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Is obesity a social contagion?

With rates of obesity in Australia only marginally behind the United States and tracking at the same pace, mathematical and social modelling on the projection of obesity rates in America is sobering reading for Australians.

The most recent statistics on the weight and health of the Australian population paints the grim picture of one in four adults classified as obese (defined as a body mass index above 30 kg/m2). When overweight is added to this, 63% of adult Australians are likely carrying more weight than what is good for them. These rates have been consistently rising for the last three decades and do not appear to show any signs of slowing.

Pay attention if you want to lose weight

Attentive eating is a hot topic in nutrition research. A recent review of the research to date finds that mindful eating can be a powerful behaviour change in helping with weight loss.

Diets come and go, yet few offer any real long-term solution for weight loss and weight maintenance. An overall change in lifestyle and behaviour is fundamental to addressing decades of slow weight gain and failed dieting.

One very simple strategy to help with weight loss, so simple that it puts to shame many complex dietary recommendations, is to be more mindful when it comes to eating. Mindfullness can be described as learning to pay attention to the present moment experience and to let thoughts and feelings come and go without providing judgement.

Probiotics cut respiratory tract infections in athletes

Athletes undertaking endurance training over the winter months could benefit from a daily probiotic drink to cut their risk of colds and other similar infections according to the results of a recent cliinical trial.

The term probiotic refers to foods or dietary supplements that contain beneficial bacteria which are normally found in the body. Fermented milk products such as yoghurt, sour cream, buttermilk and Yakult are examples of foods that may act as probiotics. Although probiotics are not considered essential to health, the microorganisms they contain may assist with digestion or help protect against harmful bacteria by improving the workings of the immune system.

Can lack of sleep make you fat?

Yet another clinical study has confirmed the growing body of evidence linking inadequate sleep to obesity.

One of the more surprising factors linked to weight gain is lack of sleep. More and more research studies are finding that poor sleep patterns and insufficient sleep are closely linked to weight gain and obesity.

The mechanism linking poor sleep to weight gain is not entirely understood, but is likely related to how signals from the brain which control appetite are altered by sleep restriction. Inadequate sleep can alter the levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin while reducing production of the fullness-feeling hormone leptin. This can lead to increased food consumption without a similar increase in energy expenditure.

Creatine loading: not just for athletes

Use of the popular sports supplement creatine has shown promise in a small-scale clinical trial in helping people with diabetes get their blood sugar under control.
Creatine is a popular nutritional supplement widely used across many sports. Creatine occurs naturally in the body, and is found mostly in muscle tissue. Creatine is a normal part of the foods we eat, but meat, fish, and poultry are the only foods with any appreciable amounts.

Beating cancer one step at a time

Cancer is a big killer of Australians, yet a person has much in their own control in preventing many of these cases of cancer. Being physically activity is one of them and is now recognised as a potent ‘cancer-preventing’ habit.

Is it time to shine for vitamin D?

Vitamin D is attracting more than its fair share of attention in both the scientific and public spotlight. Long known for its role in keeping bones healthy, there is a growing list of health benefits being linked to this so called 'sunshine vitamin'. The list of disease candidates is long and includes diabetes, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, autoimmune diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases, and even some mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. The field of research is fast-moving so it is hard to determine where the truth may lie.

Food allergies and intolerances explained

Food allergies and food intolerances are two very separate things, yet are easily confused. Knowing the differences between them determines how best to diagnose and treat them.

Eating: what memories are made of

The memory of what we believe we have eaten in a recent meal is now considered an important part of regulating our appetite and hunger.

What drives us to desire food is a complex mix of hormones, psychology and physiology. One new research frontier being explored is how our recent memory of what we have eaten (termed episodic memory) can modify future food intake.

Chocolate: what's not to love about it?

As we are about to head into the annual chocolate gorging season, a timely post on all things chocolate. Chocolate is a food that brings immense pleasure and enjoyment to people and can be a part of any person’s regular diet. It's sweet, it's tasty, we desire it and crave it. And in case you were looking for any more valid reasons to eat it, no, you haven’t been lied to by the media, scientists confirm that it can be good for you.

How chocolate is made
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which grow on Cacao trees. The cocoa bean is roasted and ground to make cocoa liquor (cocoa mass) which has a fat content of about 50% (as cocoa butter). The cocoa butter can be removed which leaves behind a solid powder (cocoa powder).

Milk chocolate has milk and sugar added to a blend of cocoa powder and cocoa butter, but has less cocoa content than dark chocolate.

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