Obese

More than four billion people could be overweight by 2050, with 1.5 billion of them obese, if the current global dietary trend towards processed foods continues, a first-of-its-kind study predicted Wednesday.

Warning of a health and environmental crisis of “mind-blowing magnitude”, experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said that global food demand would leap 50 percent by mid-century, pushing past Earth’s capacity to sustain nature.

Food production already hoovers up three-quarters of the world’s freshwater and one-third of its land — and accounts for up to a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

Providing a long-term overview of changing global eating habits between 1965 and 2100, the researchers used an open-source model to forecast how food demand would respond to a variety of factors such as population growth, ageing, growing body masses, declining physical activity and increased food waste.

They found that “business as usual” — a continuation of current trends — will likely see more than four billion people, or 45 percent of the world’s population, overweight by 2050.

The model predicted that 16 percent would be obese, compared with nine percent currently among the 29 percent of the population who are overweight.

“The increasing waste of food and the rising consumption of animal protein mean that the environmental impact of our agricultural system will spiral out of control,” said Benjamin Bodirsky, lead author of the study published in Nature Scientific Reports.

“Whether greenhouse gasses, nitrogen pollution or deforestation: we are pushing the limits of our planet — and exceeding them.”

While trends vary between regions, the authors said that global eating habits were moving away from plant- and starch-based diets to more “affluent diets high in sugar, fat, and animal-source foods, featuring highly-processed food products”.

At the same time, the study found that as a result of increasing inequality along with food waste and loss — food that is produced but not consumed due to lack of storage or overbuying — around half a billion people will still be undernourished by mid-century.

“There is enough food in the world — the problem is that the poorest people on our planet have simply not the income to purchase it,” said co-author Prajal Pradhan.

“And in rich countries, people don’t feel the economic and environmental consequences of wasting food.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a special report last year that humanity will face increasingly painful trade-offs between food security and rising temperatures within decades unless emissions are curbed and unsustainable farming and deforestation are halted.

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A new study comparing a vegan diet with a mixed diet has found no difference in vitamin B12 levels. However, one-third of the vegan participants were iodine-deficient.

There are many benefits to a vegan diet, including a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

However, a growing concern is the lack of dietary nutrients that are mainly present in animal foods. Two important nutrients are vitamin B12 and iodine.

Vitamin B12 is essential to the body

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, helps the body form nerves, red blood cells, and DNA. Maintaining adequate vitamin B12 levels is also crucial for cell metabolism and supporting the nervous system.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average adult needs about 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12. The only natural sources of vitamin B12 are animal-based. They include various types of meats and fish, as well as dairy products, clams, and eggs.

As vitamin B12 does not occur naturally in plant-based foods, those eating only these foods are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. A 2017 study in the journal Nutrients found that 69.9% of males and 83.4% of females who were under the age of 55 years and identified as vegan lacked sufficient vitamin B12.

Since vitamin B12 is vital in making red blood cells, insufficient levels can increase the risk of anemia. Also, without vitamin B12, the brain cannot function correctly, which can lead to cognitive impairments. There is also evidence of a link between this vitamin deficiency and depressionAlzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.

Importance of iodine in the diet

Iodine is another essential nutrient for the body. Iodine is crucial to making thyroid hormones, and the recommended intake for an adult is 150 mcg. However, about 38% of the world’s population lack adequate iodine levels.

Iodine is in fish, eggs, and dairy products. Unlike vitamin B12, iodine is naturally available to vegans in seaweed.

Despite some natural sources, getting sufficient iodine can still be challenging for vegans. A 2011 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found vegans to be at high risk for iodine deficiency.

Low iodine levels can force the thyroid to absorb iodine from the blood, which may lead to hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy or in young children may also impair cognitive development and increase the risk of intellectual disabilities.

A growing trend for vegan diets

Despite the nutritional concerns, eating plant-based foods remains increasingly popular. For instance, a 2017 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that in 2012, 1.9% of people in the U.S. followed a vegan or vegetarian diet for health reasons. This was an 18.8% increase from 2002.

In response to the rising interest in veganism, researchers at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment sought to find any updates regarding the average vegan’s nutritional health.

The study appears in the journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt.

Study design

The researchers selected a total of 72 participants aged 30–57 years from Berlin, of whom 36 were vegan, and 36 were eating an omnivorous diet consisting of both plant and animal foods.

The team used questionnaires to collect demographic information from these individuals, including their age, education level, and lifestyle factors.

