Chocolate Genetic Codes Cracked: Tastier Chocs Coming?

January 5, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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Been scoffing a few too many chocolates this Christmas? For many of us, the silky texture and sweet rich taste are almost irresistible. And now, chocolate may be set to become even tastier…

Scientists have decoded the DNA of fine cocoa, publishing their results in Nature. Fine cocoa is used in the production of luxury chocolates and is only used for a fraction of chocolate production. The Guardian explains:

Fine cocoa accounts for only 5% of world cocoa production because the trees are susceptible to disease and produce lower yields than other strains of cocoa tree.

With the chocolate genome decoded, scientists will be able to develop varieties of chocolate which are more productive and hardy (good for farmers), or ones which look, smell and taste even better than the chocolate we currently have (good for chocoholics!)

Another group of scientists have also discovered the genetic structure of wild strawberries (the genome of woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), in Nature). With the prospect of strawberries that taste and smell even more delicious than the current varieties, perhaps we’ll be able to stay away from the chocolates!

Image credit: mrsraggle

Lack of Vitamin D Makes Kids Fat

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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Kids deficient in Vitamin D accumulate more fat around their waist, and gain weight more rapidly than children getting adequate vitamin D; claims a new study.

Our skin converts ultraviolet light from the sun into vitamin D. Vitamin D acts like a hormone, and helps our bodies absorb calcium. That’s why vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.”

Poor diet, and too much time spent indoors, has created an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency worldwide, especially in developed nations. Not getting enough vitamin D, particularly in childhood, has been linked to rickets, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and dementia.

Research by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says lack of vitamin D may even contribute to cancer risk and type-2 diabetes.

For the new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists observed 479 school children, ages 5 to 12, from Bogota, Colombia, in 2006. Participants were followed for 30 months and had their blood level analyzed for vitamin D as it related to Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, and fat around their triceps.

Data showed children with the lowest vitamin D levels were more likely to gain weight faster, than children with higher levels of vitamin D. Low vitamin D was also linked to slower growth in height among girls, but not boys.

The researchers say the results highlight the importance of vitamin D intake, especially among young children. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, say for both children and adults, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, vitamin D is important in order to prevent health problems.

In addition to sunlight and vitamin D supplements, fatty fish – such as salmon and mackerel – eggs, liver, mushrooms, and foods fortified with vitamins and minerals, such as milk, yogurt, bread, margarine, and some breakfast cereals, are good sources of vitamin D.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends visiting your doctor to test for vitamin D deficiency, and to determine whether supplements are needed.

Image credit: House of Sims

Half Of the Adults in Europe Are Obese

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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European researchers have determined that right now more than half of the adults in the European Union (EU) are overweight or obese. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the European Commission, warn that continual growth in the obesity rate will skyrocket healthcare costs.

To make matters worse, the researchers also found that one in seven children are overweight or obese; putting future adults at increased risk of mortality due to obesity-related medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

In 2005, World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 1.6 billion adults, ages 15 and older, were overweight, and at least 400 million adults were obese, especially in developed countries. As for children, the WHO data from 2005 estimates 20 million children under the age of 5 years old were overweight worldwide.

Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and up is considered obese, below 30 is overweight.

The new report found the obesity rates in the EU has more than doubled during the past 20 years, raising concerns over healthcare spending. Previous studies have already forecasted medical costs associated with obesity, jumping by 70% between 2007 and 2015.

Findings in 2008 showed countries in the EU spent an average 8.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on health, increasing from 7.3% in 1998.

The WHO recommends higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, lower intake of saturated fats and sugar, and regular exercise to help prevent obesity. Exercise should include at least 30 minutes of “moderate-intensity” activity on most days.

Image credit: Amy Mac

60% of Women Don’t Like Eating in Front of Their Partner

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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A new survey highlights some revealing statistics about the relationship between women and food.

60% of women in relationships do not feel comfortable eating in front of their partner50% of women in relationships get shy undressing in front of their partner40% of women feel as though they are constantly dieting13% of women choose low-calorie meals instead of what they would actually like when eating out

Can we really believe these numbers?

Although featured in Time and the Daily Mail, these numbers seem high. The survey was “carried out for Shapesmart” – according to nutritionist Mary Strugar. Shapesmart is a UK-based weight management program, and Strugar sits on the “Expert Advice Panel”. The UKPA mentions that 5,000 people were surveyed – but nowhere can I discover if any of these people had a pre-existing relationship with the diet company.

Reader surveys can be notoriously biased – it’s a bit like surveying readers of a gossip magazine if they are obsessed with celebrities — you are probably going to get a different result to the rest of the population.

Regardless of accuracy – I have no doubt that many women have an unhealthy relationship with food. The reasons for not wanting to eat in front of a partner are unclear – is he critical? Does the woman feel under scrutiny for what she chooses to eat?

Are you comfortable eating in front of your partner?

Celebrity Health Tips: Don’t Believe the Hype

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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I’ve accepted the fact that we live in a society which favours blindly following the advice of a celebrity over the science-based, albeit less-sexy, health advice.

