Khamis, 20 Mac 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Different 'shot' for diabetics

Posted: 19 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Tequila plant-based sweetener could be a healthier option for diabetics.

A NEW sweetener made from the tequila plant could help reduce blood glucose levels in diabetics and contribute to weight loss in obese people.

A researcher has outlined the potential benefits of agavins, the natural sugar found in the agave plant, which is non-digestible and may act as a dietary fibre rather than a sugar that raises blood glucose.

"We have found that since agavins reduce glucose levels and increase GLP-1, they also increase the amount of insulin," said Dr Mercedes G. López, of the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico.

GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) is a hormone "that slows the stomach from emptying", which subsequently begins insulin production.

"This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar,'" she said.

Lopez and her team analysed a group of mice fed a standard diet and added agavins to their daily water. The mice were weighed every day and had their glucose blood levels checked weekly.

The majority of the mice that drank agavins ate less, lost weight and had lower blood glucose levels compared to sweeteners such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, aspartame and agave syrup.

"Agavins are not expensive and they have no known side effects, except for those few people who cannot tolerate them," Dr Lopez continued, adding that much like other fructans, agavins are comprised of fructose.

Fructose contributes to healthy microbe growth in the mouth and intestines. Because fructans are linked together in long, branched chains, they can't affect blood sugar the way high fructose corn syrup does.

Agavins are occasionally confused with agave nectar or agave syrup, both of which are health-food store shelf staples. However, these products feature individually broken-down fructans, making them similar to high-fructose corn syrup.

Lopez also notes that agavins are better than artificial sweeteners, as the latter are absorbed by the body, resulting in side effects such as headaches. Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to weight gain, among other adverse health effects, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

"One slight downside, however, is that agavins are not quite as sweet as their artificial counterparts," she said. – AFP Relaxnews

Dark chocolate's healthy effects due to actions of gut bacteria

Posted: 19 Mar 2014 06:05 PM PDT

Fermentation in the stomach creates anti-inflammatory compounds; aids heart health.

The idea that dark chocolate is good for your health is nothing new, however the exact reason why it's so darn beneficial has remained something of a mystery ... until now.

Researchers have discovered a specific stomach bacteria that breaks down chocolate and ferments it into anti-inflammatory compounds, making the dark stuff highly useful in terms of heart health.

Findings were presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas, Texas.

"We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the 'good' ones and the 'bad' ones," explained Louisiana State University undergraduate student and study researcher Maria Moore. "The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate," she said. "When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory."

"When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke," said leader researcher John Finley, Ph.D. of Louisiana State. Finley also noted that the study is the first to examine the effects of dark chocolate on various types of stomach bacteria.

The professor and his team analyzed three cocoa powders using a model digestive tract designed to simulate normal digestion. The researchers then put non-digestible materials through anaerobic fermentation using human fecal bacteria. Cocoa powder is one of the main ingredients in chocolate, and contains several antioxidant compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, as well as a small amount of dietary fiber.

While both catechin and epicatechin are difficult for the body to digest and absorb, this changes when they reach the colon, as "desirable microbes" take over. "In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity," Finley said.

Finley also remarked that combining cocoa's fiber content with prebiotics can contribute to overall health and help change antioxidants in the stomach into anti-inflammatory compounds. Prebiotics are food components found in raw garlic, whole wheat flour and other foods humans cannot digest but are heavily favored by gut bacteria.

"When you ingest prebiotics, the beneficial gut microbial population increases and outcompetes any undesirable microbes in the gut, like those that cause stomach problems," Finley said. He also noted that combining dark chocolate with solid fruits such as pomegranates is even more beneficial to health, and is likely the future of the industry.

Another recent study on dark chocolate and heart health found eating the stuff in moderation can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, or the thickening and hardening of the arteries, by restoring arterial flexibility and preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessel walls. The study was conducted by a research team at the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and the Division of Human Nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and published in The FASEB Journal. – AFP Relaxnews

Lose that fat

Posted: 19 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

There are many serious conditions associated with obesity.

I JUST joined a gym, and in my gym, there are plenty of overweight people who are trying to lose weight. My gym trainer told me that obesity is a very serious condition. I mean, it isn't as if it's a disease or anything, right?

Obesity is indeed a serious condition. If you don't take steps to do something about it, it can lead to many serious diseases.

The more obese you are, the more likely you are to have health problems associated with it. But the good news is that even when you lose weight moderately, you can improve your health. You don't need to have a goal to get "model" thin in order to make changes to your life!

Just how do you define obesity anyway?

Obesity is defined as having an excess of fat in your body. There are several ways to measure obesity.

1. Body Mass Index (BMI): This is the most common way. You calculate your BMI by measuring body weight (kg)/height (m2). This is how to interpret your BMI:

> Less than 18.5: Underweight

> 18.5-24.9: Healthy weight (congratulations!)

> 25-29.9: Overweight

> 30-34.9: Obesity 1

> 35-39.9: Obesity II

> More than 40: Obesity IIIS

2. Skin fold thickness: This entails using a caliper to grasp your skin and measure the amount of subcutaneous fat you have. This is primarily to determine your amount of body fat. This has been superseded by some machines, which can be found in gyms.

3. Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio: If you have a waist circumference of more than 94cm for men and 80cm for women, you have an increased risk of health problems.

I have a friend who can eat and eat and not gain a single ounce. I just have to look at a cupcake, and I instantly gain weight. Why is it so unfair?

Yes, I also have friends who are the same way. Life does seem unfair.

But it's all a matter of mathematics, actually. If you take in more calories than you burn off – either by day-to-day metabolism or by exercise – you will gain weight.

Your metabolism might be a lot lower than you think it is, especially when you get older. For example, if you have a basal metabolic rate of 1200 calories a day, you can only eat 1200 calories a day to maintain your body weight if you don't exercise at all. So check your metabolic rate at the gym if you haven't already.

Obesity is usually caused by:

> Lack of activity – being sedentary, not exercising.

> Overeating and eating an unhealthy diet – it is not only about how much you eat, but what you eat and drink. If you keep drinking sodas and a frappucino every day and eating fast foods, you are going to gain a lot of weight if you don't burn it off. Beware of that buffet dinner!

Carbohydrates are also not your friend if overeaten, as with anything that has a high glycaemic index.

> Lack of sleep – having little sleep can change your hormonal patterns and result in an increased appetite, as well as a craving for carbohydrates.

> Pregnancy – some women have difficulty losing weight after having a baby.

> Certain medicines – these include antidepressants, anti-diabetic medicines, antipsychotics, steroids.

What are the diseases associated with obesity?

There are many such diseases. These include:

> High blood pressure

> High cholesterol

> Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome

> Heart disease

> Stroke

> Cancers – breast, cervix, colon, ovaries, rectum, prostate

> Sleep apnoea

> Depression

> Gallbladder disease

> Infertility and irregular periods

> Fatty liver

> Osteoarthritis

Is the only cure for obesity diet and exercise?

You will need to eat a healthy diet and exercise, no matter what. Just make sure you go to a doctor for a medical check-up before you start, just in case you might have any underlying diseases.

Aim for a slow and steady weight loss of 1kg a week.

For weight loss, you may need to get as much as 250 to 300 minutes of exercise a week initially.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.


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