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Eat Healthy-Live Close to the Supermarket

It sounds counterintuitive that the closer low-income people live to a supermarket, the more likely they are to choose healthy foods such as fruit!! According to the study by Tulane University researchers, lower income households often lack nutritional variety. The location of the local supermarket is an important factor in increasing variety. If it's close by, people seem to eat more fruits and vegetables, but if it is more than 5 miles away, consumption of fruit is significantly less. Americans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, so neighborhood environmental factors, like access to a supermarket, or another plentiful source of low-cost fruits and vegetables is important. The researchers analyzed food inventory data from 963 people nationally who participated in the 1996-97 National Food Stamp Program Survey. Even though the majority of respondents lived in urban households, 1 out of 4 respondents had difficult or no access to a supermarket.


Source: Public Health Nutr. 2004; 7:1081-1088.


Complementary and Alternative Therapies and Conventional Medical Therapies Held to Same Standards

A new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies calls for evidence of the effectiveness of complementary and alternative treatments to be held to the same standards as conventional medical treatments. It states that healthcare should strive to be both comprehensive and evidence-based and the same research principles should be followed in evaluating both types of treatments.


The committee noted the escalating popularity of dietary supplements and the lack of consistency and quality in some of these products. Product inconsistency hinders health professionals' abilities to guide patients on the use of dietary supplements and researchers' ability to study them. The IOM report asks Congress to amend the regulation of dietary supplements to improve quality, control consumer protections, and create incentives for research on product efficacy.


The report also assesses what is known about Americans' reliance on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Use of CAM is widespread among the US public, with more than one third of adults reporting that they have pursued some form of these treatments, which include herbal remedies, acupuncture, and naturopathy. Less than 40% of CAM users have disclosed their use of such therapies to their physicians. More than half of physicians surveyed report that they would encourage patients to talk to them about using CAM and would refer them for treatments that fall into that category. However, much is still unknown about how and why people use these therapies in conjunction with or in lieu of conventional therapies.


Copies of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States are available from the National Academies Press; Tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or Internet at


Source: Institute of Medicine News


Twice a Week Eating at Fast-food Restaurants Linked to More Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance in Young Adults

Young adults who eat frequently at fast-food restaurants gain more weight and have a greater increase in insulin resistance in early middle age, according to a recent study in The Lancet. Fifteen years later, those who reported that they ate at fast-food restaurants more than twice each week compared to less than once a week had gained extra 10 lb and had a 2-fold greater increase in insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease.


One reason for the weight gain may be that a single meal from one of these restaurants often contains enough calories to satisfy a person's caloric requirement for an entire day. Participants were asked during the physical examinations that were given as part of the study how often they ate breakfast, lunch, or dinner at fast-food restaurants. The adverse impact on participants' weight and insulin resistance was seen in both blacks and whites who ate frequently at fast-food restaurants, even after adjustment for other lifestyle habits. According to the study, men visited fast-food restaurants more frequently than women and blacks more frequently than whites. Black men reported an average frequency of 2.3 visits per week in 2000-01. White women had the lowest frequency at an average of 1.3 visits per week in 2000-01.


Source: The Lancet. 2005;365:36.


Another Reason for Women to Wear a Milk Mustache

Drinking milk may increase the availability of folate contained in other foods. Folate may help prevent heart disease and stroke and is especially important for women of childbearing age to reduce the risk of birth defects. In a study at Pennsylvania State University, 31 women aged 19 to 33 years were divided into 2 groups and consumed low-folate diets for 8 weeks. One group drank 3 servings of fatfree milk per day while the other group ate apple juice and egg whites, and researchers analyzed blood samples to determine the impact. Consuming at least 3 servings of milk every day seemed to boost the body's ability to utilize folate. So ladies, put on your milk mustache!!


Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 80:1565-1569.


Milk, Fruits, and Vegetables May Help Reduce Disability Risk

There may be more reason than ever to drink your milk and eat your fruits and vegetables, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. They report that high consumption of dairy products and fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of disability, especially among Black women.


The research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that black women who consumed the highest amounts of dairy products and fruits and vegetables-close to the amounts recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans-had at least a 30% lower risk of disability than those who consumed the lowest amounts of these foods.


Among all participants, eating more of these foods was associated with lower risk for functional limitations, such as being unable to walk a quarter of a mile or climb 10 steps, that often precede disability.


The researchers believe that there are several ways that the foods could affect disability risk. The calcium and vitamin D in dairy foods may decrease the risk of disability associated with osteoporosis and decreased muscle strength. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may reduce the accumulation of oxidative damage in tissues, which could slow disability associated with aging and decrease the risk of chronic diseases that can lead to disability.


Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81:515-522.


Changing Trends in Herbal Supplement Use

After a rise in the popularity of dietary supplements in the 1990s, herbal supplement use seems to have plateaued; however, the addition of herbal supplements to mainstream multivitamin products may increase exposure according to an article in the February 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.


Americans spent $4.2 billion on herbs and other botanical remedies in 2001, and they receive much media attention.


The percentage of people using dietary supplements increased from 14 in 1998-1999 to 19 in 2002-2003, with a low of 12% in 2000 and a high of 20% in 2001. The percentage of people aged 45 to 64 years who took supplements increased by 35% from 1998 to 2002. However, the use of Ginko biloba and Panax ginseng declined during the same period. Overall, supplement users were older and more likely to be female and white. The use of lutein, a component of multivitamin products, increased in both men and women, rising from 0.3% in 1998 to 8.4% in 2002.


Source: Arch Intern Med. 2005; 165:281-286.


Too Much Exercise Can Be Dangerous to Your Health

The cornerstones of good health have always included a good diet and plenty of exercise. But is there a time when too much of a good thing can be dangerous? While exercise is part of being healthy, for some people, it can become an addiction and lead to physical and emotional consequences. The Society for Women's Health Research gives the following tips to prevent overuse injuries:


* Stop exercising immediately if you feel pain. It's usually a sign that something is wrong. If the pain or discomfort persists after you have stopped, seek medical attention.


* If you are starting a new exercise routine, start slowly and increase gradually.


* Alternate the type of exercise you do every day. You should get at least 30 min of cardiovascular exercise daily and there are a variety of workouts to accomplish this: running, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, and swimming, for example.


* Replace your running shoes every 500 miles. The shoes can wear out and lose their ability to absorb shock, which will increase your risk of injury.


* Women should consume the recommended daily intake of calcium through their diets or vitamin supplements, which is normally 800 to 1200 mg. This can lower their risk for stress fractures. Women who are pregnant or postmenopausal need more calcium and should consult their doctors.



Source: Society for Women's Health Research, December 2004