News Roundup: Nutrition and Preventative Health

This week’s news roundup is a collection of health articles focusing on nutrition and preventative health.

Pro tennis players’ good habits are prolonging their careers. The average athlete can learn from them. The Washington Post. “Now the gym is so much more than just performance. It’s maintenance, preventative stuff, corrective stuff, just health stuff.”.

Brain Food: How Eating Well Impacts Your Brain. Huffington Post. “We all know the impact eating well has on our bodies, but what about our minds? Eating well means more than just feeding your stomach, but feeding your head too.”

Gym-going seniors are benefiting from more than exercise. The Washington Post. “Perhaps unsurprisingly, studies have linked strong social relationships to a longer life span. The problem is that social connections, the ties that bind us to our community, slowly weaken as we age…That’s why many find the health club a good place to strengthen social bonds.”

When Sports Injuries Lead to Arthritis in Joints. The New York Times. “In the rush to get back in the game, whether as part of a team or elite sport or simply a cherished recreational activity like jogging or tennis, it is tempting to short-circuit the rehabilitation needed to allow the joint to heal fully. But adequate recovery, including rehab measures aimed at strengthening structures that support the injured joint, is critical to maximize its stability, reduce the risk of reinjury and head off irreparable joint damage.”

Changing your perspective about weight loss may change the outcome, too. The Washington Post. “We want to support individuals in creating long-term behavior change and enjoying the experience. Typically, if people think they’re on a diet, it rarely sticks for the long term.”

Choosing the Right Carbs

Choose your Carbs Wisely!

It is hard to determine the role of carbohydrates in a healthy diet these days. This “Total Carbohydrates” fact sheet posted by fda.gov is a great tool in understanding its breakdown. To summarize:

  • Carbohydrates consist of sugars, sugar alcohols, starches, and dietary fiber. These different types are displayed on food labels under the total carbohydrate section. Sugars, sugar alcohols, and starches are either naturally in the food or added commercially.
  • Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients in food.
  • Carbs are 4 calories/gram.
  • After eating carbohydrates, your body will break them down into glucose, or energy for your body.
  • Fiber will help to slow the absorption rate of carbs and other nutrients, helping you to feel fuller longer.

What’s the Difference?

Whole grain carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the brain, and contain vitamins and fiber. Whole grain, aka “complex”, carbohydrates are those which include the entire kernel (including the outer shell). Many health benefits, such as lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes, are associated with eating whole grains.  This is because many of the valuable nutrients, such as fiber, iron, B vitamins, and minerals, are found in the outer shell of the grain.

On the other hand, simple grains, such as those found in white bread, are grains which have had the outer shell of the grain removed. Therefore, removing most of the beneficial nutrients too. Many simple carbohydrates are fortified. This means food manufacturers have added back in some of the vitamins and minerals…but, this is still not as healthy of an option because much of the fiber and nutrition is still lacking.

Bottom line: Try your best to limit simple carbohydrates, such as white rice, white bread, or white flour. Instead, opt for whole grain rice, whole grain breads and whole wheat flours.  Thanks to their fiber content, these whole grain products digest slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable and helping you to feel more satisfied longer.

But what about fruits and vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables contain simple carbohydrates too. Some fruits and vegetables are higher in sugar (simple carbohydrates) and should be consumed in moderation (i.e. bananas, mangos, sweet potatoes, carrots). However, some fruits and vegetables have fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which help to slow down digestion and increase the nutritional profile of the food. These types of fruits and vegetables (i.e. cucumbers, asparagus, berries, avocados) act more like a complex carbohydrate which keeps blood sugar levels steady. These types of fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed more often.

Bottom line: All fruits and vegetables can and should be a part of a healthy diet. Although they are simple carbohydrates, they can be enjoyed in moderation. Fruits and vegetables with higher fiber content, such as berries and avocados, are a better choice than fruits and vegetables than containing mostly simple carbohydrates (i.e. bananas).    

More about Whole Grains 

Whole grains are a great way to get your carbohydrates and to increase the fiber in your diet.  The USDA MyPlate recommends that about one quarter of your plate consists of grains. Of that one quarter, half of those grains should be whole grains.  It is important to substitute whole grain products for simple carbohydrate products, rather than adding whole grain products in order to meet your goal.

  • Choose a whole grain hot cereal (oatmeal, wheat) or a cold breakfast cereal that provides at least 5 grams of fiber per serving
  • Add a high fiber cereal to yogurt
  • Substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the white flour in any
    flour-based recipe
  • Experiment with whole wheat pasta and brown rice
  • Add any grain to your mixed meat dishes
  • Try adding oatmeal to meat loaf

 Know what to look for 

Knowing which grains are whole grains can be confusing, but the easiest way to identify a whole grain is by its ingredient list.  If it doesn’t say whole grain or whole wheat, it is not a whole grain food.

  • Whole grains - A grain that still has its outer covering (the bran), which contains the grain’s fiber and many of its vitamins and minerals.
  • Processed whole grains - A whole grain that has been cracked (as in cracked wheat bread) or crushed (as in whole wheat flour). They provide the same nutrients found in the original kernel of grain.
  • Refined grains/ simple carbohydrates - The nutrient rich outer covering is removed during milling such as in white flour.
  • Enriched/Fortified grains - Refined grains (simple carbohydrates) to which nutrients such as B vitamins and iron are added back.

