With Americans stuck at home, snack food has become a valuable commodity for the pandemic stressed consumer. North American sales of savory snacks like chips, popcorn, and pretzels climbed to $56.9 billion in 2020. In stressful times, people turn to snacking for comfort and Covid-19 has transformed kitchens across the U.S. into giant vending machines. So, has Covid-19 put an end to the shift to healthier snacks?
Milk is an optional part of a healthy diet for most adults, and may even be harmful if consumed excessively.
Every year, as millions of people around the world forge new resolutions to eat healthier and lose weight, US News & World Report releases a conveniently timed ranking of the best diets. A panel of experts in obesity, nutrition, diabetes, heart disease, and food psychology rigorously rate each of 39 diets on seven criteria:
- Likelihood of losing significant weight in the first 12 months
- Likelihood of losing significant weight over two years or more
- Effectiveness for preventing diabetes (or as a maintenance diet)
- Effectiveness for preventing heart disease (or for reducing risk for heart patients)
- How easy it is to follow
- Nutritional completeness
- Health risks (like malnourishment, too-rapid weight loss, or specific nutrient deficiencies)
1. Mediterranean diet
Emphasis on fruits, veggies, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, fish and other seafood. Eggs, cheese, and yogurt can be eaten in moderation. Keep red meats and sugar as treats.
2. DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet — TIE
Eat lots of fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Avoid saturated fats and sugar.
2. Flexitarian diet — TIE
Be a vegetarian most of the time. Swap in beans, peas, or eggs for meats, and consume plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. You can look up more details because there’s actually a full meal plan involving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks to add up to a total 1500 calories per day. But feel free to also just swap in flexitarian meals ad hoc.
4. Weight Watchers
The first actual paid program on the list, WW uses a points system to guide dieters towards foods lower in sugar, saturated fat, and overall calories while consuming slightly more protein. There are a variety of paid WW plans, with the lowest being about $20 per month.
5. Mayo Clinic diet — TIE
A two-part system, with part one (‘Lose it!’) involving adding a healthy breakfast (i.e. fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats) plus 30 minutes of exercise per day. You’re not allowed to eat while watching TV or consume sugar except what’s naturally found in fruit. Meat is only allowed in limited quantities, as is full-fat dairy. The second phase (‘Live it!’) is basically the first phase but with more flexibility. You aren’t realistically going to cut out sugar forever, and the Mayo Clinic diet acknowledges that. So the long term plan involves lots of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. Less saturated fats and sugar.
Dietary patterns with a higher proinflammatory potential were associated with higher CVD risk. Reducing the inflammatory potential of the diet may potentially provide an effective strategy for CVD prevention.
Inflammation plays an important role in cardiovascular disease (CVD) development. Diet modulates inflammation; however, it remains unknown whether dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential are associated with long-term CVD risk.
First up, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute and chief research officer for the Seattle Indian Health Board. Echo-Hawk shares what inspired her journey in public health and explains the repercussions of excluding native people from health data.
This story was originally reported by Lizzie Wade, who profiled Echo-Hawk as part of Science’s “voices of the pandemic” series. Next, host Sarah Crespi interviews Danielle Murashige, a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania, about her Science paper that attempts to quantify how much fuel a healthy heart needs.
According to a recent study, obesity increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50%. Governments around the world are now hoping to encourage their citizens to lose weight. But with so much complex and often contradictory diet advice, as well as endless food fads, it can be hard to know what healthy eating actually looks like.
How many pieces of fruit and vegetables should you eat a day? Will cutting out carbs help you lose weight? Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Speaking to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London about his new book Spoon-Fed, Madeleine Finlay asks why we’re still getting food science wrong, and explores the current scientific evidence on snacking, supplements and calorie labels.
Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London and has recently been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He trained originally in rheumatology and epidemiology. In 1992 he moved into genetic epidemiology and founded the UK Twins Registry, of 13,000 twins, which is the richest collection of genotypic and phenotypic information worldwide. He is past President of the International Society of Twin Studies, directs the European Twin Registry Consortium (Discotwin) and collaborates with over 120 centres worldwide. He has demonstrated the genetic basis of a wide range of common complex traits, many previously thought to be mainly due to ageing and environment. Through genetic association studies (GWAS), his group have found over 500 novel gene loci in over 50 disease areas. He has published over 800 research articles and is ranked as being in the top 1% of the world’s most cited scientists by Thomson-Reuters. He held a prestigious European Research Council senior investigator award in epigenetics and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. His current work focuses on omics and the microbiome and directs the crowdfunded British Gut microbiome project. Together with an international team of leading scientists including researchers from King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University, Stanford University and nutritional science company ZOE he is conducting the largest scientific nutrition research project, showing that individual responses to the same foods are unique, even between identical twins. You can find more on https://joinzoe.com/ He is a prolific writer with several popular science books and a regular blog, focusing on genetics, epigenetics and most recently microbiome and diet (The Diet Myth). He is in demand as a public speaker and features regularly in the media.
