A comprehensive study featured in Nutrients journal has cast a spotlight on pomegranate (Punica granatum l., PG) and its polyphenolic compounds, scrutinising their potential to modulate metabolic irregularities. Historically embraced for its therapeutic properties against bacterial infections, diabetes, and various metabolic syndromes, pomegranate’s efficacy is being re-evaluated amidst concerns over the side effects of conventional pharmacological treatments.
The review delves into pomegranate’s pharmacokinetic profiles, safety, and bioavailability, particularly focusing on its capacity to combat metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular diseases. It outlines how PG’s consumption could attenuate insulin resistance, inflammatory cytokines, redox gene expression, blood pressure elevation, vascular damage, and lipoprotein oxidation.
In animal models, pomegranate seed oil has been found to reduce fat mass and enhance insulin sensitivity, corroborating previous research indicating significant reductions in lipid levels. The study further explains how enzymes and nuclear receptors involved in lipid metabolism are positively influenced by PG’s floral components.
Despite some contradictory findings regarding PG’s impact on food intake and weight gain, the review suggests genetic differences may account for varied physiological reactions to phytochemicals. PG polyphenols are also being explored for their anti-diabetic properties through diverse mechanisms, including modulation of PPAR-γ activity and adiponectin gene expression.
The review also evaluates the pharmacodynamics and safety of PG’s ellagitannin compounds, noting individual differences in urolithin production and absorption, which are influenced by factors such as gut microbiota composition and pH. Although high doses of PG have shown cellular and nuclear alterations in toxicological studies, conventional uses of PG and its compounds appear safe, with adverse effects only predicted at dosages exceeding those traditionally used in ethnomedicine.
In conclusion, the research indicates that PG could play a beneficial role in preventing metabolic disorders. However, the outcomes of clinical and pharmacokinetic studies remain variable, attributed to factors like plant part selection, cultivar differences, environmental conditions, bioavailability, organ accessibility, and individual genetic profiles. Despite these discrepancies, the therapeutic potential of PG in addressing components of metabolic syndrome highlights the need for integrated treatment strategies.Read More
Recent research emerging from UBC Okanagan delivers a stern warning: the unhealthy eating habits fostered during one’s university tenure could set the stage for a lifetime mired in significant health challenges, including obesity, respiratory ailments, and depression.
The caution comes from Dr. Joan Bottorff, a distinguished Professor affiliated with UBCO’s School of Nursing, who is part of a global team of investigators delving into the dietary habits of university attendees. The extensive study encapsulated the dietary patterns of nearly 12,000 medical scholars from a total of 31 universities located in China, striving to decipher the correlation between dietary behaviours, obesity, and a gamut of diseases.
Dr. Bottorff emphasised the crucial fact that the foundations for many unhealthy eating patterns are laid during the university phase and could persist for a substantial duration of an individual’s life.
“There’s a considerable amount of data that outlines how the consumption of high-calorie meals and sugar-laden foods and beverages by many students during this period can be a precursor to obesity,” Dr. Bottorff stated. While she acknowledged that these aren’t the sole contributing factors to obesity, they are significant and warrant attention.
The groundbreaking study, which recently graced the pages of Preventive Medicine Reports, was spearheaded by Dr. Shihui Peng from the School of Medicine at Jinan University in China. Although prior research robustly associates unhealthy diets with numerous chronic diseases, this particular inquiry aimed to unveil the link between poor dietary habits and infectious diseases, including common colds and diarrhoea.
Dr. Bottorff highlighted that while the structure of the study didn’t allow for a cause-effect demonstration, the association between unsound eating habits, obesity, and respiratory diseases was robustly substantiated.
She further brought to light the biomedical research backing the nexus between obesity and infectious diseases, a linkage further spotlighted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Bottorff explained, “Recent studies concerning COVID-19 reveal a tendency of individuals with obesity experiencing severe symptoms and outcomes, with explanations pointing towards compromised breathing due to excess weight and subpar inflammatory and immune responses.”