Using the German Nutrient Database, the researchers used a 3-day dietary protocol to measure nutrient intake in both groups. They excluded dietary supplement use from the calculations.

The researchers also took 60-milliliter blood samples and 24-hour urine samples to observe vitamin and mineral levels. They identified some of these, such as vitamin B12, through biomarkers. For example, high concentrations of holotranscobalamin indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Key research findings

During the 3-day recording, those on a vegan diet showed lower concentrations of cholesterol than the omnivores.

The vegan group also consumed more fiber, vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate. However, these participants did not eat as many foods high in vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iodine as the omnivores.

In the blood, the vegan participants had lower levels of vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin E, vitamin A, selenoprotein P, and zinc than the omnivores. However, they had high levels of folate and vitamin K1.

In the urine samples, iodine and calcium levels were low in those following a vegan diet.

A surprising finding was the lack of vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans. The researchers attribute this to a growing knowledge of the lack of vitamin B12 in plant-based diets.

“Most vegans are aware that a vegan diet is associated with the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, and vitamin B12 is by far their most frequently taken supplement,” write the authors.

Another interesting finding was that both groups had low iodine levels, although this was more apparent in vegans. Only 8% of vegans achieved adequate iodine levels compared with 25% of omnivores.

Study limitations to consider

Understanding the study’s recruitment process is important when interpreting the data. The authors note that participants were most likely a convenience sample. This means that they chose people who were easy to reach, as they enrolled people who responded to their announcement.

A convenience sample may have created bias in the results, as the people who took the time to respond may already have been health conscious. However, the subjectiveness in recruitment remains debatable.

“Since the same recruitment strategy was used for vegans and omnivores, and a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 was chosen as an exclusion criterion, it can be assumed that the level of health consciousness was similar in both groups,” note the authors.

The study also used a small sample size of 72 participants, which is unlikely to be representative of the general population in Germany.

Final thoughts

“Consequently, the results of our study provide first insights into the current vitamin and mineral status in vegans versus omnivores in the German population,” write the authors.

This updated nutritional information could help guide vegans toward prioritizing iodine in addition to vitamin B12 supplementation.

Doing so may help circumvent the health risks associated with following a plant-based diet.

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A high fat, low carb diet reversed heart failure in a mouse model of the condition. A 24-hour fast also led to improvements, mimicking the physiological effects of the diet.

In people with heart failure, the muscle on the right or left side of the heart — or on both sides — weakens. This impairment limits the organ’s ability to pump blood around the body, causing fatigue and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.

The leading causes are high blood pressure, diabetes, and ischemic heart disease, in which the heart muscle becomes starved of oxygen.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimate that about 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure.

There is currently no cure, but medications and lifestyle changes can improve people’s quality of life and increase their lifespan.

Healthy heart muscle can draw upon a variety of chemical energy sources, depending on the circumstances. One of these is a molecule called pyruvate, which the body generates during the breakdown of the sugar glucose.

However, conditions such as heart failure and diabetes reduce this flexibility, starving the muscle of the fuel it needs to function effectively.

Fuel shuttle

Researchers have now traced this loss of flexibility to a transporter protein that shuttles pyruvate into mitochondria — the so-called power stations of cells.

Known as the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) complex, it comprises two subunits: MPC1 and MPC2.

Researchers at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, led a team who discovered that the production of both subunits is reduced in failing human hearts.

The researchers compared heart tissue samples from people undergoing heart surgery with tissue samples from donor hearts that were healthy but unsuitable for transplant.

They then showed that mice that lack the gene for producing MPC2 steadily develop heart failure over time. Their hearts became outsized, or hypertrophied, and the organs’ ability to pump blood diminished.

Crucially, the scientists found that they could reverse the damage to the animals’ heart muscle by simply feeding them a special diet for 3 weeks.

“Interestingly, this heart failure can be prevented or even reversed by providing a high fat, low carbohydrate ‘ketogenic’ diet,” explains Kyle S. McCommis, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the university, who led the research.

“A 24-hour fast in mice, which is also ‘ketogenic,’ also provided significant improvement in heart remodeling,” he adds.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet has been growing in popularity in recent years, with research suggesting that it has a range of possible health benefits. These include supporting weight loss, improving heart health, and preventing seizures in some types of epilepsy.