“The findings of this study are promising and reinforce what we’ve seen in other studies — fasting diets are a viable option for people who want to lose weight, especially for people who do not want to count calories or find other diets to be fatiguing,” Varady said.
…participants in both daily fasting groups reduced calorie intake by about 550 calories each day simply by adhering to the schedule and lost about 3% of their body weight. The researchers also found that insulin resistance and oxidative stress levels were reduced among participants in the study groups when compared with the control group.
Two daily fasting diets, also known as time-restricted feeding diets, are effective for weight loss, according to a new study published by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The study reported results from a clinical trial that compared a 4-hour time-restricted feeding diet and a 6-hour time-restricted feeding diet to a control group.
“This is the first human clinical trial to compare the effects of two popular forms of time-restricted feeding on body weight and cardiometabolic risk factors,” said Krista Varady, professor of nutrition at the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences and corresponding author of the story.
From a BMJ Study article (April, 2020):
Compared with usual diet, moderate certainty evidence supports modest weight loss and substantial reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure for low carbohydrate (eg, Atkins, Zone), low fat (eg, Ornish), and moderate macronutrient (eg, DASH, Mediterranean) diets at six but not 12 months. Differences between diets are, however, generally trivial to small, implying that people can choose the diet they prefer from among many of the available diets (fig 6) without concern about the magnitude of benefits.
The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2018.1 In response, authorities have made dietary recommendations for weight management and cardiovascular risk reduction.23 Diet programmes—some focusing on carbohydrate reduction and others on fat reduction—have been promoted widely by the media and have generated intense debates about their relative merit. Millions of people are trying to lose weight by changing their diet. Thus establishing the effect of dietary macronutrient patterns (carbohydrate reduction v fat reduction v moderate macronutrients) and popular named dietary programmes is important.
Biological and physiological mechanisms have been proposed to explain why some dietary macronutrient patterns and popular dietary programmes should be better than others. A previous network meta-analysis, however, suggested that differences in weight loss between dietary patterns and individual popular named dietary programmes are small and unlikely to be important.4 No systematic review and network meta-analysis has examined the comparative effectiveness of popular dietary programmes for reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease, an area of continuing controversy.
Nathan Pritikin was a college dropout who became an entrepreneur. While doing research for the government during World War II, he observed that populations that had extremely limited food availability because of the war had substantially reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease—something unexpected at a time when cardiovascular disease was thought to be due to stress.
After the war when food became more available CVD death rates went back up, resulting in Pritikin concluding that CVD was related to diet. Pritikin devised his own very low-fat diet that bears his name and the diet is still in use 65 years later.
From a BMJ Research study (March 4, 2020):
Habitual fish oil supplementation is associated with a 13% lower risk of all cause mortality, a 16% lower risk of CVD mortality, and a 7% lower risk of CVD events among the general population
Fish oil is a rich source of long chain omega 3 fatty acids, a group of polyunsaturated fats that primarily include eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Initially, these compounds were recommended for daily omega 3 fatty acid supplementation for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Consequently, the use of fish oil supplements is widespread in the United Kingdom and other developed countries.
Several mechanisms could explain the benefits for clinical outcome derived from fish oil supplementation. Firstly, the results of several studies have indicated that supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids has beneficial effects on blood pressure, plasma triglycerides, and heart rate, all of which would exert a protective effect against the development of CVD. Secondly, several trials have shown that omega 3 fatty acids can improve flow mediated arterial dilatation, which is a measure of endothelial function and health. Thirdly, omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to possess antiarrhythmic properties that could be clinically beneficial. Finally, studies have reported that fish oil can reduce thrombosis. Additionally, studies have reported that the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil could have a preventive role in the pathophysiology of CVD outcomes. Other mechanisms could also be involved to explain the effect of fish oil on CVD outcomes.