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Eating Slowly Cuts Calories

Can you really cut daily calories by eating your meals more slowly? Researchers from Texas Christian University tackled this question by recruiting 70 men and women - half of them were of normal weight, and half were overweight or obese. In a research kitchen, the study participants were asked to eat an unlimited lunch slowly, pausing to put down their spoons during the meal, taking small bites and chewing slowly. At the next session, the groups were instructed to consume the food as quickly as possible, not putting down their spoons, taking big bites and chewing quickly. The researchers reported that the normal weight participants consumed 88 fewer calories during the slow meal than they did during the fast one. However, the overweight and obese participants consumed only 58 calories less during the slow meal, although at both meals they consumed fewer calories overall than the normal weight subjects, the investigators reported. What’s more, both the normal weight and the overweight/obese participants reported being less hungry an hour after the slow meal than after the fast one. The main message here is that making an effort to eat more slowly may cut calories, enhance your enjoyment of your meals and keep you feeling full longer.

My take? I have long promoted mindfulness as a central strategy in building a healthy lifestyle. You might be able to cut calories a bit simply by paying attention to eating slowly, as this study suggests. Leisurely meals, in good company, can be a welcome change from the fast pace of 21st century life. One of the goals of the slow food movement - viewed as an antidote to fast food culture, microwave cooking, and eat-on-the-run meals - is to encourage us to slow down and reflect on our meals so that we can truly enjoy our food and drink. Bear in mind, however, that if you want to lose weight, what works in the long run is putting fewer calories on your plate. To lose weight while maintaining or improving your health, I recommend my anti-inflammatory diet coupled with calorie-consciousness and daily physical activity.

Meena Shah, at al “Slower Eating Speed Lowers Energy Intake in Normal-Weight but not Overweight/Obese Subjects,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published online January 2, 2014


How Much Milk Do You Drink? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the health benefits of organic milk: Is Organic Milk Heart Healthy? Check out the article and tell us how much milk you typically drink during the day.


Overcoming the Risks of Too Much Sitting

Sitting all day at a desk job has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease, risks that exercising before or after work don’t seem to change. Researchers in Australia tested three strategies to get desk-bound workers up and moving: the use of treadmill or cycling desk for 10 to 30 minutes several times a day; light to moderate exercise on breaks and before and after work; and the use of ergonomic workstations, breaking up computer tasks, moving around more often and periodically perching on the edge of the chair. A total of 133 people enrolled in the study but only 62 stayed with it until it ended. The upshot of all this physical activity was an average reduction of eight minutes per day in time spent sitting, a drop of only one to two percent in sedentary time, the researchers found, and potentially enough to have a positive impact on health. They suggest taking a break from sitting once every 30 minutes and simple strategies to do more office work while you’re mobile including standing while you’re on the phone, having walking meetings and using a bathroom that’s farther from your desk than the one you usually use.

Leon Straker et al, “Participatory Workplace Interventions Can Reduce Sedentary Time for Office Workers—A Randomised Controlled Trial,” PLOS One, November 12, 2013


Unfounded Vitamin Fears (Video)

At the 5th International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research in Norway, Dr. Weil describes the tendency of medical researchers toward reductionism - a belief that wholes can be fully understood via analyzing their parts. This inaccurate belief has led, among other unfortunate conclusions, to an unfounded indictment of vitamin E.

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Is Your Brain Getting Enough Vitamin D?

The older you are, the better the chance that you’re running low on vitamin D. We’ve long known that “D” is essential for strong bones, and recent studies have linked low levels to Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, psoriasis, several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), and as many as 18 different cancers. And now a new study from the University of Kentucky has found that a deficiency of vitamin D can damage the brain, at least in rats. The Kentucky research team found that middle-aged rats fed a diet deficient in vitamin D for several months developed damage from the formation of free radicals in the brain, altering many different brain proteins and leading to a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory. Lead researcher Allan Butterfield noted that vitamin D deficiency is widespread worldwide, particularly among seniors. He advised having your vitamin D levels checked, and if the test reveals low levels, eating foods rich in “D (fortified foods, eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines), taking vitamin D supplements and getting at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure daily (without sunscreen and exposing as much of your body as weather permits).

D. Allan Butterfield et al, “Dietary vitamin D deficiency in rats from middle to old age leads to elevated tyrosine nitration and proteomics changes in levels of key proteins in brain: Implications for low vitamin D-dependent age-related cognitive decline”. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2013; 65: 324 DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.07.019


Can You Afford a Healthy Diet?

For most of us, the answer to that question is “probably” even though the popular perception is that healthy eating is much more expensive than the cost of typical, and often unhealthy diets. A new report from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the additional cost to assure prudent nutrition is surprisingly low. The researchers looked into the actual costs of a healthy diet compared to what you would pay for the unhealthy ones so prevalent in our society. They analyzed 27 studies from 10 higher income countries to determine the costs of individual foods and then compared prices for healthier vs. unhealthy diets. The Harvard team calculated the differences in price per serving and per 200 calories for certain foods as well as the cost of 2,000 calorie daily diets, both healthy and unhealthy. They even assessed the costs per calorie of foods in both diets. Bottom line: the cost of pursuing a healthy diet amounts to only $1.50 per day more than the cost of consuming an unhealthy one. Here are some details: healthier choices for meat and other protein foods cost only 29 cents more per serving than the unhealthy ones, the cost of healthy snacks was only 12 cents more and the price differential for fats and oils was only two cents more for healthy products.

My take? This analysis goes a long way towards refuting the myth that healthy eating is much more expensive that the unhealthy western diet, and shows that the cost per person is likely less than that of a designer drink at Starbucks. However, the Harvard team did not include the additional cost per day of an organic diet, which I recommend, or the time requirements of healthy preparation methods. When organically grown fruits and vegetables don't fit your food budget, I suggest avoiding the ones that are most heavily contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals, and stick to those that are least likely to be contaminated. You can get that information at, the website of the Environmental Working Group. I also suggest comparing the cost of organic fruits and vegetables to other types of food, as the Harvard team did. You may find that the cost per serving is quite reasonable compared to that of some snack foods and some prepared foods. And, they're much better for you.

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Mayuree Rao et al, “Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis”, BMJ Open. 2013 Dec 5;3(12):e004277. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004277.


What Food Do You Consider Your Greatest Source of Acrylamide? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the dangers of fried foods and the toxic compound called acrylamide: Do Fried Foods Cause Cancer? Check out the article and tell us which food you eat that is the greatest source of acrylamide.


Reprogramming Inflammation with Meditation

We know that over time chronic, imperceptible, low-level inflammation can contribute to serious, age-related diseases including heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. A new study from the University of Wisconsin shows that meditation can actually affect the genes that cause inflammation. Researchers measured the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness meditation in a group of experienced mediators and compared them with those of quiet, non-meditative activities by a group of untrained volunteers. After eight hours of meditation, the researchers found altered levels of gene-regulating compounds and reduced activity levels of the pro-inflammatory genes in the experienced meditators. These changes were correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation, the investigators explained. They reported that these findings are the first to show that mediation can inhibit production of proteins by some genes that cause inflammation and noted that at the study’s outset there were no differences in the genes tested in both groups. They also reported that the positive changes were seen in genes that are the targets of anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs.

Perla Kaliman et al, “Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators”. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 40, 96–107