High-Sugar/High-Salt Intake Bad for More Than Just Your Waistline.

dietsWe’ve all been told that diets high in sugar, salt and calories (also known as the “cafeteria diet”) are a quick way to put on weight, and should be avoided whenever possible.  A new study lends credence to this train of thought, indicating that it can also significantly increase one’s risk of metabolic syndrome and even stroke.

The researchers in the Canadian study gave sedentary rats unlimited access to healthy food pellets and water.  They were also offered the same access to a selection of “junk food” items, including cookies, cupcakes and sausage, as well as a sucrose solution that simulated soft drinks.  The rats in the study were at an age about the equivalent of 16 – 22 years old in humans at the time of the study.

Researchers found that, like many humans, the rats tended to prefer the junk food to the healthy options.  They also found that within two months of beginning the study, most of the rats had developed most of the symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol/blood sugar/blood pressure and obesity).  This lead the researchers to believe that there will soon be an increasing number of strokes and heart disease/dementia patients in people in their 30’s and 40’s if current dieting trends remain unchecked.

So next time you reach for that cookie, try to remember that it may be doing more than just going to your hips.  Instead, treat yourself to some fresh fruit or other healthy snack.  You will thank yourself time and again when you start approaching that mid-life crisis.

Lift Weights to Fight Metabolic Syndrome

gym_729-620x349It is nothing new to know that going to the gym to workout is one of the best things you can do for your body.  It helps you lose weight and feel great.  As if that weren’t enough reason to go, a new study suggests that lifting weights can significantly reduce one’s risk of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease.  These risk factors include high triglyceride levels, elevated blood pressure, high glucose levels and reduced levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.  Patients that display at least three out of these five risk factors are considered to have metabolic syndrome.

Researchers analyzed data from the 1999 – 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), where participants were asked if they lifted weights.  Of the 5,618 US adults who qualified for the study, only 8.8% indicated that they did lift weights.  It was also almost twice as common with men than women, and became less frequent with people over 50 years old.

The results of the study showed that, once adjusted for demographic factors, those that lifted weights were 37% less likely to be at risk of metabolic syndrome than those that didn’t.  Additional research has also indicated that increased muscle mass also contributes to lower rates of metabolic syndrome.

Now going to the gym is good for more than just looking good.  So do some squat thrusts, do some chest presses and curl some dumbbells to better your physique, as well as your fight against metabolic syndrome!

Soccer can score a hat trick in treating hypertension

Soccer (AKA football) is the world’s sport for a reason.  It is fun to play, electrifying for fans to watch, and a recent study out of Denmark now indicates it is one of the best things you can do to treat hypertension.  The findings indicate that regularly playing soccer helps to improve fitness, normalize blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.

The study, conducted by three universities in Denmark, followed 33 men between the ages of 33 and 54 with mild to moderate hypertension.  The 33 men were divided into two groups.  One group participated in two one-hour soccer training sessions per week.  The other group simply received typical general practice care for hypertension, including advice on healthy diet and the importance of physical activity.  The study then monitored the effects on maximal oxygen uptake, blood pressure, exercise capacity and body fat of all participants after three months, and then again after six months.

For the soccer group, maximal exercise capacity and maximal oxygen uptake were increased by 10%, body fat mass decreased by an average of two kilos and resting heart rate decreased by 8 bpm.  There were no significant changes in these indicators with the non-soccer playing group.  The soccer group also saw an average drop in blood pressure of 10 mmHg, while the non-soccer group only saw a drop of 5 mmHg. After the six months had passed, 75% of the soccer participants were actually able to return their blood pressure to a very healthy range.

So if you have been diagnosed with or are at risk of hypertension, perhaps it is time to hit the pitch and kick the ball around.  You’ll be doing your heart a favor, and will have way more fun than you might think.