New Research on “Biggest Loser” Contestants Reveals Why Sustained Weight Loss Is So Hard

jogging running couple

On The Biggest Loser, contestants went through a weight-loss journey, often losing upwards of a hundred pounds, through exercise and diet regimens. The difference in appearance is dramatic — but does it last? Researchers followed up with contestants to measure what happens after a large weight loss. What they found may not surprise anyone who has struggled to keep the weight off; according to the New York Times, the results “showed just how hard the body fights back against weight loss.” Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Why Working at Night May Affect Your Heart, How Weight Loss Can Help Your Brain, and the New Ingredient Being Added into the Flu Vaccine

Night shifts at work could lead to heart disease. A study of nurses who worked late night shifts found a link to cardiovascular health decline over a long period of time. “They found nurses who worked rotating night shifts for 10 years or longer had a 15 percent or higher increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to women who escaped night shift duty…For younger women, who started the study in their late 30s, those who worked night shifts for 10 years or longer had a 27 percent higher risk of heart disease.” While the exact cause for the correlation was not known, researchers suspect it could be credited towards lack of sleep and disrupting normal “biological rhythms” required for a healthy life. (NBC)

If you have diabetes, weight loss may slow brain health decline. A small study that was done on people with diabetes split individuals into either a counseling group with diet and exercise components or a control counseling group. “The counseling group lost more weight and achieved greater gains in cardiorespiratory fitness than their peers in the control group. And, in a sign that weight loss might protect against diabetes-related brain damage, the control group had smaller volumes of gray matter and more white matter disease by the end of the study. Smaller volumes of brain tissue and the presence of white matter disease are linked to cognitive decline.” The researchers explained that the brain uses energy from the body, mainly from blood sugar, in order to function, but a person with diabetes has fluctuating blood sugar levels which may damage the brain over time. Researchers believe weight loss may help stabilize those levels. (Fox)

A new and improved flu vaccine will be available for senior citizens. This vaccine includes a new additive and will only be for people 65 years old and older or who have poor immune responses to the vaccine. “It’s the first flu vaccine to include what’s called an adjuvant — a compound that helps stimulate the immune system so that a vaccine is more effective…Fluad contains MF59, an oil-in-water mixture that includes squalene, an oily nutrient produced by the liver, and some preservatives. It’s not clear why but when mixed with vaccines it increases the number of immune system cells that are stimulated.” The new shot is expected to become available sometime next year. (NBC)

Today’s Headlines: The Foods That May Put You at Risk for Colon Cancer, Why Not Exercising Could Lead to Heart Problems, and What You Eat May Be Making You Sleepy

Foods like red meat and full-fat dairy could put your colon at risk. These types of inflammatory foods can irritate your intestines and lead to colon polyps or other tissue abnormalities. “Compared with people whose diets contained the lowest amounts of pro-inflammatory foods, people whose diets contained the highest amounts of pro-inflammatory foods — such as processed meats and red meat — were 56 percent more likely to have one of these polyps…The foods that had the highest inflammation scores were processed meats and red meat, …Dairy foods that contained fat also had pro-inflammatory scores, whereas poultry and fish were neutral… Fruits, vegetables and nonfat dairy, on the other hand, were determined to be anti-inflammatory…” The study only drew the correlation between certain foods and their reactions in the intestines, but researchers suggested that switching to an anti-inflammatory diet may decrease any risk. (Fox)

The time you spend sitting down might be damaging your arteries. Inactivity may increase the likelihood that calcium in your arteries will harden and increasing the risk for blood clots and heart disease. “Research with middle-aged volunteers found that each additional hour of sedentary time was linked to 12 percent higher odds of having calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, an early sign of coronary heart disease…Overall, the volunteers spent between one hour and 11 hours per day sedentary, and spent between zero and 200 minutes a day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, with an average of 29 minutes.” This was a small study that was done in a small time frame and therefore while the researchers encourage healthy and active lifestyles, they have not proven that calcium buildup is solely caused by being sedentary. (Reuters)

Bacon and other high-fat foods may be the reason you’re sleepy during the day. A small research study showed a potential correlation between diet and sleep. “After adjusting for factors that could influence sleep — smoking, alcohol intake, waist circumference, physical activity, medications, depression and others — they found that compared with those in the lowest one-quarter for fat intake, those in the highest one-quarter were 78 percent more likely to suffer daytime sleepiness and almost three times as likely to have sleep apnea.” More research needs to be done to prove a stronger connection. (NYT)

Photoshopped Pictures Hurt Body Image, Even With Disclaimers

stack of magazines

From magazine covers to billboards to TV ads, slender models seems to be everywhere. And while many people know the ideal body advertised is often impossible for the average person, few realize just how many of these “perfect” bodies have been made that way with help from a computer. As technology has become better and better at hiding imperfections, it’s become hard to tell who’s been Photoshopped and who hasn’t. To help protect unknowing viewers from striving towards these impossible ideals, body image advocates have called for labels on photos that don’t represent reality. But new research published this week has found that just knowing a photo has been manipulated may not be enough to ward off its harmful effects.


