Thursday, August 29, 2013

Is skipping breakfast killing you?

Remember your mother telling you not to skip breakfast? Mine did. It turns out that she was right. In fact, recent evidence shows that people who skip breakfast have a 27% higher risk of heart attack or dying from cardiovascular disease.1 How can that be you may ask? It probably comes down to the effect of breakfast on how the body functions - also known as metabolism. In short, eating a good breakfast jump starts your metabolism while stabilizing blood sugar. This lowers the risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. There is also evidence that eating breakfast has a positive effect on the mind, improving cognitive skills, memory, and mood.

One recent study involved overweight women who were all put on a 1400 calorie diet with half of the women being told to make breakfast the larger meal and half to make it the smallest meal.
2 The group that made breakfast the larger meal lost an average of 20 lbs compared to the other group who lost an average of 8 lbs. This group also lost twice the waist circumference and showed a greater improvement in blood cholesterol, glucose, and triglyceride levels, despite consuming the same total number of calories. 

In spite of some of the recent theories that propose breakfast is not so important, I believe it is clear that breakfast is an important meal, it is equally clear that some foods are better than others and some are downright unhealthy. Remember, the food should be high in protein and nutrients and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. The term glycemic index is often used to describe the relative effect of the food on insulin and resulting blood sugar. The calorie amount is also important especially if they are what are called “empty calories” - meaning that there are little or no nutrients to offset the calories.

The most healthy breakfast foods include: 

  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Coffee
  • Non-fat greek yogurt
  • Peanut butter
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Low sugar whole grain cereal
  • Whole grain bread
  • Fruit ( especially grapefruit, blueberries, strawberries, and bananas) 

These foods offer protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with little or no sugar.

On the unhealthy side are foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. 

The most unhealthy breakfast foods to avoid:

  • Donuts
  • Pastries
  • Sugared cereal
  • Bagels
  • Sausage
  • Biscuits
  • Pancakes
  • Flavored non-dairy creamers 

These high glycemic index foods cause spikes in insulin and glucose that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

As you can see, there are many popular food items in both the healthy and unhealthy groups. The key is to eat breakfast regularly and stick to foods in the healthy category. This will lessen your urge to snack during the morning and lower the total calories consumed during the day. More importantly, you might just live longer.

1. Journal: Circulation; 
Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals
Leah E. Cahill, PhD; Stephanie E. Chiuve, ScD; Rania A. Mekary, PhD; Majken K. Jensen, PhD; Alan J. Flint, MD, DrPh; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD; Eric B. Rimm, ScD

2. Journal: The Journal of Obesity
High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women
Daniela Jakubowicz, Maayan Barnea, Julio Wainstein, Oren Froy

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Exercise Tips for Beginners

Remember, the only workout you will ever regret is the one you talked yourself out of.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Is Physical Fitness Inherited?

New Study shows physical fitness is an inherited trait…. So if you won’t exercise for yourself, will you do it for your future kids?

A recent study in Sweden titled A Six Months Exercise Intervention Influences the Genome-wide DNA Methylation Pattern in Human Adipose Tissue has shed some light on this almost science-fiction like concept. It is all part of an area in biology called Epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how genes are expressed. It tries to explain why identical twins become less identical as they grow up. They are born with exactly identical DNA down to the last gene but how those genes function will depend on several factors including diet, environment, and behavior such as smoking. Remember, every type of tissue has all of the bodies genes imbedded in its cells but something has to tell it to be a bone cell or a nerve cell or a blond hair as opposed to a brown hair. Certain periods of life such as puberty or pregnancy also result in changes in how the genes are expressed. Think of it like the Genes are the computer hardware and the Epigenome is the software that tells the computer what to do. Methylation is the mechanism of one way the gene function or expression can be altered. Scientist believe this is how some cancers are created and there is now a whole new area of cancer research based on altering the epigenome of the cancer cell rather than killing it. What is even more fascinating is that there is evidence that not only are genes passed on to offspring but also some epigenes as well. In other words not only are you what you eat but your children and grandchildren are also what you eat. And now comes a study that shows that exercise can dramatically change the epigenome in fat cells particularly parts of the cells that have to do with obesity and Type II diabetes. While it was already well known that exercise has a beneficial effect on these two health problems, now they are gaining insight into how it occurs on a molecular level. And that brings me back to my original statement. Based on what we know about Epigenetics it may well be possible that the beneficial changes that occur with exercise can be passed on to our children and grandchildren. And those changes can occur in as little as six months. So if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids.