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We know what to eat to stay healthy. So why is it so hard to make the right choices?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nina-van-dyke-822557">Nina Van Dyke</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/victoria-university-1175">Victoria University</a></em></p> <p>A healthy diet <a href="https://www.who.int/initiatives/behealthy/healthy-diet">protects us</a> against a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.</p> <p>From early childhood, we receive an abundance of <a href="https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/healthy-diet/healthy-diet-fact-sheet-394.pdf?sfvrsn=69f1f9a1_2&download=true">information</a> about how we <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating">should eat</a> to be healthy and reduce our risk of disease. And most people have a <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/1479-5868-11-63.pdf">broad understanding</a> of what healthy eating looks like.</p> <p>But this knowledge <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001209216310584?casa_token=6CZgCmT1RMgAAAAA:sSRsj2o6swVfvoBxMIVrMTxqdczSAiFwfTCYzYQ8U3z4ey_WLQ6knpmk8WRH77zugAS3wEAQrA">doesn’t always result</a> in healthier eating.</p> <p>In our new research, we set out to <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s12889-024-18432-x.pdf">learn more</a> about why people eat the way they do – and what prevents them from eating better. Lack of time was a major <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/obr.12472?casa_token=1D1mi-l0TR0AAAAA:dgebTQx-wgw7jbREfdawxZ5AZSDRztvrt8t1tuKyDy1x2mmXlyLDY8z9NbUf0v4hnh80HY_RbAk08Q">barrier</a> to cooking and eating healthier foods.</p> <h2>How do you decide what to eat?</h2> <p>We spoke with <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s12889-024-18432-x.pdf">17 adults</a> in a regional centre of Victoria. We chose a regional location because less research <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s40900-020-0179-6.pdf">has been done</a> with people living outside of metropolitan areas and because rates of obesity and other diet-related health issues are <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-and-remote-health">higher</a> in such areas in Australia.</p> <p>Participants included a mix of people, including some who said they were over their “most healthy weight” and some who had previously dieted to lose weight. But all participants were either:</p> <ul> <li>young women aged 18–24 with no children</li> <li>women aged 35–45 with primary school aged children</li> <li>men aged 35–50 living with a partner and with pre- or primary-school aged children.</li> </ul> <p>We selected these groups to target <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022318212803669">ages and life-stages</a> in which shifts in eating behaviours may occur. Previous research has found younger women <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1470-6431.2007.00642.x?casa_token=33QKWwhc2ogAAAAA:ZvJ6wfXiRC_6eoqvoxD121JOSKSPmIRHcrdiGl2uHzkq5pY6VVPL6WI2DhmxQ2q9i6bBGvLiFl8afQ">tend to</a> be particularly concerned about appearance rather than healthy eating, while women with children often shift their focus to providing for their family. Men <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/obr.12472?casa_token=KakMB6hAOQ0AAAAA:fLnpoxZQiiJIdEkg_TOcCq8hBwZef1iZETZKTiG5W6zW2x_PYzK0oLeOg5F9arKThq9RzMWEi4x4Xw">tend to be less interested</a> in what they eat.</p> <p>We asked participants about how they decided what food to eat, when, and how much, and what prevented them from making healthier choices.</p> <h2>It’s not just about taste and healthiness</h2> <p>We found that, although such decisions were determined in part by taste preferences and health considerations, they were heavily influenced by a host of other factors, many of which are outside the person’s control. These included other household members’ food preferences, family activities, workplace and time constraints, convenience and price.</p> <p><a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2767106">Healthy eating</a> means consuming a balanced diet rich in nutrients, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, while limiting processed foods, added sugars and excessive salt. Healthy eating also includes how we eat and <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0244292">how we think about</a> food and eating, such as having a positive relationship with food.</p> <p>One 35- to 45-year-old woman, for example, said that time constraints and family preferences made it difficult to prepare healthier food:</p> <blockquote> <p>I love the chance when I can actually get a recipe and get all of the ingredients and make it properly, but that doesn’t happen very often. It’s usually what’s there and what’s quick. And what everyone will eat.</p> </blockquote> <p>One of the 35- to 50-year-old men also noted the extent to which family activities and children’s food preferences dictated meal choices:</p> <blockquote> <p>Well, we have our set days where, like Wednesday nights, we have to have mackie cheese and nuggets, because that’s what the boys want after their swimming lesson.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/joss.12649?casa_token=gsnU9O_G2GQAAAAA:mV2vtHlnEd0jqBGJPFkfml_ecLIDqwSlH5xksSwt4eQb_FP_UShyAKm9sLNnKy6Mkf2q9aKAlDEixA">Research shows</a> that children are often more receptive to new foods than their parents think. However, introducing new dishes takes additional time and planning.</p> <p>An 18- to 24-year-old woman discussed the role of time constraints, her partner’s activities, and price in influencing what and when she eats:</p> <blockquote> <p>My partner plays pool on a Monday and Wednesday night, so we always have tea a lot earlier then and cook the simple things that don’t take as long, so he can have dinner before he goes rather than buying pub meals which cost more money.</p> </blockquote> <p>Despite popular perceptions, healthy diets are not more expensive than unhealthy diets. A <a href="https://preventioncentre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/1702_FB_LEE_4p_final_lr.pdf">study</a> comparing current (unhealthy) diets with what the <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/the-australian-dietary-guidelines">Australian Dietary Guidelines</a> recommend people should eat found that the healthy diet was 12–15% cheaper than unhealthy diets for a family of two adults and two children.</p> <p>However, learning and planning to prepare new types of meals <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/3/877">takes effort and time</a>.</p> <p>Simply educating people about what they should eat won’t necessarily result in healthier eating. People want to eat healthier, or at least know they should eat healthier, but other things <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00394-017-1458-3.pdf">get in the way</a>.</p> <p>A key to improving people’s eating behaviours is to make it easy to eat more healthily.</p> <p>Policy changes to make healthy eating easier could include subsidising healthier foods such as fresh produce, providing incentives for retailers to offer healthy options, and ensuring access to nutritious meals in schools and workplaces.</p> <h2>So how can you make healthier food choices easier?</h2> <p>Here are five tips for making healthy choices easier in your household:</p> <ol> <li> <p>If certain days of the week are particularly busy, with little time to prepare fresh food, plan to cook in bulk on days when you have more time. Store the extra food in the fridge or freezer for quick preparation.</p> </li> <li> <p>If you’re often pressed for time during the day and just grab whatever food is handy, have healthy snacks readily available and accessible. This could mean a fruit bowl in the middle of the kitchen counter, or wholegrain crackers and unsalted nuts within easy reach.</p> </li> <li> <p>Discuss food preferences with your family and come up with some healthy meals everyone likes. For younger children, <a href="https://healthykids.nsw.gov.au/downloads/file/campaignsprograms/NewFoodsFussyEaters.pdf">try serving</a> only a small amount of the new food, and serve new foods alongside foods they already like eating and are familiar with.</p> </li> <li> <p>If you rely a lot on take-away meals or meal delivery services, try making a list ahead of time of restaurants and meals you like that are also healthier. You might consider choosing lean meat, chicken, or fish that has been grilled, baked or poached (rather than fried), and looking for meals with plenty of vegetables or salad.</p> </li> <li> <p>Remember, fruit and vegetables taste better and are often cheaper when they are in season. Frozen or canned vegetables are a <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/the-cost-of-fresh-fruit-and-veggies-is-rising-is-canned-or-frozen-produce-just-as-healthy/tzuhnfrnr">healthy and quick alternative</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231489/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </li> </ol> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nina-van-dyke-822557">Nina Van Dyke</a>, Associate Professor and Associate Director, Mitchell Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/victoria-university-1175">Victoria University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-know-what-to-eat-to-stay-healthy-so-why-is-it-so-hard-to-make-the-right-choices-231489">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Food & Wine

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Drinking lots of water may seem like a healthy habit – here’s when and why it can prove toxic

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-taylor-283950">Adam Taylor</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/lancaster-university-1176">Lancaster University</a></em></p> <p>In late 2023, actor <a href="https://www.glamour.com/story/brooke-shields-recently-experienced-a-full-blown-seizure-and-bradley-cooper-came-running?utm_source=instagram&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_content=instagram-bio-link&amp;client_service_id=31196&amp;client_service_name=glamour&amp;service_user_id=1.78e+16&amp;supported_service_name=instagram_publishing&amp;utm_brand=glm&amp;utm_social_type=owned">Brooke Shields</a> suffered a seizure after “flooding” her body with water. Shields became dangerously low on sodium while preparing for her show by drinking loads of water. “I flooded my system and I drowned myself,” she would later explain. “And if you don’t have enough sodium in your blood or urine or your body, you can have a seizure.”</p> <p>Shields said she found herself walking around outside for “no reason at all”, wondering: “Why am I out here?”</p> <blockquote> <p>Then I walk into the restaurant and go to the sommelier who had just taken an hour to watch my run through. That’s when everything went black. Then my hands drop to my side and I go headfirst into the wall.</p> </blockquote> <p>Shields added that she was “frothing at the mouth, totally blue, trying to swallow my tongue”.</p> <p>Like Shields, many people may be unaware of the dangers of drinking excessive amounts of water – especially because hydration is so often associated with health benefits. Models and celebrities <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/drinking-water-flawless-skin#:%7E:text=If%20you're%20reading%20a,long%20hours%20at%20a%20time.">often advocate</a> drinking lots of water to help maintain clear, smooth skin. Some <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/75-hard-challenge-before-and-after-tiktok-b2382706.html">social media influencers</a> have promoted drinking a gallon of water daily for weight loss.</p> <p>But excessive water consumption can cause <a href="https://patient.info/treatment-medication/hyponatraemia-leaflet">hyponatraemia</a> – a potentially fatal condition of low sodium in the blood.</p> <h2>Worried about hydration levels? Check your urine</h2> <p>The body strictly regulates its water content to maintain the optimum level of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2323003/">total body water</a> and “osmolality” – the concentration of dissolved particles in your blood. Osmolality increases when you are dehydrated and decreases when you have too much fluid in your blood.</p> <p>Osmolality is monitored by <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9074779/">osmoreceptors</a> that regulate sodium and water balance in the hypothalamus – the part of the brain that controls numerous hormones. These osmoreceptors signal the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which acts on blood vessels and the kidneys to control the amount of water and salt in the body.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Qghf7Y9ILAs?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>In healthy people, the body releases ADH when osmolality becomes high. ADH tells the kidneys to reabsorb water, which makes urine more concentrated. The reabsorbed water dilutes the blood, bringing osmolality back to normal levels.</p> <p>Low blood osmolality suppresses the release of ADH, reducing how much water the kidneys reabsorb. This dilutes your urine, which the body then passes to rid itself of the excess water.</p> <p>Healthy urine should be clear and odourless. Darker, yellower urine with a noticeable odour can indicate dehydration – although medications and certain foods, including <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3433805/">asparagus</a>, can affect urine colour and odour, too.</p> <h2>How much is too much?</h2> <p>Adults should consume <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/water-drinks-nutrition/">two-to-three litres per day</a>, of which around 20% comes from food. However, we can lose <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236237/">up to ten litres</a> of water through perspiration – so sweating during exercise or in hot weather increases the amount of water we need to replace through drinking.</p> <p>Some medical conditions can cause overhydration. Approximately <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3616165/">one in five</a> schizophrenia patients drink water compulsively, a dangerous condition known as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/apr/15/woman-died-mental-hospital-excessive-water-drinking-inquest#:%7E:text=Woman%20died%20at%20mental%20hospital%20after%20excessive%20water%20drinking%2C%20inquest%20told,-Parents%20of%20Lillian&amp;text=A%20woman%20collapsed%20and%20died,water%2C%20an%20inquest%20has%20heard.">psychogenic polydipsia</a>. One long-term study found that patients with psychogenic polydipsia have a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18984069/">“74% greater chance</a> of dying before a non-polydipsic patient”.</p> <p>In <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22306188/">some cases</a>, people with <a href="https://psychiatry-psychopharmacology.com/en/childhood-and-adolescence-disorders-psychogenic-polydipsia-in-an-adolescent-with-eating-disorder-a-case-report-132438">anorexia nervosa</a> can also suffer from compulsive water drinking.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ReQew2zcN7c?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>For those suffering from polydipsia, treatment is focused on medication to reduce the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10675986/">urge to drink</a>, as well as <a href="https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-the-treatment-of-hyponatremia-in-adults/print">increasing sodium levels</a>. This should be done gradually to avoid causing <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562251/">myelinolysis</a> – <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551697/">neurological damage</a> caused by rapid changes in sodium levels in nerve cells.</p> <p>In rare but often highly publicised cases such as that of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/13/newsid_2516000/2516593.stm">Leah Betts</a> in 1995, some users of the illegal drug MDMA (also known as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6119400/">ecstasy)</a> have <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11265566/">died</a> after drinking copious amounts of water to rehydrate after dancing and sweating.</p> <p>The drug <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008716/">increases body temperature</a>, so users drink water to avoid overheating. Unfortunately, MDMA also triggers the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12105115/">unnecessary release of ADH</a>, causing water retention. The body becomes unable to rid itself of excess water, which affects its electrolyte levels – causing cells to swell with water.</p> <p>Symptoms of water intoxication start with nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and dizziness. As the condition progresses, sufferers can often display symptoms of <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/psychosis/symptoms/">psychosis</a>, such as inappropriate behaviour, confusion, delusions, disorientation and hallucinations.</p> <p>These symptoms are caused by <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470386/">hyponatraemia</a>, where sodium levels are diluted or depleted in blood and the subsequent imbalance of electrolytes affects the nervous system. Water begins to move into the brain causing <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1572349604000149">a cerebral oedema</a> – brain swelling because of excessive fluid buildup, which is usually fatal if not treated.</p> <p>A healthy body will tell you when it needs water. If you’re thirsty and your urine is dark with a noticeable odour, then you need to drink more. If you aren’t thirsty and your urine is clear or the colour of light straw, then you’re already doing a good job of hydrating yourself.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/228715/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-taylor-283950"><em>Adam Taylor</em></a><em>, Professor and Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/lancaster-university-1176">Lancaster University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/drinking-lots-of-water-may-seem-like-a-healthy-habit-heres-when-and-why-it-can-prove-toxic-228715">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Body

