Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new device that aims to curb hunger by zapping a nerve. The device stimulates the vagus nerve and may curb hunger by blocking communication between the stomach and the brain, but researchers still aren’t sure why it makes people feel less hungry.
Read more about the new device at NPR.org.
When it comes to weight loss there is never a lack of opinions and advice. Many people claim that low-fat diets is the key to losing weight, others say that counting total calories is the only effective measure to take. In a recent opinion article in the New York Times, two scientists attempt to uncover why the type of food you eat, not how much you eat, may be more important in terms of regulating hunger. The claim is that when extra energy from food (in the forms of glucose and fatty acids) is stored in the fat tissue instead of circulating in the blood our brain will tell us to eat more. Therefore, the fatter you get, the more energy the fat tissue takes up and the hungrier we become, leading to a vicious cycle of weight gain. The culprit in all of this? Insulin – the hormone that is released from the pancreas in response to an increase in blood glucose concentrations. Insulin tells fat cells to take in glucose and fatty acids from the blood, so they can either be used for energy or stored for later. The scientists, Dr. Ludwig and Dr. Friedman, state that foods that cause a higher insulin spike will cause more energy to be stored, thereby causing more hunger in the longterm. Foods that are high in processed carbohydrates and simple sugars cause a larger spike in insulin because glucose gets to our bloodstream quicker when foods can be easily digested and absorbed. Foods that contain fiber, protein and fats take longer to digest and absorb, so the entry of glucose into the blood (and subsequent release of insulin) after eating them is slower.
So what do you think, is it total calories or total carbohydrates that should be the focus of weight loss advice? As always, it is important to think critically when it comes to using the advice of others for your own health goals. So go ahead, do your research and decide what a healthy lifestyle looks like for you. To read the full opinion article head to the New York Times.
The world of nutrition has a long way to go before it fully understands the complex relationship between the brain and the gut, but a recently published study seems to have made a significant step in an interesting direction. The study, published the journal Health Psychology, asks the question of whether our beliefs about a particular food change us physically – that is, if you think a food is good (or bad) for you, do we have a different physiological response to that food? To answer this question researchers had study participants drink either a rich, high-calorie milkshake called “Indulgence”, or a more healthy, low-calorie milkshake called “Sensishake”, then measured blood levels of ghrelin – a hormone that signals to the brain that we’re hungry. The trick? Both milkshakes were actually identical, with no difference in ingredients (or calories). Even so, the participants that drank the “Sensishake” had higher levels of ghrelin than those that drank the “Indulgence”, making them feel hungry sooner!
Read more (with a link to the published article) at NPR.
Authoritarian parents are not very affectionate and may have strict rules without explanation. A recent Canadian study has linked this parenting style with a higher risk of obesity in their children. Children of authoritarian parents may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including behaviors that can lead to weight gain. These children may be “responding negatively to not being able to question things or discuss things” says one of the study’s authors.
This study is another in an existing set of data that support the idea that the authoritarian parenting study is linked with childhood obesity. Read more about the study here.
Kidney disease is one complication that can arise in people with diabetes. It has previously been posited that the extra blood glucose in diabetes damages the kidney through a toxic molecule called superoxide anion. Research at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has recently found that this is not the case. By analyzing the amount of superoxide anion produced in the mitochondria of diabetic mice, researchers have discovered that LOW concentrations of superoxide anion are associated with diabetic kidney disease, and HIGH concentrations of superoxide anion are associated with less markers of diabetic kidney disease. This discovery changes the field of diabetic research, and may lead to better understanding of diabetic kidney disease. Read more about this discovery, as well as possible explanations for how diabetes may cause kidney disease here.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in the U.S. have grown substantially in recent decades, but until recently Eastern cultures have been immune. Unfortunately, many Asian cultures have succumbed to this alarming trend, and now have obesity and diabetes rates that mimic America’s. In China, rates of type 2 diabetes has surpassed rates in the U.S., perhaps due to the movement of Westernized cultureinto China. Many popular U.S. food chains are now present in the Asian superpower, and sedentary desk-jobs are replacing more active laborer positions. Read more about this shift at The New York Times.
To combat the alarming obesity and diabetes trends, the Chinese central government is taking steps to improve the population’s diet through a new nutrition campaign, including dietary monitoring and intervention, as well as guidelines for food producers. Read about the measures being taken by China here.
What causes obesity? Is it that we are all eating too many calories, or does the food that we eat actually change the way fat is stored in the body? Perhaps changes in the modern environment are to blame, such as chemicals like BPA or the widespread use of lightbulbs at night. Chances are that the obesity epidemic has several causes, and there is not just one simple solution. Read more about this here: The Obesity Era.
The dopamine reward center in your brain is responsible for giving you feelings of pleasure when you do something you like, including eating your favorite foods. A study by Dr. David Ludwig at Boston Children’s Hospital found that foods with a high glycemic index (like processed foods high in sugar) stimulates the reward center, which may lead to food cravings and addiction. Read more at Boston Children’s Hospital’s blog.
While most doctors’ prescriptions tend to be for drugs, doctors in NYC are starting to write prescriptions for fresh fruits and veggies. The program connects low income patients with local farmer’s markets. The idea being that people fill prescriptions for drugs, why not prescribe healthy food. The program seems to be helping – 38% of participants saw a decreased BMI after participating. Read more at NPR’s coverage: No Bitter Pill: Doctors Prescribe Fruits and Veggies