Category Archives: obesity

Probiotic Lactobacilus rhamnosus aids weight loss in overweight women

A study published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that supplementation with the probiotic L. rhamnosus encourages weight loss in overweight women.

Weight Loss
A probiotic supplement may encourage weight loss and healthy metabolic changes when used alongside a healthy, balanced diet.

A group of 125 overweight men and women were placed on a calorie restricted diet for 12 weeks, followed by a further 12-weeks of a ‘weight maintenance’ diet. While half of the participants were given a placebo supplement, the other half were given two capsules of L rhamnosus probiotic supplements at a total daily dosage of 1.6 billion L rhamnosus bacteria.

Both body weight and body composition were measured at the beginning of the study and then at 12 and 24 weeks. The probiotic supplement did not appear to affect weight loss in the men at all. However, the effect of probiotics on the women in the study was more marked. Compared to the women in the placebo group, those women taking probiotics experienced significantly more weight loss at the 12-week mark. While the placebo group managed a loss of 2.6 kg, those women on probiotics experienced an average loss of 4.4 kg.

After 12 weeks, all of the women were placed on a weight maintenance diet. As expected, the women in the placebo group maintained their original weight loss. In contrast, the women in the probiotic group continued to lose weight and body fat, losing an average of 5.2 kg by the end of the study. These women were also found to have lower levels of circulating leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite and satiety.

It is particularly interesting that the women taking the probiotic continued to lose weight despite eating at maintenance. The study’s results suggest that the L. rhamnosus strain may encourage metabolic changes that favour weight loss. The researchers suggest that probiotics may act by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall. Because probiotics can prevent certain proinflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, they might therefore help prevent the chain reaction that leads to glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. This mechanism of action suggest that other strains of probiotics could have a similar effect. Indeed other studies have encountered similar successful results with probiotics such as lactobacillus fermentum, lactobacillus amylovorus, akkermansia muciniphila and lactobacillus gasserei (2-4).

It is not clear why the rhamnosus probiotic appeared to benefit the women but not the men in the study. The researchers suggested that the men may have needed a higher dose or a longer period of supplementation.

Clearly maintaining a healthy weight requires a healthy, balanced diet. For those wanting to lose weight, this study suggests that a probiotic supplement may encourage weight loss and healthy metabolic changes when used alongside a healthy, balanced diet. The link between probiotics and weight loss is a particularly fascinating one, and hopefully this study will encourage further research in this area.

References

Sanchex M et al (2014) Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women B J NutrApr 28;111(8):1507-19.

Omar et al (2012). Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in health persons. Journal of Functional Foods.

Everard A et al (2013) Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity. PNAS 110:22, 9066-9071.

Reference: Kadooka, Y. et al; ‘Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randmomized controlled trial.’ European Journal of Clinical Nutrition., June 2010, Vol. 64, No. 6, Pp. 636-643.

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Fibre and Obesity

It is widely known that levels of obesity across the world have been rising at a staggering rate over the past few decades. We can’t miss the constant references to junk food and obesity in the news, however our obesogenic environments seem to present people with barriers to losing weight and becoming healthier.

Wholegrain Bread contains fibre
Foods like wholegrain bread contains fibre which could be good for a healthy weight and BMI.

It is important to overcome these barriers as the rises in overweight and obesity have been directly linked to low intakes of fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole-grains and legumes (i.e. under the recommended intake of 18-30 grams of fibre a day in the UK).

Likewise, higher intakes of fibre are correlated with lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced incidence of metabolic disturbances such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Fibre may also help to induce satiety, balance blood sugar and prevent hunger pangs and cravings which in turn can help to reduce energy intake, which offers another potential benefit for overweight individuals.

In order to investigate the effect of overweight individuals’ fibre intake in particular, one study (1) compared the fibre intakes from healthy diet, supplementation or a placebo on body composition and other metabolic measures. This study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, aimed to discover the effects of additional fibre intakes on metabolic outcomes and also to determine the amount of fibre that would be the most effective. The study used four groups where subjects either consumed a placebo powder (breadcrumbs) with their usual diet (control), a fibre supplement in the form of 12g of psyllium husks with their usual diet, a healthy eating diet with placebo and finally healthy eating diet with fibre supplementation. The researchers found that compared to the control group, who simply ate their usual diet with a placebo, the subjects in all groups increased their daily fibre intakes. Specifically, the healthy eating diet with psyllium husk supplementation group increased their fibre intake by a massive 39g a day, which was in comparison to an 11g increase for health eating alone.