The quintessence of the problem, as per Dr. Bottorff, is rooted in the high-sugar, high-calorie dietary routine embraced by many students, which potentially morphs into a long-term plight, as these habits could segue into obesity. Moreover, she noted a vicious cycle where stress and anxiety could trigger overeating, which in turn could lead to further stress and depression.
She underscores the importance of not overlooking this perilous trend among university-goers, where a substantial fraction is known to indulge in unhealthy diets. “The nutritional quality of the food they consume is directly tied to obesity, which opens the gates to a host of other health issues extending beyond chronic diseases to infectious diseases,” she reiterated.
Dr. Bottorff recommends a university-wide initiative where students are educated on the principles of healthy eating. Additionally, she stresses the imperative for institutions to shoulder the responsibility of offering healthy and affordable food alternatives to the entire student body.
Reflecting on the matter, Dr. Bottorff advocated for a thorough examination of the food environment presented to students, ensuring that cafeterias and vending machines are stocked with healthy food choices. The collaborative effort between UBC Student Wellness and Food Services is a move in the right direction, addressing food security and literacy to mitigate the adverse impact of unaffordable food options and university-induced stress on students’ dietary choices.
Students facing food insecurity now have the recourse of a low-barrier food bank and a meal share program. Concurrently, the culinary team at UBCO Food Services, working in tandem with a registered dietitian, has been prioritising locally sourced, organic, and sustainably produced ingredients to diversify the food options available.
Encouraged by the progress, especially with healthier choices being more accessible in cafeterias and the reorganisation of vending machine items to place healthier options at eye level, Dr. Bottorff acknowledges the strides taken by many post-secondary institutions in addressing these issues. “The momentum gathered over the last four or five years is heartening,” she remarked, “It’s a positive deviation from the past, although there’s still a long journey ahead to fully tackle this issue.”Read More
Luton Council takes action against childhood obesity by banning unhealthy food ads on municipal property
Luton Council has made a significant decision to combat the growing concern of childhood obesity in the town by implementing a ban on advertising for unhealthy food items on most of its council-owned property. As part of this determined initiative, advertisements featuring food products high in fat, salt, and sugar will no longer be permitted to be displayed on billboards, lampposts, screens, or roundabouts within the town’s jurisdiction.
This move, according to the council, aims to “protect children and adults” from the influence of marketing that promotes unhealthy eating habits. The situation has become particularly alarming in Luton, where childhood obesity rates have exceeded national levels. The latest figures from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) revealed that 11.4% of reception age children in Luton (ages four to five) were classified as having obesity, compared to the national rate of 10.1%. Similarly, obesity among children aged 10 to 11 (Year 6) in Luton stood at 29.2%, noticeably higher than the national rate of 23.4%.
Labour councillor Khtija Malik, who holds the portfolio for public health, declared the ban as a “start” in the town’s efforts to decrease its “high rates of obesity among young children.” Ms. Malik stressed the importance of fostering healthy eating habits early in life, acknowledging the considerable impact advertising has on shaping people’s food choices.
This ban, although extensive, will not encompass all advertising locations within the town. Unhealthy food adverts may continue to be seen on bus shelters until at least 2027, as the council’s current advertising contract for these spaces extends to that year. However, Ms. Malik reassured that the council, having “control of our assets,” would exercise control over “what is advertised” in areas under its jurisdiction.
The move by Luton Council has not only demonstrated a proactive approach to a pressing public health issue but has also been met with support from advocacy groups. Fran Bernhardt, the children’s food campaign coordinator at Sustain, a group dedicated to better food and farming, lauded the council’s efforts, stating, “Luton Council has stood up to the food and drinks industry on behalf of all their residents.” She further emphasised the importance of the decision, pointing out that those residing in the most deprived areas are the ones most affected by unhealthy food advertising and are consequently most at risk from diet-related diseases.
