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The Early Bird Stays Slim

If you’re watching your weight, you might consider getting up early and going outside. A new study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine showed that people whose exposure to bright natural light was mainly early in the day – between 8 a.m. and noon – had a lower body mass index than people whose light exposure occurs mostly in the late afternoon. All told, the difference in weight between early birds and not-so-early types could be as much as 30 pounds, stemming entirely from the influence and timing of their light exposure, the study found. The Northwestern researchers recruited 54 people, average age 30 who wore wrist monitors that tracked their light exposure and sleep time for a week. The study participants kept logs of what they ate and how often and how much they exercised. The researchers said that the light exposure could come from various sources, including through car windows. Bright light later in the day or at night has the opposite effect – it has been linked to obesity.

Phyllis Zee et al, “Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults, PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092251


More Worries About Diet Drinks

Middle-aged women who consume more than two diet drinks a day may be setting themselves up for heart attacks, stroke or other cardiovascular problems according to research results presented at the March 29-31 scientific meeting of the American College of Cardiology. The new findings come from a study including nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women who described their weekly consumption of diet sodas and diet fruit drinks over a three-month period. Analysis of the data gathered showed that women who consumed two or more drinks a day were 30 percent more likely to develop a cardiovascular problem and 50 percent more likely to die from a heart-related disease than women who rarely or never drank diet beverages. The researchers determined after nearly nine years of follow up that 8.5 percent of the women who drank the most diet drinks developed cardiovascular conditions compared to 6.9 percent of those who reported having five to seven diet drinks per week, 6.8 percent of those who had one to four diet drinks per week, and 7.2 percent of those who had zero to three of these drinks per month. The findings persisted even after researchers adjusted for smoking, BMI, hormone therapy use, physical activity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other risks for cardiovascular disease. Women who had a history of cardiovascular disease were not included in the study.

My take? This isn’t the first bad news about diet drinks. In 2012, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that the risk of heart attack and stroke or other vascular event was 43 percent higher among individuals who had a daily diet soda habit than those who didn’t consume these drinks, or who did so infrequently. Research at Harvard has suggested that drinking two or more diet sodas daily is associated with a decline in a measure of kidney function in women, and a Danish study found that the risk of giving birth prematurely increased by 38 percent among women who drank diet soda daily and by 78 percent among those who drank four or more diet sodas per day. There’s also evidence linking diet sodas to weight gain. Over the course of nine years, epidemiologists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found a 70 percent greater increase in weight circumference among participants in a study of aging who drank diet soda compared to those who didn’t. Bottom line: sodas, and diet sodas in particular, have no place in a healthy diet.

Ankur Vyas et al,  "Too many diet drinks may spell heart trouble for older women, study suggests." American College of Cardiology, March 29-31, 2014.


What Hemp Foods Have You Tried? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the health benefits of hemps seeds and their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids: How Healthy is Hemp? Check out the article and let us know if you have tried any hemp foods including hemp seeds and hemp milk.


Salty Foods Can Age Overweight Teens’ Cells

The salt contained in the junk foods and fast foods so many overweight and obese teens consume may be aging their cells, a process that can lead to heart disease. A study presented at this year’s American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions found that the protective ends of chromosomes (telomeres), which normally shorten with age, were significantly shorter in overweight and obese teens whose sodium intake was high compared to teens who consumed less sodium. In normal weight teens, sodium consumption didn’t affect telomere length. Obesity is associated with increased levels of inflammation, which also speeds telomere shortening, and carrying extra pounds appears to boost sensitivity to salt. The findings suggest that high sodium intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular aging, according to study leader Haidong Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia. The solution: cutting back on salty foods may help and may be an easier first step toward health for overweight teens than losing weight, Zhu said. High sodium intake among the teens in the study averaged 4,142 milligrams per day; low-intake averaged 2,388 mg per day. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Haidong Zhu, et al "High sodium intake is associated with short leukocyte telomere length in overweight and obese adolescents," AHA EPI/NPAM 2014; Abstract #MP64. American Heart Association Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014


Real Food: The Best Diet (Video)

What's gone wrong with the American diet, and how can we make it right?