The authors noted that the addition of the fibre supplement to a normal diet was enough to produce improvements in weight, BMI and % body fat. However, they stated that it is the combination of a healthy diet with fibre supplementation that produced the greatest improvements in all bodily measures (including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, insulin, body weight and BMI) for overweight individuals. This led the authors to conclude that an intake of fibre above 30g per day from both dietary sources and fibre supplements was the most suitable for those who are overweight, and not simply the adoption of a healthy diet alone. Therefore, if you are interested in losing weight, increasing your health and reducing your risks of metabolic conditions, you may wish to include the following high fibre foods into your diet along with fibre supplements such as psyllium, rice bran, wheat bran etc:

– Vegetables; including split peas (around 8g of fibre per 100g).

– Seeds; for example flax seeds provide 2.7g of fibre per tablespoon.

– Cereals; e.g a medium size bowl of All-Bran contains 9.8g of fibre; Two pieces of Shredded Wheat contain 4.3g of fibre; Two Weetabix contain 3.6g of fibre.

– Legumes such as red kidney beans; three tablespoons of red kidney beans contain 5.4g of fibre.

– Fruits such as apricots; three whole apricots contain 5g of fibre; Three whole prunes contain 4.6g of fibre and a medium size pear (with skin) contains 3.7g of fibre.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

(1) Pal, S. Khossousi, A., Binns, C., Dhaliwal, S. & Ellis, V. (2011). The effect of a fibre supplement compared to a healthy diet on body composition, lipids, glucose, insulin and other metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 90100.

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Could Probiotics help with Weight Management?

Some research exists to suggest that probiotics could help with weight management – but how would that work, and how sound is the research?

In 2006, a seminal study[1] published in the well-respected journal, Nature, showed a clear difference in the gut bacteria of obese people as opposed to their lean counterparts. What’s more, when obese participants later lost weight, their gut bacteria reverted back to those observed in lean participants.

Since then, smaller studies continue to support the theory that gut bacteria could influence weight. In 2009, a trial[2] found that women who took Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding were less likely to be obese 6 months following birth. 25% of the women who had received dietary advice alongside probiotic supplementation had excess abdominal fat, as opposed to in 43% of women who had received dietary advice with a placebo.

Weight Loss
Weight Loss may be supported by a higher probiotic bacteria balance in the gut

Could we be doing more to fight the obesity epidemic?

In 2010, a double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial in Japan[3] found a Lactobacillus probiotic to reduce abdominal fat by 4.6% and subcutaneous fat (just below the skin) by 3.3%. The trial recruited 87 overweight participants and randomly assigned a daily dose of fermented milk either with or without the probiotics, for a period of 12 weeks. The probiotic group given milk containing the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055, showed significant decreases in body weight BMI, in waist circumference, and in the hips.

How could Probiotics encourage Weight Loss?

No one knows for certain just yet, but mechanisms could include:

  • Better breakdown of foods (a well understood benefit of probiotics).
  • Displacement of pathogenic bacteria associated with weight gain.
  • Stimulating the body’s production of natural substances associated with decreased body fat.
  • L. acidophilus was found in a small study in 2008[5] to increase the body’s production of leptin (a protein commonly accepted to decrease appetite and increase metabolism) and to result in weight loss.
  • In 2010 scientists in Ireland found another Lactobacillus probiotic to influence the fat composition of the host, via production of the fatty acid t10, c12 CLA; a molecule previously associated with decreased body fat.
  • Correlation between obesity & digestive health issues such as constipation. Fascinating ongoing research in the USA by Dr Mark Pimental suggests that those with constipation could be absorbing more calories, potentially because when the gut performs at a slower rate the body has more time to absorb calories.[6] As probiotics could help to support bowel regularity (especially well-researched strains such as Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12Ò [7],[8]), a more efficient digestive process could lead to fewer calories being absorbed.

Moving Forward

In England our rates of obesity have doubled over the last 25 years, with 60% of adults overweight or obese today[9]. Any natural support in tackling this obesity epidemic could therefore play a fundamental role in the future. Currently evidence remains too sparse for any firm conclusions, although the results certainly look promising. Of course we needn’t tell you that taking a holistic approach and also looking at diet, fitness and exercise is always to be encouraged.

For individuals looking to lose weight a high quality daily probiotic might be suggested. For daily wellbeing EXTRA Strength contains 20 billion high quality Lactobacillus & Bifidobacteria probiotics. L. acidophilus NCFM is thought to be the most researched strain of acidophilus in the world which can be found in this probiotic supplement.

 

References:

1.Bajzer, M, & Seeley, R. ‘Phsyiology: Obesity and Gut Flora.’ Nature, 2006, Vol. 444, pp.1009 -1010.

