweight animal that needs more exercise. Adjust their feeding routine to cut calories and move their weight in a healthy direction.
Learn more about Pets & Pet Care.