Today’s Headlines: How Greenery May Improve Longevity, The Three Things That Can Cause Stomach Cancer, and Which Fruit Contains the Most Pesticides

The more nature you live around, the longer you may live. A new study of female nurses found that those who lived close to and with a lot of plants had improved longevity. “Women living near areas with the most vegetation had a 41 percent lower death rate from kidney disease, a 34 percent lower death rate from respiratory disease and a 13 percent lower death rate from cancer, compared with women living in areas with the least vegetation, the study found.” While the exact reasoning behind this link is uncertain, researchers speculated that the benefits of nature can improve social life, depression, and increase chances of physical activity which are all things that may increase life span. (Fox)

Too much alcohol, processed meat, and obesity could contribute to the development of stomach cancer. A new study from the American Institute for Cancer Research found out that these three factors could significantly increase the margin for stomach cancer risk. “And eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat every day — the equivalent of one hot dog a day — raises the risk of stomach cancer by about 18 percent, the report found…And being obese also raises the risk, the report finds. The more a person weighs in relation to height, the higher the risk of stomach cancer.” These factors could potentially cause other cancers as well such as breast, colon, and liver cancers. (NBC) 

Your strawberries may contain traces of harmful pesticides. The U.S. Department of Agriculture performed tests on over 35,000 fruits and vegetables to determine their levels of pesticides. “Strawberries replaced apples atop the list of fruits and vegetables with the highest level of pesticide residue…Apples still rank in second place—after five years in the top spot—followed by nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers and kale/collard greens.” If you are worried about your produce containing pesticides, it is best to buy organic. (Time)

Today’s Headlines: The Bacteria That May Be Linked to Pancreatic Cancer, How to Wash Your Hands, and Why You May Want to Reconsider Cranberry Supplements

New research has pinpointed two strains of oral bacteria that could increase your risk for developing pancreatic cancer. While the link between pancreatic cancer and gum disease has been determined in the past, the specifics of the link have not been clear until now. “Research released Tuesday showed that two species of bacteria with impossibly long names, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, were associated with a sharply increased risk of getting pancreatic cancer. The data showed that carrying both bacteria was linked to a 50 percent increased likelihood of contracting the cancer.” This discovery is a stepping stone toward further research for pancreatic cancer screening and prevention. (Washington Post)

Did you know there is a right way to wash your hands? A new study showed that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) hand washing model is more effective that the CDC’s. “The study—published online last week in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology—looked specifically at the use of alcohol-based hand rub, or sanitizer, by doctors and nurses in a hospital. The technique is similar to hand washing with soap and water. But hand sanitizer is often used in hospitals and other health-care settings to prevent the transmission of infections because it is faster…the researchers found that many fewer bacteria remained on the hands of those who used the WHO method compared with others following the more general CDC instructions.” The CDC instructions are a simplified version of the WHO’s guidelines. However, researchers argue the simplification makes the message less effective. (WSJ)

Taking a cranberry supplement probably won’t help your urinary tract infection. While cranberry products aren’t necessary ineffective, not all products are created equal. “Tests of seven popular cranberry-pill brands in the U.S. showed that most contained too little of the key bacteria-fighting ingredient to have any effect… More recent investigations show that cranberries or cranberry juice may actually work because they contain proanthocyanidins — antioxidant “flavonoids” like those found in blueberries, grape seeds and chocolate that also prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall and beginning the growth process…cranberry products need to contain at least 36 milligrams of proanthocyanidins per gram.” Researchers concluded that natural cranberry foods were the best choices to prevent infection. (Fox)

Preparing for Zika Virus as Mosquito Season Looms

Mosquito sitting on the skin

If you’ve been terrified by the evolution of the Zika virus story, you’re not alone. What started as a questionable link between rising viral infections and birth defects has turned into a growing realization that Zika virus could be the next big danger for pregnant women and their unborn children. On top of that, the rapid appearance of the virus has left many of those who are most threatened by the virus uninformed about Zika infection and how to prevent it. As the summer weather starts to kick into gear across the United States, I want to spend some time walking through what you should know about this new virus and what you can do to protect yourself.