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I want to eat healthily. So why do I crave sugar, salt and carbs?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hayley-oneill-1458016">Hayley O'Neill</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>We all want to eat healthily, especially as we reset our health goals at the start of a new year. But sometimes these plans are sabotaged by powerful cravings for sweet, salty or carb-heavy foods.</p> <p>So why do you crave these foods when you’re trying to improve your diet or lose weight? And what can you do about it?</p> <p>There are many reasons for craving specific foods, but let’s focus on four common ones:</p> <h2>1. Blood sugar crashes</h2> <p>Sugar is a key energy source for all animals, and its taste is one of the most basic sensory experiences. Even without specific sweet taste receptors on the tongue, a strong preference for sugar can develop, indicating a mechanism beyond taste alone.</p> <p>Neurons <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-021-00982-7">responding to sugar</a> are activated when sugar is delivered to the gut. This can increase appetite and make you want to consume more. Giving into cravings also drives an appetite for more sugar.</p> <p>In the long term, research suggests a high-sugar diet can affect <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2382">mood</a>, digestion and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33339337/">inflammation</a> in the <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/scitranslmed.aay6218?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">gut</a>.</p> <p>While there’s a lot of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763402000040?via%3Dihub#aep-section-id23">variation between individuals</a>, regularly eating sugary and high-carb foods can lead to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30951762/">rapid spikes and crashes</a> in blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar drops, your body can respond by craving quick sources of energy, often in the form of sugar and carbs because these deliver the fastest, most easily accessible form of energy.</p> <h2>2. Drops in dopamine and serotonin</h2> <p>Certain neurotransmitters, such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30595479/">dopamine</a>, are involved in the reward and pleasure centres of the brain. Eating sugary and carb-rich foods can trigger the release of dopamine, creating a pleasurable experience and reinforcing the craving.</p> <p>Serotonin, the feel-good hormone, suppresses <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1569733910700886">appetite</a>. Natural changes in serotonin can influence daily fluctuations in mood, energy levels and attention. It’s also associated with eating more <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5829131/">carb-rich snacks in the afternoon</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21985780/">Low carb diets</a> may reduce serotonin and lower mood. However, a recent systematic review suggests little association between these diets and risk for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032722013933?via%3Dihub">anxiety and depression</a>.</p> <p>Compared to men, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189179/">women tend to crave more carb rich foods</a>. Feeling irritable, tired, depressed or experiencing carb cravings are part of premenstrual <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29218451/">symptoms</a> and could be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560698/">linked to</a> reduced <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9928757/">serotonin levels</a>.</p> <h2>3. Loss of fluids and drops in blood sugar and salt</h2> <p>Sometimes our bodies crave the things they’re missing, such as hydration or even salt. A low-carb diet, for example, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/">depletes</a> insulin levels, decreasing sodium and water retention.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1933287419302673">Very low-carb diets</a>, like ketogenic diets, induce “ketosis”, a metabolic state where the body switches to using fat as its primary energy source, moving away from the usual dependence on carbohydrates.</p> <p>Ketosis is often associated with increased urine production, further contributing to potential fluid loss, electrolyte imbalances and salt cravings.</p> <h2>4. High levels of stress or emotional turmoil</h2> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/">Stress</a>, boredom and emotional turmoil can lead to cravings for comfort foods. This is because stress-related hormones can impact our appetite, satiety (feeling full) and food preferences.</p> <p>The stress hormone <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3425607/">cortisol</a>, in particular, can drive cravings for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306453000000354">sweet comfort foods</a>.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306453000000354">2001 study</a> of 59 premenopausal women subjected to stress revealed that the stress led to higher calorie consumption.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37295418/">A more recent study</a> found chronic stress, when paired with high-calorie diet, increases food intake and a preference for sweet foods. This shows the importance of a healthy diet during stress to prevent weight gain.</p> <h2>What can you do about cravings?</h2> <p>Here are four tips to curb cravings:</p> <p><strong>1) don’t cut out whole food groups.</strong> Aim for a well-balanced diet and make sure you include:</p> <ul> <li> <p><em>sufficient protein</em> in your meals to help you feel full and reduce the urge to snack on sugary and carb-rich foods. Older adults should aim for 20–40g protein per meal with a particular focus on <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jhn.12838">breakfast and lunch</a> and an overall daily protein intake of at least <a href="https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/43411">0.8g</a> per kg of body weight for <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35187864/">muscle health</a></p> </li> <li> <p><em>fibre-rich foods</em>, such as vegetables and whole grains. These make you feel full and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32142510/">stabilise your blood sugar</a> levels. Examples include broccoli, quinoa, brown rice, oats, beans, lentils and bran cereals. Substitute refined carbs high in sugar like processed snack bars, soft drink or baked goods for more complex ones like whole grain bread or wholewheat muffins, or nut and seed bars or energy bites made with chia seeds and oats</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>2) manage your stress levels.</strong> Practise stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to manage emotional triggers for cravings. Practising <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30570305/">mindful eating</a>, by eating slowly and tuning into bodily sensations, can also reduce daily calorie intake and curb cravings and stress-driven eating</p> <p><strong>3) get enough sleep.</strong> Aim for <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33054337/">seven to eight</a> hours of quality sleep per night, with a minimum of seven hours. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9031614/">Lack of sleep</a> can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and cravings</p> <p><strong>4) control your portions.</strong> If you decide to indulge in a treat, control your portion size to avoid overindulging.</p> <p>Overcoming cravings for sugar, salt and carbs when trying to eat healthily or lose weight is undoubtedly a formidable challenge. Remember, it’s a journey, and setbacks may occur. Be patient with yourself – your success is not defined by occasional cravings but by your ability to manage and overcome them.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/212114/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hayley-oneill-1458016">Hayley O'Neill</a>, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/i-want-to-eat-healthily-so-why-do-i-crave-sugar-salt-and-carbs-212114">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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We looked at 700 plant-based foods to see how healthy they really are. Here’s what we found

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-marchese-1271636">Laura Marchese</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katherine-livingstone-324808">Katherine Livingstone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>If you’re thinking about buying plant-based foods, a trip to the supermarket can leave you bewildered.</p> <p>There are plant-based burgers, sausages and mince. The fridges are loaded with non-dairy milk, cheese and yoghurt. Then there are the tins of beans and packets of tofu.</p> <p>But how much is actually healthy?</p> <p>Our nutritional audit of more than 700 plant-based foods for sale in Australian supermarkets has just been <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157524000516">published</a>. We found some products are so high in salt or saturated fat, we’d struggle to call them “healthy”.</p> <h2>We took (several) trips to the supermarket</h2> <p>In 2022, we visited two of each of four major supermarket retailers across Melbourne to collect information on the available range of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products.</p> <p>We took pictures of the products and their nutrition labels.</p> <p>We then analysed the nutrition information on the packaging of more than 700 of these products. This included 236 meat substitutes, 169 legumes and pulses, 50 baked beans, 157 dairy milk substitutes, 52 cheese substitutes and 40 non-dairy yoghurts.</p> <h2>Plant-based meats were surprisingly salty</h2> <p>We found a wide range of plant-based meats for sale. So, it’s not surprising we found large variations in their nutrition content.</p> <p>Sodium, found in added salt and which contributes to <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/healthy-living-and-eating/salt-and-heart-health">high blood pressure</a>, was our greatest concern.</p> <p>The sodium content varied from 1 milligram per 100 grams in products such as tofu, to 2,000mg per 100g in items such as plant-based mince products.</p> <p>This means we could eat our entire <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/salt">daily recommended sodium intake</a> in just one bowl of plant-based mince.</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09637486.2022.2137786">audit</a> of 66 plant-based meat products in Australian supermarkets conducted in 2014 found sodium ranged from 316mg in legume-based products to 640mg in tofu products, per 100g. In a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/11/2603">2019 audit</a> of 137 products, the range was up to 1,200mg per 100g.</p> <p>In other words, the results of our audit seems to show a consistent trend of plant-based meats <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09637486.2022.2137786">getting saltier</a>.</p> <h2>What about plant-based milks?</h2> <p>Some 70% of the plant-based milks we audited were fortified with calcium, a nutrient important for <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/calcium">bone health</a>.</p> <p>This is good news as a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1254">2019-2020 audit</a> of 115 plant-based milks from Melbourne and Sydney found only 43% of plant-based milks were fortified with calcium.</p> <p>Of the fortified milks in our audit, almost three-quarters (73%) contained the <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/milk-yoghurt-cheese-andor-their-alternatives-mostly-reduced-fat">recommended amount of calcium</a> – at least 100mg per 100mL.</p> <p>We also looked at the saturated fat content of plant-based milks.</p> <p>Coconut-based milks had on average up to six times higher saturated fat content than almond, oat or soy milks.</p> <p><a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1254">Previous audits</a> also found coconut-based milks were much higher in saturated fat than all other categories of milks.</p> <h2>A first look at cheese and yoghurt alternatives</h2> <p>Our audit is the first study to identify the range of cheese and yoghurt alternatives available in Australian supermarkets.</p> <p>Calcium was only labelled on a third of plant-based yoghurts, and only 20% of supermarket options met the recommended 100mg of calcium per 100g.</p> <p>For plant-based cheeses, most (92%) were not fortified with calcium. Their sodium content varied from 390mg to 1,400mg per 100g, and saturated fat ranged from 0g to 28g per 100g.</p> <h2>So, what should we consider when shopping?</h2> <p>As a general principle, try to choose whole plant foods, such as unprocessed legumes, beans or tofu. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re also high in dietary fibre, which is good for your gut health and keeps you fuller for longer.</p> <p>If opting for a processed plant-based food, here are five tips for choosing a healthier option.</p> <p><strong>1. Watch the sodium</strong></p> <p>Plant-based meat alternatives can be high in sodium, so look for products that have <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well/how-understand-food-labels/food-labels-what-look">around</a> 150-250mg sodium per 100g.</p> <p><strong>2. Pick canned beans and legumes</strong></p> <p>Canned chickpeas, lentils and beans can be healthy and low-cost <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/71522940-decf-436a-ba44-cd890dc18036/Meat-Free-Recipe-Booklet.pdf">additions to many meals</a>. Where you can, choose canned varieties with no added salt, especially when buying baked beans.</p> <p><strong>3. Add herbs and spices to your tofu</strong></p> <p>Tofu can be a great alternative to meat. Check the label and pick the option with the highest calcium content. We found flavoured tofu was higher in salt and sugar content than minimally processed tofu. So it’s best to pick an unflavoured option and add your own flavours with spices and herbs.</p> <p><strong>4. Check the calcium</strong></p> <p>When choosing a non-dairy alternative to milk, such as those made from soy, oat, or rice, check it is fortified with calcium. A good alternative to traditional dairy will have at least 100mg of calcium per 100g.</p> <p><strong>5. Watch for saturated fat</strong></p> <p>If looking for a lower saturated fat option, almond, soy, rice and oat varieties of milk and yoghurt alternatives have much lower saturated fat content than coconut options. Pick those with less than 3g per 100g.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222991/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-marchese-1271636">Laura Marchese</a>, PhD Student at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katherine-livingstone-324808">Katherine Livingstone</a>, NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-looked-at-700-plant-based-foods-to-see-how-healthy-they-really-are-heres-what-we-found-222991">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Mothers’ dieting habits and self-talk have profound impact on daughters − 2 psychologists explain how to cultivate healthy behaviors and body image