The Sense about Science (SAS), a group of evidence-based minds, poked some holes into the practices of certain celebrities.

Here are some of the more dubious practices, according to the group.

1. Silicone Bracelets
We go across the pond (from where I sit) for our first abuse of science. Dead ball specialist David Beckham and princess-to-be Kate Middleton have been spotted wearing hologram-embedded silicone bracelets, which makers claim can improve energy and fitness.

Not true, says an SAS representitive, and unfortunately for “Becks” not only will it not give him more energy, but it also won’t help him head the ball, use his left foot, or defend.

2. Detox
While the vast majority of intelligent people realize that subsisting on nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper is absurd, the SAS confirms that it makes “no scientific sense”.

Still, celebrities such as Demi Moore and her boy toy Ashton Kutcher think it works (and Ms. Moore made a point of talking down to a twitter follower who dared question it).

Former supermodel Naomi Campbell also believes in the “magical” formula, and made the point of telling millions of viewers via Oprah “It’s good to clean out your body once in a while.”

3. Charcoal
Pop star Sarah Harding told Now magazine in April that she crumbles charcoal over her food, saying: “It’s doesn’t taste of anything and apparently absorbs all the bad damaging stuff in the body.” Dr John Elmsley, a chemical scientist calls the charcoal,

Unnecessary when it comes to diet because the body is already quite capable of removing any ‘bad damaging stuff’.

4. Sperm
But perhaps the most bizarre health practice has to be that of cage fighter Alex Reid, who “reabsorbs” his sperm in preparation for a big fight. Says Reid,

A tablespoon of semen has your equivalent of steak, eggs, lemons and oranges. I am reabsorbing it into my body and it makes me go raaaaahh…

Sounds like Reid has taken a few too many head shots and triangle chokes.

For those who are curious, the average ejaculation yields nary a single calorie (.7), and ergo not much in the way of macronutrients, and only a minimal source of potassium, copper and zinc.

The scientists from the ASA offer up these concise pointers to help counteract celebrity health stupidity. Nothing is chemical-free: everything is made of chemicals, it’s just a case of which onesDetox is a marketing myth: our body does it without pricey potions and detox dietsThere’s no need to boost: bodily functions occur without boostingEnergy and fitness come from food and exercise: there are no shortcuts.

Culinary Trends for 2011

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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A survey of over 1500 chefs conducted by the American Culinary Association has revealed the top 20 culinary trends for 2011.


Environmentally-consciousness reigns supreme in this list, with sustainability figuring prominently in the top 20. In fact, “green-friendly” choices take up the top 3 spots and include;

Locally-sourced meats and seafoodLocally grown produceSustainability

You’ll find sustainability-friendly trends throughout the top 20, with children’s health-related trends also occupying some spaces. Here are the remaining trends;

Nutritionally balanced children’s dishesRestaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butcheringChildren’s nutritionSustainable seafoodGluten-free food and being food allergy consciousSimplicity/back to basicsFarm/estate branded ingredientsLocally produced wine and beerSmaller portions for smaller pricesOrganic produceNutrition/healthCulinary cocktails with savory or fresh ingredientsNewly-fabricated cuts of meat (pork flat iron, for example)Fruits and vegetables as childrens side itemsEthnic-inspred breakfast items (Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs)Artisan cheesesAs someone who doesn’t eat out much, or watch any of the reality cooking shows, I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of what’s trendy when it comes to restaurants. A few observations, however from a casual observer; Nothing particularly jumps out at me as revolutionary or “new”, rather it seems to be spill-over from the past decade of sustainability-minded eating.I wonder how many restaurants will actually be following these trends considering the higher cost associated with some of the proposed trends.I truly hope that the trend of healthier children’s offerings catches and permeates through both sit-down restaurants, as well as fast food joints.Many of these trends should be practised in homes and schools – not only restaurants.

What are your thoughts on the predicted trends?

5 Quick Fixes For a Diet-Friendly Kitchen

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

Getting into the kitchen to cook from scratch is the best way to make sure you are eating healthy meals, most of the time.

But, if your kitchen is more like a bomb site, you may find you are severely lacking in motivation.

So, here are 5 tricks to help transform your kitchen into a place that actually encourages a healthy diet.

1. Keep the Kitchen Clean
For me, there’s little that kills my motivation to cook more than having to tackle a pile of dirty dishes before I start making dinner.

If your kitchen is often untidy, make a rule that no dirty dishes are left in the sink, and the counter tops and table must be kept clean. That way, you can get right into cooking when you get home, so there’s less chance you’ll feel like slacking off.

2. Make Cool Water Accessible
Research, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, demonstrated that drinking 500mls of water increased metabolic rate by 30 percent, within 10 minutes of drinking the water. These effects lasted for 30 to 40 minutes. They concluded that drinking 2 liters of water per day would increase energy expenditure by around 400kJ.

While this may seem like a relatively small increase, it is significant over time. Also, water has so many additional benefits in the body, so it’s worthwhile making an effort on this one.

