Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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Soft drinks: Public enemy No.1 in obesity fight?

By Caleb Hellerman, CNN
April 27, 2012 

(CNN) — Pushing her meal cart into the hospital room, a research assistant hands out tall glasses of reddish-pink liquid, along with a gentle warning: “Remember, you guys have to finish all your Kool-Aid.”

One by one, young volunteers chug down their drinks, each carefully calibrated to contain a mix of water, flavoring and a precisely calibrated solution of high fructose corn syrup: 55% fructose, 45% glucose.

The participants are part of an ongoing study run by Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis. Volunteers agree to spend several weeks as lab rats: their food carefully measured, their bodies subjected to a steady dose of scans and blood tests. At first, each volunteer receives meals with no added sugars. But then, the sweetened drinks start showing up.

For the final two weeks of the study, volunteers drank three of the sweet concoctions daily — about 500 calories of added sugar, or 25% of all calories for the adult women in the study. Within just two weeks, their blood chemistry was out of whack. In one striking change, the volunteers had elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.

While force-feeding junk food may sound extreme, this controlled diet is not so far from the real world. A 20-ounce regular soda contains 227 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That single drink is more than 10% of the total calories an adult woman needs to maintain a healthy weight, according to USDA diet guidelines. Meanwhile, about 1 in 4 Americans gets at least 200 calories a day from sugary drinks. These numbers, along with work like Stanhope’s, gives ammunition to doctors and public health officials who say soda should be treated as public health enemy No. 1.

“Soft drinks and sugar-containing beverages are the low hanging fruit in public health today,” says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Many children are consuming 300 calories per day or more, just in sugar-containing beverages. Compare the challenge of giving up three glasses of sugary beverages, versus getting them to do two hours of moderate physical activity.”

“If you switch from Coke to water, that’s easy,” says Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, a professor at the University of North Carolina and a recent president of the American Diabetes Association. “You don’t have to make big complicated changes in how you cook, and shop, and all that. And the number of calories you can save, can be substantial.”

Some in the soft drink business say their product has been unfairly singled out. “Consumption of added sugars is going down,” says Karen Hanretty, Vice-President of Public Affairs for the American Beverage Association. “Soda consumption has declined, even as obesity has increased. To say that sugar is solely responsible for obesity, doesn’t make sense.”

Coca-Cola has adapted to meet consumer demand, says Rhona Applebaum, the company’s Vice President and Chief Scientific Regulatory Officer. More than ever, she says, those consumers choose low-sugar products. Today, Diet Coke and Coke Zero make up 41% of Coke’s North American soda sales, up from 32% a decade ago. “Our products are part of a balanced, sensible diet, and they can be enjoyed as a valuable part of any meal, including snacks,” says Applebaum.

Buried in the flood of horror stories about America’s obesity crisis, are a few hopeful signs. Not only is sugar consumption going down, but obesity rates among girls and women have actually stayed flat since 1999, according to Cynthia Ogden, a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For boys and men, those levels have increased only modestly since around 2006, Ogden says.

Coincidentally or not, the leveling off of obesity coincides with a drop in the amount of soda that Americans consume. Consumption of soda — both regular and diet — has fallen by 17.3% since 1998, according to Beverage Digest.

Of course soda isn’t the only concern. An 8-ounce glass of fruit punch or apple juice has nearly 130 calories. The same glass of chocolate milk has more than 200 — a solid 20 percent of all recommended daily calories. Overall, added sugars — which includes both natural sugar, and high fructose corn syrup — make up about a sixth of all calories taken in, according to USDA figures. Somewhat more than a third of those sugars come from soda and other drinks.

That’s why most people who take a hard look at American diets say that cutting out sweetened drinks, is the first step for anyone struggling with weight or diabetes.

“If we create the assumption that doing one thing will reduce the epidemic [of obesity], we’re making a mistake,” says Dr. William Dietz, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “But within the dietary side, we have to focus on where the biggest action is.”