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496">Janet J. Boseovski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p>Weight loss is one of the most common health and appearance-related goals.</p> <p>Women and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db340.htm">teen girls</a> are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm">especially likely to pursue dieting</a> to achieve weight loss goals even though a great deal of research shows that <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-thin-people-dont-understand-about-dieting-86604">dieting doesn’t work over the long term</a>.</p> <p>We are a <a href="https://www.duck-lab.com/people">developmental psychologist</a> and a <a href="https://psy.uncg.edu/directory/ashleigh-gallagher/">social psychologist</a> who together wrote a forthcoming book, “Beyond Body Positive: A Mother’s Evidence-Based Guide for Helping Girls Build a Healthy Body Image.”</p> <p>In the book, we address topics such as the effects of maternal dieting behaviors on daughters’ health and well-being. We provide information on how to build a foundation for healthy body image beginning in girlhood.</p> <h2>Culturally defined body ideals</h2> <p>Given the strong influence of social media and other cultural influences on body ideals, it’s understandable that so many people pursue diets aimed at weight loss. <a href="https://communityhealth.mayoclinic.org/featured-stories/tiktok-diets">TikTok</a>, YouTube, Instagram and celebrity websites feature slim influencers and “how-tos” for achieving those same results in no time.</p> <p>For example, women and teens are engaging in rigid and extreme forms of exercise such as 54D, a program to <a href="https://54d.com/">achieve body transformation in 54 days</a>, or the <a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/75-hard-challenge-and-rules">75 Hard Challenge</a>, which is to follow five strict rules for 75 days.</p> <p>For teens, these pursuits are likely fueled by trendy body preoccupations such as the desire for “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/well/move/tiktok-legging-legs-eating-disorders.html">legging legs</a>.”</p> <p>Women and teens have also been been inundated with recent messaging around <a href="https://theconversation.com/drugs-that-melt-away-pounds-still-present-more-questions-than-answers-but-ozempic-wegovy-and-mounjaro-could-be-key-tools-in-reducing-the-obesity-epidemic-205549">quick-fix weight loss drugs</a>, which come with a lot of caveats.</p> <p>Dieting and weight loss goals are highly individual, and when people are intensely self-focused, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.70">possible to lose sight of the bigger picture</a>. Although women might wonder what the harm is in trying the latest diet, science shows that dieting behavior doesn’t just affect the dieter. In particular, for women who are mothers or who have other girls in their lives, these behaviors affect girls’ emerging body image and their health and well-being.</p> <h2>The profound effect of maternal role models</h2> <p>Research shows that mothers and maternal figures <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.11.001">have a profound influence on their daughters’ body image</a>.</p> <p>The opportunity to influence girls’ body image comes far earlier than adolescence. In fact, research shows that these influences on body image <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-toxic-diet-culture-is-passed-from-moms-to-daughters">begin very early in life</a> – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acdb.2016.10.006">during the preschool years</a>.</p> <p>Mothers may feel that they are being discreet about their dieting behavior, but little girls are watching and listening, and they are far more observant of us than many might think.</p> <p>For example, one study revealed that compared with daughters of nondieting women, 5-year-old girls whose mothers dieted <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00339-4">were aware of the connection between dieting and thinness</a>.</p> <p>Mothers’ eating behavior does not just affect girls’ ideas about dieting, but also their daughters’ eating behavior. The amount of food that mothers eat <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">predicts how much their daughters will eat</a>. In addition, daughters whose mothers are dieters are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">more likely to become dieters themselves</a> and are also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2007.03.001">more likely to have a negative body image</a>.</p> <p>Negative body image is <a href="https://theconversation.com/mounting-research-documents-the-harmful-effects-of-social-media-use-on-mental-health-including-body-image-and-development-of-eating-disorders-206170">not a trivial matter</a>. It affects girls’ and women’s mental and physical well-being in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317710815">host of ways</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2011.06.009">can predict the emergence of eating disorders</a>.</p> <h2>Avoiding ‘fat talk’</h2> <p>What can moms do, then, to serve their daughters’ and their own health?</p> <p>They can focus on small steps. And although it is best to begin these efforts early in life – in girlhood – it is never too late to do so.</p> <p>For example, mothers can consider how they think about and talk about themselves around their daughters. Engaging in “fat talk” may inadvertently send their daughters the message that larger bodies are bad, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.07.004">contributing to weight bias</a> and negative self-image. Mothers’ fat talk also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1908294">predicts later body dissatisfaction in daughters</a>.</p> <p>And negative self-talk isn’t good for mothers, either; it is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318781943">lower motivation and unhealthful eating</a>. Mothers can instead practice and model self-compassion, which involves treating oneself the way <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003">a loving friend might treat you</a>.</p> <p>In discussions about food and eating behavior, it is important to avoid moralizing certain kinds of food by labeling them as “good” or “bad,” as girls may extend these labels to their personal worth. For example, a young girl may feel that she is being “bad” if she eats dessert, if that is what she has learned from observing the women around her. In contrast, she may feel that she has to eat a salad to be “good.”</p> <p>Moms and other female role models can make sure that the dinner plate sends a healthy message to their daughters by showing instead that all foods can fit into a balanced diet when the time is right. Intuitive eating, which emphasizes paying attention to hunger and satiety and allows flexibility in eating behavior, is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4">better physical and mental health in adolescence</a>.</p> <p>Another way that women and especially moms can buffer girls’ body image is by helping their daughters <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.12.009">to develop media literacy</a> and to think critically about the nature and purpose of media. For example, moms can discuss the misrepresentation and distortion of bodies, such as the use of filters to enhance physical appearance, on social media.</p> <h2>Focusing on healthful behaviors</h2> <p>One way to begin to focus on health behaviors rather than dieting behaviors is to develop respect for the body and to <a href="https://theconversation.com/body-neutrality-what-it-is-and-how-it-can-help-lead-to-more-positive-body-image-191799">consider body neutrality</a>. In other words, prize body function rather than appearance and spend less time thinking about your body’s appearance. Accept that there are times when you may not feel great about your body, and that this is OK.</p> <p>To feel and look their best, mothers can aim to stick to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-best-diet-for-healthy-sleep-a-nutritional-epidemiologist-explains-what-food-choices-will-help-you-get-more-restful-zs-219955">healthy sleep schedule</a>, manage their stress levels, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fiber-is-your-bodys-natural-guide-to-weight-management-rather-than-cutting-carbs-out-of-your-diet-eat-them-in-their-original-fiber-packaging-instead-205159">eat a varied diet</a> that includes all of the foods that they enjoy, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-runners-high-may-result-from-molecules-called-cannabinoids-the-bodys-own-version-of-thc-and-cbd-170796">move and exercise their bodies regularly</a> as lifelong practices, rather than engaging in quick-fix trends.</p> <p>Although many of these tips sound familiar, and perhaps even simple, they become effective when we recognize their importance and begin acting on them. Mothers can work toward modeling these behaviors and tailor each of them to their daughter’s developmental level. It’s never too early to start.</p> <h2>Promoting healthy body image</h2> <p>Science shows that several personal characteristics are associated with body image concerns among women.</p> <p>For example, research shows that women who are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.001">higher in neuroticism</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2">and perfectionism</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.983534">lower in self-compassion</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.08.001">lower in self-efficacy</a> are all more likely to struggle with negative body image.</p> <p>Personality is frequently defined as a person’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But if they wish, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/per.1945">mothers can change personality characteristics</a> that they feel aren’t serving them well.</p> <p>For example, perfectionist tendencies – such as setting unrealistic, inflexible goals – can be examined, challenged and replaced with more rational thoughts and behaviors. A woman who believes she must work out every day can practice being more flexible in her thinking. One who thinks of dessert as “cheating” can practice resisting moral judgments about food.</p> <p>Changing habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving certainly takes effort and time, but it is far more likely than diet trends to bring about sustainable, long-term change. And taking the first steps to modify even a few of these habits can positively affect daughters.</p> <p>In spite of all the noise from media and other cultural influences, mothers can feel empowered knowing that they have a significant influence on their daughters’ feelings about, and treatment of, their bodies.</p> <p>In this way, mothers’ modeling of healthier attitudes and behaviors is a sound investment – for both their own body image and that of the girls they love.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221968/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496"><em>Janet J. Boseovski</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/mothers-dieting-habits-and-self-talk-have-profound-impact-on-daughters-2-psychologists-explain-how-to-cultivate-healthy-behaviors-and-body-image-221968">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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Your unique smell can provide clues about how healthy you are

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/aoife-morrin-1478132">Aoife Morrin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p>Hundreds of chemicals stream from our bodies into the air every second. These chemicals release into the air easily as they have high vapour pressures, meaning they boil and turn into gases at room temperature. They give clues about who we are, and how healthy we are.</p> <p>Since ancient Greek times, we’ve known that we smell differently when we are unwell. While we rely on blood analysis today, ancient Greek physicians used smell to diagnose maladies. If they took a whiff of your breath and described it as <em>fetor hepaticus</em> (meaning bad liver), it meant you could be headed for liver failure.</p> <p>If a person’s whiff was sweet or fruity, physicians thought this meant that sugars in the digestive system were not being broken down, and that person had probably diabetes. Science has since shown the ancient Greeks were right – liver failure and <a href="https://tisserandinstitute.org/human-volatilome/">diabetes</a> and many <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00216-023-04986-z">other diseases</a> including infectious diseases give your breath a distinctive smell.</p> <p>In 1971, <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1962/pauling/facts/">Nobel Laureate chemist Linus Pauling</a> <a href="https://edu.rsc.org/feature/breath-analysis/2020106.article#:%7E:text=The%20'modern%20era'%20of%20breath,in%20an%20average%20breath%20sample.">counted 250 different</a> gaseous chemicals in breath. These gaseous chemicals are called volatile organic compounds or VOCs.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RzozmYPfCmM?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Since Pauling’s discovery, other scientists have <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40291-023-00640-7">discovered hundreds more VOCs</a> in our breath. We have learned that many of these VOCs have distinctive odours, but some have no odour that our noses can perceive.</p> <p>Scientists believe that whether a VOC <a href="https://tisserandinstitute.org/human-volatilome/">has an odour</a> that our noses can detect or not, they can reveal information about how healthy someone is.</p> <p>A Scottish man’s Parkinson’s disease onset was <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-47627179">identified by his wife</a>, retired nurse Joy Milner, after she was convinced the way he smelled had changed, years before he was diagnosed in 2005. This discovery has <a href="https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/smell-of-skin-could-lead-to-early-diagnosis-for-parkinsons/">led to research programmes</a> involving Joy Milner to identify <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-supersmeller-can-detect-the-scent-of-parkinsons-leading-to-an-experimental-test-for-the-illness/">the precise smell</a> of this disease.</p> <p>Dogs can <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01629-8">sniff out more diseases</a> than humans because of their more <a href="https://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/news/the-science-of-sniffs-disease-smelling-dogs%20-%20I%20think%20the%20previous%20nature%20link%20has%20more%20credibility%20for%20here%20also">sophisticated olfactory talents</a>. But technological techniques, like <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/mass-spectrometry">analytical tool mass spectrometry</a>, picks up even more subtle changes in VOC profiles that are being linked to <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(20)30100-6/fulltext">gut</a>, <a href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0165993618305168">skin</a> and <a href="https://err.ersjournals.com/content/28/152/190011">respiratory</a> diseases as well as neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. Researchers believe that one day some diseases will be diagnosed simply by breathing into a device.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Xjo2M-XMYfs?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Where do VOCs come from?</h2> <p>Breath is not the only source of VOCs in the body. They are also emitted from skin, urine and faeces.</p> <p>VOCs from skin are the result of millions of skin glands removing metabolic waste from the body, as well as waste generated by bacteria and other microbes that live on our skin. Sweating produces extra nutrients for these bacteria to metabolise which can result in particularly odorous VOCs. Odour from sweat only makes up a fraction of the scents from VOCs though.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro.2017.157">Our skin</a> and also our gut microbiomes are made up from a delicate balance of these microbes. Scientists think <a href="https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/abstract/2015/01000/the_gut_microbiome_in_health_and_in_disease.12.aspx">they influence our health</a>, but we don’t yet understand a lot about how this relationship works.</p> <p>Unlike the gut, the skin is relatively easy to study – you can collect skin samples from living humans without having to go deep into the body. <a href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S1471492221002087">Scientists think</a> skin VOCs can offer insights into how the microbiome’s bacteria and the human body work together to maintain our health and protect us from disease.</p> <p>In my team’s laboratory, <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1752-7163/abf20a">we are investigating</a> whether the skin VOC signature can reveal different attributes of the person it belongs to. These signals in skin VOC signatures are probably how dogs distinguish between people by smell.</p> <p>We are at a relatively early stage in this research area but we have shown that you can tell males from females based on how acidic the VOCs from skin are. We use mass spectrometry to see this as the average human nose is not sophisticated enough to detect these VOCs.</p> <p>We can also predict a person’s age with reasonable accuracy to within a few years from their skin VOC profile. This is not surprising considering that oxidative stress in our bodies increases as we age.</p> <p><a href="https://www.metabolismjournal.com/article/S0026-0495(00)80077-3/pdf">Oxidative stress</a> happens when your antioxidant levels are low and causes irreversible damage to our cells and organs. <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jasms.3c00315">Our recent research</a> found by-products of this oxidative damage in skin VOC profiles.</p> <p>Not only are these VOCs responsible for personal scent – they are used by plants, insects and animals as a communication channel. Plants are in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-10975-x">constant VOC dialogue</a> with other organisms including pollinators, herbivores, other plants and their natural enemies such as harmful bacteria and insects. VOCs used for this back and forth dialogue are known as pheromones.</p> <h2>What has science shown about love pheromones?</h2> <p>In the animal kingdom, there is good evidence VOCs can act as aphrodisiacs. Mice for example have microbes which contribute to a particularly <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982212012687">smelly compound called trimethylamine</a>, which allows mice to verify the species of a potential mate. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0093691X21003083">Pigs</a> and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/4381097a">elephants</a> have sex pheromones too.</p> <p>It is possible that humans also produce VOCs for attracting the perfect mate. Scientists have yet to fully decode skin – or other VOCs that are released from our bodies. But evidence for human love pheromones so far is <a href="https://www.science.org/content/article/do-human-pheromones-actually-exist">controversial at best</a>. <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3835-colour-vision-ended-human-pheromone-use/">One theory suggests</a> that they were lost about 23 million years ago when primates developed full colour vision and started relying on their enhanced vision to choose a mate.</p> <p>However, we believe that whether human pheromones exist or not, skin VOCs can reveal who and how we are, in terms of things like ageing, nutrition and fitness, fertility and even stress levels. This signature probably contains markers we can use to monitor our health and diagnose disease.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215311/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/aoife-morrin-1478132"><em>Aoife Morrin</em></a><em>, Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: </em><em>Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-unique-smell-can-provide-clues-about-how-healthy-you-are-215311">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Parents busted for making their healthy child use a wheelchair to claim benefits

<p>A cruel mother and father have been jailed for over six years for forcing their healthy child to use a wheelchair in order to claim benefit payments. </p> <p>In 2012, Louise Law and her ex-husband Martin forced their then seven-year-old daughter into the wheelchair, as a ploy to gain a mobility car and disability allowance payments despite their being nothing wrong with her. </p> <p>The parents carried on with the scam for four years while they "fabricated illnesses and exaggerated symptoms" to teachers and NHS workers, all while raking in the extensive payments. </p> <p>The crown court in East Yorkshire, England, heard that the child suffered "gratuitous degradation" at being forced to use the wheelchair, as they were bullied at school and deprived of an ordinary childhood. </p> <p>In court, Louise Law admitted an offence of child cruelty, however she changed her plea on the day of a scheduled trial and was jailed for six years and nine months.</p> <p>Martin Law, now split from his wife, is now a long-term resident of a care home and was ruled unfit to enter a plea - although a jury convicted him of child cruelty, and was made subject of a guardianship order.</p> <p>Passing sentence, Judge Kate Rayfield told Mrs Law, "She missed out on so much of her childhood because of what you put her through."</p> <p>"Despite all of her tests revealing nothing wrong, you continued to subject her to appointments and investigations. You did the talking yourselves, telling the doctors lies."</p> <p>"This was a scam... You were telling her to report symptoms that she never said that she had."</p> <p>When the child reached the age of 18 in 2022, she was interviewed by police as she said the faux medical treatment from her parents began when she was six years old. </p> <p>A few initial medical appointments progressed to around 30 hospital appointments, including overnight stays.</p> <p>Prosecutor Louise Reevell told the court, "Her parents made her think that she could not walk properly. She would go to school in a wheelchair but she didn't really need it."</p> <p>Despite medical professionals proving that the child did not need the extensive medical treatment, her parents still claimed that the illnesses and symptoms of their daughter were genuine.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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Top tips for happy and healthy eyes this Autumn

<p dir="ltr">As the season changes, so do our healthcare needs as many people struggle with irritating allergies. </p> <p dir="ltr">With cooler temperatures, dry air and an increase in pollen often being synonymous with autumn and spring, for many people, leaving the house means having irritated eyes. </p> <p dir="ltr">Luckily, leading Ophthalmologist, Dr. Jacqueline Beltz has shared her essential tips for eye care during autumn with OverSixty, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the change of seasons without jeopardising your vision. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Keep your sunglasses handy</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While the sun is usually not as intense in autumn as it is during summer, Dr Beltz says that using sunglasses can benefit your eyes in many ways. </p> <p dir="ltr">“ Not only do they shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, but they also guard against wind and debris,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Increase your lubricant eye drops</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Dr Beltz said, “The drop in temperature and the dryer air can contribute to discomfort and dryness in your eyes, so consider increasing the use of lubricant eye drops to keep your eyes moist and comfortable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">By keeping up your eye drops in autumn, you can prevent further damage to your eyes in the long run. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Clean your eyelashes daily</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">According to Dr Beltz, keeping up with good health and hygiene along the eyelid margins is essential, especially during the autumn months. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Cleanse your lashes daily and use a warm compress to optimise the quality of your tear film. This helps in preventing irritation and supports overall eye health.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Consider a humidifier</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">To ensure a more comfortable environment for your eyes, Dr Beltz recommends adding moisture to the air can help alleviate dry eyes.</p> <p dir="ltr">She said, “Combat the dry indoor air by using a humidifier in your room, especially while you sleep.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Be proactive with allergies</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">If you are prone to allergies, Dr Beltz said it's best to always be prepared ahead of time. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Autumn allergies are a reality, with triggers like pollen, mould, and dust prevalent during this season,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“If you experience red, itchy, or swollen eyes, consider antihistamine eye drops. Keep your hands clean and avoid rubbing your eyes.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Revitalise your eye makeup</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While replacing your eye makeup is important all year around, the addition of allergens makes it even more important to Change mascara and non-cleanable products like liquid eyeliner at least every three months. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Especially if you have sensitive eyes, makeup products can harbour bacteria, leading to increased eye irritation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Refreshing your eye makeup products to options that are designed to be better suited for dry eyes or eye sensitivity.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If you are <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/beauty-style/embracing-the-art-of-beauty-without-compromise">prone to sensitive eyes</a>, consider trying the OKKIYO <a href="https://www.okkiyo.com/products/protect-and-preserve-mascara#xd_co_f=NzdiNzdlNTctNTA1MS00NTBkLWE1MGEtNjRkMGE2OTI1N2Vj~">Prioriteyes Mascara</a>, which was developed by Dr Beltz to prioritise both style and eye health.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these tips for eye health can seem simple and seemingly unimportant, Dr Beltz assures that by following these tips, you will make a world of difference for your eye health overall. </p> <p dir="ltr">She said, “Implementing these simple tips can make a significant difference in keeping your eyes comfortable and vibrant throughout the season.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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How to maintain a healthy gut microbiome in 2024

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rosie-young-1491751">Rosie Young</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/quadram-institute-5557">Quadram Institute</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mariam-gamal-el-din-1492103">Mariam Gamal El-Din</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/quadram-institute-5557">Quadram Institute</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yang-yue-1391869">Yang Yue</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/quadram-institute-5557">Quadram Institute</a></em></p> <p>We all know by now that the pillars of a healthy lifestyle are regular exercise, eating enough fruit and vegetables, a good night’s sleep and staying hydrated. All of these things also support the gut microbiome – all the microbes that live in your digestive system – but there are some extras to consider if you want to optimise your gut health.</p> <p>It’s widely accepted among those of us who study the gut microbiome that a healthy gut is one that contains a <a href="https://theconversation.com/diverse-gut-microbiomes-give-better-protection-against-harmful-bugs-now-we-know-why-219734">diverse range of microbes</a> and has an effective gut barrier (the lining between your intestine and bloodstream).</p> <p>Let’s look at diet first. It probably has the biggest influence on your gut health. Diets high in fibre, unsaturated fatty acids (found in fish and nuts), and polyphenols (chemicals found in plants) will <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-physiol-031522-092054">promote a healthy gut</a>, while those high in saturated fats, additives (such as “E numbers”) and sugar can harm gut health. So avoid consuming a lot of ultra-processed foods.</p> <p>Emulsifiers, a common additive in ultra-processed foods, have been found to cause <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/15/3049">intestinal inflammation and a leaky gut</a>. The most common ones to look out for on packaging are lecithin, polysorbates (such as E433) and carrageenan.</p> <p>These additives are also common in protein supplements, whose popularity has steadily been increasing since the <a href="https://theconversation.com/decades-of-hype-turned-protein-into-a-superfood-and-spawned-a-multibillion-dollar-industry-163711#:%7E:text=Global%20retail%20sales%20of%20protein,around%20half%20of%20the%20market.">early 2000s</a>, especially among gym goers looking to bulk up.</p> <h2>Prebiotics and probiotics</h2> <p>It would be unreasonable and unrealistic to tell you to avoid foods with additives, but trying to limit consumption, while increasing your consumption of prebiotic and probiotic foods, could help protect your gut.</p> <p>Dietary fibre is a good example of a prebiotic, which is defined as a non-digestible food ingredient that can stimulate the growth of good bacteria <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-020-00375-4">in the colon</a>. As the main food source of your gut microbes, it is important to consume enough if you want your microbiome to flourish. Government guidelines suggest around 30g of fibre a day for adults and 15-25g for children.</p> <p>Most prebiotics come from plant foods, so getting a high diversity of plant products in your diet will keep your gut healthy. The latest recommendation is to include 30 plant species in your <a href="https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/msystems.00031-18">diet per week</a>. This may sound hard to achieve but bear in mind that both good-quality coffee and dark chocolate count.</p> <p>Probiotics, the live bacteria and yeasts themselves, can be easily consumed through fermented food products, drinks or supplements. Choosing a high-quality probiotic is important. While there is an increasing amount on the market in supplement, powder and tablet form, they can be expensive. Fermented foods can be just as effective, but a whole lot cheaper.</p> <p>Yoghurts, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented soy products, such as tempeh and miso, are examples of fermented foods that not only support the healthy balance of your gut bacteria but provide a good source of fibres, vitamins and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5425481/">other nutrients</a>.</p> <p>To get the most benefit from these products, look for those in the fridge section labelled as containing “live cultures” or “live bacteria”, with minimal ingredients and no heating or pasteurisation processing.</p> <p>Aside from what you eat, how often you eat could also affect your gut health. Fasting can allow repair of the gut lining and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966842X23000574?via%3Dihub#s0085">reduce inflammation</a>.</p> <h2>Medication and the microbiome</h2> <p>Medications can directly and indirectly affect our gut health. You may have heard that antibiotics are bad for your gut microbiome, especially those which are “broad spectrum” and will kill off not only harmful bacteria but beneficial ones too. This can be associated with <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/24/4/3074">gastrointestinal problems and decreased immunity</a>, especially after prolonged use.</p> <p>Of course, doctors do not prescribe antibiotics lightly, so it is important to take them as instructed. If you are concerned, discuss the potential effects on your gut health with your GP.</p> <p>Although you may not have much say over which medications you take, there are a few strategies to support your gut during and after medication.</p> <p>Staying healthy by prioritising good sleep and managing stress levels is also important, but increasing your intake of both <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-40553-x">prebiotics</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/20499361231154443">probiotics</a> at this time may <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/24/4/3074">lessen the blow</a> of medication on your microbiome.</p> <p>It is always recommended you check with your doctor before introducing a probiotic supplement in the rare case that it may not be suitable alongside the treatment.</p> <p>Microbiome research is continuously shedding new light on the intricate connections between the microbes that live in our gut and our wellbeing. So watch this space. In the meantime, follow the above advice – it will help you maintain a healthy gut microbiome in 2024 and beyond.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that guar and xantham gum are emulsifiers.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218744/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rosie-young-1491751">Rosie Young</a>, PhD Candidate, Gut Microbes in Health and Disease, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/quadram-institute-5557">Quadram Institute</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mariam-gamal-el-din-1492103">Mariam Gamal El-Din</a>, Visiting Postdoctoral Scientist, Food Microbiome Interactions, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/quadram-institute-5557">Quadram Institute</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yang-yue-1391869">Yang Yue</a>, PhD Candidate in Plants, Food and Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/quadram-institute-5557">Quadram Institute</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-maintain-a-healthy-gut-microbiome-in-2024-218744">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 ways to avoid weight gain and save money on food this Christmas

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>As Christmas approaches, so does the challenge of healthy eating and maintaining weight-related goals. The season’s many social gatherings can easily tempt us to indulge in calorie-rich food and celebratory drinks. It’s why we typically <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012">gain weight</a> over Christmas and then struggle to take it off for the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938414001528">remainder of the year</a>.</p> <p>Christmas 2023 is also exacerbating cost-of-living pressures, prompting some to rethink their food choices. Throughout the year, <a href="https://dvh1deh6tagwk.cloudfront.net/finder-au/wp-uploads/2023/03/Cost-of-Living-Report-2023.pdf">71% of Australians</a> – or 14.2 million people – <a href="https://retailworldmagazine.com.au/rising-cost-of-living-forces-aussies-to-change-diets/">adapted</a> their eating behaviour in response to rising costs.</p> <p>Fortunately, there are some simple, science-backed hacks for the festive season to help you celebrate with the food traditions you love without impacting your healthy eating habits, weight, or hip pocket.</p> <h2>1. Fill up on healthy pre-party snacks before heading out</h2> <p>If your festive season is filled with end-of-year parties likely to tempt you to fill up on finger foods and meals high in fat, salt, and sugar and low in nutritional value, have a healthy pre-event snack before you head out.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015032/#sec-a.g.atitle">Research</a> shows carefully selected snack foods can impact satiety (feelings of fullness after eating), potentially reducing the calories you eat later. High-protein, high-fibre snack foods have the strongest effect: because they take longer to digest, our hunger is satisfied for longer.</p> <p>So enjoy a handful of nuts, a tub of yoghurt, or a serving of hummus with veggie sticks before you head out to help keep your healthy eating plan on track.</p> <h2>2. Skip the low-carb drinks and enjoy your favourites in moderation</h2> <p>Despite the marketing promises, low-carb alcoholic drinks <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hpja.531">aren’t better for our health or waistlines</a>.</p> <p>Many low-carb options have a similar amount of carbohydrates as regular options but lull us into thinking they’re better, so we drink more. A <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/K-013_Low-carb-beer_FactSheet_FINAL.pdf">survey</a> found 15% of low-carb beer drinkers drank more beer than they usually would because they believed it was healthier for them.</p> <p>A typical lager or ale will contain less than 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml while the “lower-carb” variety can range anywhere from 0.5 grams to 2.0 grams. The calories in drinks come from the alcohol itself, not the carbohydrate content.</p> <p>Next time you go to order, think about the quantity of alcohol you’re drinking rather than the carbs. Make sure you sip lots of water in between drinks to stay hydrated, too.</p> <h2>3. Don’t skimp on healthy food for Christmas Day – it’s actually cheaper</h2> <p>There’s a perception that healthy eating is more expensive. But studies show this is a misconception. A <a href="https://southwesthealthcare.com.au/swh-study-finds-eating-a-healthier-diet-is-actually-cheaper-at-the-checkout/#:%7E:text=A%20recent%20study%20from%20the,does%20not%20meet%20the%20guidelines">recent analysis</a> in Victoria, for example, found following the Australian Dietary Guidelines cost the average family A$156 less a fortnight than the cost of the average diet, which incorporates packaged processed foods and alcohol.</p> <p>So when you’re planning your Christmas Day meal, give the pre-prepared, processed food a miss and swap in healthier ingredients:</p> <ul> <li> <p>swap the heavy, salted ham for leaner and lighter meats such as fresh seafood. Some seafood, such as prawns, is also tipped to be cheaper this year thanks to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/goodfood/lobsters-up-prawns-stable-a-buying-guide-to-seafood-this-christmas-20231208-p5eq3m.html">favourable weather conditions</a> boosting local supplies</p> </li> <li> <p>for side dishes, opt for fresh salads incorporating seasonal ingredients such as mango, watermelon, peach, cucumber and tomatoes. This will save you money and ensure you’re eating foods when they’re freshest and most flavoursome</p> </li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p>if you’re roasting veggies, use healthier cooking oils like olive as opposed to vegetable oil, and use flavourful herbs instead of salt</p> </li> <li> <p>if there’s an out-of-season vegetable you want to include, look for frozen and canned substitutes. They’re cheaper, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157517300418">just as nutritious</a> and tasty because the produce is usually frozen or canned at its best. Watch the sodium content of canned foods, though, and give them a quick rinse to remove any salty water</p> </li> <li> <p>give store-bought sauces and dressings a miss, making your own from scratch using fresh ingredients.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>4. Plan your Christmas food shop with military precision</h2> <p>Before heading to the supermarket to shop for your Christmas Day meal, create a detailed meal plan and shopping list, and don’t forget to check your pantry and fridge for things you already have.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586574/">Eating beforehand</a> and shopping with a plan in hand means you’ll only buy what you need and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8206473/">avoid impulse purchasing</a>.</p> <p>When you’re shopping, price check everything. Comparing the cost per 100 grams is the most effective way to save money and get the best value. Check prices on products sold in different ways and places, too, such as nuts you scoop yourself versus prepacked options.</p> <h2>5. Don’t skip breakfast on Christmas Day</h2> <p>We’ve all been tempted to skip or have a small breakfast on Christmas morning to “save” the calories for later. But this plan will fail when you sit down at lunch hungry and find yourself eating far more calories than you’d “saved” for.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32073608/">Research</a> shows a low-calorie or small breakfast leads to increased feelings of hunger, specifically appetite for sweets, across the course of the day.</p> <p>What you eat for breakfast on Christmas morning is just as important too – choosing the right foods will <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-trying-to-lose-weight-and-eat-healthily-why-do-i-feel-so-hungry-all-the-time-what-can-i-do-about-it-215808">help you manage your appetite</a> and avoid the temptation to overindulge later in the day.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24703415/">Studies</a> show a breakfast containing protein-rich foods, such as eggs, will leave us feeling fuller for longer.</p> <p>So before you head out to the Christmas lunch, have a large, nutritionally balanced breakfast, such as eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado.</p> <p><em>At the Boden Group, Charles Perkins Centre, we are studying the science of obesity and running clinical trials for weight loss. You can <a href="https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=RKTXPPPHKY">register here</a> to express your interest.</em> <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219114/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993"><em>Nick Fuller</em></a><em>, Charles Perkins Centre Research Program Leader, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/5-ways-to-avoid-weight-gain-and-save-money-on-food-this-christmas-219114">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Meal kits are booming – but how do they stack up nutritionally?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kylie-fraser-1483094">Kylie Fraser</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alison-spence-720195">Alison Spence</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karen-campbell-224857">Karen Campbell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/penny-love-1060241">Penny Love</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>Meal kits are a <a href="https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/online-food-delivery/meal-delivery/australia">billion dollar industry</a> selling the promise of convenience while cooking healthy meals at home. Delivering ingredients and step-by-step recipes to the doorstep, meal kits reduce the time and energy to plan, shop and prepare meals. But do they deliver on their promise of health?</p> <p>While people may <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666321007236">think</a> meal kits are healthy, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/38/6/daad155/7441372?searchresult=1">our new research</a> suggests this varies.</p> <p>The range and quantity of vegetables in a meal is a great indicator of how healthy it is. So we assessed the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/38/6/daad155/7441372?searchresult=1&amp;login=false">vegetable content</a> of recipes from six Australian meal kit providers. We found when it comes to nutrition, whether it be budget friendly or high-end, it’s more about the meals you choose and less about what company to use.</p> <h2>What we found</h2> <p>For our <a href="https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/38/6/daad155/7441372?searchresult=1&amp;login=false">new research</a> we purchased a one-week subscription to nine Australian-based meal kit companies to access weekly recipes. Six companies provided their full week of recipes. The vegetable content of these recipes were analysed.</p> <p>Of the 179 meals analysed, we found recipes use a median of three different types of vegetables and provide a median of 2.5 serves of vegetables per person. At first glance, this looks promising. But on closer inspection, the number and types of vegetables vary a lot.</p> <p>Some recipes provide less than one serve and others more than seven serves of vegetables per person. Not surprisingly, vegetarian recipes provide more vegetables, but almost one-third of these still include less than two vegetables serves per person.</p> <p>The variety of vegetables included also varies, with recipes providing between one and six different types of vegetables per meal.</p> <h2>What’s for dinner?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10200412/">Dinner</a> is the time when we’re most likely to eat vegetables, so low levels of vegetables in meal kit meals <a href="https://theconversation.com/food-as-medicine-why-do-we-need-to-eat-so-many-vegetables-and-what-does-a-serve-actually-look-like-76149">matter</a>.</p> <p>Eating vegetables is known to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5837313/">reduce the risk</a> of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266069/">obesity</a> and some cancers. What’s more, food preferences and eating habits are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17367571/">learned</a> in childhood. So being exposed to a wide range of vegetables from a young age is important for future health.</p> <p>But few Australians eat enough vegetables. According to the <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-dietary-guidelines-1-5">Australian Dietary Guidelines</a>, children should be eating 2.5 to five serves and adults at least five serves of vegetables each day. Currently children eat an average of <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.012main+features12011-12">less than</a> two serves and adults less than three serves of vegetables per day.</p> <p>So there’s room for improvement and meal kits may help.</p> <h2>Meal kits have advantages</h2> <p>The good news is that using meal kits can be a healthier alternative to ordering takeaway delivery or prepared ready-to-heat meals. When we cook at home, we have much more say in what’s for dinner. We can use healthier cooking methods (think grilled rather than deep-fried), healthier fats (olive or canola oil) and add in plenty of extra veg. All make for better nutrition and better health.</p> <p>Meal kits might also build your cooking confidence to cook more “from scratch” and to learn about new ingredients, flavour combinations and time-saving techniques. Cooking with meal kits may even <a href="https://theconversation.com/cooking-from-meal-boxes-can-cut-household-food-waste-by-38-new-research-192760">cut household food waste</a> by providing the exact amount of ingredients needed to prepare a meal.</p> <h2>5 tips for getting the most out of meal kits</h2> <p><strong>1) Select some vegetarian options</strong></p> <p>This way you can have <a href="https://meatfreemondays.com/about/">meat-free</a> dinners during the week. Vegetarian recipes are more likely to help you meet daily vegetable intakes and to eat a wider variety of vegetables</p> <p><strong>2) Choose recipes with at least 3 different types of vegetables</strong></p> <p>Eating a range of vegetable types and colours will help maximise nutritional benefits. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7195662/">Research</a> shows eating a variety of vegetables at dinner can increase our vegetable intakes. Exposing children to “<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-get-children-to-eat-a-rainbow-of-fruit-and-vegetables-97546">eating the rainbow</a>” can also increase their willingness to eat vegetables</p> <p><strong>3) Choose recipes with unfamiliar or new vegetables</strong></p> <p>Research tells us that learning to prepare and cook vegetables can increase cooking <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20399299/#:%7E:text=Households%20bought%20a%20greater%20variety,at%20least%20one%20minor%20(difference%3A">confidence</a> and skills. This can influence our willingness to buy a wider range of vegetables. Worried about fussy eaters? Add your child’s favourite cooked or raw veg to their plate (one familiar, one new)</p> <p><strong>4) Look for ways to add more vegetables</strong></p> <p>It’s OK to tweak the recipe! Adding vegetables from your fridge – maybe some lettuce on the side or chopped up carrots to a cooked sauce – to meal kit meals will help reduce household <a href="https://www.dcceew.gov.au/environment/protection/waste/food-waste">food waste</a>. You can also extend meals by adding a can of lentils or beans to mince-based meals, or frozen peas or chickpeas to a curry. This adds valuable fibre to the meal and also bulks up these recipes, giving you leftovers for the next day</p> <p><strong>5) Use less</strong></p> <p>While vegetables are important for health, it’s also important to consider the <a href="https://academic-oup-com.ezproxy-b.deakin.edu.au/heapro/article/36/3/660/5908259">salt</a>, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31694291/">fat and energy</a> content of meal kit recipes. When using meal kits, you can <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/healthy-living-and-eating/salt-and-heart-health">use less</a> seasoning, spice mix or stock cubes and add more herbs instead.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218339/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kylie-fraser-1483094">Kylie Fraser</a>, PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alison-spence-720195">Alison Spence</a>, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Population Health, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karen-campbell-224857">Karen Campbell</a>, Professor Population Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/penny-love-1060241">Penny Love</a>, Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/meal-kits-are-booming-but-how-do-they-stack-up-nutritionally-218339">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Are fish oil supplements as healthy as we think? And is eating fish better?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/evangeline-mantzioris-153250">Evangeline Mantzioris</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, is promoted for a number of health benefits – from boosting our heart health, protecting our brain from dementia, and easing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.</p> <p>But what exactly are omega-3 fats and what does the evidence say about their benefits for keeping us healthy?</p> <p>And if they <em>are</em> good for us, does eating fish provide the same benefit as supplements?</p> <h2>What are omega-3 fats?</h2> <p>Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. They are essential to consume in our diet because we can’t make them in our body.</p> <p>Three main types of omega-3 fats are important in our diet:</p> <ul> <li> <p>alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plant foods such as green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flaxseed and chia seeds</p> </li> <li> <p>eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), which is only found in seafood, eggs (higher in free-range rather than cage eggs) and breast milk</p> </li> <li> <p>docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is also only found in seafood, eggs (again, higher in free-range eggs) and breast milk.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Omega 3s are key to the structure of our cells, and help keep our heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system working.</p> <h2>Eating fish vs taking a supplement</h2> <p>The initial studies suggesting omega-3 fats may have health benefits came from <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.0954-6820.1976.tb08198.x">observational studies on people eating fish</a>, not from fish oil.</p> <p>So are the “active ingredients” from supplements – the EPA and DHA – absorbed into our body in the same way as fish?</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523281484">intervention study</a> (where one group was given fish and one group fish oil supplements) found the levels of EPA and DHA in your body increase in a similar way when you consume equal amounts of them from either fish or fish oil.</p> <p>But this assumes it is just the omega-3 fats that provide health benefits. There are other <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/afcd/pages/default.aspx">components of fish</a>, such as protein, vitamins A and D, iodine, and selenium that could be wholly or jointly responsible for the health benefits.</p> <p>The health benefits seen may also be partially due to the absence of certain nutrients that would have otherwise been consumed from other types of meat (red meat and processed meat) such as saturated fats and salt.</p> <h2>So what are the benefits of omega 3 fats? And does the source matter?</h2> <p>Let’s consider the evidence for heart disease, arthritis and dementia.</p> <p><strong>Heart disease</strong></p> <p>For cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stroke), a <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003177.pub3/full">meta-analysis</a>, which provides the highest quality evidence, has shown fish oil supplementation probably makes little or no difference.</p> <p>Another <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/8/2278">meta-analysis</a> found for every 20 grams per day of fish consumed it reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 4%.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/f1d22267-7381-4513-834b-df317bed9a40/Nutrition_Position_Statement_-_DIETARY_FAT_FINAL-4.pdf">National Heart Foundation</a> recommends, based on the scientific evidence, eating fish rich in omega-3 fats for optimal heart health. <a href="https://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/17/3/385.pdf">Fish vary in their omega-3 levels</a> and generally the fishier they taste the more omega-3 fats they have – such as tuna, salmon, deep sea perch, trevally, mackeral and snook.</p> <p>The foundation says fish oil may be beneficial for people with heart failure or high triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in the blood that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. But it doesn’t recommend fish oil for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (heart attack and stroke).</p> <p><strong>Arthritis</strong></p> <p>For rheumatoid arthritis, <a href="https://arthritis-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13075-022-02781-2">studies</a> have shown fish oil supplements do provide benefits in reducing the severity and the progression of the disease.</p> <p>Eating fish also leads to these improvements, but as the level of EPA and DHA needed is high, often it’s difficult and expensive to consume that amount from fish alone.</p> <p><a href="https://arthritisaustralia.com.au/managing-arthritis/living-with-arthritis/complementary-treatments-and-therapies/fish-oils/">Arthritis Australia</a> recommends, based on the evidence, about 2.7 grams of EPA and DHA a day to reduce joint inflammation. Most supplements contain about 300-400mg of omega-3 fats.</p> <p>So depending on how much EPA and DHA is in each capsule, you may need nine to 14 capsules (or five to seven capsules of fish oil concentrate) a day. This is about 130g-140g of grilled salmon or mackeral, or 350g of canned tuna in brine (almost four small tins).</p> <p><strong>Dementia</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0952327807001421?via%3Dihub">Epidemiological studies</a> have shown a positive link between an increased DHA intake (from diet) and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0952327807001421?via%3Dihub">Animal studies</a> have shown DHA can alter markers that are used to assess brain function (such as accumulation of amyloid – a protein thought to be linked to dementia, and damage to tau protein, which helps stabilise nerve cells in the brain). But this hasn’t been shown in humans yet.</p> <p>A systematic review of <a href="http://betamedarts.gr/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/31Psychiatriki03_2020.pdf#page=58">multiple studies in people</a> has shown different results for omega-3 fats from supplements.</p> <p>In the two studies that gave omega-3 fats as supplements to people with dementia, there was no improvement. But when given to people with mild cognitive impairment, a condition associated with increased risk of progressing to dementia, there was an improvement.</p> <p>Another <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25446949/">meta-anlayses</a> (a study of studies) showed a higher intake of fish was linked to lower risk of Alzheimers, but this relationship was not observed with total dietary intake of omega-3 fats. This indicates there may be other protective benefits derived from eating fish.</p> <p>In line with the evidence, the <a href="https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/omega-3-and-dementia#:%7E:text=This%20could%20suggest%20that%20taking,its%20own%20may%20not%20be.">Alzheimer’s Society</a> recommends eating fish over taking fish oil supplements.</p> <h2>So what’s the bottom line?</h2> <p>The more people stick to a healthy, plant-based diet with fish and minimal intakes of ultra-processed foods, the better their health will be.</p> <p>At the moment, the evidence suggests fish oil is beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if people find it difficult to eat large amounts of fish.</p> <p>For dementia and heart disease, it’s best to try to eat your omega-3 fats from your diet. While plant foods contain ALA, this will not be as efficient as increasing EPA and DHA levels in your body by eating seafood.</p> <p>Like any product that sits on the shop shelves, check the use-by date of the fish oil and make sure you will be able to consume it all by then. The chemical structure of EPA and DHA makes <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224421005422">it susceptible to degradation</a>, which affects its nutritional value. Store it in cold conditions, preferably in the fridge, away from light.</p> <p>Fish oil can have some annoying side effects, such as fishy burps, but generally there are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664575/">minimal serious side effects</a>. However, it’s important to discuss taking fish oil with all your treating doctors, particularly if you’re on other medication.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/212250/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/evangeline-mantzioris-153250">Evangeline Mantzioris</a>, Program Director of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Accredited Practising Dietitian, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-fish-oil-supplements-as-healthy-as-we-think-and-is-eating-fish-better-212250">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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The body mass index can’t tell us if we’re healthy. Here’s what we should use instead

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachael-jefferson-buchanan-297850">Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a></em></p> <p>We’ve known for some time the <a href="https://theconversation.com/using-bmi-to-measure-your-health-is-nonsense-heres-why-180412">body mass index (BMI) is an inaccurate measuring stick</a> for assessing someone’s weight and associated health. But it continues to be the go-to tool for medical doctors, population researchers and personal trainers.</p> <p>Why is such an imperfect tool still being used, and what should we use instead?</p> <h2>First, what is BMI?</h2> <p>BMI is an internationally recognised screening method for sorting people into one of four weight categories: underweight (BMI less than 18.5), normal weight (18.5 to 24.9), overweight (25.0 to 29.9) or obese (30 or greater).</p> <p>It’s a value <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/index.html">calculated</a> by a measure of someone’s mass (weight) divided by the square of their height.</p> <h2>Who invented BMI?</h2> <p>Belgian mathematician <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolphe-Quetelet">Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet</a> (1796-1874) devised the BMI in 1832, as a mathematical model to chart the average Western European man’s <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17890752/">physical characteristics</a>.</p> <p>It was initially called the <a href="https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-au/professional/multimedia/clinical-calculator/body-mass-index-quetelets-index">Quetelet Index</a> and was never meant to be used as a medical assessment tool. The Quetelex Index was renamed the “body mass index” in 1972.</p> <h2>What’s wrong with the BMI?</h2> <p>Using a mathematical formula to give a full picture of someone’s health is just not possible.</p> <p>The BMI <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html">does not measure excess body fat</a>, it just measures “excess” weight. It does not distinguish between excess body fat or bone mass or musculature, and does not interpret the distribution of fat (which <em>is</em> a <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it">predictor</a> of health, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, and heart disease).</p> <p>It also cannot tell the difference between social variables such as sex, age, and ethnicity. Given Quetelet’s formula used only Western European men, the findings are not appropriate for many other groups, including non-European ethnicities, post-menopausal women and pregnant women.</p> <p>The medical profession’s <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37432007/">overreliance on BMI</a> may be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2930234/">harming patients’ health</a> as it ignores much of what makes us healthy and focuses only on mass.</p> <h2>What should we use instead?</h2> <p>Rather than seeing BMI as the primary diagnostic test for determining a person’s health, it should be used in conjunction with other measures and considerations.</p> <p>Since researchers know belly fat around our vital organs carries the most <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3324">health risk</a>, <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/how-to-measure-body-fatness/">waist circumference</a>, waist-to-hip ratio or waist-to-height ratio offer more accurate measurements of health.</p> <p><strong>Waist circumference</strong>: is an effective measure of fat distribution, particularly for athletes who carry less fat and more muscle. It’s most useful as a predictor of health when <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7027970/">combined with the BMI</a>. Waist circumference should be less than 94cm for men and 80cm for women for <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/your-heart/waist-measurement">optimal health</a>, as measured from halfway between the bottom of your ribs and your hip bones.</p> <p><strong>Waist-to-hip ratio</strong>: calculates the proportion of your body fat and how much is stored on your waist, hips, and buttocks. It’s the waist measurement divided by hip measurement and according to the World Health Organisation it should be <a href="https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44583/9789241501491_eng.pdf;jsessionid=A119D165CFFF5E7B5BDBD51D9DD25684?sequence=1">0.85 or less for women, and 0.9 or less in men</a> to reduce health risks. It’s especially beneficial in predicting health outcomes in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40200-021-00882-4">older people</a>, as the ageing process alters the body proportions on which BMI is founded. This is because fat mass increases and muscle mass decreases with age.</p> <p><strong>Waist-to-height ratio</strong>: is height divided by waist circumference, and it’s <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/news/article/keep-the-size-of-your-waist-to-less-than-half-of-your-height-updated-nice-draft-guideline-recommends">recommended</a> a person’s waist circumference be kept at less than half their height. Some studies have found this measure is <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/3/e010159">most strongly correlated</a> with health predictions.</p> <p>Body composition and body fat percentage can also be calculated through <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1A9m0wO17g">skinfold measurement tests</a>, by assessing specific locations on the body (such as the abdomen, triceps or quadriceps) with skin callipers.</p> <p>Additional ways to gauge your heart health include asking your doctor to monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure. These more formal tests can be combined with a review of lifestyle, diet, physical activity, and family medical history.</p> <h2>What makes us healthy apart from weight?</h2> <p>A diet including whole grains, low fat protein sources such as fish and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legume">legumes</a>, eggs, yoghurt, cheese, milk, nuts, seeds, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702">reduces our risk</a> of heart and vessel disease.</p> <p>Limiting <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/Pages/processed-foods.aspx">processed food</a> and sugary snacks, as well as <a href="https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/healthy+eating/healthy+eating+tips/eat+less+saturated+and+trans+fats">saturated and trans fats</a> can help us with weight management and ward off diet-related illnesses.</p> <p>Being physically active most days of the week improves general health. This <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians">includes</a> two sessions of strength training per week, and 2.5 to five hours of moderate cardio activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous cardio activity.</p> <p>Weight is just one aspect of health, and there are much better measurements than BMI.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211190/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachael-jefferson-buchanan-297850"><em>Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan</em></a><em>, Lecturer in Human Movement Studies (Health and PE) and Creative Arts, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-body-mass-index-cant-tell-us-if-were-healthy-heres-what-we-should-use-instead-211190">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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11 simple daily habits of couples in healthy relationships

<p><strong>The secrets of happy relationships </strong></p> <p>Do you expect your partner to take out the bins every week without ever being thanked? Can you recall the last time you paid your partner a compliment? Find out the secrets of people in a happy and healthy relationship.</p> <p><strong>They Netflix and chill together </strong></p> <p>There are many little ways to boost your marriage – and chief among them is simple companionship. Even if you’re couch surfing, do it together. Spending time with one another is one of the highlights of a healthy relationship. If he’s reading a book, grab one and cuddle up next to him. Bring him a drink while he’s mowing the lawn. Does washing the car bore you to tears? Then simply stand nearby and chat while he suds it up.</p> <p>“In the beginning, couples go out of their way to impress each other and create new ‘first memories’ together,” says Julie Spira, an online dating expert, CEO of Cyber-Dating Expert and author of <em>The Perils of Cyber-Dating</em>. “After a while, just being together rises to the top of the relationship totem pole.” And there’s nothing wrong with a good binge-watch. One study found a direct link between media consumption while together and relationship satisfaction.</p> <p><strong>They compliment one another</strong></p> <p>Here’s how to have a healthy relationship: Tell him how hot he is. Or that he smells delicious. Give her rear a smack in those jeans you adore. Happy couples know how to give a sincere compliment in the moment. In fact, a study found that receiving a compliment has the same positive effect as receiving cash.</p> <p>“Compliments are the quickest way to put a smile on your partner’s face,” says Spira. “Find something appealing about the other and never forget what attracted you to him in the first place. If it’s her ability to fill in the Sunday crossword puzzle or his ability to take charge when you need it, let each other know.”</p> <p><strong>They say those three little words</strong></p> <p>If you’re looking to build a stronger relationship, you’re going to need to say “I love you.” Happy couples say it throughout the day – when they wake up, when they’re eating lunch, when they go to sleep. “Saying I love you to your partner, whether it’s first thing in the morning or at bedtime, is important,” says Bonnie Winston, a celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert.</p> <p>“And saying it with a shared kiss makes it extra special.” She says for variation to try other meaningful three-word phrases like “You amaze me,” “You enthrall me,” “I adore you,” or “You’re my everything.” They slip it into conversation whenever they can. Just be sure that you say these words genuinely. “Those three little words are great to say, as long as you say them with intent and not just purely out of habit,” says Alexis Meads, a professional dating coach.</p> <p><strong>They say thank you</strong></p> <p>One of the best ways to make your spouse feel loved is to show graciousness – even for something as seemingly trivial as picking up the kids from a playdate or grabbing a carton of milk at the supermarket. “Appreciation for all the good your partner contributes to your life is vital,” says Gilda Carle, PhD, relationship expert and author of <em>Ask for What You Want AND GET IT</em>. “Thank-yous go a long way to continuing wedded bliss.” In fact, a study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased an athlete’s self-esteem, which is a component of an optimal performance.</p> <p>For the sake of your relationship, it’s important to express your appreciation for what your significant other does for you. “No one wants to feel taken for granted,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist and relationship expert. “By finding things each day for which you’re grateful and expressing it to your sweetie, you foster positive connectivity with him. It will make him feel appreciated and often sparks his desire to want to please you all the more.”</p> <p><strong>They show PDA</strong></p> <p>Public displays of affection aren’t just for teenagers. Happy couples aren’t afraid to show their affection for one in another – even in public. “Intimacy and touch keeps you connected with your partner,” says Hall. “It fosters a connectedness that supports a strong and happy relationship.” Don’t worry, you don’t need to have a full-on make-out session in front of your in-laws. But you can keep your love alive by holding hands at the mall or snuggling at the kids’ sports game. A little PDA goes a long way.</p> <p>“Just touching your partner will help you feel more connected, both physically, emotionally and intellectually,” says Spira. “Plus, it’s a great form of foreplay.” Not to mention that it shows that you’re vulnerable. “When vulnerability is shown and nurtured, then trust in your relationship has the ability to grow,” says Kristie Overstreet, a licensed professional clinical counsellor, certified sex therapist and author of <em>Fix Yourself First: 25 Tips to Stop Ruining Your Relationship</em>.</p> <p><strong>They check in with one another</strong></p> <p>You don’t have to speak on the phone or text 24/7, but couples in healthy relationships call or text – to show the dog’s latest mess, a funny street sign, or for no reason at all. “Checking in with one another boosts feelings of ardour and security,” Winston says. Dr Carle adds, “People who check in with one another during their busy days are letting their partner know they’re thinking of them, despite all the other things going on.”</p> <p><strong>They go to bed at the same time</strong></p> <p>“This doesn’t mean that you both have to fall asleep. But at least wind the night down and get into the bed at the same time,” says Overstreet. “This gives you the opportunity to close the day together, which is very important.” Research shows that 75 percent of couples don’t go to bed at the same time, usually because one person is surfing the web, working or watching TV.</p> <p>Happy couples do their best not to stay up late cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry while the other catches some shuteye. Save the chores for another time. “In my experience as a relationship therapist, couples that go to bed at the same time have a more trusting relationship than those who don’t,” says Overstreet. Bedtime is an opportunity to talk about the day ahead and maybe have a quickie before you hit the hay too.</p> <p><strong>They laugh together </strong></p> <p>Soccer is at 4pm; doctor’s appointment is at 5:30pm.; remember to pick up a pizza on the way home. It’s easy to get into the habit of talking only about the logistics of life and kids. Healthy couples make it a habit to laugh together – often. It keeps the joy and spirit alive in your relationship.</p> <p>A new paper from US professor Jeffrey Hall gives data-backed validity to something you may have figured for yourself: couples who laugh together, stay together. “Find a way to make each other laugh,” says Spira. “Whether it’s watching a funny television show together or doing some playful teasing, laughter and happiness go hand-in-hand.”</p> <p><strong>They share a hobby</strong></p> <p>Tennis anyone? How about writing music? Happy couples take up a hobby that they can do together. Even if they don’t have common interests, happy couples will develop them. Maybe they try new restaurants together or volunteer at the local soup kitchen side by side once a week. “By no means do you need to do everything together,” says Meads.</p> <p>“However, couples who stay together have fun doing some of the same things.” When couples see their relationship as full of fun, they’re more likely to be happier over the long term. “Adding your mutual hobby to your schedule gives you something to look forward to and a memory to look back upon,” says Spira. And living a stimulating life outside the bedroom will lead to a stimulating life inside it.</p> <p><strong>They ask for what they need</strong></p> <p>Happy couples ask for what they need and listen to each other’s requests. “Healthy relationships encourage people to be authentic in their feelings so they can genuinely express themselves,” says Dr Carle. You’re doomed if you just hope that your partner will be a mind reader and “just know” what you’re thinking.</p> <p>Happy couples openly talk about their needs and understand their differences. “When your significant other does something you like, tell him so,” says Winston. “This will give him a feeling of validation and he’ll continue to want to please you.”</p> <p><strong>They're a team </strong></p> <p>“With a team mentality, couples lift each other up and are stronger together,” says Hall. “They make sacrifices to benefit the long-term partnership.” They make decisions together – one person doesn’t call all the shots. It can be small issues like deciding what to watch on the TV to bigger issues like figuring out where you want to raise a family. “Knowing your partner has your back and vice versa is a great source of comfort in the game of love,” says Spira.</p> <p>You function as a unit and think in terms of “we” instead of “I.” Remember that you’re on the same team, says relationship expert Andrea Syrtash, author of<em> Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband)</em>. “It doesn’t make sense to have a winner and a loser in an argument,” Syrtash says. “You’re more likely to fight more fairly when you consider this.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/relationships/11-daily-habits-of-couples-in-healthy-relationships?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Relationships

