Too much salt. Too much sugar. Too much saturated fat. We often hear about what we get too much of. But we also get too little of some nutrients. Potassium…
Most people know that calcium is good for bones, fiber is good for constipation, and iron is good for blood, to name a few. But once you go beyond the basics, the picture gets murky.
Here’s a healthy food quiz (questions and answers included) to see how well you know which foods or nutrients can prevent or promote which diseases.
Feel free to cheat. The questions aren’t really a test of how well you read (and remember) every issue of Nutrition Action. They’re just a sneaky way to get you to look at the answers, which contain a wealth of information on how your diet affects your health.
Staying active can help keep your brain in good shape, say two studies that tracked exercise and mental decline over time.
And the extra benefits of walking daily are clear in these studies.
In the first, which followed more than 2,200 Hawaiian men aged 71 to 93, those who walked the least (less than a quarter mile a day) were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those who walked the most (more than two miles a day) over the next seven years. Men who walked between a quarter and one mile a day had a 70 percent increased risk.
In a second study, which tracked nearly 19,000 women aged 70 to 81 for at least nine years, those who exercised the most had a 20 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who exercised the least. Women who walked for at least 11/2 hours a week scored better on memory, attention, and other tests than women who walked less than 40 minutes a week.
Antioxidants and cancer were supposed to be bitter enemies. We were told antioxidant benefits also included a reduction in heart disease, memory loss, type 2 diabetes, cataracts and macular degeneration. Antioxidant vitamins (C, E, and beta-carotene) were supposed to help prevent all of them.
So far, the three antioxidants (plus zinc) have succeeded with only one: slowing the pace of macular degeneration in older people who already have the eye disease.
“The randomized trials for antioxidants have been very disappointing,” says Harvard’s JoAnn Manson, who led the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, the Women’s Folic Acid Study, and other major trials.
Aloe vera, which comes from a succulent plant, is sold as a juice and is added to foods, supplements, and skin care products. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.
Carefully conducted studies by the U.S. government concluded that there was “clear” evidence that aloe vera extracts caused intestinal cancers in male and female rats, but not mice, when consumed. (Applying aloe vera on the skin is not likely to cause harm.)
Sitting for hours on end can hurt more than your back end, say two studies.
British researchers tracked 153 younger and 725 older adults who all had risk factors for diabetes. Each participant wore an accelerometer to measure how much time he or she spent sedentary or engaged in moderate-to-vigorous exercise (like running or brisk walking) for at least a week. The results helped researchers hone in on why sitting is bad for people who are at risk for health problems such as diabetes.
“We’ve known for a long time that if you reduce the calorie intake of rats or mice, they live much longer,” says Mark Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Baltimore. Do these intermittent fasting benefits carry over to humans?
What happens in species closer to humans is more complicated. Rhesus monkeys fed 30 percent fewer calories lived longer in a study at the University of Wisconsin, but not in a study at the NIA.
Does it matter if you walk slowly instead of briskly for exercise? Is 30 minutes a day of slow walking good enough, or are you better off walking for an hour?
It depends on what your goals are, says Robert Ross, an exercise physiologist at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
According to the International Continence Society (ICS), incontinence is the “involuntary loss of urine that is a social or hygienic problem and is objectively demonstrable.” Urinary incontinence is most commonly a result of bladder dysfunction, sphincter dysfunction, or a combination of both. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of middle-aged women and 50 percent of older women experience urinary leakage.
The problem is less common in men, but does increase with age. Even so, older men experience severe urinary incontinence at only about half the rate of women. Despite the prevalence of this health problem, it is still a “don’t ask, don’t tell” issue.
“In our study of nurses, less than 50 percent of the women who had incontinence reported it to their doctors,” says Mary Townsend, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
It is a sensitive issue, for sure, but what is the cause of urinary incontinence? Leaks are more common in women who are older, heavier, or smokers, and in those who have had more children, diabetes, or a hysterectomy.
More magnesium may mean a lower risk of stroke.
Researchers looked at seven studies that followed a total of roughly 240,000 people for eight to 15 years. The risk of an ischemic stroke was 9 percent lower for each 100 milligrams of magnesium the participants reported eating per day. This may seem like a low number, but simple changes or additions in diet may offer complementary benefits. Preparing foods to prevent a stroke will often coincide with eating foods that are good for your overall health.