The action, says Dietz and others, lies with sugar and its close cousin, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Most sweet drinks, including nearly all soda in the United States, use HFCS.

Not everyone agrees they’re equivalent. While most studies show that table sugar and HFCS play an equal role in weight gain, some research suggests that HFCS — which usually contains 10% more fructose than sucrose — is more likely to change the body’s metabolism, in ways that can increase risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

But most scientists say the differences are subtle. That includes even Stanhope, whose work has focused on comparing the effects of fructose and other sugars. In terms of advising patients or making public health policy, she says, there isn’t much difference. “I think we really, at this point, need to treat them all alike.”

“Are sweetened drinks the only reason we have epidemics of obesity and diabetes? No, they’re not,” says Mayer-Davis, the past ADA president. “But sometimes the easy answer, is the answer.”

source: CNN

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A is for Antioxidants

Load up on these A-list foods

by Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD

Labels on everything from chocolate bars to bottled teas are touting their antioxidant awesomeness. And for good reason: a spate of research has found that antioxidants can help reduce the risk for a laundry list of ailments including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Environmental pollution, sunlight, deep-fried foods, vigorous exercise, and everyday metabolism are among the many instigators of free-radical production in the human body. Once they get going, nefarious free radicals can damage any cells that get in their way as they bounce around the body. Left unchecked, this can spiral into any number of chronic diseases and accelerate aging.
Thankfully, a police force roaming your insides called antioxidants help mop up free radicals before they can do serious harm. Antioxidants also tend to choose their own battlefields, so while one may work in the eyes, another could target your heart to help keep it beating strong.
A number of foods from fruits to whole grains provide a dietary source of these disease-fighting good guys, but if you really want to load up on them, try incorporating these gems into your diet more often. What’s more, you can make them work even harder for you with a few tweaks to how you choose, store, or cook them.
Who knew that jaunty kale contains more beta carotene than sweet potatoes and carrots? Increased consumption of the antioxidant beta carotene in the diet may reduce heart disease risk by about 20 percent, according to a Journal of Nutrition study. Nutritional overachiever kale is also brimming with lutein, a separate carotenoid antioxidant that protects eye health.
Antioxidant upgrade
Go ahead and fatten up your salads. Studies suggest that adding a healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil, or nuts to salads improves the body’s absorption of carotenoids in vegetables such as kale. Why the boost? Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants, so they need, go figure, some fat for proper uptake.
Use it
Enjoy robust kale raw in salads or incorporate into broth soups, casseroles, and stir-fries. Also, gently sauté the ruffled leaves with some garlic and sesame oil.
Extra-virgin olive oil
The peppery bite that a good extra-virgin olive oil provides is courtesy of oleocanthal, an antioxidant compound that has strong anti-inflammatory tendencies. It is now widely accepted that chronic inflammation in the body contributes to a host of maladies including heart disease and diabetes. Generous consumption of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet is believed to be one reason for its association with low heart disease rates.
Antioxidant upgrade
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry discovered that exposing olive oil to heat reduces the activity of oleocanthal. So keep your extra-virgin olive oil, which contains much more oleocanthal than refined olive oils, out of the frying pan.
Use it
To quell inflammation, incorporate extra-virgin olive oil into salad dressings, pesto, and dips. Or drizzle over soups, grilled fish, and hearty multigrain bread.
Though often cast aside for more lauded nuts such as almonds and walnuts, the humble peanut is well endowed with phenolic compounds and vitamin E, giving it a serious one-two antioxidant punch. A study from Swedish researchers found that high levels of the antioxidant vitamin E in the blood is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Antioxidant upgrade 
Here’s some surprising news: a study by scientists at the US Department of Agriculture found that roasting peanuts magnifies their antioxidant power, giving you more bang for your buck. Plus, it makes them that much more toothsome.
Use them
In the oven or in a skillet on the stovetop, toast peanuts until darkened and fragrant. Sprinkle on salads, ice cream, soups, and Asian-inspired stir-fries.
Cocoa powder

A star among its chocolate brethren, according to scientists at the US Department of Agriculture, virtuous cocoa powder has more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables, including vaunted blueberries, spinach, and broccoli.

