Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unsweeten yourself!

Some recommendations from a Harvard study on spreading information about sweeteners.


Note that there's no mention of increasing artificial sweeteners - there's good reason.

According to another study, there's growing evidence use of sucralose (Splenda) and other diet sweeteners can lead to weight gain.


One worry about artificial sweeteners is that they uncouple sweetness and energy. Until recently, sweet taste meant sugar, and thus energy. The human brain responds to sweetness with signals to, at first, eat more and then with signals to slow down and stop eating. By providing a sweet taste without any calories, artificial sweeteners could confuse these intricate feedback loops that involve the brain, stomach, nerves, and hormones. If this happens, it could throw off the body's ability to accurately gauge how many calories are being taken in.

Studies in rats support this idea. Purdue University researchers have shown that rats eating food sweetened with saccharin took in more calories and gained more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food. (14) A long-term study of nearly 3,700 residents of San Antonio, Texas, showed that those who averaged three or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were more likely to have gained weight over an eight-year period than those who didn't drink artificially sweetened beverages. (15) Although this finding is suggestive, keep in mind that it doesn't prove that artificially sweetened soft drinks caused the weight gain.

Imaging studies support the idea that sugar and artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways. Some parts of the brain become activated when we experience a "food reward." At the University of California-San Diego, researchers performed functional MRI scans as volunteers took small sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose. Sugar activated regions of the brain involved in food rewards, while sucralose didn't. (16) So it is possible, the authors say, that sucralose "may not fully satisfy a desire for natural caloric sweet ingestion." More research is needed to tease out the implications of these findings for weight control.

Although the scientific findings are mixed and not conclusive, there is worrisome evidence that regular use of artificial sweeteners may promote weight gain. Because of these mixed findings about artificial sweeteners, drinking diet soda may not be the best replacement for drinking sugary soda.

Recently I gave up my Splenda in the morning coffee for this reason. It was becoming a bit too habit forming at the least, not sure of the total effects but I thought - why deal with it? Let's get to the next level without fooling anyone - my brain, body etc which probably fights back against it anyway.

Agrees with the bottom line of the Harvard study

So what's the best choice for your health? For adults and children, the evidence is strong that cutting back on sugary drinks—or eliminating them altogether—may help with weight control and will almost surely lower the risk of diabetes. There's emerging evidence that sugary drinks increase the risk of heart disease.The evidence is less clear-cut for artificially sweetened drinks. For adults trying to wean themselves from sugary soda, diet soda may be the beverage equivalent of a nicotine patch: something to be used in small amounts, for a short time, just until you kick the habit. For children, the long-term effects of consuming artificially-sweetened beverages are unknown, so it's best for kids to avoid them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fit body, smart brain

Some good info from an old timer (in awesome shape btw) fitness guru Clarence Bass.

Link shows that when they introduced a program called "Zero hour PE" in schools (example), the kids get smarter.

“The object of Zero Hour was to determine whether working out before school gives these kids a boost in reading ability and in the rest of their subjects,” Ratey explains.

There are many other aspects of the overall program, of course, but the main thing to understand is that this is not the typical team-oriented curriculum. The emphasis is on fitness instead of sports. The kids are encouraged to find an activity they enjoy: Eighteen choices are offered, ranging from rock climbing to aerobic dance. The idea is to find something that allows a student to experience success. Grades are based on effort rather than skill. “Any kid who wanted an A could get an A, if he worked for it,” a teacher explained. “Any time you got a personal best, no matter what it was, you moved up a letter grade.”

The kids learned about getting fit—and how it would make them perform better in the classroom.

To make a long story short, it worked. The kids got fitter and smarter.

First, the kids in Zero Hour were sent off to their first period class in a “state of heightened awareness” and prepared to learn. At the end of the semester, they showed a 17 percent improvement in reading and comprehension, compared with a 10.7 percent improvement for students who opted to sleep in and take standard PE class.

Again, the emphasis is NOT on expensive team sports here for cheering on some abstract notion of a town mascot or honor vs a neighboring rival. It's on individual fitness, where it should be IMO to serve the most students.