By severely restricting the intake of carbohydrates, such as glucose and other sugars and starches, the diet forces the body to break down fat, producing molecules called ketones that it can use as fuel. Intermittent fasting may achieve similar effects, though adhering to the regimen can be challenging.

The new research indicates that a ketogenic diet promotes the breakdown of fatty acids in heart muscle cells. This process produces an alternative fuel called acetyl-CoA, which the mitochondria can use as an energy source instead of pyruvate.

“Thus, these studies suggest that consumption of higher fat and lower carbohydrate diets may be a nutritional therapeutic intervention to treat heart failure,” says McCommis.

The scientists showed that the diet reversed heart failure by promoting the breakdown of fatty acids in mitochondria rather than ketones. Supplying the mitochondria with extra ketones only slightly improved heart failure.

Converging evidence

The findings from this study appear in the journal Nature Metabolism.

Two studies by other research groups, which feature in the same issue, independently show that the MPC transporter protein plays a central role in heart failure.

P. Christian Schulze and Jasmine M. F. Wu, who are both cardiologists from the University Hospital Jena in Germany, have written a comment article for the journal about the three papers.

While several questions remain unanswered about the regulation of MPC levels in healthy and failing hearts, they conclude:

“The current findings suggest a role for specific ketogenic diets as a supportive, nonpharmacologic treatment in people with heart failure.”

The cardiologists speculate that the findings could also inspire the development of new drugs for heart failure that work by boosting the breakdown of fatty acids in heart muscle cells.

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Over the years, scientists have demonstrated an association between red and processed meats and cancer. However, they are still unpicking the mechanisms that drive this relationship.

The authors of a recent study, which appears in BMC Medicine, argue that at least part of the answer might lie in an immune interaction.

Nutrition and dietary habits play pivotal roles in a wide range of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Red meats and processed meats have each received a fair amount of attention in this regard. Both have been implicated in cancer risk, but how they exert their influence is up for debate. As the authors of the latest study explain:

“Although various mechanistic explanations have been proposed, [such as a] high energy/fat diet, N-nitroso, nitrates, nitrites, heme iron, [and] compounds produced by gut microbiome or during cooking, none seems to be specific to red meat or dairy.”

A role for antibodies?

The authors point to tentative evidence that N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) might be a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Neu5Gc is a carbohydrate, or sugar, present in foods derived from mammals, and it is abundant in red meat and dairy. It occurs at low levels in some fish but is absent from poultry.

Humans cannot synthesize Neu5Gc, but when we consume it, small amounts accumulate on cell surfaces. When immune cells encounter this nonhuman material, it triggers the production of anti-Neu5Gc antibodies. Studies have shown that humans have a wide range of these antibodies.

Scientists have also found evidence that long-term exposure to these antibodies promotes inflammation and cancer in animal models. However, they have yet to identify any clear effect of eating mammalian products on levels of these antibodies.

As these anti-Neu5Gc antibodies travel around the body, they bump into Neu5Gc on cell surfaces, sparking inflammation. Experts believe that this, in turn, exacerbates cancer, because cancer cells tend to have higher levels of Neu5Gc on their surfaces.

In one study, researchers demonstrated an association between levels of circulating Neu5Gc antibodies and colorectal cancer risk. However, the level of antibodies was not associated with red meat intake.

Now, the latest study has set out to unpick the relationship between a person’s diet and their levels of Neu5Gc once and for all.

Diet and Neu5Gc

In the study, a group of scientists — most from Tel Aviv University, in Israel, or the Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center, in Bobigny, France — took data from the NutriNet-Santé survey. This extensive survey conducted in France aims to investigate the complex relationships between nutrition and health.

The authors of the present study took data from 16,149 adults, all of whom had registered a minimum of six dietary records.

Meanwhile, the researchers calculated the amount of Neu5Gc in a wide range of common foods. Using this data, they constructed what they refer to as the “Gcemic index,” which ranks food according to levels of Neu5Gc —specifically, the Neu5Gc content in each food relative to the amount measured in beef.

Next, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 120 participants with at least eighteen 24-hour dietary records; they noted the levels of anti-Neu5Gc antibodies in the serum.

“We found a significant correlation between high consumption of Neu5Gc from red meat and cheeses and increased development of those antibodies that heighten the risk of cancer,” explains corresponding author Dr. Veder Padler-Karavani, of Tel Aviv University.

“For years, there have been efforts to find such a connection, but no one did. Here, for the first time, we were able to find a molecular link thanks to the accuracy of the methods used to measure the antibodies in the blood and the detailed data from the French diet questionnaires.”