Its antioxidant plethora is even four times greater than that of dark chocolate bars. The flavonoid antioxidants in cocoa powder, including procyanidins and epicatechins increase nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes blood vessels to lower blood pressure, thereby slashing heart disease and stroke risk.
Antioxidant upgrade
When possible, choose “natural” or “raw” cocoa powder over “Dutch-processed,” which is treated with alkali to temper the bitter flavour but unfortunately lays waste to most of the flavonoids in the process.
Use it 
Cocoa powder can give smoothies, oatmeal, and vinaigrettes lashings of decadence. Or combine with spices and herbs and use as a rub for meats or tofu.
Green tea
Green tea is at the top of the functional beverage heap thanks to a wallop of a supercharged antioxidant called EGCG, purported to do everything from fighting certain cancers to boosting eye and oral health, and even aiding weight loss.
Antioxidant upgrade
With so much antioxidant potency, it might be tempting to get green tea past your lips as quickly as possible, but here is a case where patience is a virtue. Scientists in New Zealand determined that letting green tea steep for more than three minutes can significantly increase the antioxidant power of the liquid in your mug.
Use it
Try substituting steeped green tea for broth when making soups or use it to poach fish in.
The crux of watermelon’s nutritional prowess is its abundance of the phytochemical lycopene, which lends the oblong fruit its blush. Harvard scientists discovered that subjects with the highest levels of lycopene coursing through their blood were only half as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with low amounts. One cup also serves up 21 percent of the daily requirement for the antioxidant vitamin C—for just 46 calories.
Antioxidant upgrade
Interestingly, a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found whole watermelon kept at room temperature can increase its lycopene levels by up to 40 percent, whereas fruit stored in the fridge shows little change. Once cut, though, watermelon should be refrigerated to preserve flavour and juicy goodness.
Use it
Surprisingly versatile, watermelon can vivify spinach or watercress salads, vinaigrettes, salsas, gazpachos, bruschetta, chutneys, and compotes.
Scan any list of so-called superfoods and you’ll surely find blueberries right there at the top. They are low in calories, packed with hunger-quelling fibre, and teeming with anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins are antioxidants linked to a number of health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity and cholesterol numbers plus reducing cognitive decline by protecting the brain from oxidative damage.
Antioxidant upgrade
Not only do they have a more intense, tangy flavour, but wild blueberries have a higher concentration of antioxidants than their plumper cultivated counterparts, according to a Cornell University study. Thankfully, frozen wild blueberries are just as nutritious as harder-to-come-by fresh versions.
Use them
As delicious as they are by the handful, blueberries are just as wonderful in salads, cereal, yogourt, sauces, salsas, and smoothies.
One reason why an apple a day can keep the doctor at bay is an ample dose of the antioxidant quercetin. This antioxidant appears to be an ally in the battle against cancer by helping kill off cancerous cells and protecting cell DNA from oxidative damage.
Antioxidant upgrade
Leave the peeler in the drawer and just give apples a good wash. It turns out almost all of the quercetin found in an apple is contained within its skin. What’s more, researchers in Japan found that pectin, a fibre present in apple skin, can boost the absorption of quercetin in the body.
Use them
For a healthy snack, slice up an apple and dip into almond or peanut butter. Unpeeled apple slices can also gussy up salads, crisps, and gratins.

About the Author

Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD, is an Ontario-based dietician, food writer, and recipe developer. muffintinmania.com

source: Alive.com

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5 nutrition tips to follow for the rest of your life

By Dr. Joey Shulman

Picking up good eating habits is easier than you think. 