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8 tips for keeping pets healthy that won’t break the bank

<p>Australia is a nation of animal lovers. Collectively, we have more pets than people (<a href="https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-many-pets-are-there-in-australia/#ftn1">28.7 million pets</a> vs <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/population-clock-pyramid">26.7 million people</a>) and <a href="https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-many-pets-are-there-in-australia/#:~:text=Overall%252C%2520Australian%2520households%2520are%2520estimated,spent%2520per%2520animal%2520each%2520year.">spent $33 billion on them</a> in 2022. Not only is a healthy pet a happy one, but healthy = wealthy with fewer vet bills and medications, plus less time off work to look after them. But how can you keep spending under control without sacrificing your pet’s health? Read on!</p> <p><strong>1. Choose the right pet</strong></p> <p>Save yourself considerable drama – and money – by getting the right pet for your family from the outset.</p> <p>For instance:</p> <ul> <li>Small dogs eat less, making them more suitable for tighter budgets.</li> <li>Energetic breeds won’t thrive if you can’t exercise them sufficiently. </li> <li>Low-allergy breeds (like Poodles and Burmese cats) can save allergy suffers on antihistamines and tissues.</li> </ul> <p><strong>2. Secure your yard</strong></p> <p>Prevention is always better than cure, so a secure yard/enclosure is a worthwhile investment.</p> <p>The cost of a new fence (especially if split with neighbours) often dwarfs the vet bills if your beloved is hit by a car. </p> <p>A secure pet is less likely to fight with other animals or eat things they shouldn’t. </p> <p>Plus, many areas impose fines for unrestrained pets.</p> <p><strong>3. Be organised</strong></p> <p>An old phrase says: “For every minute spent organising, an hour is earned.” I’d suggest that hour earned also brings dollars saved.</p> <p>For pets, organisation includes:</p> <ul> <li>Staying up-to-date with treatments and veterinary visits. Overdue parasite treatments, vaccinations, and check-ups often cause unnecessary and expensive complications.</li> <li>A tidy home, which saves replacing destroyed shoes etc and fees on overdue bills where the notice was chewed.</li> <li>Keeping household dangers – e.g., toxic plants, chemicals, foods (chocolate!) – out of your pets’ reach to avoid accidental poisoning.</li> </ul> <p><strong>4. Weigh up insurance</strong></p> <p>Many people say they’ll put money aside instead of buying pet insurance. But they don’t – the money winds up elsewhere.</p> <p>When considering insurance, weigh up each policy’s conditions, your pet’s health, and your ability to pay unexpected bills.</p> <p>Without insurance, small amounts may not be problematic. But unexpected surgeries or specialist tests and treatments could see you thousands of dollars out of pocket. </p> <p>The more claims you’re likely to make, the more valuable insurance may be.</p> <p>If you do get insurance, choose a reputable provider with positive reviews for paying claims promptly.</p> <p><strong>5. Master DIY </strong></p> <p>Put your hands to work and make your pet’s essentials at a fraction of buying new. </p> <p>Consider making your own:</p> <ul> <li>Toys – such as uncooked rice or pasta in a PET bottle. (Beware things like sticks, which can cause injuries and splinters.)</li> <li>Meals – cook in bulk and freeze portions for added savings and convenience. Homemade meals may be healthier too, since you know exactly what they’re eating.</li> <li>Bedding and towels – from your old clothing, linen etc.</li> </ul> <p>Always use safe materials and ingredients that won’t be a choking hazard. Monitor items for wear and tear.</p> <p><strong>6. Involve your kids</strong></p> <p>Getting kids/grandkids involved with animal care is good for everyone – including your wallet.</p> <p>Kids love animals. Pets love children’s playtime energy. And you’ll save paying someone else to do it when you’re short for time. </p> <p>Ask them to walk the dog, clean the litter tray, collect the eggs, top up food and water. </p> <p>You can make it form part of their pocket money – teaching them the value of earning – all while helping them develop important life skills like empathy and responsibility.</p> <p><strong>7. Consider legalities</strong></p> <p>Custody and inheritance matters affect furbabies too, so it’s important to have a plan:</p> <ul> <li>Wills – who will have guardianship if you die suddenly? Is that person willing and able? Have you left money to pay for their ongoing care?</li> <li>Separation/divorce – pets sadly are sometimes used as weapons in a separation. It could be emotional blackmail over custody, or one partner is given custody but cannot afford to keep them on a single income. The stress adversely affects everyone – including your pet. </li> </ul> <p><strong>8. Spend time with them</strong></p> <p>Companionship is important for your pet’s health – and yours. And it’s free!</p> <p>Research suggests <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/having-a-dog-can-help-your-heart--literally">dog ownership improves heart health for humans</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologicalhealthcare.com.au/blog/mental-health-benefits-pets/">patting pets lowers blood pressure and stress hormones</a>. Plus, you’ll both benefit from being more active and making new friends (such as at the dog park).</p> <p>So, what are you waiting for? Hitch up the lead or pick up a toy and give your furbaby some love!</p> <p><strong><em>Helen Baker is a licensed Australian financial adviser and author of the new book, On Your Own Two Feet: The Essential Guide to Financial Independence for all Women (Ventura Press, $32.99). Helen is among the 1% of financial planners who hold a master’s degree in the field. Proceeds from book sales are donated to charities supporting disadvantaged women and children. Find out more at <a href="http://www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au">www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au</a></em></strong></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Sickness or health: Healthy life split along gender, education lines

<p>Australians are living and working longer than ever, but the number of healthy years they’re enjoying with this added longevity isn’t shared equally between the sexes, or by those who finished school before Year 12.</p> <div class="copy"> <p>A paper recently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(23)00129-9" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" data-type="URL" data-id="https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(23)00129-9">published</a> in <em>The Lancet</em> <em>Public Health</em> from the Ageing Futures Institute at the University of New South Wales shows an increase in longevity in Australia. Other data in the publication reveal detail about “healthy years”.</p> <p>Men, and those with higher levels of education, worked about 2 years longer in good health. For women and those with lower education, the years of healthy life expectancy have gone backwards.</p> <p>The report, led by statistician Dr Kim Kiely who is now based at The University of Wollongong, compared representative cohorts of people aged 50-100 who participated in the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (HILDA). Those cohorts were measured over decade long periods – the first from 2001-2010 and the second from 2011-2020.</p> <p>Men added an extra 11 months of healthy life between the cohorts, while women lost a month. Similarly those of any gender who had completed year 12 added about 10 months to their healthy life expectancy, while the same amount of time was lost by those who hadn’t.</p> <p>“Everyone’s increasing their working life expectancy, so the years they’re expected to be working,” Kiely says. “What is different is how long they’re expected to be living in good health: women and people with low education didn’t have an improvement in healthy life expectancy.</p> <p>“Everyone’s also living longer than ever before, but for women, those extra years seem to be years of poor health.  People with lower education – they end up going backwards, they’re losing years of healthy life.”</p> <p>Australia’s working life trends are similar to those in Europe and the UK, though this research suggests the Australian labour force works longer in poor health than their antipodean counterparts.</p> <p>Kiely says the findings are important considerations for policymakers pondering questions of retirement and pension ages: the demands of some labour may not be evenly spread when it comes to considering health implications.</p> <p>“We have a pension age that has been rising steadily over the past couple of decades – it’s not rising anymore – but there is a strong expectation for people to be working longer,” Kiely says. “And if that is the case, then we need opportunities for work for mature age, older adults, and those work opportunities have to be suitable for their capacity to work.</p> <p>“We do need to address things like age and gender discrimination in the workforce. And we need to think about how we support people who are unable to work before they reach the pension age.”</p> <p>Kiely is extending his research into how the nature of work in Australia influences these high-level findings. He hopes this can explain why gender and education influence healthy working years.</p> <p>Further drilling down into other subgroups is important, say Dr Marty Lynch and Dr Ross Wilkie from Keele University, UK. They investigated healthy working life expectancy as part of Britain’s Independent State Pension Age Review last year. They too found Briton were working longer, but not at a rate that keeps pace with the national pension age.</p> <p>In a <em>Lancet</em> editorial accompanying the Australian research, they point out that the HILDA data evaluation only shows changes in average ages on gender and education lines.</p> <p>“The extent of HWLE [Healthy Working Life Expectancy] inequalities between subpopulations with multiple specific characteristics are likely to be even wider and will also indicate targets and interventions to increase the number of years that people can be healthy and in work,” they say.</p> <p>The impact of socioeconomic status on life expectancy and disease burden was recently highlighted in a large-scale review of Australia’s 30-year health data.</p> <p><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/society/australias-life-expectancy-is-up-but-healthy-years-are-a-different-story/">It found</a> while Australians have added 6 years to their life expectancy since 1990, those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds had a higher risk of death-causing disease.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/society/sickness-or-health-healthy-life-split-along-gender-education-lines/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="null">Cosmos</a>. </em></p> </div>

Retirement Life

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Australia’s life expectancy is up, but healthy years are a different story

<p>Australians have added six years to their life expectancy since 1990 – a world-leading increase – but some measurements paint a less rosy picture of the nation’s health.</p> <p>The data is the subject of a major feature in the respected British Medical journal <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468266723001238" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">The Lancet.</a></p> <p>Overall, the data shows <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/society/aussies-are-living-longer-but-just-how-much/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">life expectancy in Australia improved</a> from 77 years in 1990 to 83 in 2019. </p> <p>Although heart disease and stroke remain the nation’s biggest killers, both have seen major reductions in deaths since 1990 – down 68% and 58% respectively.</p> <p>In its analysis of data published in the <a href="https://www.healthdata.org/research-analysis/gbd" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">2019 Global Burden of Disease Study</a>, the research also found:</p> <ul> <li>90% of people die from non-communicable diseases.</li> <li>Lung cancers remain the third biggest killers, though substantial reductions have been recorded since 1990.</li> <li>Alzheimer’s and other dementias are now the fourth most frequent causes of death.</li> <li>Chronic kidney disease, pancreatic cancer, falls, leukaemia and liver cancer now kill more people than they did 30 years ago.</li> </ul> <p>The biggest improvement has been the big drop in the number of road fatalities, which in 1990 was the seventh leading cause of death in Australia. There had been a 63% reduction in the number of deaths per 100,000 people (15.5 to 5.7) by 2019; now ranking it as the 17th most frequent cause of death.</p> <p>The data also explored the non-fatal disease burden in the population.</p> <p>These, says the study’s lead author Dr Shariful Islam from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, add to the burden on Australia’s economy both in financial and productivity terms.</p> <p>“These might not cause a lot of death, but they’re definitely causing a lot of disability-adjusted life years,” Islam says.</p> <p>The nation ranks better than similar countries for the non-fatal disease burden from diabetes and non-fatal stroke. Conversely, its relative ranking has worsened for drug use, anxiety and depressive disorders.</p> <p>Risk factors that diminish the years of healthy life a person might experience like these have seen big jumps over the last 30 years.</p> <p>“It also causes a lot of economic issues, because when a person has musculoskeletal or low back pain, or especially anxiety or depression, they will often be absent from work, they will be less productive – this costs money.”</p> <h2>Two-speed health improvements</h2> <p>The data also shows the burden of disease is inequitably spread across the nation.</p> <p>People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were found to have a higher risk of death-causing disease, and account for larger proportions of smokers and those with obesity. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are disproportionately represented in these groups.</p> <p>High blood pressure remains the leading risk factor for mortality, though it accounts for nearly half as many deaths in 2019 (as a proportion of the total) than it did 30 years prior.</p> <p>And while body mass index (BMI) has been shelved in recent years as an individual health indicator in favour of metrics like waist measurements, at a population level, it remains a top-three mortality risk factor.</p> <p>That, says Islam, is because those with high BMI likely carry other major risk factors.</p> <p>“With High BMI you’ll often [also] see high blood pressure, high blood glucose, often sedentary lifestyles,” he says.</p> <p>Islam and his colleagues highlight universal healthcare programs like Medicare, regulatory and broader healthcare systems as the strengths driving the overall positive outcomes in life expectancy.</p> <p>But they argue the nation’s performance in delivering preventative and supportive treatment for non-fatal conditions, and promoting healthy lifestyles to its ageing population will be important to continue a sustained trajectory.</p> <p>This view is supported by a comment by University of Sydney-affiliated public health experts Michelle Dickson, Cheryl Jones, Terry Slevin, and Jaime Miranda. While they say the study highlights Australia as a “public health exemplar”, they highlight the deficiencies bridging the health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds as an important public responsibility.</p> <p>“Australia has a world-class health care and public health system that has been conducive to major population gains, at least in life expectancy,” they write. “Yet, work remains to be done to marry such gains with strategies and policies to prevent or reduce disease burden during the entire lifecourse, and to reduce inequalities. This will be essential to sustain this world-class health system and to promote healthier societies.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/society/australias-life-expectancy-is-up-but-healthy-years-are-a-different-story/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> originally appeared on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by Matthew Ward Agius. </em></p>

Caring

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Welcome to the vibrant world of ageing with LiveUp!