Now, combining earlier knowledge and the data provided by the new study, the theory becomes more solid: Consuming mammal products, such as red meat and dairy increases the amount of Neu5Gc on cell surfaces. In turn, this increases the level of circulating anti-Neu5Gc antibodies.

With an increase in these antibodies comes an increase in inflammation, which might raise the risk of exacerbating certain medical conditions, such as cancer.

It is worth noting that the immune response described above is unlikely to be the only link between red meat and cancer.

The authors also mention other factors, including the high fat content in meat and mutagens — chemical compounds that cause irreversible changes in cellular genetic material — such as heterocyclic amine, which is produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures.

In the future, the researchers hope that their Gcemic index will become a tool to assess the amount of Neu5Gc in a person’s diet. This might help design personalized recommendations for at-risk individuals.

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Data spanning more than 11 years suggest that testosterone injections could be a novel treatment for obesity in men. The results show that long-term testosterone therapy may be comparable to weight loss surgery, with a lower risk of complications.

Over 42% of adults in the United States have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity has links to several chronic health conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Recent findings that obesity may also worsen outcomes in COVID-19 have encouraged some governments to create entirely new public health strategies to encourage people to lose weight.

However, obesity is a complex issue with both medical and social causes, and achieving lasting weight loss can be challenging for many people. This means researchers are looking for new strategies to help treat obesity — beyond merely cutting calories.

Data recently presented at the virtual European and International Congress on Obesity support the use of testosterone therapy to treat men with obesity.

Long-term testosterone treatment reduced body weight by 20% on average.

11 years of data

The pharmaceutical company Bayer and Gulf Medical University in the United Arab Emirates led the research, using 11 years’ worth of data.

The researchers collected data since 2004 of 471 men with functional hypogonadism, or low testosterone production, and obesity from a German urological practice.

Around 58% of the men received an injection of testosterone every 3 months for the duration of the study, while the remainder chose not to have the treatment and therefore acted as controls. The average age of the participants was 61.57.

Medical staff administered and documented all injections at a doctor’s office, which assures that all participants received the treatment in a consistent manner. No participants dropped out of the study.

20% bodyweight reduction

The men who received testosterone lost on average 23 kilograms (kg) (equivalent to 20% body weight) during the study period, while those who did not receive treatment gained an average of 6 kg.

Body mass index (BMI) correspondingly decreased by an average of 7.6 points in those who received testosterone therapy, compared with an increase of 2 points in the control group.

Waist circumference, which is a risk factor for cardiometabolic disease, decreased by an average of 13 centimeters (cm) in the treatment group, compared with a 7 cm increase in the control group.

The testosterone-treated men also had less internal (visceral) fat by the end of the study period. They may have had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who did not receive treatment.

Overall, 28% of men in the control group had a heart attack, and 27.2% had a stroke during the study period. There were no major cardiovascular events in the men who received testosterone therapy.

Likewise, while more than 20% of the control group developed type 2 diabetes during the study period, nobody in the treatment group developed the condition.

Commenting on the results, Farid Saad of Bayer said: “Long-term testosterone therapy in hypogonadal men resulted in profound and sustained […] weight loss, which may have contributed to reductions in mortality and cardiovascular events.”

An alternative to surgery?

The researchers also presented data specific to men who were eligible for bariatric surgery. This is a surgical treatment for obesity, which encompasses gastric band, gastric bypass, and gastric sleeve surgery.

Rates of bariatric surgery are on the rise in the U.S., with more than 250,000 people undergoing weight loss surgery in 2018 alone.

Although bariatric surgery is a proven means of achieving weight loss, there are serious risks associated with the surgery, which does not always have positive outcomes.

This part of the study included 76 men with class 3 obesity (a BMI of 40 or above), making them eligible for bariatric surgery. Of these, 59 received testosterone treatment and lost 30 kg on average.

The BMI of the men also reduced by an average of 10 points, which could be enough to take them out of the highest obesity class, provided their BMI was less than 50 to begin with.

According to Saad, these results suggest testosterone therapy could be as effective as surgery for weight loss — but without the risk of serious complications.

“We believe testosterone therapy should be discussed with patients as an alternative to surgery and should be considered for male patients who cannot undergo surgery.” – Farid Saad, Consultant in Medical Affairs Andrology, Bayer AG

This study is based on data exclusively from men, and all participants had clinically low testosterone levels. Scientists need to conduct further studies to validate the use of this approach in other populations.