2.News release, 17th European Congress on Obesity. 17th European Congress on obesity meeting, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 6-9, 2009.

3. Y. Kadooka et al., ‘Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomised controlled trial.’ European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010, vol. 64, No. 6, pp.636-643.

4. Rosberg-Cody, E. ‘Recombinant Lactobacilli expressing linolic acid isomerise can modulate the fatty acid composition of host adipose tissue in mice’. Microbiology, Dec, 22, 2012 DOI: 10. 1099/mic.0.043406-0.

5. R. Sousa et al., ‘Effect of Lactobacillus acidophilus supernatants on body weight and leptin expression in rats’. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2008, 8:5 doi: 10.1186/6882-8-5.

6. BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 8th March 2011 2100-2130h ‘Programme no. 9 – gut bacteria’ Radio science unit. Presented by Mark Porter; contributors: Glenn Gibson, Christine Edwards, Thomas Broody, Alisdair Macchonnachie, Mark Pimentel & Ian Rowland.

7. Matsumoto, M. et al. (2001) Effect of yoghurt with Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 in improving fecal microflora and defecation of healthy volunteers. Journal of Intestinal Microbiology; 14(2): pp.97-102.

8. Pitkala, K, H. et al. (2007) Fermented cereal with specific Bifidobacteria normalises bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomised, controlled trial. Journal of Nutriitonal Health and Ageing; 11.(4): pp.305-311.

9. guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/food-companies-health-wellbeing

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Back To School – Part 2- Healthy Lunch Boxes & Nutritious Snacks

Following on from our last blog on ‘Back to School Children’s Nutrition‘, this time we are looking at some healthy ideas for lunch boxes which can often be somewhat of a headache for busy mums and dads.

Take a look at some of our ideas and try them out this term.

Healthy Sandwich
Add some salad to a sandwich and go for different types of bread such as pitta bread, wraps and baguettes, and always go for wholemeal seeded rather than white bread. (2)

Adding a piece of fruit or two such as an apple, banana, orange, or a handful of grapes to your child’s lunch box is just as easy as adding a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar and no more time consuming.  Try testing out different fruits with your kids especially if yours are particularly fussy to see which ones are for them.  Vary the fruits so that your kids don’t get bored and you can even experiment with trying some unusual fruits such as dragon fruit, passion fruit, star fruit, lychee or any other exotic fruits you can get your hands on.  Kids love these as they are so unusual and intriguing to look at. Also give a thought to growing your own fruit and vegetables as your kids will be dying to try the fruits of their labour.  Getting your kids to squeeze the juice out of fruit to make lollies or blending them to make a smoothie is also a very enjoyable way for your kids to get more of their 5 a day.

According to the School Foods Trust (1) packed lunches should include:

  • Fruit and vegetables (at least one portion of each every day).
  • Meat, fish or other non dairy protein (e.g. lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, hummus, peanut butter) every day.
  • Oily fish at least once every three weeks.
  • A starchy food such as bread, pasta, rice, couscous, noodles, potatoes or other types of cereal every day.
  • Dairy such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, or custard every day.
  • Drinks: non flavoured water, fruit juice, yoghurt or milk drinks, smoothies.
  • No snacks such as crisps. Instead nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit (with no added salt, sugar or fat.) are acceptable.  Cakes and biscuits are to be limited and preferred only as part of a balanced meal.
  • No processed items such as dippers and cheese strings etc.

Using this method will help you to come up with ideas for your child’s lunch boxes.  For example you could try different salads such as pasta salad or potato salads with fish (especially oily fish like salmon or mackerel to provide fatty acids which are great for brain function, concentration and learning) or chicken or tinned fish for those wishing for the quick and easy.  Alternatively, beans such as pinto or kidney beans make a great addition to salads and provide both protein and fibre.  Mixing with a little light salad cream or olive oil and balsamic vinegar, makes for a really tasty and easy lunch.  You could even just use some of the left over pasta (especially wholemeal for balanced blood sugar levels) or potatoes from dinner the day before to make the lunches, and even make enough for your lunch too. Add an apple (for fibre, vitamin C and the antioxidant quercetin known to benefit hayfever and lower health risks) and a yoghurt (for dairy to help build strong bones and teeth) to the box and your good to go.

Also, if it has to be a sandwich, then mix it up a bit, add some salad, and go for different types of bread such as pitta, wraps and baguettes, and always go for wholemeal seeded rather than white bread to ensure blood sugar levels are balanced and kids are fuller for longer. The fibre content will also ensure that our kid’s digestive systems are functioning correctly and they are warding off risks of illnesses and diseases.

