In The News: May 2018
Healthy Diet Is the Key to Weight Loss
To lose weight, should you be on a low-fat diet or a low-carbohydrate diet? It probably doesn’t matter as long as you focus on the quality of the foods you eat. This was the finding of a study published in JAMA (February 2018), in which 609 adults who were overweight or obese were divided into two groups. One followed a low-fat diet and the other a low-carbohydrate diet for one year. Both groups attended classes taught by dietitians. What the two diets had in common was high consumption of vegetables and minimal intake of added sugars, refined flours and trans fats. All participants were instructed to focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods that were prepared at home whenever possible. Weight loss was similar for both groups—about 13 pounds for the low-carb group and about 12 pounds for the low-fat group.
Osteoarthritis on the Rise, and Rheumatoid Arthritis Declining
Arthritis is a major cause of pain and disability, affecting an estimated 54.4 million adults in the United States. A recent analysis, published in the American Journal of Public Health (February 2018), found that the most common form of arthritis—osteoarthritis—is on the rise. Researchers analyzed data on 43,706 adults who participated in health information surveys from 1999 to 2014. Overall, close to 25 percent of participants reported having some form of arthritis. The prevalence of osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wearing down of cartilage in joints, increased from 6.6 percent to 14.3 percent between 1999 and 2014 among both men and women. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, decreased from 5.9 percent to 3.8 percent. For unknown reasons, the reduction was most pronounced in men, blacks and people with a low income.
Yoga Reduces Physical Measures of Stress
Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines breathing, meditation and motion. It has become increasingly popular as a way to manage stress and reduce pain. But is it effective? To find out, a group of researchers combined results from 42 studies that compared the effects of yoga versus an active control group on physiologic measures of stress. One such measure is levels of the stress hormone cortisol, responsible for the fight-or-flight response, which speeds up breathing and heart rate to confront a perceived threat. Chronically high levels can be harmful. The findings were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology (December 2017). The researchers concluded that interventions that included yoga reduced cortisol levels (both in the evening and daytime) and also lowered blood pressure, heart rate, fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad form of cholesterol).
Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Likely Safe for Your Heart
Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements does not appear to increase risk for heart disease as some previous studies have suggested. A new study analyzed data on 475,255 men and women aged 40 to 69 in the United Kingdom National Health Service. The researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research (January 2018), examined the relationship between taking calcium and vitamin D supplements and hospital admission for heart disease. They found that 33,437 participants took calcium supplements, 19,089 took vitamin D and 10,007 took both. Heart disease was no more likely among those taking the supplements as those not taking supplements. Experts still recommend getting calcium mostly from food. Use supplements only to get you to the recommended amount (1,000 mg a day for men age 51 to 70 and 1,200 mg a day for women over age 50 and men over age 70).