Eating in the evening is associated with a higher intake of calories, as well as lower quality food, according to a new study.

Maintaining a healthful diet is associated with how late in the day people consume most of their food, according to research presented at the European and International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO 2020).

The study found that people who consume most of their calories in the evening tend to consume more of them and have a lower quality diet.

The study’s aim was to explore the connection between the evening consumption of calories — the measure of energy intake (EI) — and diet quality. Judith Baird, a researcher from the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health at Ulster University in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, led the study.

Hunger rhythms

Previous studies have found that hunger follows a daily rhythm and that this rhythm is, in some ways, not what people might expect. Although people typically cease eating during an extended period of sleep, they break that fast with what is often the smallest meal of the day.

Meanwhile, hunger tends to be strongest late in the day, peaking at about 8:00 p.m., after most people have completed the majority of their daily activities.

EI consumption naturally tends to be a response to hunger, and other research has investigated the effect of meal timing on metabolism and other bodily processes. The new study, however, looks at its implications for the quantity and quality of food that people consume.

Data used in the study

Beginning in 2008, the U.K.’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) captured detailed information regarding food consumption, nutrient intake, and nutritional status for individuals over the age of 18 months. Each year, the survey collected responses from a representative sample of 1,000 people. Baird and her colleagues analyzed data from 1,177 adults who participated in the survey from 2012 through 2017.

Overall, the researchers found that the participants were, on average, consuming nearly 40% (39.8%) of their daily EI after 6:00 p.m.

Looking at the data more closely, the researchers divided people into quartiles according to the proportion of their daily EI that they consumed after 6:00 p.m. The people in the lowest quartile consumed less than 31.4% of their EI in the evening, while those in the highest quartile ate more than 48.6% during evening hours.

What the data say

The researchers detected two significant trends in the data. First, the study found that eating later affected the total EI for the day.

People who consumed most of their daily EI earlier tended to eat fewer calories over the course of a day.

The findings also suggested that meal timing affects the nutritional quality of food. Baird and her colleagues assessed individuals’ diets as they had reported them in the food diaries that they had supplied to the NDNS. To do this, they consulted the rankings listed in the Nutrient-Rich Food Index. The index rates foods according to their ratio of important nutrients to calorie value.

People who consumed more of their calories during the evening tended to have significantly poorer quality diets.

“Our results suggest that consuming a lower proportion of EI in the evening may be associated with a lower daily energy intake, while consuming a greater proportion of energy intake in the evening may be associated with a lower diet quality score. – The study authors

The study authors present their insights as just one facet of a deeper understanding of the effect of a person’s daily food rhythms and the amount and quality of food that they consume. They conclude:

“Timing of energy intake may be an important modifiable behavior to consider in future nutritional interventions. Further analysis is now needed to examine whether the distribution of energy intake and/or the types of food consumed in the evening are associated with measures of body composition and cardiometabolic health.”

If your cholesterol level has crept up over the years, you may wonder whether changing your diet can help. Ideally, your total cholesterol value should be 200 milligrammes per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. But it is the harmful Low-Density Lipo-protein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol value that experts worry about the most. Excess LDL builds up on artery walls and triggers a release of inflammatory substances that boost heart attack risk.

“To prevent heart disease, your LDL should be 100 mg/dL or lower,” says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But many Americans have LDL values that are less than optimal (100 to 129 mg/dL) or borderline high (130 to 159 mg/dL).

If you fall into either of those categories, you may be able to nudge down your LDL to a healthier level by changing what you eat, particularly if your current diet could use some improvement. However, most people with higher LDL values likely will also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as a statin, says Dr. Plutzky.

Dietary directives
Avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol isn’t the best way to lower your LDL. Your overall diet — especially the types of fats and carbohydrates you eat — has the most impact on your blood cholesterol values. “As the American Heart Association has noted, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck by lowering saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

That means avoiding meat, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products such as butter, half-and-half, and ice cream. Equally important is replacing those calories with healthy, unsaturated fats (such as those found in vegetable oils, avocados, and fatty fish) rather than refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and white rice. Unlike healthy fats, these starchy foods aren’t very filling, and they can trigger overeating and weight gain.

The other big problem with refined carbs: They are woefully low in fibre, which helps flush cholesterol out of the body.