The decision by Luton Council signifies an important step in recognising and addressing the complex factors that contribute to childhood obesity. By limiting the exposure to advertising that encourages unhealthy food choices, the council is actively working to create an environment that supports healthier lifestyle decisions. This ban is a notable example of local governance taking decisive action to influence public behaviour and health, reflecting a growing awareness of the pivotal role advertising plays in shaping dietary habits and preferences. It serves as a landmark measure that could potentially inspire similar initiatives in other towns and cities, contributing to a broader societal shift towards prioritising public health.Read More
A group of scientists are working on an unprecedented approach to dietary tracking, drawing inspiration from the concept of constant surveillance. The researchers are creating minute cameras that can be attached to the ear, recording every food item consumed by the wearer.
The camera’s footage will be processed by an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can identify both the type of food and portion sizes. The ultimate objective is to provide customised advice on dietary habits, bridging the gap in dietary research that has often relied on participants’ unreliable self-reporting via surveys or diaries. The common issues include forgetfulness in recording meals, inaccuracies in estimating portion sizes, and intentional omissions due to feelings of guilt, particularly with regard to treats and alcohol.
The Health Survey of England 2021 stated that approximately 25.9% of adults had obesity, with an additional 37.9% classified as having overweight. Obesity is linked to a variety of health issues, including depression, infertility, hypertension, cancer, dementia, heart failure, and type 2 diabetes. The latter condition significantly raises the risk of blindness, peripheral neuropathy, and limb amputation.
Predictions for 2035 suggest that the NHS will likely spend more on treating diet-related type 2 diabetes than on all types of cancer. However, despite nearly 700 policy interventions implemented between 1996 and 2020 to curb national weight gain, as cited by former government food tsar Henry Dimbleby, obesity rates continue to rise.
According to Professor Gary Frost, the Head of Nutrition Research at Imperial College London, “There is a glaring gap in our understanding of people’s daily dietary habits. The current tools for dietary tracking are inaccurate, making it challenging to discern the connection between diet and disease.”
The innovative project, named CoDiet, also plans to evaluate urine and blood samples to study the correlations between dietary habits, bodily changes, and the onset of diseases such as type 2 diabetes. A primary goal is to develop a tool using AI that can dispense diet advice specific to an individual’s needs.
“We anticipate the ability to formulate new individual-focused policies to counteract common diseases related to lifestyle,” Frost said.
Scheduled to commence in September (of 2023), the project will initially use the ear-mounted cameras to record the dietary practices of 50 British volunteers and an additional 150 participants from Cork in the Republic of Ireland, Spain, and Greece.Read More
Study challenges belief that moderate alcohol consumption shields against obesity and type 2 diabetes
Moderate alcohol consumption does not provide protection against conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study, challenging the long-debated notion of potential health benefits associated with light to moderate drinking.
The study investigated whether modest alcohol intake had any positive effects on health—a subject that has divided experts. Researchers analysed data on alcohol consumption from over 400,000 participants and discovered a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes among individuals who consumed more than 14 drinks per week. Notably, this link was more pronounced in women than in men.
Dr. Tianyuan Lu of McGill University in Québec commented on the findings, stating, “Previous research has suggested that moderate drinkers may be less susceptible to developing obesity or diabetes compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers. However, our study indicates that even light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, defined as no more than one standard drink per day, does not safeguard against obesity and type 2 diabetes in the general population.”
The study’s results revealed that heavy drinking was associated with increased measures of obesity, such as body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and fat mass, as well as an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.
Importantly, the study did not find any evidence of improved health outcomes related to moderate alcohol consumption in individuals who consumed seven or fewer alcoholic drinks per week.
Dr. Lu concluded by highlighting the significance of the research in promoting awareness of the risks associated with alcohol consumption. The study’s findings aim to inform future guidelines and recommendations regarding alcohol use, with the hope of encouraging healthier behaviours as alternatives to drinking.
For further details, refer to the full study published in JCEM.Read More
Leading scientists are urging the government to establish standard portion sizes for young children as part of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic. In a damning report, government scientific advisers have revealed that young children are consuming excessive amounts of salt and sugar while falling short on fruit, fibre, and vegetable intake.
