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Health and Well-being

Kids with ADHD at higher risk of becoming obese and inactive teens

If you have had close connection to a child with ADHD, then intuition says that all of that unfocussed physical activity should surely translate into a lower body weight. Showing that intution is not always right, tracking of the health and weight of children with ADHD into adolescence has surprisingly found that these children are at higher risk of becoming obese and physically inactive teenagers.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterised by excessively inattentive, hyperactive (unusually active or over-active) and impulsive behaviour in children – to a degree that is inappropriate for their age and development.

Treating gestational diabetes with a high blood pressure diet

A diet first designed to help treat high blood pressure has shown some promising results in improving pregnancy outcomes in women with gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, affecting around 8 percent of all pregnancies. The high blood sugars from the diabetes can result in the developing baby growing too large, causing birth complications. Following delivery, the baby can also experience low blood glucose levels caused from being removed from the glucose-rich environment of the mother. The mother also suffers a much higher lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The first steps in treating GDM are lifestyle changes, including changes to diet where needed. There is some evidence that a lower glycaemic index (GI) diet may help with GDM, but overall there is not a lot of solid evidence for what are the best dietary changes to make.

Is there anything to fear from acrylamide in food?

You may have seen some recent press over a Food Standard Australia and New Zealand survey of acrylamide levels in our food supply. Acrylamide is a chemical that forms naturally when certain starchy foods are cooked and is part of the reaction that causes food to brown.

Can't find time to exercise? The solution is right in front of you

Being more active is a goal of most people. Despite best intentions though, a busy life can make it seem just all too hard to find the time to fit in some exercise on top of all the other demands of life. Now new research has given some clear pointers to just where people 'find the time' to fit in exercise in their day.

Taking part in regular exercise – be it the gym, running, yoga, tennis, or a brisk morning walk – has so many health benefits that, if it was possible to take in a pill, everyone would happily take their daily dose. Not everyone though is a driven exerciser and while motivation is important, it can also be the pressure of life that may make it hard to fit in time to exercise.

Many people with active lives, demanding jobs and a family to care for still manage to fit in exercise so what do these people do differently to those still stuck at the starting gate? Surprisingly, there is no clear answer to this question.

One diet to rule them all

How is a person to make sense of the conflicting nutrition messages they read and hear about each day? Despite a wide range of contradicting nutrition and diet messages, there are common themes that overlap across all of the popular diets - themes that give you the keys to long-term health in a simple-to-understand message.

Carbohydrates cause weight gain. Fat causes weight gain. We should eat like our caveman ancestors. Gluten and sugar are toxic. Saturated fat is bad for you…no wait…now it's good for you.

Weekend cheaters weigh less

For those following a strict diet to lose weight, a new study proposes that there may just be merit in the idea of ‘weekend cheating’ in loosening the bounds of food self-control.

Making concerted dietary changes and having them stick long term to help with weight loss is tough. Just how many people fall off their best-intentioned diet plans is testament to this. We only have enough willpower to force dietary changes upon ourselves and one day that firm resolve will fail. Enter the idea that having a ‘cheat’ day or weekend may lessen the feelings of self-deprivation when following a strict diet.

Researchers from the United States examined the idea that because our lives follow a weekly rhythm where weekdays are normally very different to weekends, there may be merit in having our eating habits follow a similar pattern as well.

Being active improves cancer survival odds

Evidence continues to grow that physical activity after a cancer diagnosis is linked to a better survival outlook.

Being physically active is now recognised as a potent ‘cancer-preventing’ habit. Some estimates link regular physical activity to as much as a 20 to 40% lower risk of colon and post-menopausal breast cancer and a potential benefit in lowering prostate cancer risk too.

Being active also comes with the added bonus of improving fitness, keeping bones healthy, keeping body weight in check and reducing stress.

Saturated fat not linked to heart disease? Not so fast, the real message behind the headlines

Many of you would have come across today's 'hot topic' in the media citing a just published meta-analysis showing little link between saturated fat and heart disease.

I really feel for the public in being faced with such conflicting nutrition messages. I could blame no one for throwing their hands up in despair, proclaiming that all nutrition health messages are rubbish as they reach for the salami stick and deep fried Mars Bar.

But hold on for just one moment before you take that first bite. Saturated fat was never, repeat never, proclaimed as the big villain for heart disease. It was one of a whole range of diet and lifestyle habits including smoking, obesity, inactivity, and a poor diet overall, that together add to a person’s risk.

Dietary advice to reduce heart disease risk was never just about cutting back on saturated fat, it was cutting back on saturated fat as WELL AS eating less processed foods, salt, and sugar, and eating more fruit and vegetables. As a population, Australians have made little shift in making these type of inherently healthy eating changes permanent.

You can eat a diet high in saturated fat that is healthy, or you could eat less saturated fat and replace it with processed carbohydrates and sugar. These types of changes can’t always be seen in many of the studies that went into this latest research.

Dietary patterns consistently linked to lower rates of heart disease as well as longer-term health and longevity are almost universally low in saturated fat, yet also high in plant based foods, and fibre, and low in salt and sugar.

The nutrition profession as a whole (which includes me) is guilty of focussing too much on single nutrients as being health saviours or villains. But we don’t eat nutrients, we eat foods.

The positive news out of this latest conflicting research is that it sees more and more nutrition researchers are waking up to the risk of only focussing on nutrients, and instead look at whole diets.

Our latest Dietary Guidelines in fact have been framed much more in terms of foods, and less focus is given to nutrients.

Get the foods right, and the nutrients take care of themselves.

Obesity can reshape our sense of taste

As surprising as it may sound, for some people the problem of weight gain may lie right on the tip of their tongue.

There are many things that can influence a person’s desire for food. When given a choice between foods, the desire to choose one food over another is closely linked to taste and other sensory signals such as smell and the feel of the food in the mouth.

A very simple hypothesis posed by obesity researchers is that as people gain weight, their taste perception changes. This theory is supported by studies in both animals and humans and suggest that obese people may not detect sweet tastes as well as their lean counterparts. This partly could be because of genetic factors, but also from changes in taste sensitivity as people gain weight.

How much does it cost to eat healthier?

The abundance and cheap cost of unhealthy food has meant that there is a perception that a healthy diet is one that costs more. A systematic review of direct cost comparisons between healthy and unhealthy diets has indeed found that a healthy diet does cost more, but the difference is smaller than you might think.

A healthy diet, loaded with plenty of fruits, vegetables, minimally processed foods and lean sources of protein is the cornerstone of reducing the risk of many chronic diseases. People from an economically disadvantaged background may find it harder to eat healthier if there is a real or perceived higher cost to eating healthier. It is no surprise that the highest density of fast-food outlets cluster in socially disadvantaged areas and on the surface, this type of food may appear to offer ‘value for money’ all other nutritional concerns aside.

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