The fibre factor
Your body can’t break down fiber, so it passes through your body undigested. It comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble. Fiber-containing foods usually feature a mix of the two.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. While it doesn’t directly lower LDL, this form of fiber fills you up, crowding other cholesterol-raising foods out of your diet and helping to promote weight loss.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water, creating a gel. This gel traps some of the cholesterol in your body, so it’s eliminated as waste instead of entering your arteries.

Soluble fibre also binds to bile acids, which carry fats from your small intestine into the large intestine for excretion. This triggers your liver to create more bile acids — a process that requires cholesterol. If the liver doesn’t have enough cholesterol, it draws more from the bloodstream, which in turn lowers your circulating LDL.

Finally, certain soluble fibres (called oligosaccharides) are fermented into short-chain fatty acids in the gut. These fatty acids may also inhibit cholesterol production.

The “best” foods
The following 11 foods are good sources of fibre or unsaturated fat (or both). But they’re not in any particular order and are simply suggestions. Most whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are good sources of fiber. And most nuts and seeds (and the oils made from them) provide monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

1. Oatmeal. This whole grain is one of the best sources of soluble fiber, along with barley (see “Grain of the month,” at right). Start your day with a bowl of steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats, topped with fresh or dried fruit for a little extra fiber.

2. White beans. Also called navy beans, this variety ranks highest in fiber content. Try different types of beans as well, such as black beans, garbanzos, or kidney beans, which you can add to salads, soups, or chili. But avoid prepared baked beans, which are canned in sauce that’s loaded with added sugar.

3. Avocado. The creamy, green flesh of an avocado is not only rich in monounsaturated fat; it also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Enjoy this fruit sliced in salad, pureed into dip, or mashed and spread on a slice of whole-grain toast.

4. Eggplant. Although not everyone’s favorite, these deep purple vegetables are one of the richest sources of soluble fiber. One idea: oven-roast or grill whole eggplants until soft and use the flesh in a Middle Eastern dip called baba ghanoush.

5. Carrots. Raw baby carrots are a tasty and convenient snack — and they also give you a decent dose of insoluble fiber.

6. Almonds. Among nuts, almonds are highest in fiber, although other popular varieties such as pistachios and pecans are close behind. Walnuts have the added advantage of being a good source of polyunsaturated, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

7. Kiwi fruit. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to peel these fuzzy, brown fruits. But to avoid the skin, slice one in half and scoop out the inside with a spoon for an easy, fiber-rich, sweet snack.

8. Berries. Because these fruits are packed with tiny seeds, their fiber content is higher than most other fruits. Raspberries and blackberries provide the most, but strawberries and blueberries are also good sources.

9. Cauliflower. This cruciferous veggie not only provides fiber, but it can also serve as a substitute for white rice. Just shred or whirl in a food processor until it resembles rice, then sauté with a little olive oil until tender.

10. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, such as soymilk, tofu, and tempeh, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. More recent analyses showed the effect is modest, at best. Still, protein-rich, soy-based foods are a far healthier choice than a hamburger or other red meat.

11. Salmon. Likewise, eating cold-water fish such as salmon twice a week can lower LDL by replacing meat and delivering healthy omega-3 fats. Other good fish options include chunk light canned tuna and tinned sardines.

New research shows that people with a history of eating disorders experienced significant negative effects during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The research, which appears in the Journal of Eating Disorders, raises awareness of the pandemic’s detrimental effects on people’s mental health, and could be valuable for the future development of health services.

COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has hospitalized hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and resulted in a significant number of deaths.

However, the pandemic and the emergency measures responding to it, have also had a significant effect on people’s mental health.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, governments across the world introduced various emergency measures that typically involved some degree of physical distancing or lockdown.

While these lockdowns have been crucial in reducing the disease’s spread and saving lives, they have also been profoundly disruptive to individuals and society.

Everyday routines changed overnight as people worked from home, became furloughed from their jobs, or were made unemployed.

People living with friends or family were able to maintain some face-to-face socializing. However, people living on their own or with strangers could only see these friends and family virtually — and only if they had access to the necessary technology.

As with physical health, it has become clear that while the virus can affect anybody’s mental health, it does not do so equally.

Understandably, the pandemic has negatively affected people’s general mental health. For example, an article in The Lancet found that, in the United Kingdom, people’s mental health was generally worse during the pandemic than before. The authors also discovered young people, women, and those living with young children were particularly affected.