When it comes to health and nutrition, there are certain practices to follow that can be game changers. If these habits are implemented on a daily basis, the impact can be so great that you’ll feel an instant boost in your energy levels, see a drop in your weight and feel an overall sense of wellness. More importantly, you’ll be implementing disease-prevention practices that will be powerful tools in protecting your health.

While these tips are simple and easy to follow, the key is to make them a part of your daily regimen.

1. Drink more often
Water, that is! One of the quickest ways to feel a boost in your energy levels and to notice a difference in your skin health is to increase your water intake to two to two-and-a-half litres of water per day. A boost in hydration will also help ease joint pain and aid in digestion. If you want to take your health up another notch, try squeezing fresh lemon wedges into your water daily, whether it’s hot or cold. 

2. Take vitamin supplements wisely
While I am an advocate of getting the majority of your nutrition from food, I am also aware this is not always easy to do, due to a hectic pace of life, stress or travel. When it comes to supplements, it’s best to think about vitamins and minerals as part of a powerful nutritional safety net that can add enormous benefits to your health. While supplements are not intended to replace food, they can definitely play an important role in overall health, anti-aging and prevention. The four supplements I recommend you take daily are: 

• A high-quality multivitamin (to be taken with food)
• A distilled fish oil supplement (2 grams per day)
• Vitamin D (2,000 IU daily – especially during the winter months)
• Probiotics (the “good bacteria” that can aid in digestive health)

Be sure to talk to your doctor to see if a calcium supplement is advised, as it is dependent on age.

3. Eat more vegetables
While I’m sure you’ve been told to eat your greens, I cannot emphasize it enough. Green foods such as broccoli, rapini, spinach and kale contain powerful antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory, alkaline and chock-full of minerals and vitamins. 

Whether you have a leafy green salad, add greens to your eggs or stir-fry, or blend spinach into your morning smoothie, it is important to make every effort to eat your greens.

4. Eat light in the evening
There is an old saying that states: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Unfortunately, in North America, most of us start of our day fairly well by eating a balanced breakfast, but don’t finish it off quite so well at dinnertime. The key to weight loss and maintaining overall health is to eat lightly in the evening. Instead of gobbling down a large plate of pasta, stick to lean proteins, lots of vegetables and lighter meals come evening time.

5. Listen to your body
We are not all created equal when it comes to health and nutrition. Some people are sensitive to gluten, while others may react to dairy or wheat. At its core level, the food on your plate is meant to energize your body and make you look and feel your very best. If you feel tired, bloated or unwell after eating, pay attention to the food you’ve just consumed – and avoid it in the future. Stick to eating energizing foods that are good for your body, such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, essential fats and a modest amount of whole grains.

Dr. Joey Shulman is the founder of the Shulman Weight Loss Clinic. Her latest book, The Metabolism-Boosting Diet (Collins Canada, 2012), is in stores now. For more information, visit drjoey.com.

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Stealth Health: Get Healthy Without Really Trying

Living healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, experts say
By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature

How much do you know about what makes up a healthy lifestyle? Here’s a pop quiz.
1. How do you define working out?
a. Going to the gym.
b. Turning the jump-rope for the neighbor’s kid.
c. Playing Frisbee with your dog.
2. How do you define good nutrition?
a. Eating a vegetable at every meal.
b. Eating two vegetables at every meal.
c. Drinking a fruit smoothie for breakfast.
3. Which of these is a healthy activity?
a. Push-ups, sit-ups, or running the track.
b. Walking the dog after dinner.
c. Spending Saturday afternoon snoozing on the sofa.
Believe it or not, the correct answer to every question is A, B, and C — even that Saturday afternoon snooze! According to the growing “Stealth Health” movement, sneaking healthy habits into our daily living is easier than we think.
“You can infuse your life with the power of prevention incrementally and fairly painlessly, and yes, doing something, no matter how small, is infinitely better for you than doing nothing,” says David Katz, MD, MPH, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center and of the Yale Preventive Medicine Center. Katz is also co-author of the book Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits into Your Life without Really Trying.
From your morning shower to the evening news, from your work commute to your household chores, Katz says, there are at least 2,400 ways to sneak healthy activities into daily living.
“If you let yourself make small changes, they will add up to meaningful changes in the quality of your diet, your physical activity pattern, your capacity to deal with stress, and in your sleep quality — and those four things comprise an enormously powerful health promotion that can change your life,” says Katz.
And yes, he says, a nap on the couch can be a health-giving opportunity — particularly if you aren’t getting enough sleep at night.
Nutritionist and diabetes educator Fran Grossman, RD, CDE, agrees. “You don’t have to belong to a gym or live on wheat grass just to be healthy,” says Grossman, a nutrition counselor at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “There are dozens of small things you can do every day that make a difference, and you don’t always have to do a lot to gain a lot.”