 

News Roundup: Ditch the Diet Soda?

Discourse on diet soda has raged for years, with arguments both for and against artificial sweeteners. In 2014, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association gave their stamp of approval to artificial sweeteners; however, this week’s news roundup looks at new evidence that diet sodas, and the artificial sweeteners therein, may not be as good for you as we once thought.

Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health. Canadian Medical Association Journal. “Evidence from RCTs does not clearly support the intended benefits of nonnutritive sweeteners for weight management, and observational data suggest that routine intake of nonnutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased BMI and cardiometabolic risk.”

Artificial sweeteners may actually cause you to gain weight. Healthline. “Sugar is receiving a lot of attention lately as a major cause of these conditions. It’s important to study ‘sugar substitutes’ in parallel, to understand their impact on the same conditions. If we don’t do this, consumers may (understandably) assume that artificial sweeteners are a healthy choice — but this may not be true. Reducing consumption of sugar and artificially sweetened products in general is likely a good strategy.”

Artificial sweeteners linked to weight gain, finds new research. Independent. “[C]aution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized.”

Diet drinks are associated with weight gain, new research suggests. Washington Post. “The causality could go in the other direction, too — people who are gaining weight for other reasons may seek out more artificially sweetened foods. Or, as other research has shown, people who go on diets (and who may be more likely to drink diet sodas) often lose weight but then gain more afterward.”

News Roundup: Artificial Sweeteners

 artificial sweeteners

New research published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed emerging data indicating that artificial sweeteners may be associated with long term weight gain and increased risk of heart and metabolic disease.

This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to the new findings on artificial sweeteners and what it means for our no calorie sweet tooth.

Artificial Sweeteners Are Linked to Weight Gain—Not Weight Loss. TIME. “’I think there’s an assumption that when there are zero calories, there is zero harm,’ says study author Meghan Azad, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba in Canada. ‘This research has made me appreciate that there’s more to it than calories alone.’”

Artificial sweeteners linked to risk of weight gain, heart disease and other health issues. Medical Xpress. “Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, is widespread and increasing. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.”

Artificial sweeteners could cause weight gain over time, review of studies says. ABC News. “’We found that consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners was associated with modest long-term weight gain in observational studies. Our results also extend previous meta-analyses that showed higher risks of Type 2 diabetes and hypertension with regular consumption.’”

Sorry, but artificial sweeteners won’t help you lose weight. Popular Science. “The good news is that the scientific verdict on this stuff is actually pretty clear. The bad news is that none of those artificial sweeteners will help you lose weight.”

Artificial Sweeteners Don't Help People Lose Weight, Review Finds. NPR. “The health effects of artificial sweeteners are important to study, because so many people use them. Another study published earlier this year found that a quarter of U.S. children and 41 percent of adults reported consuming them, most of them once per day.”

The Impact of Sleep Apnea on Soldiers

 

Sleep Disturbances in the Military


Sleep disturbances in military personnel can be attributed to several factors such as PTSD, increases in high operational tempo environments, deployments across multiple time zones, and the physical and emotional stressors of training and combat deployments. Sleep impairments can develop early on in one’s military career and may continue throughout. In one past study, Soldiers reported a reduction in sleep from an average of 8 to 9 hours at home to 5 to 6 hours per night during basic combat training. According to another research study, sleep disturbances are also among the most common symptoms of military personnel who return home from deployments.

As such, sleep apnea has become an increasing problem in the military. The growing rate of Soldiers experiencing sleep apnea over the last decade continues to affect operational readiness, troop welfare, and health care costs over time. According to a recent research study, rates of military service members experiencing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are increasing at a higher frequency than the civilian population. 

 


The Military has continued to play a vital role in implementing medical policies related to sleep, including screenings for troubled sleep using the Post Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA) and Post Deployment Health Re-Assessment (PDHRA) programs. However, recent studies found that policies related to sleep problems are usually service-specific and sometimes lacking in the amount of information given on sleep issues. Improving sleep in military training and operational contexts is a growing need given the recent increase in the number of Soldiers that are experiencing sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances.

 

Sleep Apnea Symptoms


The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight /obesity which is associated with the soft tissue of the mouth and throat. During sleep when the throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked.

Common symptoms related to Sleep Apnea include:

  • Chronic snoring
  • Sleeplessness
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Learning and memory difficulties
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Shorts episodes of not breathing during sleep
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or a sore throat                                                                    


Implications of Untreated Sleep Apnea


As a result of airway blockages during sleep due to sleep apnea, the body undergoes repeated moments of suffocation and the brain does not get enough oxygen. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and more health issues.

As a result of airway blockages during sleep due to sleep apnea, the body undergoes repeated moments of suffocation and the brain does not get enough oxygen. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and more health issues.

Sleep disturbances and sleep apnea have adverse effects on our Soldiers, including overall health, their ability to perform their missions, and overall quality of life. This directly affects the overall operational readiness and Soldier welfare of our military.

 

Click here for additional wellness resources for the military community related to sleep disorders and sleep apnea.

 

Resources: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.12543/full

                   https://www.rand.org/pubs/periodicals/health-quarterly/issues/v5/n2/19.html

                   https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/sleep-apnea-symptoms

                   http://militarymedicine.amsus.org/doi/pdf/10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00022

                   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23681455