MORE: Dr. Oz Answers Your Zika Virus Questions

Who should worry about infection?
In theory, everyone is at risk for infection, but some will suffer more serious consequences. The link between birth defects in the babies of mothers infected with Zika gets stronger on an almost daily basis. Pregnant women have to be very careful. Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, which means those most at risk for being infected are those who live in areas where infected mosquitoes might be found. Fortunately, not every mosquito carries the virus. A specific species of mosquito, called the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is the main carrier for Zika (as well as other diseases like yellow fever, dengue fever, and Chikungunya). The CDC also reports a lower risk of transmission from the Aedes albopictus mosquito.


Keeping Weight Off Likely Easier After First Year


If you’re someone who’s trying to lose weight, you’ve probably seen your body yo-yo back and forth between weight loss and gain. In fact, keeping weight off after it’s gone is often the hardest part of cutting pounds in the long run. Research has shown this is likely because the body fights weight loss efforts by using clever tactics to bring that weight back even if  you don’t boost your calories. But new research soon to be published has found that keeping weight off in the long run isn’t a struggle forever. Their findings indicate that making it to a year without putting pounds back on may be enough to make lost pounds stay that way. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: New Stem Cell Research on Alzheimer’s Disease, Why Vegetable Oils May Not Be Helping Your Heart, and When Thyroid Cancer Isn’t Cancer

Researchers from the University of Miami are set to begin a stem cell clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The research trial is the first time the stem cells will be tested on humans to determine effectiveness. “[R]esearchers…are using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in an attempt to slow or reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The team is aiming to enroll 30 patients who will be tested and observed for cognitive function, memory, quality of life and brain volume over the course of a year. Baumel and his team began investigating MSCs because of their anti-inflammatory properties and because they have shown the ability to develop into many different types of cells. The cells are also thought to promote neurogenesis, which allows the brain to produce new cells in the hippocampus, which is where new memory forms and Alzheimer’s disease begins.” The point of this study is to prove that this stem cell therapy is safe for people and could potentially slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (Fox)

While vegetable oil has been shown to lower cholesterol, it may not help extend your lifespan. Most advice in recent years has been to reduce saturated fat intake and replace it with unsaturated fats like vegetable oils in order to boost heart health. “The new report, which analyzed 40-year-old data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, found no association between lower cholesterol levels and longer life, suggesting that reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet isn’t enough to reduce risk of death from heart disease. While the diet rich in vegetable oil did lower cholesterol levels over the 4-5 year study period, compared to a control group (who continued to eat saturated fat daily), the researchers found no change in the rate of death from heart-related ailments.”  Even though this particular study did not indicate that cholesterol and longevity are linked, “many studies show the benefit of statin medications to lower blood cholesterol, that are highly associated with a reduced risk of death.” (NBC)

A certain type of thyroid tumor is no longer considered cancerous. Doctors have renamed the tumor, “encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma” to “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features, or Niftp” – a change that could help many patients today and in the future. “[Doctors] have officially downgraded the condition and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat…The reclassified tumor is a small lump in the thyroid that is completely surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue. Its nucleus looks like a cancer but the cells have not broken out of their capsule, and surgery to remove the entire thyroid followed by treatment with radioactive iodine is unnecessary and harmful, the panel said.” This adjustment is projected to “affect about 10,000 of the nearly 65,000 thyroid cancer patients a year in the United States.” (NYT)

Today’s Headlines: New Aspirin Guidelines, Updates on the Zika Virus, and Which Foods May Help You Lose Weight

Older adults with a risk for heart disease may want to add an aspirin regimen to their diets. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released new guidelines for adults. “Adults aged 50 to 59 who have at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade can benefit the most from taking 81 milligrams of aspirin a day…” Daily aspirin past the age of 60 was not recommended for health reasons. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or any other indications of heart disease you may want to talk to your doctor about whether this new regimen may be for you. (NBC)

The Zika virus may be worse than previously thought. A representative from the CDC revealed that as they continue to learn about the virus, they grow more concerned. “A wider range of birth defects has been linked to the virus…And the mosquitoes that carry the virus could travel to more US states than previously thought…There were also reports of rare neurologic problems…” While more information was not provided at the time, the CDC said trials for a vaccine will likely start in 2017 and might be available to the public by 2018. (BBC)

Eating beans may help you lose weight. Analysis from many research trials showed that people who ate one serving of legumes a day lost weight. “…participants who ate about three quarters of a cup of legumes every day lost about three quarters of a pound more than those who didn’t eat legumes, regardless of whether the diets were geared to weight loss. Six of the trials also suggested that eating legumes was linked to slightly lower body fat, though there was no evidence of a difference in waist circumference.” Some of the trials were short and therefore not conclusive, but the correlation may still be substantial. (Reuters)