You want another slice of cake or glass of wine, but you know you shouldn’t have one.
It’s the classic self-control dilemma.
But luckily there’s a loophole; sometimes we mentally give ourselves permission to indulge: “Well, I’ve worked hard today, so I’ll have another slice of cake or glass of wine.”
Now there’s a ‘license to sin’.
A recent study cleverly demonstrates this ‘license to sin’ and shows how dangerous it can be (de Witt Huberts et al., 2012).
A little snack
To investigate, the researchers tricked one group of people into thinking they’d worked twice as hard on a boring test as another group.
Both groups were then asked to do a ‘taste test’ of some rather tempting looking snacks.
The group that thought they’d worked harder now had more of a ‘license to sin’ as a reward to themselves.
And sure enough they ate, on average, 130 calories more in 10 minutes than the other group.
It’s fascinating that the participants did this without being told they’d worked harder or being given any other cues.
Also remember that, on average, both groups had their mental self-control muscles depleted the same amount as they’d both spent the same time doing the boring task.
Avoid the loophole
What this study is showing is that these well-worn mental thought processes can be insidious. The mind has all sorts of tricks it plays so that it can get what it wants.
The ‘license to sin’ is one of them. You want to over-indulge, so your mind creates this little story that says: I’ve worked hard, so I deserve it.
The clever thing is that it can completely bypass all those logical, rational things we’ve told ourselves about healthy eating (or whatever it is) and, non-coincidentally, we get what we want.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t indulge ourselves from time-to-time, but the question is: how often is the license to sin being invoked?
It’s a way of allowing our misbehaviour that is like an exception we all know about, but somehow don’t pull ourselves up on.
Being more aware of, and watching out for this trick may be useful in bolstering our self-control.
by APRIL McCARTHY March 7, 2013
The modern diet of processed foods, takeaways and microwave meals could be to blame for a sharp increase in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, including alopecia, asthma and eczema.
A team of scientists from Yale University in the U.S and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, say junk food diets could be partly to blame.
‘This study is the first to indicate that excess refined and processed salt may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases,’ they said.
Junk foods at fast food restaurants as well as processed foods at grocery retailers represent the largest sources of sodium intake from refined salts.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal sent out an international team of researchers to compare the salt content of 2,124 items from fast food establishments such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway. They found that the average salt content varied between companies and between the same products sold in different countries.
U.S. fast foods are often more than twice as salt-laden as those of other countries. While government-led public health campaigns and legislation efforts have reduced refined salt levels in many countries, the U.S. government has been reluctant to press the issue. That’s left fast-food companies free to go salt crazy, says Norm Campbell, M.D., one of the study authors and a blood-pressure specialist at the University of Calgary.
Many low-fat foods rely on salt–and lots of it–for their flavor. One packet of KFC’s Marzetti Light Italian Dressing might only have 15 calories and 0.5 grams fat, but it also has 510 mg sodium–about 1.5 times as much as one Original Recipe chicken drumstick. (Feel like you’re having too much of a good thing? You probably are.
Bread is the No. 1 source of refined salt consumption in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one 6-inch Roasted Garlic loaf from Subway–just the bread, no meat, no cheeses, no nothing–has 1,260 mg sodium, about as much as 14 strips of bacon.
How Refined Salt Causes Autoimmune Disease
The team from Yale University studied the role of T helper cells in the body. These activate and ‘help’ other cells to fight dangerous pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and battle infections.
Previous research suggests that a subset of these cells – known as Th17 cells – also play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases.
In the latest study, scientists discovered that exposing these cells in a lab to a table salt solution made them act more ‘aggressively.’
They found that mice fed a diet high in refined salts saw a dramatic increase in the number of Th17 cells in their nervous systems that promoted inflammation.
They were also more likely to develop a severe form of a disease associated with multiple sclerosis in humans.
The scientists then conducted a closer examination of these effects at a molecular level.
Laboratory tests revealed that salt exposure increased the levels of cytokines released by Th17 cells 10 times more than usual. Cytokines are proteins used to pass messages between cells.
Study co-author Ralf Linker, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said: ‘These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no cure.’
It develops when the immune system mistakes the myelin that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord for a foreign body.
It strips the myelin off the nerves fibres, which disrupts messages passed between the brain and body causing problems with speech, vision and balance.
Another of the study’s authors, Professor David Hafler, from Yale University, said that nature had clearly not intended for the immune system to attack its host body, so he expected that an external factor was playing a part.
He said: ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.
‘Humans were genetically selected for conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where there was no salt. It’s one of the reasons that having a particular gene may make African Americans much more sensitive to salt.
‘Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well.’
The team next plan to study the role that Th17 cells play in autoimmune conditions that affect the skin.
‘It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake,’ they said.
‘However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors.’