Pieces Of Apple
Adding a piece of fruit or two to your child’s lunch box is just as easy as adding a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar and no more time consuming. (3)

As kids love to use their hands when they are eating, including dips such as hummus or cottage cheese are fun additions and also a healthy option as they contains lots of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.  Include some vegetables such as chopped carrots (for vitamin A, providing benefits to eyes and skin) and peppers (for vitamin C and beta carotene), or even breadsticks or crackers for dipping and they will have a great time at lunch.

Food enjoyment is an important part of eating especially for children therefore it is worth experimenting with different methods.  Making the foods look appealing or adding a sauce or a dip to the dish are great ways to introduce a new food to their diet.  Once they’ve eaten the particular food a few times, they generally start to enjoy it and you never know you may find them asking for it in their packed lunches rather than you suggesting it to them.

Processed foods such as packaged ready meats, chocolate, crisps, biscuits and cakes should be kept to a minimum throughout the whole family for consistency.  Also, remember that you as a parent are a role model, so try to eat healthy foods in front of them so they can see how much you enjoy them (even if you may not).

It may be a time consuming process getting your child to try and enjoy eating healthy foods but it is definitely worth it for the wide range of health benefits provided.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

1. School Foods Trust (2008) Oldfield Park Infants’ School Packed Lunch Policy and Guidelines (Online):

2. Image courtesy of healingdream.

3. Image courtesy of Ambro.

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Back To School – Part 1 – Children’s Nutrition

With your children rested and rejuvenated from the summer holidays and poised and ready to return to school in September, now is the perfect time to make changes to their diet to improve their health and academic performance alike.

Children's Nutrition
Now is the perfect time to make the changes to your children's diet to improve their health and academic performance alike. (5)

Childhood is a very demanding time for the body.  Both physical and mental growth and development are operating at top speed which means that the food and ‘fuel’ children receive at this stage of life is crucial for their present and future development as adults.  As their provider of food, parents and guardians are ultimately responsible for the majority of what their child consumes, however this is often more easily said than done in an age where long hours at work are the norm and time is of the essence.

The easy option would be to give your kids quick processed foods, however these foods are often laden with saturated fats, sugars, and salt and their consumption in childhood has been linked to the formulation of atherosclerosis (where fat deposits stick to the arterial walls) which can increase risks to health and disease in later life. These foods are also heavily associated with childhood obesity which is now an epidemic (1). Therefore it is vitally important to give your kids healthy foods and limit the junk to help them to get the best possible nutrition.

Natural, fresh and nutrient dense foods should form the majority of a child’s daily food consumption.  These foods can include a variety of fruit such as Oranges which contain vitamin C to keep our children’s cells, tissues and organs healthy as well as to strengthen the immune system.  Cherries are full of antioxidants and bioflavonoids to reduce inflammation which can help headaches.  Strawberries contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals especially vitamin C.

Vegetables are also essential such as broccoli for vitamin C and fibre as well as antioxidants.  Peas are an excellent source of fibre and many vitamins especially vitamin K which is good for bones.  Carrots contain vitamin A providing benefits to eyes and skin and sweetcorn provides fibre and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are especially good for the eyes.

Wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice as well as legumes are also great for keeping our kids blood sugar levels balanced and to prevent snacking.  Low fat dairy is also needed to build strong bones and teeth as well as lean meats such as poultry for protein.  Fish is very important for the ‘good fats’ omega 3’s which are great for brain function, concentration and also for skin, hair and nails.  These foods are packed full of great health boosting nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids to help keep kids healthy with strong immune systems, great learning capacity, full of energy and to reduce their risk of disease (3).  They also contain complex carbohydrates (fibre) to balance blood sugar, reducing those dreaded sugar rushes as well as limiting hunger pangs and keeping your child’s digestion on track.  With all of these benefits it’s easy to see why it’s so important to try to include these foods in your child’s diet.

As well as improving your child’s diet, you may wish to consider supplements specifically designed for children to ensure you give them the vital nutrients their developing body needs as the nutrients mentioned previously (e.g. multivitamins, vitamins C and K, omegas, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin) can all be found in a supplement form.  There are a good number of supplements appropriate for children and you may which to get some advice from a registered nutritionist for any more complex requirements. However, here are a few that can make life easier for parent and child alike.

Essential Fatty Acids – Known to aid in behavioural issue, to boost academic performance and to ease skin problems including eczema.

Pycnogenol – More than 200 studies show this patented pine bark extract to be safe and effective in numerous health conditions including respiratory health in adults and children.

Echinacea – Offers an immune boosting alternative to antibiotics for minor day to day ailments.