Drinking more water each day can be as simple as placing a jug of water in your fridge — just make sure you reach for the water first, before you opt for another substitute.

3. Keep Emergency Meals in the Freezer
Having healthy meals in your freezer is a good fallback plan for those times when you get home late, or you forget to pick something up at the grocery store. And, it helps you to avoid eating unhealthy food, or opting for takeout.

When you run out of emergency meals, just make an extra batch of your next meal, and freeze the extra.

4. Use a Vegetable Steamer
Sometimes cooking vegetables can feel like a lot of hassle, so anything that helps with this is a bonus. Steaming is the healthiest way to cook vegetables, because it prevents nutrients being lost into the cooking water.

When I’m making brown rice, for example, I put the rice in the bottom of the rice cooker, then add my vegetables to the steamer basket on top after about 20 minutes of cooking.

Other options are steamer baskets which fit over a saucepan of water, or microwave steamers.

5. Get Rid of Junk Food
Ridding your kitchen of the junk will be a huge benefit to your whole family, encouraging everyone to make better choices overall.

If you can’t get rid of it completely, try placing healthy snacks, such as nuts, seeds and dried fruits right in the cupboard right next to the other snacks. That way, each time you reach for a snack, you are forced to make the decision “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

Also, keeping a colorful bowl of fresh fruit on your worktop, and some raw vegetables in the fridge is helpful, giving you lots of healthy options to choose from.

What are your tips for making the kitchen more diet-friendly?

Anorexic Model Dies: When Will the Fashion Industry Get It?

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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Isabelle Caro, a French actress and model, whose emaciated image is a shock Italian ad campaign, has died at the age of 28.

In later interviews, Caro said she weighed about 59 pounds when the photos were taken in 2007, by Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani.

The campaign gained Caro widespread attention in media in countries around Europe and in the United States, and she spoke out often about her anorexia, her efforts to recover, and the menace of eating disorders on the fashion industry.

Caro, who had reportedly struggled with anorexia since the age of 13, wrote a book published in France in 2008 titled, “The Little Girl Who Didn’t Want to Get Fat”.

The campaign featuring a skeletal Caro wasn’t without controversy, however, with many anorexia support groups claiming that the attention did a disservice to those who suffer from it. Caro’s image did appear on many pro-ana (pro anorexia) sites.

One would hope that a tragedy such as this would send shock waves through the industry and jar it into some meaningful action. Despite tragedies and other shock campaigns, however, it doesn’t appear that much has changed.

The 2006 anorexia-linked death of the Brazilian model, prompted efforts throughout the international fashion industry to address the health repercussions of using ultra-thin models, but no binding measures ensued.

French fashion industry representatives signed a government-backed charter in 2008, pledging not to encourage eating disorders, and to promote healthy body images by using “a diversity of body representations,” and not showing “images of people that could help promote a model of extreme thinness.”

Industry executives the world over have refused to cooperate.

Writing about this has made me feel truly sad. Making wholesale changes to an industry steeped in a culture of bone-thin will not come overnight, but one can only hope that tragic situations like this will change some minds.

What are your thoughts on the situation?

Poll: What’s Your 2011 Diet Resolution?

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

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It’s just about that time of year again, when we say goodbye to the holidays and hello to a new year.

A lot of people see the new year as a way to make a fresh start, which often involves some type of resolution to do something better than the year before.

For many, new year’s resolutions result in something diet and fitness related after they look at themselves in the mirror after all of that holiday indulgence.

Are you making a health related new year’s resolution this year? Participate in the poll and comments below.

What’s your diet or fitness new year’s resolution?

Tomato Juice Helps Stop Osteoporosis

January 4, 2011 by iceslim  
Filed under Healthy diet

Tomatoes are rich in cell-protecting antioxidants. Antioxidants are known cancer-fighters, such as prostate and breast cancer. And now lycopene – one of the antioxidants found in tomatoes – is being linked to reduce risk of osteoporosis.


Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease, usually developing in old age, especially in post-menopausal women.


But the new study says drinking tomato juice may help stave off osteoporosis.


Published in the journal Osteoporosis International, scientists claim consuming 30mg of lycopene from tomato juice (about two glasses) is enough to help prevent osteoporosis.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2002, 75 million people in the United States, Europe, and Japan, including one in three post-menopausal women, were affected by osteoporosis; most notably, bone fractures.


For the research, experts restricted a group of post-menopausal women, ages 50 to 60, from consuming anything containing lycopene for one month, then the study participants were split into four groups for four months.


Groups were given either a 15mg lycopene supplement, a glass of tomato juice naturally containing 15mg of lycopene, a gourmet tomato juice with 35mg of lycopene, or a placebo.


After four months, results showed supplementing with lycopene raised serum lycopene, compared to the placebo group. The women consuming lycopene had significantly increased antioxidant capacity, decreased oxidative stress, and decreased bone markers for osteoporosis.


Antioxidants are found in all plant foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables, like citrus fruits. The WHO links low fruit and vegetable intake as one of the top ten risk factors for global mortality, such as death due to cancer and stroke.

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