Do a Little, Get a Lot

The notion that good health can come in small tidbits is not really new. Research showing that making small changes can add up to a big difference has been quietly accumulating for a while.
For example, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2004 found that adding just 30 minutes of walking per day was enough to prevent weight gain and encourage moderate weight loss.
And if 30 minutes is still too big a bite? Another study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that three brisk 10-minute walks per day were as effective as a daily 30-minute walk in decreasing risk factors forheart disease.
“Just the act of going from sedentary to moderately active gives you the greatest reduction in your risks,” says Helene Glassberg, MD, director of the Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Center at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
But it’s not only in fitness where small changes can make a difference. The same principles apply at the kitchen table (and the office snack bar).
“Reducing fat intake, cutting down on sugar, eating a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar — over time, these things can make a difference,” says Grossman.
As long as the changes are moving you toward your goal — be it weight loss, a reduction in cholesterol or blood pressure, or better blood sugar control — you can get there by taking baby steps, she says.
Moreover, Grossman tells WebMD, making small changes can help give us the motivation to make bigger ones.
“A lot of bad eating habits are about not taking charge of your life, and that attitude is often reflected in other areas,” says Grossman. On the other hand, she says, when you make small changes at the kitchen table, the rewards may show up in other areas of your life.
“It’s the act of taking control that makes the difference in motivating you,” says Grossman. “An inner confidence and power begins to develop that can be seen in other areas of life.”

Tripping Over Baby Steps

Of course, not everyone is certain that baby steps can walk you all the way to good health. Marc Siegel, MD, a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, says that while doing something is certainly better than doing nothing, making such small changes is like using a Band-aid to stop a hemorrhage.
“It’s a small, gimmicky idea to target people with very unhealthy lifestyles, and for some it may be useful,” says Siegel, author of False Alarm: the Truth about the Epidemic of Fear. But he fears that for most people, it’s sending the wrong message.
“In some ways it’s a resignation, an admission that things can’t be changed — and that’s certainly not the long-term answer,” Siegel tells WebMD.
Katz concedes that the Stealth Health approach may not be right for everybody.
“There is a trade-off because if you try to make the pursuit of health easier for people, you run the risk of leading them to believe they don’t need to do very much — and that would be the wrong message,” he says.
At the same time, Katz believes that for those who find making health changes a daunting task, Stealth Health techniques can make a difference.
“If you want the really big gains, there has to be some pain,” says Katz. “But there is a lot to be said for the idea that you can make some gains with little or no pain, and that’s infinitely better than no gains.”

Try the Stealth Health Approach

Tempted to give “Stealth Health” a try? Katz recommends picking any three of the following 12 changes and incorporating them into your life for four days. When you feel comfortable with those changes, pick three others. Once you’ve incorporate all dozen changes, you should start to feel a difference within a couple of weeks, he says.