Probiotics – Immune supporting and digestion boosting.  Look for formulations specifically designed for children.

Multivitamins – A daily insurance policy to ensure your child has the nutrients required for optimum nutrition.  They have also been shown to aid in behavioural problems.

Don’t miss part 2 of our back to school blogs where we share our top tips for healthy lunch boxes and snack ideas.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

1. Foresight Group (2007). Government Office for Science. Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Project Report 2nd Edition. London: HM Government.

2. Melanson, K.J. (2008) Nutrition Review: Lifestyle Approaches to Promoting Healthy Eating for Children. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2: 26.

3. Abdel-Salam, A.M. (2010) Functional Foods: Hopefulness to Good Health. American Journal of Food Technology, 5: 86-99.

4. Singh, P. & Goyal, G.K. (2008) Dietary Lycopene: Its Properties and Anticarcinogenic Effects. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Science and Food Safety, Vol. 7, Issue 3, 255-270.

5.  Image courtesy of Ambro.

 

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Daily smoothie may reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease

A daily smoothie may reduce levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin, a new study has found.

Try one of our tasty smoothie recipes
Try one of our delicious nutritious smoothie recipes (2)

The new exploratory study on overweight participants measured the effects of a daily smoothie made with acai berries on markers for diabetes and heart disease.  It discovered effects such as reductions in glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels (1).  The study’s authors reasoned that the high fibre, antioxidant, and fatty acid combination in the acai smoothie could explain these positive effects.

Previous studies have noted that reductions in fasting glucose of 3.6 percent and in cholesterol of 2.3 percent result in a significant reduction (58%) in the risk of becoming diabetic.  In this current study, fasting glucose was reduced by 5.3 percent and cholesterol by 10.6 percent, indicating a significant reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

This was a small, prospective study, and it is hoped that larger controlled trials may clarify the health benefits of smoothies.

Smoothies certainly offer excellent nutritional value.  They blend the whole fruit, rather than just the juice, delivering a good serving a fibre along with the fruit’s vitamins and antioxidants.  The fibre content helps to provide a steady release of energy rather than the sugar rush of pure fruit juice.

Smoothies are simple to make, delicious to drink and are a great way to give yourself a nutrient boost. Ideal summer fruits are blueberries, peaches, plums, strawberries, watermelon, kiwifruit and bananas.  To boost healthy fats, add flaxseed oil, avocado, walnuts or ground flax. To boost energy and fibre, blend in some oats. And to boost your protein intake, try adding some silken tofu or hemp protein to the mix.

Omega-3 boost: Blueberry and banana smoothie with ground flaxseed
Serves 1

This sweet and creamy smoothie will give you a welcome boost of omega-3 and fibre.  You can buy ground flaxseed. Or even better – buy whole flaxseed and freshly grind them in a coffee grinder or in a smoothie maker designed for the job.

  • 100g natural probiotic yoghurt
  • 1 small banana
  • Handful blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 100ml skimmed milk (or a milk substitute such as soya milk or oat milk)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Optional: seeds from one vanilla pod
Tribest Blenders
Our new Tribest blenders are perfect for smoothie making!

Sports recovery shake: High protein summer fruits

Hemp is not only a source of plant-based easy-to-digest protein, but it also boasts significant amounts of fibre, magnesium, iron and essential fatty acids.  Montmorency cherries in CherryActive ‘mop up’ free radicals produced by training, helping to support muscle repair and prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

  • One banana
  • Two handfuls frozen summer fruits
  • 3-4 tbsp hemp protein powder
  • 250ml skimmed milk (or a milk substitute such as soya milk or oat milk)
  • Optional: 20ml CherryActive concentrate

Kids Eat Your Greens! Popeye’s Sweet Spinach Smoothie

A brilliant way to encourage kids to eat their greens!  Children love the sweetness of the fresh strawberries and banana, while the spinach is loaded with antioxidants, iron, Vitamin K and magnesium.

  • Large handful spinach
  • 10 strawberries
  • 1 small banana
  • 200ml water
  • 50ml natural probiotic yoghurt
  • Optional: honey to taste

Written by Nadia Mason

References

(1). Udani JK et al. Effect of Acai berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutrition Journal 2011; 10:45

(2)  Image courtesy of gameanna.

 

 

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Healthy Gut Flora Could Prevent Obesity

‘Good’ bacteria in the gut may help to control weight, according to a recent study.

Probiotics are bacteria that help to maintain a bacterial balance in the digestive tract by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria. They are an important part of the digestive system, helping to control inflammation and support healthy digestion.

