Stories tagged diet

OK, stop your snickering. A report from England indicates that a high-calorie, high-potassium diet prior to conception increases the likelihood of a woman giving birth to a boy. Low-calorie diets lead to more girls.

May
10
2008

You want fries with that?: A high-fat diet may be helpful for some diseases. But it’s still a bad idea to pig out on fat, grease, starch and sugar.
You want fries with that?: A high-fat diet may be helpful for some diseases. But it’s still a bad idea to pig out on fat, grease, starch and sugar.Courtesy pointnshoot

(With apologies to Woody Allen.)

Researchers in England have found that a high-fat diet is effective in reducing seizures among epileptics.

Meanwhile, doctors in Boston report that having fat around your bottom may help prevent diabetes.

*NOTE: as with all medical news, we here at Science Buzz are not qualified to give medical advice. If you suffer from epilepsy or diabetes, consult with your doctor before changing your diet. And if you do not suffer from these diseases, DO NOT use this news item as an excuse to pig out. Really, the basic fast food meal of a burger, fries and a soft drink is just about the worst thing you can put in your body, short of arsenic.

Nov
16
2007

You're getting sleepy: Is it the tryptophan in the turkey that makes you tired on Thanksgiving or other ingredients of your big feast?
You're getting sleepy: Is it the tryptophan in the turkey that makes you tired on Thanksgiving or other ingredients of your big feast?Courtesy LonelyBob
I’ve got some friends who are already pushing the Thanksgiving envelope and having some early holiday dinners this weekend. Most of us will wait until Nov. 22 to gorge out on a big meal of turkey, and then feel quite tired and bloated from the experience.

And all of us scientific-minded people like to sound very sciency at those moments and talk about the effects that tryptophan in the turkey are having on our bodies. I’ve bought into that thinking for decades and thought I’d Google around the net to learn more about that, and was surprised to see that I’ve probably been duped.

Turkey does in fact contain high levels of tryptophan, but not anything significantly higher than lots of other meats. Tryptophan is an amino acid that our bodies can’t produce. And taken on an empty stomach, it can have a soothing, calming effect. It was even marketing as an anti-insomnia drug in the 1980s until some other significant side effects – muscle pain and death – led the government to ban it as a medication.

After a big feast, out stomachs are dealing with the amino acids from many different food sources, meaning that the tryptophan has a lot of competition in our body chemistry.

Here’s what’s more likely going on in our bodies to make us tired: the impacts of having lots of other carbohydrates in our stomachs. Carbo-heavy items like mashed potatoes, stuffing and pie take our bodies a lot of effort to digest. That internal work is a lot to handle and our bodies tire out.

So that’s the nutritional answer to why Thanksgiving dinners make us tired. I think you might also be able to chalk up your tiredness to the quality of conversation with the relatives you’re sharing the meal with or the fact that the Detroit Lions are always playing football that afternoon.

How do you deal with post-Thanksgiving dinner lethargy? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Oct
21
2007

Hold the fries: Fewer school lunch programs are offering unhealthy foods, like French fries, a recent government survey as discovered. It's important since child obesity rates have spiked up in recent years. (Flickr photo by limonada)
Hold the fries: Fewer school lunch programs are offering unhealthy foods, like French fries, a recent government survey as discovered. It's important since child obesity rates have spiked up in recent years. (Flickr photo by limonada)
I have to admit that I’ve been out of the school lunch loop for quite some time now. And I seem to recall that it wasn’t too long ago that many schools, faced with school lunch budgets that were feeling the squeeze, were turning toward more fast-food type menus to try to encourage participation and sales.

But a new study out last week says that schools are making a big move toward healthier meals for school kids who are increasingly dealing with overweight issues.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that last year, about 19 percent of school cafeterias were serving French fries, down from about the 40 percent serving them six years earlier.

Another gauge of healthier school food items: the same survey showed that high-fat baked goods were becoming more rare at school fundraisers, declining to 54 percent of the offerings last year compared to 67 percent six years earlier.

One more sign of healthier times: about half of schools today offer bottled water instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks at vending machines or snack bars. Only about a third of schools had bottled water available six years ago.