Stick to Good Salts
Refined, processed and bleached salts are the problem. Salt is critical to our health and is the most readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. Our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value. However, when a salt is filled with dozens of minerals such as in rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt or the grey texture of Celtic salt, our bodies benefit tremendously for their incorporation into our diet.
“These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated,” argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. “We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid.”
“In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions,” explains Dr Hendel. “These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They’re also needed to balance PH levels in the body.”
Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases.
Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It’s a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US.
He says salt has always been part of the human diet, but what has changed is the mineral content of our food. Instead of eating food high in minerals, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, people are filling themselves up with “mineral empty” processed food and fizzy drinks.
This is the result of a study conducted by Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld, Prof. David Hafler (both Yale University, New Haven and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, and Harvard University, USA), PD Dr. Ralf Linker (Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital Erlangen), Professor Jens Titze (Vanderbilt University and Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, FAU, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) and Professor Dominik N. Muller (Experimental and Clinical Research Center, ECRC, a joint cooperation between the Max-Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin, and the Charite — Universitatsmedizin Berlin and FAU) (Nature, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11868)*. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting pathogens.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.
August 15, 2013 By Health Editor Brenda Goodman HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) — Many people who have tried to give up fatty foods in favor of healthier choices have found themselves obsessing over cookies or chips. Choosing a salad over a cheeseburger can feel like a Herculean act of will.
Now scientists believe they’ve found an important clue about why this happens.
Working in mice, researchers say they’ve discovered how the gut talks to the reward centers of the brain, and how high-fat diets can jam this communication, potentially leading to overeating and obesity.
The study, which was published online Aug. 15 in the journal Science, also found that high-fat diets actually led mice to turn up their noses at their normal, low-fat chow.
“The implications to humans are huge,” said Paul Kenny, a professor of pharmacology at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla.
“You’re trying to lose weight. You have a bad diet and you’re trying to adjust it, [but] your body and brain in concert are saying, ‘No, I don’t want that type of food,’” said Kenny, who was not involved in the research. “The chips are stacked against you — literally, potato chips. And that’s why you’re very likely to fail.”
Eating food — especially food high in fat — triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine.
Previous studies have found that as people and mice become obese, the brain’s dopamine system stops working properly. Eating becomes less rewarding.
As food becomes less stimulating, one theory holds that people need to eat more and more to feel satisfied — creating a vicious cycle of weight gain and overeating.
But researchers have never really understood why or how this happens, or, crucially, how to stop it.
For the new study, researchers studied two groups of mice. The first group was fed a normal, low-fat diet. The second group was put on a high-fat diet. Researchers fed the mice through catheters that ran directly into their stomachs to eliminate any influence from the taste or chewing of the foods.
As expected, the mice consuming a high-fat diet made less dopamine in their brains. But surprisingly, they also made less of a lipid (fat) signal called oleoylethanolamine (OEA) in their intestines.
OEA plays an important role in digestion, said the expert who first identified the signal.
“It prevents the excessive eating of fat,” said Daniele Piomelli, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine.
When the researchers gave the mice on the high-fat diet an infusion of OEA, they also made more dopamine in their brains, suggesting that the signal also plays an important role in the reward value of food.
“The fact that this compound is connected with the reward centers of the brain is beautiful and makes sense because all survival mechanisms depend on reward,” said Piomelli, who was not involved in the current study.
When humans hunted and gathered their food, it would have made sense for fat to be highly rewarding to the brain.
“Fat is in such short supply in nature. Not in our refrigerators, but in nature it is,” Piomelli said. “It is very important for the body to be able to eat the small amounts it finds in the wild and to be able to absorb it completely. That’s what this compound does.”
Now that dietary fat is hard to escape, this ancient feedback loop may be working against humans.
“We do know that people who have problems making the lipid signal OEA tend to become more morbidly obese,” Piomelli said.
But the study also shows there may be hope on the horizon for frustrated dieters.
Mice on a high-fat diet given infusions of OEA lost weight and started to show more interest in low-fat food, suggesting that the compound makes the brain more sensitive to smaller amounts of calories in the gut, said researcher Ivan de Araujo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University.
Experts say, however, that results from animal studies often don’t turn out the same in humans.
Whether medications that boost OEA might one day help cottage cheese become as rewarding to the human brain as cheesecake remains to be seen.
“We don’t know whether this can successfully be translated into humans,” he said.
Current generation may live ‘shorter, less healthy lives’ as a result poor diets
CBC News Posted: May 9, 2013
Canadian children under 13 shouldn’t be exposed to marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, a coalition of medical groups says.
Thursday’s policy statement from the Canadian Medical Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Hypertension Canada, College of Family Physicians of Canada and others calls on food companies to immediately stop marketing foods high in fats, added sugars or sodium to children.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments have said that protecting the health of children is a priority, said Dr. Norm Campbell, a hypertension specialist at the University of Calgary who led the campaign.