‘Good’ bacteria in the gut may help to control weight.
‘Good’ bacteria in the gut may help to control weight, according to a recent study. (1)

Caroline Karlsson, a researcher in food hygiene at Lund University, has tested the effects of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria on weight gain in rats (2). One group of rats were given a daily dose of probiotic lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL19. A second group were given Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, a pathogenic bacteria known to cause inflammation. Both groups of rats were fed the same diet.

When the rats were tested, it was found that the E. coli bacteria had led to changes in the gut flora and increased body fat. The group of rats given the lactic acid bacteria, however, were found to have a better balance of naturally occurring bacteria in their intestines. These rats put on significantly less weight than other rats, even though they ate the same amount of high-energy food.

Previous studies have presented similar findings. A human study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tested the effects of lactic acid bacteria on body weight (3). A milk drink containing lactobacilli was given to 87 participants every day for 12 weeks.  Another group was given a milk drink free from lactobacilli. After 12 weeks, the lactobacilli group showed a greater reduction in abdominal fat and body weight than the control group.

A further study (4) indicated that women were less likely to become obese after giving birth if they had taken probiotics (Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium strains) during pregnancy. One year after giving birth, the women who were given probiotics had the lower levels of obesity and body fat than those who were given placebo capsules.

Research regarding the role of probiotics in weight loss is in its early stages, and many studies to date have been fairly small. The results look promising, however, and there is increasing evidence that probiotic supplements can be benefical for promoting a healthy digestive and immune system.

Topping up your levels of healthy gut flora is simple. A good quality probiotic supplement such as Biocare’s Acidophilus Forte provides good levels of lactic acid bacteria. Those looking to increase their levels of probiotics through diet can also enrich their meals with probiotic foods. Try fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi and miso – or even a simple probiotic yoghurt with your morning cereal.

References

1.  Image courtesy of  luigi diamanti.

2.  Lund University. “Healthy gut flora could prevent obesity, rat study suggests.” ScienceDaily, 26 May 2011. Web. 29 May 2011.

3.  Kadooka Y, Sato M, Imaizumi K, Ogawa A, Ikuyama K, Akai Y, Okano M, Kagoshima M, Tsuchida T. “Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomized controlled trial.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun;64(6):636-43.

4.  Luoto R, Laitinen K, Nermes M, Isolauri E. Impact of maternal probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling on pregnancy outcome and prenatal and postnatal growth: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2010 Feb 4:1-8.

Written by Nadia Mason

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A protein-rich breakfast may prevent food cravings and overeating

A recent study has found that eating a protein-rich breakfast reduces feelings of hunger throughout the day (1).  Skipping breakfast has been linked with overeating, weight gain and obesity. Those who regularly skip breakfast have 4.5 times the risk of obesity as those who consume breakfast regularly (2).

Protein Rich Breakfast
A recent study has found that eating a protein-rich breakfast reduces feelings of hunger throughout the day. (3)

Researcher Heather Leidy recently conducted a study to determine whether the type of breakfast we eat might also affect hunger and feelings of fullness.  She assessed hunger and satiety by measuring self-perceived appetite sensations. The researchers also used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify activity in specific areas of the brain related to food motivation and reward.

The study was conducted on overweight teenage girls who habitually skipped breakfast. One group of participants was given a regular breakfast of cereal and milk for seven days, while a second group ate a higher protein breakfast. On the seventh day, the participants completed appetite and satiety questionnaires. They were also given a brain scan which recorded the brain’s response to images of food prior to lunch.

Compared to skipping breakfast, both types of morning meal led to increased fullness and reduced appetite before lunchtime. The brain scan confirmed that activity in regions of the brain that control ‘food motivation and reward’, or the desire to eat, was reduced at lunchtime when breakfast had been eaten earlier.  Additionally, the protein-rich breakfast led to even greater changes in appetite, feelings of fullness and desire to eat.

Leidy advises caution in interpreting the results of this preliminary study, as the sample size was small. The initial findings indicate that eating a protein-rich breakfast might help to control appetite and prevent overeating in young people.  “People reach for convenient snack foods to satisfy their hunger between meals, but these foods are almost always high in sugar and fat and add a substantial amount of calories to the diet.” Liedy said. “Incorporating a healthy breakfast containing protein-rich foods can be a simple strategy for people to stay satisfied longer, and therefore, be less prone to snacking,”

Protein-rich breakfasts can be simple and quick to prepare. Try a couple of poached eggs on a slice of wholegrain toast, unsweetened museli with natural yoghurt, or a couple of slices of rye bread spread with peanut butter. Or for those who love their usual breakfast cereal, you can boost the protein content by sprinkling on a protein powder such as Higher Nature’s Hemp Protein.