Latest statistics show that about one-third of the kids in the U.S. are overweight and 17 percent are considered obese.

Here’s the study stat that I found really hard to believe: about one-third of schools in the country still allow tobacco use on campus and at school events by adults. That’s an improvement from six years ago, when about half of schools in the country had smoking bans. In Minnesota, schools have banned smoking on their grounds for a much longer time than that, I believe. Public health officials still have a goal of having a total smoking ban on school grounds.

Aug
07
2007

Taste tested: Is this the ultimate kids taste treat -- a Quarterpounder laced with McNuggets? A new study has found that little kids have strong impressions about fast food's quality. (Flickr photo by Slice)
Taste tested: Is this the ultimate kids taste treat -- a Quarterpounder laced with McNuggets? A new study has found that little kids have strong impressions about fast food's quality. (Flickr photo by Slice)
After seeing the movie “Supersize Me” I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce my visits to McDonald’s and other fast food outlets. Presenting with that overpowering evidence, I was able to make a decision to make fast food a much smaller portion of my diet.

But what about kids who haven’t developed critical thinking skills or the factual data to come to the same conclusion? The results of a new study show that most kids have views that are very skewed toward wanting fast foods.

Conducted at Stanford University, the taste test had kids ages 3 to 5 enrolled in Head Start programs sample various foods. Some were packaged in McDonald’s wrappers some were not. Nearly anything that the kids thought was made by McDonald's – even carrots or apple juice – was deemed tastier by the kids than the non-McDonalds sample.

The study findings come out just about a month after many major food corporations announced that they were backing off on their marketing efforts to kids. Still, researchers comment, the sales pitches of the past have had a huge impact on little consumers.

Here’s how the study worked: A group of 63 kids sampled three McDonald's menu items — hamburgers, chicken nuggets and French fries — and store-bought milk or juice and carrots. Children got two identical samples of each food on a tray, one in McDonald's wrappers or cups and the other in plain, unmarked packaging. The kids were asked if they tasted the same or if one was better. (Some children didn't taste all the foods.)

McDonald's-labeled samples were the clear favorites. French fries were the biggest winner; almost 77% said the labeled fries tasted best while only 13% preferred the others.

Fifty-four percent preferred McDonald's-wrapped carrots versus 23% who liked the plain-wrapped sample.

The only results not statistically clear-cut involved the hamburgers, with 29 kids choosing McDonald's-wrapped burgers and 22 choosing the unmarked ones.

McDonald’s recently announced that it will begin promoting Happy Meals to kids that contain fruit and have lower calories and fat.

An independent critic of the study pointed out that a different comparison should have been made on kids’ brand-name product identification.

A better comparison might have been to gauge kids’ preferences for McDonald’s items vs. Disney products or some other kid-friendly brand, said Pradeep Chintagunta of the University of Chicago. “I don't think you can necessarily hold this against McDonald's,” he said, since the goal of marketing is to build familiarity and sell products, adding that parents play a large role in the food choices kids make at that age.

What do you think? Is this evidence that McDonald’s and other fast-food franchises are exploiting kids? Will a new self-monitored marketing emphasis by fast-food outlets make a difference? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Nov
22
2005

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and with it comes the opportunity to eat a lot of turkey. I've heard for years that the tryptophan in turkey meat makes you tired after a meal, and I've hauled out that knowledge in a Cliff Claven like fashion year after year.


Turkey.: A turkey.

Now I come to find out that it's not tryptophan that makes you sleepy, its serotonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce niacin, a B-Vitamin, which helps produce serotonin, which makes you sleepy. However, according to nutritionists the tryptophan in turkey works best in an empty stomach — something most of us don't have on Thanksgiving, I certainly don't. After a large meal there are so many amino acids that the body is trying to use that the amount of tryptophan could even go down. Further, turkey does not have as much tryptophan as other foods such as beef or soy beans. Tryptophan is also found in chocolate, bananas, milk, peanuts and fish.

So why do I feel tired after a huge Thanksgiving meal? Probably because the meal is full of carbohydrates — potates, stuffing, breads, pies... The body has to work hard to digest all that food!

Neat. Now I have a great new Cliff Claven-ism to stun and amaze my family.