However, experts know less about the effects of the pandemic on people with pre-existing mental health diagnoses.

Eating disorders

In the present study, the researchers wanted to explore the pandemic’s effects on people who had experienced an eating disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, common eating disorders include:

  • anorexia, where people see themselves as overweight when they are underweight
  • bulimia, where people uncontrollably eat significant amounts of food and then compensate for this through behavior that can damage their health
  • binge-eating, where people lose control over the ability to stop eating food, often resulting in overweight or obesity

In early April, 2 weeks after a lockdown was enforced in the U.K., the researchers recruited 153 people through social media to take part in a questionnaire. These participants had to be U.K residents over 16 years of age, with experience of an eating disorder, including being in recovery.

After excluding people who didn’t meet these criteria, there were 129 suitable participants between the ages of 16 and 65. Of these, 93.8% were female.

In total, 62% described themselves as currently having an eating disorder. 6.2% had been in recovery for less than 3 months, 6.2% had been in recovery for between 3 months and 1 year, and 25.6% had been in recovery for more than 1 year.

The questionnaire included closed and open-ended questions about the social effect of the lockdown, the respondent’s internet usage, their exercise and food behavior, and the pandemic’s general impact on their eating disorder.

Worsened symptoms

The researchers found that 87% of the respondents said their eating disorder symptoms had worsened, while over 30% reported their symptoms were much worse.

The respondents said the pandemic had a significant negative effect on their psychological wellbeing. They reported feeling less in control and more socially isolated. They also experienced more rumination about their eating disorder and felt less socially supported.

The researchers believe that key triggers for these feelings include:

  • changes to everyday routine
  • their living situation
  • the amount of time they spent with family and friends
  • their ability to access treatment
  • how much physical activity they were doing
  • their relationship with food
  • how much they were using technology.

Lessons to learn

The researchers say their findings make clear the value of social support for reducing stress. They also emphasize the negative effect that discussions of food and exercise on social media and national campaigns can have on people with eating disorders, and the long-lasting effects of the lockdown on people with experience of eating disorders.

The authors call for experts to pay more attention to minimizing social isolation during future lockdowns, and crafting messages about exercise and eating that are mindful of those with eating disorders.

They also suggest resources should be made available to help these people manage the pandemic’s negative effects, which could extend into the long term.

Moderate-intensify exercise can help improve your thinking and memory in just six months.

You probably already know that exercising is necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep your heart strong, maintain a healthy body weight, and stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes. But exercise can also help boost your thinking skills. “There’s a lot of science behind this,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors — chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.

It also acts directly on the brain itself. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says McGinnis.

Exercise can also boost memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, and by reducing stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

Is one exercise better than another in terms of brain health? We don’t know the answer to this question, because almost all of the research so far has looked at walking. “But it’s likely that other forms of aerobic exercise that get your heart pumping might yield similar benefits,” explains McGinnis.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that tai chi showed the potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults, especially in the realm of executive function, which manages cognitive processes such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, and verbal reasoning. That may be because tai chi, a martial art that involves slow, focused movements, requires learning and memorizing new skills and movement patterns.

McGinnis recommends establishing exercise as a habit, almost like taking a prescription medication. And since several studies have shown that it takes about six months to start reaping the cognitive benefits of exercise, he reminds you to be patient as you look for the first results — and to then continue exercising for life.

Aim for a goal of exercising at a moderate intensity — such as brisk walking — for 150 minutes per week. Start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.

For additional advice and tips to help you get the most from your workouts, read the Workout Workbook, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Beer bellies really do lead to brewer’s droop, research reveals.

Nine in ten middle-aged men with waists greater than 40in struggle to get an erection. The rate was a quarter higher than those with a 37in gut, who tended to have only mild difficulties. Those with the biggest bellies had nearly a quarter fewer orgasms and were less sexually satisfied.

Excess belly fat reduces the flow of blood needed to perform and affects testosterone levels, the Turkish researchers suggest in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Prof. Mustafa Bolat said: “It is similar to the furring up of arteries that occurs in heart disease.”Commenting on the findings, sex therapist Phillip Hodson said: “The greater British beer belly is not only bad for your heart physically – it is now clearly been linked to not being able to start, continue or complete the act of love.

“Belly fat also converts testosterone to oestrogen thus interfering with proper hormonal balance.

“Many try to disguise their girth by not tucking in shirts. But they’d do better to heed Government advice and not tucking into booze and butties.”