References

1.  Heather J. Leidy, et al. Harris. Neural Responses to Visual Food Stimuli After a Normal vs. Higher Protein Breakfast in Breakfast-Skipping Teens: A Pilot fMRI Study. Obesity, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2011.108.

2.  Ma, Y., Bertone, E., Staneck, EJ., et al. Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2003; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwg117.3.

3.  Image courtesy of  Simon Howden.

Written by Nadia Mason

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Following a Mediterranean diet may influence waist circumference

Having a large waist circumference, which indicates the level of fat in the abdomen, has previously been associated with an increased risk of heart disease in adults and young people.  A recently published study (1) wanted to investigate how a Mediterranean diet might influence accumulation of fat around the middle (waist circumference). 

The study(1) took place in Spain and involved over 2500 young people aged 10-24 years old.  Dietary data was collected to see how strongly individuals adhered to a Mediterranean diet.  Waist circumference was measured as was physical activity.  A higher score on the adherence to Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with higher leisure time physical activity levels and higher maternal education.   A high score was also associated with a lower waist circumference and lower waist-to-height ratio.   The authors of the study conclude that “These results suggest that following Mediterranean dietary principles may be important in reducing the risk of high waist circumference in young people”.

A traditional Mediterranean style of eating includes plentiful amounts of vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, olive oil, legumes (beans and peas), wholegrains, fish (including oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel) and low-fat dairy products.  This kind of eating pattern is ‘nutrient dense’ – the food is packed with lots of vitamins, minerals, fibre and flavonoids (members of the polyphenol family, plant chemicals), much of the food is not high in calories (not energy dense) but is high in nutrition, a great way of eating for health and weight control reasons.

BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure often used for healthy weight, it is worked out as weight divided by height squared.  To check your own BMI you may find it useful to visit the Food Standards Agency website where an online BMI calculator can be found.   Generally a BMI of 19-25 is viewed as a healthy weight.  However, measuring waist circumference might actually be a better measure for health.  A recently published, large, study (2) suggests that how obesity and overweight is measured may be very important.  Results indicate that in any body mass index BMI (the classic way of measuring obesity) group – normal, overweight and obese –  avoiding abdominal obesity, as measured by waist circumference, can reduce risk the risk of premature death from all causes. 

At the moment the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends(3) that waist circumference  be used in addition to BMI in overweight (BMI 25 to <30) and obese (BMI 30) adults to assess health risks.  There are no specific weight loss goals for abdominally obese patients, with a waist circumference of 88cm in women and 102cm in men, who are in the normal BMI category (18.5 to <25). 

This (2) 9 year study examined the association between waist circumference and death among 48500 men and 56343 women aged 50 years or older.  Very high waist circumference ( 120cm compared with <90cm in men and  110cm compared with <75cm among women) was associated with an approximately 2-fold higher risk of all cause mortality, including death from cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory causes, even after adjustment for BMI and other risk factors.  Increased waist circumference was associated with an increased risk of mortality in normal, overweight, and obese BMI categories. 

Based on its expert report(4) the World Cancer Research Fund recommends that, for cancer prevention, individuals “be as lean as possible without becoming underweight”.  The report also emphasises the role that excess abdominal ‘visceral’ fat, as indicated by waist circumference, may have in increasing cancer risk.  Having a large waist circumference is also associated with inflammation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels and heart disease.  A person does not have to be obese or overweight, as categorised by BMI, to have high levels of visceral fat.  The study(2) indicates that a simple waist measurement might be a better predictor of health risk than BMI alone.

Further evidence is needed to solidify the link between waist circumference and mortality, however the authors propose their results may affect the development of future guidelines for obesity.

NICE guidelines for waist circumference (3):

For women: 

Ideal: less than 80cm (32”).    
High: 80cm to 88cm (32” to 35”).
Very high: more than 88cm (35”).

For men:

Ideal: less than 94cm (37”).
High: 94cm to 102cm (37” to 40”).
Very high: more than 102cm (40”).  

For useful information on weight loss/weight maintenance you might want to download the WCRF booklet “Staying Lean For Cancer Prevention” 

(1) Schröder H et al.  2010.  Mediterranean diet and waist circumference in a representative national sample of young Spaniards.  International journal of pediatric obesity.  Posted online on September 23, 2010. (doi:10.3109/17477161003777417)

(2)Jacobs EJ et al.  2010.  Waist Circumference and All-Cause Mortality in a Large US Cohort.  Arch Intern Med.  170(15):1293-1301

(3) National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.  http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG43NICEGuideline.pdf.  Issue date:  December 2006.  Obesity guidance on the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children.  NICE clinical guideline 43

(4)WCRF/AICR.  2007. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective.  Washington DC: AICR, 2007.

