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Archive for April, 2012

Calories are to our bodies what gas is to our car. It’s the fuel that keeps us going. We need calories. The problem is, nearly seventy percent in our nation consume too many.

The average adult needs about 2,000 calories each day. That number moves up or down according to activity, age, and other factors. After eating foods to meet nutrient needs, approximately 300 discretionary calories can be selected from calorie-laden foods.  Calories with little or no nutritive value—empty calories—come mostly from foods high in solid fats and added sugars. Too many extra calories pile on excessive pounds resulting in overweight or obesity. While snacks can add to nutrient needs, often they fall into the empty calorie category.

About one-fourth of daily calories come from snacks. According to the Food Surveys Research Group of the Agricultural Research Service, snacking among adults increased during the past thirty years. On average, men consumed 586 calories and women 421 calories daily from snacks. Those who ate between meals four or more times daily took in almost one and one-half times more calories than those who had fewer snacks. However,  normal weight, overweight, and obese people did not differ in how often they had snacks.

Alcohol contributed sixteen percent of snack-calories for men. Sugar-sweetened beverages made up fourteen percent of calories for both men and women. The next highest group of snack-calories came from salty morsels such as pretzels, potato chips, and etc.  All these are empty calorie sources.

How can you make sure your between-meal nibbles add to a healthy diet? Choose foods that supply nutrients your body needs without providing excessive fuel. Good choices include low-fat yogurt, fruit, cereal, cheese, nuts, and other nutritious fares. Make sure your calories aren’t empty.

Reference:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12355000/pdf/DBrief/4_adult_snacking_0708.pdf

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How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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You’ve heard the statistics. More and more Americans march (or eat) toward the realm of overweight and obesity. Countless reasons cause excessive weight—overindulgence, too many fast-foods, gobs of fried, sugar-laden delights, and more. The Body Mass Index (BMI) scale serves as one guide to show us where we rank from underweight to obesity.

Do you believe you weigh too much, or do you think you’re about the right size? A Gallup poll, conducted annually, tracks how Americans classify their weight. In 2011, surveyors calculated the BMI of more than 1,000 people based on self-reported height and weight. Nearly sixty-two percent were either overweight or obese. However, most (sixty percent of men and more than half of the women) thought their weight was about right. For both men and women, actual body weight was about twenty pounds more than the BMI ideal. Additionally, perceived ideal body weight climbed to about ten pounds more than two decades past.

The average woman today weighs twenty-two pounds more than her ideal weight compared to thirteen pounds twenty years ago. In 1991, the average man weighed nine pounds more than his ideal body weight compared to fifteen pounds in 2011. The Gallup poll indicated that Americans are getting more overweight and don’t even recognize it.

Even those of us who register a normal weight on the BMI charts may actually be obese. The threshold of percent body weight for obesity is twenty-five for men and thirty for women. Records for BMI and body fat scores of more than 1,300 people found that nearly two-fifths had appropriate weight based on the BMI scale but were obese according to fat scores. The discrepancy may have resulted from the aging process, especially in women, and greater loss of muscle tissue due to lack of exercise.

Are you sure about your ideal weight? How does thinking and actual weight compare with twenty years ago? Perceptions tend to cloud reality as added flesh becomes more acceptable. And now, we can’t even rely on our scales. That should joggle our brains. The best indicator of healthy weight probably is body fat—and few know that percentage. Two things we do know and don’t want to confess. We may not be as small as we like to think.  And we’re reluctant to exercise to help keep those extra calories from turning into blubber.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/150947/Self-0Reported-Weight-Nearly-Pounds-1990.aspx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17585734?

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