“They had this on their radar and yet absolutely nothing is done, and so this is really a call for action that they do what we already know is going to be effective.”
The groups say that in 1989, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “advertisers should not be able to capitalize upon children’s credulity” and “advertising directed at young children is per se manipulative.”
Food companies in Canada, with the exception of Quebec, are not required by law to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children.
Dr. Marie-Dominique Beaulieu is the president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and practices in Montreal, where she says companies have clear rules on what is considered healthy.
“Up to 80 per cent of food advertising actually advertises unhealthy food and we know that it has a direct impact on the choices that children make,” Beaulieu said.
Canada hasn’t acted
In May 2010, the World Health Organization released recommendations on the marketing of food and beverages to children and called on governments worldwide to reduce the exposure of children to advertising and to reduce the use of powerful marketing techniques employed by the manufacturers of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free added sugars or sodium.
Canada has not acted on the recommendations, the health groups said.
The group’s statement describes the policy goal this way: “Federal government to immediately begin a legislative process to restrict all marketing targeted to children under the age of 13 of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium and that in the interim the food industry immediately ceases marketing of such food to children.”
They plan to use WHO’s recommendations on high content of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium.
“Right now, we have a voluntary ban on marketing of unhealthy foods to children from the food industry,” said Campbell. “The industries that have signed on to that are the worst offenders. What they’ve done is made their own definition.”
If enacted, the restrictions would apply to TV, internet, radio, magazines, mobile phones, video and adver-games, brand mascots, product placement, cross-promotions, school or event sponsorships and viral marketing.
Arlene Star of Toronto is careful about exposing her four-year-old daughter Jenna to TV ads but she still knows all the branded characters.
“It is up to the parents, but let’s try to make it easier for the parents so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a daily struggle,” Star said.
On Wednesday night, NDP member of Parliament Libby Davies’s bill to phase in lower sodium levels in prepackaged foods and add simple, standardized labels, failed to pass with a vote of 147 to 122, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest said.
With files from CBC’s Kas Roussy and Kim Brunhuber
How to enjoy a dinner out and keep it healthy
By Digestive Health Team 7/13/12
Time-crunched and tired after a long workday? If you’re like most, you welcome a dinner out. But when you don’t dine at home, you have less control over ingredients, preparation methods and portion sizes — all of which can lead to a meal that’s higher in calories and fat than you may like. You needn’t worry about skipping dinner out, says Maxine Smith, RD, LD, clinical dietitian in Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease Institute. Instead, follow these easy tips and enjoy — without guilt — your time away from the kitchen!
1. Plan ahead
Check out the menu ahead of time to plan your healthy choice. Chain restaurants often have nutrition information on their websites, which can further guide your decision.
2. Make your own rules
Choose your dining-out rules, then stick to them. Some common rules include: deciding to review only certain sections of a menu, choosing only non-fried foods, refusing the bread basket, leaving 1/3 of your food on your plate or eating dessert only when shared by the family.
3. Check the menu
Look for menu items that are steamed, broiled, grilled, stir-fried (with broth or water), roasted or poached while avoiding foods that are described as buttery or buttered; crispy, sautéed, fried or pan-fried; and creamed, scalloped or au gratin.
4. Order it “dry”
Request foods prepared “dry” or without oil/butter. A food may be prepared in a healthful manner and yet have plenty of “hidden” fats added which rack up the calories. Broth, lemon, wine, herbs, spices and salsa can provide plenty of flavor without concentrated fat calories.
5. Make substitutions
Substitute a vegetable, side salad or fruit cup for a potato, pasta or rice. This one substitution can save you a couple of hundred calories.
6. Be careful at the salad bar
Although salad bars sound healthy, steer clear of cheeses, creamy potato/macaroni salads, bacon bits, croutons and sweetened dried fruits while choosing a plethora of vegetables with some lean protein such as chicken, egg or beans, which will help fill you up.
7. Watch the dressing
Opt for fat-free or “light” salad dressings. For extra wellness points, ditch the dressing altogether and use balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice on your salad.
8. Take it with you
When your food arrives at the table, immediately ask for a to-go container. Pack up a portion of your meal, close the lid and enjoy the rest of your meal another day. Better yet, request that half your meal be packaged in the kitchen prior to serving.
9. Savor it
Eat slowly and mindfully, savoring each bite and stopping when satisfied. Your feeling of fullness will increase over the next half hour after eating. Have a healthy snack planned in a couple of hours so you do not feel the need to overeat in order to carry you to the next meal.
10. Avoid sugary soda
Choose sugar-free beverages such as water with lemon or a cup of coffee. Soda calories add up quickly, especially when refilled automatically.
New study links fast-food consumption to a greater risk for developing asthma, eczema and allergies.
Tue, Jan 15 2013