To Improve Nutrition:

1. Buy whole foods — whether canned, frozen, or fresh from the farm — and use them in place of processed foods whenever possible.
2. Reject foods and drinks made with corn syrup, a calorie-dense, nutritionally empty sweetener that many believe is worse for the body than sugar, says Katz.
3. Start each dinner with a mixed green salad. Not only will it help reduce your appetite for more caloric foods, but it also will automatically add veggies to your meal.

To Improve Physical Fitness:

1. Do a squat every time you pick something up. Instead of bending over in the usual way, which stresses the lower back, bend your knees and squat. This forces you to use your leg muscles and will build strength.
2. Every time you stop at a traffic light (or the bus does), tighten your thighs and butt muscles and release as many times as you can. (Don’t worry, no one will see it!) This will firm leg and buttock muscles, improve blood flow — and keep you mildly amused!
3. Whenever you’re standing on a line, lift one foot a half-inch off the ground. The extra stress on your opposite foot, ankle, calf and thigh, plus your buttocks, will help firm and tone muscles. Switch feet every few minutes.

To Improve Stress Control:

1. Give your partner a hug every day before work. Studies show this simple act can help you remain calm when chaos ensues during your day, Katz says.
2. Have a good cry. It can boost your immune system, reduce levels of stress hormones, eliminate depression, and help you think more clearly.
3. Twice a day, breathe deeply for three to five minutes

To Improve Sleep:

1. Sprinkle just-washed sheets and pillowcases with lavender water. The scent has been shown in studies to promote relaxation, which can lead to better sleep.
2. Buy a new pillow. Katz says that studies show that pillows with an indent in the center can enhance sleep quality and reduce neck pain. Also, try a “cool” pillow — one containing either all-natural fibers or a combination of sodium sulfate and ceramic fibers that help keep your head cool.
3. Eat a handful of walnuts before bed. You’ll be giving yourself a boost of fiber and essential fatty acids along with the amino acid tryptophan — a natural sleep-inducer.
SOURCES: Archives of Internal Medicine. 2004; vol 164: pp 31-39. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, September 2002. David Katz, MD, MPH, director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University; co-author, Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits into Your Life without Really Trying. Fran Grossman, MS, RD, CDE, nutrition counselor, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York. Helene Glassberg, MD, director, Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Center, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Marc Siegel, MD, clinical associate professor, New York University School of Medicine; author, False Alarm, The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear
Reviewed on May 12, 2009.
Originally published September 9, 2005.

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The Key to Health, Wealth and Success: Self-Control

By Maia Szalavitz    
Self-control may be the secret to success, according to a persuasive new study that followed 1,000 children from birth to age 32: children who showed early signs of self-mastery were not only less likely to have developed addictions or committed a crime by adulthood, but were also healthier and wealthier than their more impulsive peers.
Problems surfacing in adolescence, such as becoming a smoker or getting pregnant, accounted for about half of the bad outcomes associated with low self-control in childhood. Kids who scored low on such measures — for instance, becoming easily frustrated, lacking persistence in reaching goals or performing tasks, or having difficulty waiting their turn in line — were roughly three times more likely to wind up as poor, addicted, single parents or to have multiple health problems as adults, compared with children who behaved more conscientiously as early as age 3.
“This is a great study, mining a huge trove of data to tease apart the relationships among some really important factors that can determine the direction of our lives,” says Martha Farah, director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “It highlights how incredibly important self-control is.”
Dr. Bruce Perry, professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, agrees: “It’s a very cool study. This is taken from data from what is probably the best long-term study in our field.” (Disclosure: Perry and I have written two books together.)

The new research confirms the findings of the famous Stanford marshmallow study, which found that young children who were able resist grabbing a fluffy marshmallow placed in front of them — for 15 long minutes — in order to get two of them later scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT than kids who couldn’t wait. About one-third of the 4-to-6-year-olds studied were able to withstand the sweet temptation. As in the current research, the kids with more self-control in the marshmallow trial had better life outcomes across the board.
For the new study, the “Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study” whose results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Duke University psychologist Terrie Moffit followed 1,000 children in New Zealand for more than three decades.