In this groundbreaking talk, Andrew Weil, M.D. illuminates the worst trends in American nutrition, and the toll they are taking on our health. The solution? His Anti-Inflammatory Diet, a way of selecting and preparing real food based on scientific knowledge of how it can help your body maintain optimum health. Along with lowering inflammation, this diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients.

Want new videos from Dr. Weil? Subscribe to his YouTube channel for weekly videos!


Why Peaches and Watermelon Could Be Really Good for You

Who doesn’t love a juicy fresh peach or a chilled slice of watermelon? New research suggests that both may benefit health in important ways. In a study with mice, polyphenols from peach extract proved to slow the growth and spread of breast cancer. Researchers at Texas A&M AgriLife Research gave the peach extract to mice that had been implanted with breast cancer cells. After 12 days the researchers observed less tumor growth than in control animals. In addition, there was also a paucity of the blood vessel formation that helps cancer spread and less evidence of enzymes involved in cancer spread in the mice fed high levels of the polyphenols. The investigators suggested that eating two to three peaches daily might help to slow or stop breast cancer spread in humans and might even help prevent the disease. As for watermelon, a 12-week study with 13 obese adults with high blood pressure demonstrated that a daily dose of four grams of the amino acid L-citrulline and two grams of L-arginine, both from watermelon extract, led to significantly improved blood pressure when the study subjects were under stress, as well as lowering the participants baseline blood pressures at rest.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

Luis Cisneros-Zevallos et al, “Polyphenolics from peach (Prunus persica var. Rich Lady) inhibit tumor growth and metastasis of MDA-MB-435 breast cancer cells in vivo,” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.03.001

Arturo Figueroa et al, “Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Hemodynamic Responses to the Cold Pressor Test in Obese Hypertensive Adults,” American Journal of Hypertension, doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpt295


Optimism Wins Again

Optimistic women have better luck adopting healthy eating habits than women with a more negative outlook on life. But optimism itself isn’t what makes the difference, according to a new study from the University of Arizona, Tucson. Instead, researchers found that the behavioral skills that tend to accompany optimism led to success. These skills include being aware of your own behavior as it is unfolding, monitoring your eating habits by making a mental note of what you’ve eaten or keeping track of your food intake in a journal, and finding a healthy way to cope with unpleasant emotions or stress (instead of smoking or reaching for junk food). For the study, the researchers analyzed information from 33,500 women between the ages of 50 and 79. Among the data gathered were responses to a questionnaire that evaluated optimism levels and a survey of the healthfulness of the participants' diets when the study began and a year later. Overall, the researchers found that the most optimistic one-third of the women improved their diets the most.

My take? We know that optimism can benefit health by positively influencing the immune system, lowering production of the stress hormone cortisol and even reducing the risk of chronic disease. Rather than this trait simply being self-fulfilling, however, I believe optimism can be learned. The trick is remaining mindful enough to identify habitual thoughts and images that make you feel sad or anxious, and substituting positive ideas for negative ones, as well as spending more time with the optimists among your friends and family.

It's the Journey Not the Destination
Make each day count, with an outlook that both serene and inspired. Dr. Weil's website, Spontaneous Happiness, has everything you need to get on the path to emotional well-being. From exclusive videos and interactive tools to simple and effective methods that promote well-being, we can help you make each day a little brighter. Learn more - start your 10-day free trial today and save 25% when you join.

Melanie Hingle et al, “Optimism and Diet Quality in the Women's Health Initiative,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published online February 21, 2014.


Are Grapes Good For Your Heart?

Want to promote heart health? Look to the grapevine!

Whether you eat the fruit, seeds or skin; drink the juice; or sip on red wine, grapes can help reduce the risk of heart disease. These bright fruits are rich in polyphenols (naturally occurring plant compounds known to have antioxidant activity and other health benefits) including resveratrol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids, which help to:

  1. Slow or prevent cell damage caused by oxidation, which is an important step in deterring the development of atherosclerosis.
  2. Reduce blood clotting and abnormal heart rhythms.
  3. Lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

Choose the darker colored varieties of grapes for the most polyphenol benefits and opt for eating the fruit or skins over juice when able.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

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