<p>Embrace the possibilities of ageing with <a href="https://liveup.org.au/?utm_medium=native&amp;utm_source=over60&amp;utm_campaign=liveup" target="_blank" rel="noopener">LiveUp</a>, a dynamic initiative powered by the not-for-profit organisation <a href="https://liveup.org.au/?utm_medium=native&amp;utm_source=over60&amp;utm_campaign=liveup" target="_blank" rel="noopener">iLA</a> and generously funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. </p> <p>Their mission is simple: to empower people over 65 to embrace healthy ageing and maintain their independence with joy and enthusiasm!</p> <p>Are you curious about how you can age gracefully and independently? Look no further. LiveUp has curated an exciting range of exercise classes, product suggestions and local social groups tailored to your preferences and needs. And the best part? You can embark on this delightful journey for free!</p> <p>In order to reset your beliefs about ageing, LiveUp challenges age-related stereotypes and shows you that the best is yet to come. With expert advice and a plethora of resources, LiveUp believes that age is just a number and that you can control how you age.</p> <p>No matter where you are on your ageing journey, LiveUp is here to support you. Their online tools, developed in collaboration with industry and healthcare experts, provide free, impartial and relevant information to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.</p> <p>Stay active and invigorate your mind and body with exercise classes designed to cater to your preferences. Whether it's walking, yoga, gardening or something else entirely, there's an activity that will get you moving and feeling great!</p> <p>When it comes to nurturing social connections, LiveUp firmly believes that life is more beautiful when shared with others. Engage in social activities and discover the joy of community connections. Studies show that social and mental activity are essential for health and longevity, and with LiveUp, you'll find a supportive network to be a part of.</p> <p>When daily activities become challenging, don't worry – LiveUp has got your back! Explore a wide range of assistive products from well-known retailers like Kmart and Bunnings, focusing on gadgets designed to make your everyday tasks easier, so you can continue doing the things you love.</p> <p>Hilary O'Connell, LiveUp's Principal Adviser for Healthy Ageing, is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration when it comes to your ageing journey. With more than 40 years of experience as an occupational therapist, she reminds us that age is influenced only up to 25% by genetics, while a whopping 75% is within our control through lifestyle choices!</p> <p>“It’s common knowledge that exercise is good for you,” she says. “But even modest amounts of low-intensity exercise – like walking, yoga and gardening –activate your brain, build bone mass, maintain muscle and boost your mood.” </p> <p>“Studies of people over the age of 100 show that social and mental activity is also crucial for health and longevity. Engaging in intellectual stimulation, like learning new things, having healthy relationships and participating in a supportive community are all just as important as diet and exercise.”</p> <p>So, if you’re ready to embark on your exciting, healthy ageing journey, take the free and confidential <a href="https://liveup.org.au/?utm_medium=native&amp;utm_source=over60&amp;utm_campaign=liveup" target="_blank" rel="noopener">LiveUp</a> quiz and discover a personalised roadmap to vitality. Uncover suggested products, services and support in your local area that align with your unique interests and needs.</p> <p>Visit <a href="https://liveup.org.au/?utm_medium=native&amp;utm_source=over60&amp;utm_campaign=liveup" target="_blank" rel="noopener">liveup.org.au</a> today and open up a world of possibilities for joyful, independent and vibrant ageing. Remember, it's never too late to take control of how you age – LiveUp is here to guide you every step of the way!</p> <p><em>Image: LiveUp</em></p> <p><em>This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with LiveUp.</em></p> <p> </p>

Retirement Life

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Daily aspirin doesn’t prevent strokes in older, healthy people after all

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nial-wheate-96839">Nial Wheate</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tina-hinton-329706">Tina Hinton</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The daily use of <a href="https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/drugs-in-secondary-stroke-prevention">low dose aspirin</a> has been a mainstay of preventing strokes for decades. While there has always been a risk of bleeding associated with aspirin use, the benefits were thought to outweigh the risk.</p> <p>Now <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.25803">new research</a> led by Monash University has shown daily, low-dose aspirin doesn’t prevent strokes in relatively healthy people aged over 70. And it increases their risk of bleeding on the brain after falls or other injuries.</p> <p>But if you’re taking aspirin, it doesn’t mean you should abruptly stop. It may still have a role to play in treating people at high risk of stroke. Or, after talking to your doctor, there might be better options available.</p> <h2>Why has aspirin been used to prevent strokes?</h2> <p>Aspirin is an anti-platelet medicine, which is commonly known as a blood-thinner. <a href="https://www.lifeblood.com.au/blood/learn-about-blood/platelets">Platelets</a> are the component of blood primarily responsible for its clotting action. They are what stop you from continuously bleeding any time you have a cut or scrape on your skin.</p> <p>A <a href="https://strokefoundation.org.au/about-stroke/learn/what-is-a-stroke">stroke</a> is when oxygen can’t get into the brain because of a burst or blocked blood vessel. A blockage can occur when platelets in the bloodstream form a clot and it gets stuck in the artery.</p> <p>Because aspirin acts on platelets, it can help prevent the clots that can lead to a stroke.</p> <p>But because aspirin acts on platelets, it can also increase the risk of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/daily-aspirin-therapy/art-20046797#:%7E:text=While%20daily%20aspirin%20can%20help,of%20developing%20a%20stomach%20ulcer.">unwanted bleeding</a>, usually in the stomach. It can also increase your risk of bleeding more when you have another injury, like hitting your head.</p> <p>Aspirin isn’t just used for the prevention of strokes. It is also the first aid treatment for someone undergoing a <a href="https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/acute-myocardial-infarction-early-treatment">heart attack</a>.</p> <h2>Findings of the Monash trial</h2> <p>New <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.25803">research from Australia and the United States</a> reports results from the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial.</p> <p>The researchers examined the protective use of daily low-dose aspirin (100 mg) in nearly 2,000 people who were aged 70 years and older and had no history of heart disease or stroke and whose blood pressure and cholesterol were well managed.</p> <p>When compared with placebo, aspirin didn’t reduce or increase the risk of stroke. Of the participants who took the aspirin, 195 or 4.6% had a stroke. Of those who took the placebo, 203 people or 4.7% had a stroke.</p> <p>But it did statistically increase the rate of non-stroke bleeding in the participants’ brains, for example when they injured their head. Those on aspirin showed a rate of bleeding in the brain of 1.1% (108 participants) compared with 0.8% (79 people) for those on placebo. This is a relatively, low but serious, risk.</p> <p>These findings are not entirely new. <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1800722?query=featured_home">Research</a> published five years ago based on the same ASPREE trial showed a similar result: a higher rate of bleeding among those taking low-dose aspirin compared with placebo.</p> <p>However as the study authors note, aspirin continues to be widely used for the prevention of stroke.</p> <h2>What are the study’s limitations?</h2> <p>The researchers examined aspirin in mostly people of white European heritage.</p> <p>So we don’t know whether the results are translatable to people with different ethnic backgrounds. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2594139/">Genetics and ethnicity</a> can significantly impact the efficacy and safety of some drugs.</p> <p>The clinical trial only included people who were not significantly at risk of a stroke, and had no history of heart disease.</p> <p>Younger age groups were not studied either, so we cannot make any conclusions about their use of low dose aspirin to prevent stroke.</p> <p>It’s also possible the potential benefits and risks are different for those who have underlying heart problems or who have previously had a stroke and are therefore at higher risk of another stroke.</p> <h2>I’m taking aspirin, what should I do?</h2> <p>If you’re taking daily low-dose aspirin and are concerned by the results of the study, it’s important you don’t just stop taking your medicine. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist.</p> <p>For people who are at high risk of having a stroke, or have previously had one, low-dose aspirin may remain their treatment of choice despite the slight bleeding risk.</p> <p>If you’re at high risk of bleeding, for example because of falls and other accidents due to advanced age, frailty, or another underlying condition, your doctor may be able to reduce the amount of aspirin you take by adding in <a href="https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/dipyridamole">dipyridamole</a> or prescribing a different medicine completely, such as <a href="https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/clopidogrel">clopidogrel</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210388/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nial-wheate-96839">Nial Wheate</a>, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tina-hinton-329706">Tina Hinton</a>, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/daily-aspirin-doesnt-prevent-strokes-in-older-healthy-people-after-all-210388">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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This is the healthiest time to eat dinner

<p><strong>When should we eat dinner?</strong></p> <p>Recent research highlights that the timing of our meals, particularly the last meal of the day, can significantly affect our health. The story is not merely about what we consume, but also about when we do so.</p> <p>The debate about dinner timing finds substantial scientific backing with a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) study published in Cell Metabolism in October 2022, suggesting that early dinners could have more health benefits than previously believed.</p> <p><strong>The science of early dinner</strong></p> <p>Senior author of the study, Dr Frank A. J. L. Scheer, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Programme in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, explained the study’s objective in a press release: “We wanted to test the mechanisms that may explain why late eating increases obesity risk.”</p> <p>The study defined an early dinner as a meal consumed three to four hours before bedtime, aligning with our body’s circadian rhythm. This time management allows the body to efficiently digest food, process nutrients, and smoothly transition into a fasting mode during sleep, facilitating essential restorative processes (and arguably better sleep, according to some experts).</p> <p><strong>The benefits of an early-bird dinner</strong></p> <p>The BWH study discovered stark differences in metabolic profiles of early and late diners. Early diners demonstrated lower blood glucose levels, improved fat-burning capacity, better sleep quality, and higher energy levels. Meanwhile, late dinners led to increased hunger, slower calorie burning, and elevated fat storage, posing risks for conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p> <p>Further reinforcing these findings, a study published in Obesity Reviews examined the effects of energy intake distribution on weight loss. This systematic review evaluated nine randomised controlled trials and concluded that focusing on earlier energy intake resulted in significantly greater short-term weight loss. Alongside weight loss, improvements were observed in insulin resistance, fasting glucose and LDL cholesterol levels.</p> <p><strong>Implications and recommendations </strong></p> <p>These findings hold considerable implications for those dealing with health conditions like diabetes, thyroid issues, polycystic ovarian disease, and cardiovascular disorders. The studies spotlight the importance of early and light dinners, thus prompting a re-evaluation of our dinner schedules and meal planning.</p> <p>As first author Dr Nina Vujovic put it: “Does the time that we eat matter when everything else is kept consistent? And we found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference for our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat.”</p> <p><strong>Tailoring dinner time to fit your schedule </strong></p> <p>The exact timing of dinner isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario, as people’s routines vary widely. Nutritionist Maya Feller emphasises that our schedules – ranging from traditional nine-to-five to round-the-clock – are pivotal when considering “ideal” meal times. Therefore, finding a dinner time that seamlessly fits into your schedule is essential, rather than adhering to a strict, potentially unfeasible timetable.</p> <p>Dr Wendy Bazilian offers insightful tips for those whose routines may not accommodate an early dinner. She recommends consuming meals or snacks every three to five hours. This regular eating pattern can help stabilise blood sugar levels, preventing the onset of hunger pangs and energy lulls.</p> <p>Furthermore, it’s advantageous to leave a gap of two to three hours between your last meal and bedtime. This gap ensures your body has sufficient time for most of the digestion process – letting you get adequate rest and repair during sleep.</p> <p><strong>Health benefits</strong></p> <p>The takeaway from these studies is clear: an earlier dinnertime might confer multiple health benefits, from metabolic health enhancement to improved sleep quality. It’s time to reconsider not just the contents of your plate, but also the clock.</p> <p>As research grows, it’s becoming apparent that understanding the interplay between our eating habits, their timing, and the body’s internal clock should be an integral part of our health strategies. After all, leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t solely about counting calories but also understanding when and how to fuel our bodies.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/this-is-the-healthiest-time-to-eat-dinner" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Food & Wine

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