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Health and Well-being

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.

Can’t keep weight off? Blame your hunger hormones

Losing weight is hard, but holding onto hard fought gains can be even harder. Weight regain is faced by almost all successful weight losers, resulting in the need to turn to yet another variation of the dieting, exercising and self-denial merry-go-round ride.

Weight regain is well described in the medical literature, but the reasons for it are not entirely clear. Plateauing of weight loss and a subsequent drop in motivation to keep up the changes in diet and exercise changes certainly play an important role.

Australian researchers have added a new piece to the puzzle of weight regain, by studying how the hormones that drive us to eat and make us feel full can change after a period of weight loss.

Antioxidant supplements no help in preventing heart disease

A comprehensive scientific review has concluded that a range of popular vitamin and antioxidant supplements fail badly in showing any evidence that they can help cut the risk of heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in developed countries and is largely influenced by food and lifestyle choices. CVD is an umbrella term which includes heart attacks, heart disease, stroke and claudication (tiredness in the legs) of the peripheral blood vessels. Taking antioxidant supplements has been promoted for many years as being a valuable aid in helping someone prevent CVD, but just how effective are these supplements?

Antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene are part of the body’s defence system and their main role is to mop up damaging free radicals. Free radicals are a normal by-product of body metabolism, but high levels can be found in people who are smokers or have a poor diet.

Green tea: hype over substance for weight loss

Green tea is an increasingly popular weight loss supplement. A comprehensive review of the clinical evidence though has found that a person’s bank balance is probably the only thing that will get lighter by buying these supplements or consuming foods and drinks that have it added to them.

Green tea is a popular beverage with a long history of human consumption. Improvements in heart health, lower cancer risk and sharper mental function have all been linked to drinking green tea.

The 'worried well': supplementing an already healthy diet

New research has found that people who take mineral supplements actually consume more minerals from their normal diet than non-supplement users. The notion of the 'worried well' is certainly alive and kicking

Vitamin and mineral supplements are big business. Reported figures in Australia suggest that 27% of women and 15% of men take some form of supplement with vitamin C, B complex, multivitamins, vitamin E and calcium all being popular choices.

Contrary to the rationale for needing supplements in the first place, people who take supplements are more likely to be healthier than people who don’t take supplements. Supplement users also tend to be leaner, smoke less, exercise more, and eat more fruit and vegetables.

New dietary guidelines for Australians released

Today marks the release of the revised Australian Dietary Guidelines. So what has changed since the last update in 2003? Very little in the way of the main recommendations, but the evidence base for the guidelines has grown stronger.

Soup satisfies a hungry appetite

A simple bowl of soup has been found to be an effective way to curb appetite and promote feelings of fullness.

True hunger is a rare experience for most people in the developed world. What people typically experience are feelings of desire for particular foods or a need to feel ‘full’

Satiety is the term scientists use to mean the feelings of fullness we experience after a large meal. What drives satiety is a complex mix of psychological and physiological factors including physical stretching of the stomach and small intestine from food and a cascade of release of hormones that feed back into the brain to tell us we are full.

Peptides the centre of latest sports doping scandal; but what are they?

Recently, human growth hormone (or HGH) has found media attention for its use by sports people to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

HGH is naturally produced in the body just below the brain in the anterior pituitary gland as part of a family of peptide hormones. HGH performs a wide (and not yet fully understood) range of signaling functions in the body, such as stimulating the immune system and strengthening bone through increased calcium retention; but, from a doping point of view, it’s ability to trigger the secretion of insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) is of interest.

A whole new world of communication: Combating the obesity crisis

During the past forty years global rates of overweight and obesity have risen dramatically. In 2010 more than 155 million children worldwide were overweight (more than one in ten) and of these approximately 30-45 million were obese, or between two and three per cent of the world’s 5-17 year-old children.

In Australia, more than 14 million people fall within the overweight or obese range, and Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and children are at particular risk of overweight and obesity.

But the answer is probably not a ban on all marketing to children. In the first instance, simply the practicalities of a blanket ban would be incredibly difficult, particularly in trying to keep up with the constantly changing promotional environment.

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