Schröder H et al.  2010.  Mediterranean diet and waist circumference in a representative national sample of young Spaniards.  International journal of pediatric obesity.  Posted online on September 23, 2010. (doi:10.3109/17477161003777417)

Written by Ani Kowal

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Job stress associated with overweight and obesity

A few years ago I wrote two pieces related to work-based stress and bodyweight:

Is your work weighing heavy on your body?

Balanced diets may improve work energy and productivity levels

In these posts I described how stress hormones can affect appetite, inflammation in the body and bodyweight and how watching blood sugar levels could be helpful.  I also mentioned specific foods that can help to keep blood glucose levels stable as well as long chain omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines) and how these could be useful.

A recently published study (1) has found that chronic job stress, coupled with lack of physical activity, is strongly associated with being overweight or obese.  The study also found that exercise seemed to be highly important in managing stress and keeping a healthy weight. The study authors looked at workplace stress (job strain and job insecurity) and weight status in over 2,700 employees.  The authors conclude that workbased wellness programmes should target health enhancing behaviours to minimise the health effects of work conditions/work stress

Although the study took place in New York the results can be considered relevant to almost any job situation which is stressful and where redundancies are a concern.  In a press release (2) the lead study author, Diana Fernandez, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the URMC Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, said her study is among many that associate high job pressure with cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and weight gain. She also said that is was high time to improve corporate policies that better protect the health of workers “In a poor economy, companies should take care of the people who survive layoffs and end up staying in stressful jobs,” “It is important to focus on strengthening wellness programs to provide good nutrition, ways to deal with job demands, and more opportunities for physical activity that are built into the regular workday without penalty.

The study group heard from the participants that after a hard day of work, especially particularly stressful days with meetings and lots of computer time, that what workers looked forward to was to go home and do nothing in front of the TV.  Some of the workers that took part in the study also reported that they did not take time to eat well or to exercise at lunch time because they were worried about being seen to leave their desks for too long (2).  In interviews the employees confided to researchers that they were “stress eating” and burned out from “doing the work of five people,”(2).  Importantly more than 65% of the workers said that they watched two or more hours of television daily and among those who watched 2-3 hours 77% were more likely to be overweight or obese.  Those watching 4 or more hours of television increased their odds of obesity by 150% compared to those watching less than 2 hours daily.  Previous studies have linked TV time to overweight and obesity in adults as well as children.  The lead author said “We are not sure why TV is so closely associated with being overweight in our sample group of people,” “Other studies have shown that adults tend to eat more fatty foods while watching TV. But this requires more investigation.” (2).  It is probable that more high-calorie snack type foods are consumed in front of the TV.  It can be very easy to over-consume on snack foods such as crisps, biscuits, chocolates and processed convenience meals when sitting in front of the TV.

Stress at work can impact health behaviour in a direct and indirect way.  Stress is known to affect the neuroendocrine system – the brain-hormone system – which can have an impact on abdominal fat levels and can also be detrimental to sex hormones which can also impact weight.  Stress is also linked to the consumption of sugary foods, high-calorie foods lack of exercise and physical activity.  Stress has also been linked to lack of sleep, which in turn is linked to over-eating in some people.  For more information on help for insomnia please read my previous posts

The authors of this study (1) have also looked at workers that participated in a comprehensive, two-year nutrition and exercise program. This included walking routes at work, portion control in food, and stress-reduction workshops. The data comparing control groups and the groups who took part in the nutrition and exercise program is still being analyzed I look forward to seeing those results when they are published.  In conclusion, the study suggests that workplace wellness programs should not only offer ideas on how to be healthy, but should examine the organizational structure and provide ways to minimize a stressful environment for everyone (2).

For more information and ideas on healthy eating during stressful times please visit the links at the start of this post and also browse the blog in general as there is plenty of information that you may find helpful.  In general I would suggest a healthy balanced diet that will keep blood sugar levels stable in conjunction with some form of daily exercise.  Even two 15minute walks could prove beneficial to feelings of stress (please read the two posts linked at the beginning of the post for more detail).

(1) Fernandez ID et al.  2010.  Association of Workplace Chronic and Acute Stressors With Employee Weight Status: Data From Worksites in Turmoil.  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 52(1S):S34-S41

(2)Press release.  University of Rochester Medical Center (2010, March 25). Study connects workplace turmoil, stress and obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/03/100324142133.htm

Written by Ani Kowal

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