Friday, April 8, 2016

Hold The Salt!

Many of the health issues that people who come to our office struggle with do tend to have a common basis: obesity and being overweight. Whether it comes strictly from poor food choices or is a product of that plus hormone imbalances, food selection can almost always be a contributing factor. Especially when it comes to the types of foods eaten. Carbohydrates, for example, can come from healthy choices like fruits and vegetables, or they can come from poor choices like potato chips, desserts and soda. Food can even be addictive and drive overeating where not only the quality of food becomes an issue, but also the quantity. And certain foods, or components of foods, tend to be worse than others if one is trying to beat the battle of the bulge.

In its original intention centuries ago, salt was primarily used as a preservative before refrigeration was commonplace and it has always been used as a natural flavor enhancer. In our modern times though, salt has long been implicated in regards to blood pressure and heart disease, but research is now starting to show the correlation it has to obesity. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that salt is playing an even more powerful role than we thought in making us eat more.

The researchers from Deakin University gave test subjects four different lunches. The lunches looked pretty much the same—elbow macaroni with tomato sauce—but the researchers manipulated the amount of salt and fat in each pasta dish. The dishes were either low-fat/low-salt, low-fat/high-salt, high-fat/low-salt, or high-fat/high-salt. They measured how much they ate and also rated their reaction to the food on scales including pleasantness, hunger and fullness. Adding salt to the meals increased how pleasant people thought the food was. They also wanted to eat more of the high-salt meals than the low-salt meals (not surprisingly), but that didn’t hold true for the high-fat foods over those low in fat.

The higher salt content meals also made people eat 11% more food and calories, regardless of how much fat was in the meal. More interesting though was the fact that it made fat-sensitive people overeat as well. Normally the sensitivity to fat would help them limit the amount of food eaten with a higher fat content, but the addition of more salt appeared to override this control mechanism. Thus the combination of salt and fat, such as in fried foods and potato chips, seems to be one of the worst combinations to eat if one is trying to control their weight. Fat does provide twice as many calories per gram than protein and carbs, so while it has its own downfalls from a total calorie intake perspective, the addition of salt may only be making the compulsion to overeat even worse. Best defense: stick to foods in their natural forms and flavor and when someone asks you to pass the salt, just make sure it doesn’t make a stop on your plate.

In Health, 

Dr. Brad Niewierowski 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Is Your TV Killing You Prematurely?

We all know and have heard that being a “couch potato” is not conducive to leading an optimally healthy life. But there could be research that actually supports that now and tips into the notion that it could affect our mortality as well. Spending too much time in front of the television may contribute to a shorter, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Australia found that people who averaged six hours a day watching television (six hours! – who does that?) lived, on average, nearly five years less than people who watched no TV. For every hour of TV watched after the age of 25, lifespan fell by 22 minutes according to the research led by Dr. J. Lennert of the University of Queensland. Time to throw that remote in the trash and lock the tv in the closet?

Before you go to such drastic extremes, take a look at what the data tells you versus looking at it just cut and dry. The results did not prove that tv watching itself was the direct link to a shortened lifespan! It was that people who SPENT more time watching tv had the shorter lifespans based on the study data. This makes more sense after you think about all the ramifications of extended tv viewing.

For one, most people tend to be sedentary during this time (unless you’re on exercise equipment at the same time, which will likely negate some of the negative effects). If we’re not up and active, we’re not burning much calories and our metabolism slows down. Prolonged inactivity has been proven to be a risk factor for many cardiovascular, metabolic and structural health problems.

Second, how easy is it to sit down with a bag/box/bowl of “munchies” during your favorite shows only to realize later that you’ve eaten way too much while on auto pilot. Not only does this lead to excess calorie consumption (combined with the decreased expenditure just mentioned), but many snack choices tend to be of the less healthy variety. Poor quality foods, and too much of them, lead to obesity, heart issues, poor energy and diabetes.

Lastly, from a structural standpoint, our bodies weren’t meant to be in a sitting position for extended periods (or some of the other awkward positions I’ve seen people recline or sit in!) How many times have you felt more stiffness or soreness after getting up from a long sitting period? Or had that kink in the neck after lying on the couch too long (or worse, after falling asleep there watching tv)? Decreased blood flow and oxygenation to our tissues is one problem from this scenario, with shortened, tight muscles that contribute to stiffness as another. And if you want your muscles to be weak and unsupportive when you’re going through your day-to-day activities, running the risk of muscle strains and sprains and all the pain they entail, then by all means shoot for that six hours of vegetation.

As you can see, there is more to the picture than what was first implied, but you can garner a positive from the results. In moderation, tv viewing in and of itself is likely not that detrimental. Sitting or lying with proper posture will definitely help alleviate some physical stress to the body, as will getting up to stretch or move around every 15 – 30 minutes. Making healthier food choices while viewing can also decrease some of the metabolic risk factors (as well as drinking plenty of water so you have to get up for trips to the restroom!). Other than that, make sure you’re taking time to get up, get out and enjoy life firsthand! You could be missing out on life experiences that are even better than what you’re watching other people experience on tv.

In Health, 

Dr. Niewierowski