Moffitt and her colleagues measured children’s self control on numerous occasions, getting behavior ratings from parents and teachers as well as from research staff who worked with the children. “All children have varying attention spans, and all get frustrated now and then,” she says. “But our measures indicated that a child had low self-control only if the scores from different reporters and on different occasions all added up and pointed in the same direction.”

By adulthood, children in the highest self-control group were significantly less likely to have multiple health problems (11%), compared with kids in the lowest self-control group (27%). They were also much less likely to have addictions to multiple substances (3% vs. 10%, respectively), says Moffitt.

Only 10% of kids with high self-control grew up to have low income — less than $20,000 per year — compared with 32% of their more impulsive peers. Forty-three percent of the least disciplined children had a criminal record by age 32, compared with just 13% of the  most conscientious. And as adults, 58% of kids who had low self-control had become a single parent; this was true for only 26% of the high self-control group.
In previous research, researchers have found that impulsiveness and out-of-control behavior are more common in children who have experienced loss, trauma or violence — factors that tend to affect poorer kids more than rich ones. “If you have adverse experiences, that’s going to turn up the stress response,” says Perry, explaining that stress may affect the proper development of the frontal cortex in children’s brains, which is responsible for self-control and for “putting the brakes” on the brain’s lower brain regions. “If you have lower self-control, you’ll have a harder time in school, you won’t learn as efficiently, you’re more likely to act on frustration, which means more social problems and you might end up with legal problems.”
Although Moffit’s study found some “concentration of low self-control children in homes with low income,” the author says, the correlation was small. “There were plenty of well-to-do children with very low self-control.”
In fact, poor children who scored best on measures of self-control were more likely than others to become wealthy in later life. “One interpretation of the findings is that children with high self-control who began life in low-income homes ended up as adults with higher incomes,” says Moffitt.

Not surprisingly, many of the lapses in self-discipline that led to the worst life outcomes occurred during the teenage years: teens who had scored lowest in measures of self-control in early childhood were the most likely to make mistakes in the first place. And even those low self-control teens who managed to avoid smoking, pregnancy and alcohol or other drug problems, and stayed in school did worse later in life than their more disciplined peers. “This suggests that there might be a better return on investment from early childhood interventions,” Moffitt says.
“Trial and error is a healthy part of teenage life,” she adds. “But teens with good self-control engage in trial and error strategically, and they appreciate the difference between a useful learning experiment and real danger. I’m convinced that teenagers can be coached on this distinction.”
Interventions aimed at improving self-control and behavior throughout childhood are now being studied, but so far, research has not identified a single best approach. The most effective programs are small and tightly focused on increasing self-control itself — as opposed to fighting bullying, drugs or other problem behaviors — according to Moffitt.
Intriguingly, about 7% of the children in Moffitt’s study dramatically increased their own self-control over the course of the research, suggesting that such change is possible. But researchers don’t know how or why this happened. “Perhaps some of them attended a school that stressed achievement and provided structure. Perhaps some of them experienced changes in family life, such as parents’ changing marital status that brought more structure into the child’s daily life. We don’t really know,” Moffitt says.
“We have deeply held cultural beliefs about self-control — the importance of thinking about the future, persisting with the chores of life — which show up in fables like ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’ or ‘The Tortoise and the Hare,’” says Farah. “This research shows that there is great wisdom there — delaying gratification and hanging in are aspects of self-control that bring great benefit.”
That’s probably welcome news to all those tiger mothers’ ears. While tiger parenting may err when it veers into harshness, the evidence in favor of teaching the discipline of hard work and repeated practice only continues to grow.
source: time

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Optimism Might Cut Your Risk for Heart Attack

