Weekly Summaries

A few of the blogs I follow aggregate interesting links each week with short summaries.  So, idea credit and shout-outs go to Weighty Matters, Obesity Panacea, and Summer Tomato.  I highly recommend subscribing to these blogs.

I realize that not all readers here will follow me on twitter, where I share and pass on interesting new research and articles that I encounter.  I also realize that not everyone wants to read in as much detail as I tend to summarize studies in (based on the short amount of time visitors tend to spend here so far, thanks Google Analytics). Additionally, I tend to focus on reviewing more than one paper when posting, so with shorter weekly summaries I can pass along research more quickly and it will likely be reviewed in detail down the road.  Finally, there are great nutrition related articles about issues not necessarily about research that should be shared to develop an encompassing perspective on the different angles of nutrition.  And of course, many people are able to cover certain topics much better than I, and should be highlighted.

Please feel free to add in the comments interesting studies or articles that you have encountered recently.

So here is the first iteration of the Weekly Summaries segment.

Nutrition Related

Two new methionine restriction studies were published recently, the first finding a decrease in mitochondrial oxidative stress.  The authors speculate that methionine is the main factor that improves health in calorie restriction studies and part of the reason it promotes longevity, though other research suggests they may differ mechanistically.  The second found that it increases mitchondrial biogenesis, which is expected.

Marion Nestle reviews recent studies about food labels and calorie estimations that result in fat gain.  I want to highlight a passage from one of the papers (PDF):

These calculations suggest that small changes in lifestyle
would have a minor effect on obesity prevention. Walking
an extra mile a day expends, roughly, an additional 60 kcal
compared with resting—equal to the energy in a small cookie.
Physiological considerations suggest that the apparent energy
imbalance for much of the US population is 5- to 10-
fold greater, far beyond the ability of most individuals to
address on a personal level. Rather, an effective public health
approach to obesity prevention will require fundamental
changes in the food supply and the social infrastructure.
Changes of this nature depend on more stringent regulation
of the food industry, agricultural policy informed by
public health, and investments by government in the social
environment to promote physical activity.

“These calculations suggest that small changes in lifestyle would have a minor effect on obesity prevention. Walking an extra mile a day expends, roughly, an additional 60 kcal compared with resting—equal to the energy in a small cookie. Physiological considerations suggest that the apparent energy imbalance for much of the US population is 5- to 10-fold greater, far beyond the ability of most individuals to address on a personal level. Rather, an effective public health approach to obesity prevention will require fundamental changes in the food supply and the social infrastructure. Changes of this nature depend on more stringent regulation of the food industry, agricultural policy informed by public health, and investments by government in the social environment to promote physical activity.”

Anyone who studies obesity realizes that the solution isn’t as elegantly simple as telling people to exercise more (which by itself does not promote weight loss) or giving them diet instructions.  There are many factors influencing weight, a lot which are not under our conscious control (which is why we need changes in infrastructure).  The next time you see a “fitness expert” who relies on faulty, simplistic practices, call them out on it.

Did we improve our nation’s health in the last decade? Analysis of over 1,000 objectives is in progress for the past decade set under Healthy People 2010, showing so far improvements in some areas but a worsening in many others.  The next version will apparently aim to involve the public more intimately in the goals.

Vitamin E shortens “quality-adjusted life years,” in a new data analysis using a Markov-model, further damning the vitamin-antioxidant as a supplement.  Many questions still remain (there are 7 other E vitamers in nature, and only 1 is usually supplemented), but whole food sources are always the best bet.

The Granola Health Myth by Fooducate.  While the article is short and rather vague, it brings up a good point: granola should be called out as a health food.  Not only do many granola products contain ingredients that contribute nothing to a healthy diet, never before in human history have we consumed it until recently.

The popular supplement Ginkgo biloba has been found in a large study to be ineffective at reducing dementia, Alzheimer’s, or cognitive decline.  A good review of this in context of previous research here.

Gretchen Reynolds from the New York Times writes about recent research challenging the paradigm that being overweight with a healthy metabolic profile is ok; risk of certain diseases still may be elevated.

Non Nutrition Related

Running shoes increase stress on lower extremity joints (knees, hips, ankles) compared to barefoot (free full text here).  The evidence continues to mount that our natural foot mechanics should be considered when designing shoes. Some companies get it, most don’t.

The efficacy of many treatments that physical therapists use is questioned in a recent New York Times article.  I would love to see rebuttals.

How does a cell pack away all of our DNA?  A new technique expands our understanding of how genetic material is organized and read.