Official data indicates that one in ten reception-age children in the UK now has obesity, with experts projecting that the obesity crisis will cost the NHS £10 billion annually by 2050. The report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) highlights the absence of formal guidance on appropriate portion sizes for young children and emphasises the need for policymakers to address this issue. Oversized servings are contributing to the rapid consumption of excessive calories.
According to the report’s authors, the current diet of young children in the UK fails to meet the recommended dietary guidelines for several nutrients. They note that larger portion sizes of snacks and meals provided in preschool settings are associated with higher food and energy intake in the short term. To address these concerns, the authors recommend that the government consider developing age-appropriate portion sizes for food and beverages, including vegetables, fruit, fruit juice, and milk, targeting children aged 1 to 5 years.
The SACN, known for its advocacy of the forthcoming ban on fast-food advertising before 9 pm from 2025 and the fortification of bread with folic acid, has identified excessive sugar consumption as a widespread issue, leading to dental problems that pose long-term health risks for individuals and place a persistent burden on the NHS.
The report reveals that nutritional imbalances are prevalent in the average diet, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds experiencing even worse dietary quality. Commissioned by the Department for Health and Social Care, the report provides the first update on recommended food and beverage consumption for children aged one to five in nearly two decades. Based on a comprehensive review of two decades of studies and data, the panel of nutrition experts and paediatricians who form the SACN made several recommendations, highlighting the urgency of addressing the “high prevalence” of overweight and obesity in children in the UK.
Official figures indicate that approximately 3% of reception-age children have severe obesity, and one in ten children at this age meet the threshold for obesity.
The report authors also suggest that repeated exposure to initially disliked vegetables can help children develop a preference for them. They recommend that parents persistently offer the vegetable to their child eight to ten times to increase acceptance.
Additional recommendations from the report include avoiding fizzy drinks for children under the age of five, consuming unsweetened yoghurt products, and making milk and water the primary beverage choices. Semi-skimmed cow’s milk is acceptable, but fully skimmed milk should be avoided until age 5.
Bridget Benelam, a Nutrition Scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation, highlighted the report’s findings, stating that the diets of 1-5-year-olds were inadequate, characterised by excessive sugar, salt, and unhealthy energy-dense foods, and insufficient fibre, fruit, and vegetables.
The report also emphasises the importance of early childhood nutrition, not only for growth and development but also for establishing healthy habits that will benefit children later in life.
The report suggests several strategies for the government to consider, including promoting continued breastfeeding into the second year of life, ensuring children receive daily vitamin D and A supplements, and providing adequate vitamins and minerals for vegan families who may lack these nutrients commonly found in animal products.
A government spokesperson acknowledged that the report’s recommendations are being noted and considered. They highlighted the Start for Life resources, which provide expert NHS advice, helpful videos, and simple recipe ideas to support families in providing healthy meals for babies and young children.Read More
Published in New Scientist, “Only eating between 7am and 3pm helps people with obesity lose weight” describes the results of a study that found that time-restricted eating (TRE) can be an effective tool for weight loss in people with obesity. The study found that individuals who only ate between the hours of 7am and 3pm lost an average of 8% of their body weight in just 12 weeks. The article notes that the benefits of TRE go beyond weight loss, as it has also been linked to improved metabolic health, reduced inflammation, and better sleep. The article suggests that TRE could be a simple and effective way for people with obesity to improve their health, but more research is needed to fully understand the effects of this eating pattern.Read More
An article published in New Scientist titled “Taxing sugary drinks may not cut obesity as much as headlines claim” examines the impact of taxing sugary drinks on obesity rates. The article cites studies that have shown that taxing sugary drinks has had limited success in reducing obesity rates, as consumers often turn to other sources of added sugar, such as snacks and desserts. The article notes that while taxing sugary drinks may be a step in the right direction, it is not a silver bullet solution to the obesity epidemic, suggesting instead that a comprehensive approach to reducing obesity is needed, including changes in government policies, increased access to healthy food, and increased physical activity. It concludes by stating that while taxing sugary drinks may have some impact on reducing obesity, it is not a complete solution, and additional efforts are needed to address the issue.Read More
A study published in the journal PLOS Medicine is the first to examine whether pictorial health warnings on sugary drinks, like juice and fizzy drinks, influence whether or not parents purchase these types of beverages for their children.
