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Health and Well-being

All hail kale or superfood fail?

Kale is the 'superfood' du jour. Is kale a true superfood that leaves all others in its dust, or is it a case of hype over substance? The truth lies in a little from column A and a little from column B.

Kale is a leafy green vegetable which is part of the cruciferous vegetable family which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy. As a group, the cruciferous vegetables rank near the top of any nutritionist’s list of top foods to consume so kale already has many runs on the board.

How to beat overeating at all-you-can-eat buffets

Resisting the temptation to take the lure of an all-you-can-eat buffet as a personal challenge is enough to test the willpower of even the most nutrition-conscious person. Now scientists have found that the order you put food on your plate can influence the likelihood of what other foods you’ll follow up with.

Buffets are a common part of the daily dining experience for many people including travellers staying in hotels, at evening social functions, conferences and work cafeterias. With so much food choice available at a buffet, are there some useful strategies that the health conscious person can use to help avoid unconscious overeating from the array of tempting food on offer?

The beat on beetroot juice in sport

Beetroot juice is now high on the list of popular sports supplements. So why are athletes necking down this purple concoction and importantly, is it doing them any good?

With more research coming out than ever before supporting its use, there may just be some merit to moving this sports supplement out of the ‘fad’ category.

Beetroot juice contains lots of naturally occurring nitrate, which is found at different levels in many other vegetables. Nitrate is a powerful chemical in our body because it turns into nitric oxide.

Weight loss supplements loosen dietary control

People who take weight loss supplements are less likely to control other areas of their diet – a well-described psychological effect known as moral licensing.

Weight loss supplements are big business despite most of them having little evidence to support their miraculous weight-loss claims. Fat burners, fat blockers, metabolism boosters, and appetite suppressants – these are the popular categories of pills and potions that fly off pharmacy and health food store shelves.

Self-Monitoring Key to Weight Loss Success

Weight-loss programs focussed on positive behavioural changes typically include self-monitoring of diet, physical activity and body weight as a cornerstone component. The effectiveness of self-monitoring in these programs has undergone close scientific scrutiny.

Many programs that aim to promote weight loss through gradual lifestyle changes incorporate behaviour-change strategies such as self-monitoring as a key element. Self-monitoring is where the person makes a record of their dietary intake and physical activity to help increase awareness of their current behaviours.

An irritable bowel could be mind over matter

A behaviour change program focussed on learning to stay present in the moment and to let thoughts and feelings go has shown promise in treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder with symptoms ranging from abdominal bloating, pain, flatulence, diarrhoea and altered bowel habits. The cause of IBS is unknown, but environmental factors such as changes in routine, emotional stress, infection and diet are all known to trigger an attack.

Effective treatments for IBS are lacking. Dietary changes such as increasing the amount of fibre eaten, eliminating potential ‘problem foods’ such as gas-producing beans or cabbage, or removing dairy foods from the diet can work for some people. A range of medications are sometimes prescribed to manage IBS, while stress management techniques can also help some people.

Mindfulness as a treatment

What's the fuss about Fad Diets?

'Diets don't work' – how many times have you read and heard that? Yet this one simple statement has stood the test of time. At any time, a large proportion of the population is on some form of diet, yet waistlines are still expanding. With new fad diets emerging all the time, it is time to tackle just what makes a diet a ‘fad’, and what are the downsides to jumping on the latest bandwagon. And most importantly: if fad diets do not work, what does?

Exercise can cut desire for high-kilojoule foods

Physical activity is promoted for its benefit on fitness and helping burn up excess kilojoules. Now scientists are beginning to unravel secondary benefits it could have by dampening activation of brain regions that drive our desire for less-healthy high-kilojoule foods.

Physical activity has many health benefits and is a cornerstone of lifestyle advice to help with weight control. Being more active can cause a short-term increases in hunger soon after exercising, but longer-term it results in less hunger and of course more kilojoules burned.

Scientist have been probing into the brain to examine just how exercise could have direct effects on appetite and feelings of hunger. One interesting theory is that regular exercise may curb the activity of brain reward regions that light up and drive desire when we see food – especially the high kilojoule sweet and fatty variety.

Sugar-sweetened drinks: public enemy number one for weight gain

The evidence linking sugar-sweetened drinks and weight gain has been growing for many years. Now the most comprehensive review to date has firmly laid the blame for these drinks as being a major culprit for weight gain.

Drinking too many drinks high in sugar is clearly not a good thing to do if someone was concerned about their weight. Both the kilojoule content and also the fact that it comes in liquid form which gives less of a feeling of fullness compared to solid food are likely reasons why drinking too much of them can cause weight gain.

After many years of accumulating solid observational evidence linking sugar-sweetened drinks to weight gain, supported by randomised controlled trials, there is now a clear case for cutting back on the consumption of these drinks.

Spicing up diabetes treatment

Cinnamon is a popular spice, promoted for its ability to control blood sugar levels in diabetes. Clinical trials using cinnamon in diabetes though have mostly been small in number and haven’t always shown a positive benefit. With more clinical trials recently published, a new scientific review is painting a more positive picture of how this humble spice could have a role to play in managing diabetes.

The idea of using the traditional spice cinnamon to control blood glucose levels in diabetes is an attractive one. Cinnamon contains compounds that show effects similar to insulin, which has the flow-on effect of helping to remove excess glucose from the blood.

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