WEDNESDAY, April 18 
(HealthDay News) — Being upbeat is good for your heart, a new study suggests.
Many previous studies have shown that negative mental states — such as depression, anger, anxiety and hostility — can harm the heart.
This Harvard School of Public Health review of more than 200 studies found that positive feelings appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and events such as heart attack and stroke.
“The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive,” lead author Julia Boehm, a research fellow in the department of society, human development, and health, said in a university news release. “We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction and happiness are associated with reduced risk of [cardiovascular disease] regardless of such factors as a person’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status or body weight.”
“For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 percent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers,” Boehm noted.
The researchers also found that people with a sense of psychological well-being engaged in healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient sleep. In addition, greater psychological well-being was associated with lower blood pressure, healthier blood-fat status and normal body weight.
The study was published online April 17 in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
If future research confirms that higher levels of satisfaction, optimism and happiness benefit cardiovascular health, the findings could prove important in the creation of prevention and treatment strategies, the researchers said.
More than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day (an average of one death every 39 seconds) and stroke accounts for approximately one in 18 deaths in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
— Robert Preidt

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Low-Fat Dairy Linked to Lower Stroke Risk

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) — In what the researchers say is the largest study on the issue to date, adults who consumed higher amounts of low-fat dairy products also had a somewhat lower long-term risk of stroke.
The study involved nearly 75,000 Swedish adults who were tracked for an average of 10 years after completing a dietary questionnaire.
Those who consumed low-fat versions of products such as milk, yogurt or cheese had a 12 percent lower risk for stroke than those whose diet typically included high/full-fat versions of these dairy staples.
“I think this finding certainly makes sense,” said Lona Sandon, a dietician and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “When you have more high-fat dairy you have more saturated fat, which we know is one of the types of fats that can affect LDL, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol levels. And eating saturated fat leads to clogging up arteries in the heart and the brain. So then you’re more likely to have the clots breaking off and causing something like an ischemic stroke.”
However, “when you’re looking at stroke risk you’d really want to look at an individual’s whole dietary pattern,” said Sandon, who was not involved in the new research. “But it is certainly plausible that whole-fat dairy bumps up the risk that is out there.”
A research team led by Susanna Larsson, from the division of nutritional epidemiology at the National Institute of Environmental Medicine at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, reported the findings April 19 in the journalStroke.
The study authors noted that in the United States, about one-third of all adult men and women over the age of 18 have high blood pressure, which they describe as a “major controllable risk factor” for stroke. Still, they added, only about half of affected Americans have their blood pressure under control.
With that in mind, experts have long touted the benefits of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet), with its emphasis on low-fat dairy consumption.
In 1997, the Swedish team administered food surveys to almost 75,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 83, none of whom had a prior history of either heart disease or cancer.
From that point forward, the incidence of stroke among study participants was monitored via data collected by the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry.
Over the course of about a decade, nearly 4,100 strokes occurred, the authors noted. People who stuck to low-fat dairy products appeared to have a somewhat lower risk for stroke. The study was only able to find an association between eating low-fat dairy products and lowered odds for stroke; it could not prove cause-and-effect.
The Swedish researchers called for further large studies to examine the apparent association, while at the same time suggesting that, if it holds up upon further scrutiny, the finding could have broad public health implications.
Larsson’s team pointed out that when it comes to dairy consumption, the typical North American diet closely mirrors that of northern Europeans, so a snapshot of Swedish diets and stroke risk might be relevant to a U.S. population.
“The bottom line is that if you’re consuming more fat in your day — no matter where it’s coming from — it is going to increase your risk for atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries], and thereby your risk for stroke,” said Sandon. “And that’s what’s behind the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends that you get three dairy servings per day, in order to get enough calcium and potassium, but at the same time making sure that those servings are low-fat.”
Larsson’s study was funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the Swedish Research Council.
More information
For more on how diet impacts stroke risk, head to the National Stroke Association.
SOURCES: Lona Sandon, R.D., dietician and assistant professor of clinical nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; April 19, 2012, Stroke
source:  HealthDay  news.health.com