The study’s results found that these warnings reduced parental purchases of sugary drinks for their children by 17%.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health ran the study in a unique laboratory by creating the “UNC Mini Mart”. This space was set up to mimic a convenience store and simulate a realistic setting for a shopping experience.
“We created this store because we saw a major need for research that tests the impact of policies in a food store setting that is much more realistic,” said senior author Lindsey Smith Taillie, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Gillings School and a member of UNC’s Carolina Population Center (CPC). “When people make choices about what food to buy, they are juggling dozens of factors like taste, cost, and advertising and are looking at many products at once. Showing that warnings can cut through the noise of everything else that’s happening in a food store is powerful evidence that they would help reduce sugary drink purchases in the real world.”
Taillie’s and her co-authors’ positive findings about the effects of image-based warning labels highlight a recent approach to combating the global struggle with obesity. Children in the United States and many other countries, including the UK, consume more than the recommended amount of sugary drinks, which increases their risk for obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes.
Taillie has conducted research on warning labels and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food in Chile, Mexico and South Africa. Marissa G. Hall, PhD, one of the study’s co-authors, researches the impact of warnings on tobacco and food as well as effectiveness of obesity prevention policies.
In their study, 326 parents of children between the ages of 2 to 12 years old participated in a randomised trial with 1) a pictorial warning arm (in which drink labels had images representing heart damage and Type 2 diabetes), and 2) a control arm (in which drinks labels displayed a barcode).
Participants were instructed to choose one drink and one snack for their child, along with one household good, the latter being added to the shopping list to potentially mask the purpose of the study. After shopping, participants completed a survey about their selections and left with their drink of choice and a cash incentive.
The picture warnings led to a 17% reduction in purchases of sugary drinks, with 45% of parents in the control arm buying a sugary drink for their child compared to 28% in the pictorial warning arm.
The warnings also reduced calories purchased from sugary drinks and led to parents feeling more in control of healthy eating decisions and thinking more about the harms of sugary drinks.
“We think the paper could be useful for policymakers in the U.S. and globally,” Hall says. “This evidence supports strong, front-of-package warnings to reduce sugary drink consumption in children.”Read More
New research published in Clinical Nutrition has indicated that consuming whole grain rye products can benefit your health greater than refined wheat products. The new study was conducted at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. It examined how people lost more body fat and weight when eating a diet with high-fibre products containing whole grain rye, compared to those who ate refined wheat products.
This study is the biggest to look at the consequences of consuming specific grains on body weight and body fat, and the first to examine rye specifically. Scientists have also suggested that obesity is caused by what we are eating, and not by how much.
Researchers analysed 242 men and women with overweight aged from 30 to 70 for 12 weeks. Their weight, body composition, blood samples, and appetite was examined at the start, halfway through, and end of the study. The participants were given a specific daily quantity of either whole grain rye or refined wheat, both with the same energy value, and were given the same guidance from a dietician on how to eat healthily.
Although both the rye and wheat groups lost weight during the study, those who ate rye products lost an average of one kilogram more than those who ate wheat products, with the difference attributable to fat loss.
“Although we saw an overall difference in weight loss between the rye and the wheat group, there was also very large variation within those groups. Increasing our understanding of why different people respond differently to the same foods can pave the way for more specifically tailored diets based on individual needs,” says Rikard Landberg, Professor of Food and Health at Chalmers University of Technology.
Obesity and excess weight are among the biggest health challenges in the world and require many different measures. One idea is to develop foods that contribute to an increased feeling of fullness and have positive effects on metabolism, and previous studies had observed that those who eat rye, which has a very high content of dietary fibre, feel more full than those who eat the corresponding amount of energy in the form of refined wheat.
“But surprisingly,” says Kia Nøhr Iversen, “in this study, we actually never observed any difference in appetite. We think this may be simply because the method we used to measure appetite was not good enough. We are therefore working on evaluating and developing the method further.”Read More