Saturated Fat Hurts Your Brain, Too

By Linda Wasmer Andrews May 25, 2012

That bacon double cheeseburger may be as bad for your brain as it is for your heart. A recent study in Annals of Neurology found a link between heart-unhealthy saturated fat and worsening mental test scores in older women over time. In fact, a diet high in saturated fat seemed to speed up mental decline by five to six years, compared to a diet low in this kind of fat.

The study was led by Olivia Okereke, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Harvard. It was based on data from more than 6,000 women over age 65.

Harmful Saturated Fat

Researchers identified a group of women who had the greatest mental decline during the four-year study period. Women with the highest intake of saturated fat were 60 to 70 percent more likely to be in this group, compared to those with the lowest saturated fat intake. Foods laden with saturated fat include fatty beef and pork, poultry with skin, butter, whole milk, and full-fat cheese.

Scientists are still studying how dietary fat affects brain function. But it’s known that a diet high in saturated fat can contribute to heart and blood vessel disease. And that, in turn, can restrict the brain’s blood supply, making it harder for brain cells to get all the oxygen and nutrients they need.

Helpful Monounsaturated Fat

Heart health guidelines recommend replacing saturated fat with moderate amounts of a good-for-you alternative, such as monounsaturated fat—the type found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fat helps fight high cholesterol and lowers the risk for heart disease. Based on the new study, shifting your diet in this direction could be smart for your brain as well.

Women in the study with the highest intake of monounsaturated fat were 40 to 50 percent less likely to be in the greatest mental decline group, compared to those with the lowest monounsaturated fat intake. In addition to olive oil, foods rich in this type of fat include canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil. Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.

Hearts and Minds

As people get older, many notice that they’ve become a little more forgetful or that it takes a bit longer to remember names. But for some, the changes grow more pronounced. When thinking ability and memory slip enough to be an increasing concern, but not enough to limit day-to-day activities, a person may have mild cognitive impairment. This condition can be worrisome in itself. But the biggest issue is that it can be an intermediate step between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s not enough evidence yet to say conclusively that limiting saturated fat helps prevent or delay mild cognitive impairment. But research suggests that it might. And what have you got to lose? Replacing saturated fat with a healthier fat helps protect your heart. If it helps keep your brain younger, too, that’s a two-for-one deal you don’t want to pass up.

Another magic weight lose gimmick exposed

The FTC (Federal Trade commission) reported on May 16th that Sketchers has agreed to pay out 40 million dollars for false advertising, this is after Reebok paid out 25 million last fall.  This is all over their Shapeup Shoes.

They had claimed that you could lose weight and tone your muscles from wearing these shoes but the trade commission reported that some people actually gained weight.

If you purchased a pair, you can learn more about the settlement and file for a refund at

Does This Chemical Make Me Look Fat? ‘Obesogens’ Lurk All Around Us

Researchers are finding connections between everyday chemicals and the bulging-belt-line epidemic.

By Leah ZerbeRODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—There’s more to the obesity epidemic than eating too many hot wings and excess sitting. Certainly, poor food choices, particularly too much sugar and sweeteners, and a lack of exercise are major pieces of the obesity puzzle.But a landmark 2002 study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found the obesity epidemic paralleled the increase of industrial chemicals in the environment. Now researchers are finding that exposures to certain common endocrine-disrupting chemicals—not just lifestyle choices—could be programming us for weight gain, diabetes, and related problems. “We have to acknowledge the fact that obesity is not just about will power, that it’s not just all someone’s fault,” says developmental biologist Retha Newbold, MS, CT, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Animal studies suggest that exposure to certain substances—found in everything from shampoos and soaps to vinyl flooring and pesticides—during fetal development or early in life can disrupt the normal development of an organism’s hormonal system, promoting the development of fat cells and hampering the body’s ability to send and receive signals that allow it to operate in good health. This sets the stage for metabolic diseases like diabetes as well as a lifetime of weight problems.

Which is why attention to reducing pre-natal exposure is so important. A new study just published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found suspected obesogens in the bodies of many pregnant women, who can pass them along to their developing fetuses. Young children may also be vulnerable to the effects. “It appears that exposure to certain chemicals during critical windows of fetal and early development could permanently program a person for obesity or diabetes, which may not show up for decades down the line,” says Newbold. “We’re talking about different modes of action. Chemicals could be interacting with the brain, pancreas, or liver, or the fat cells themselves. The end result is going to be obesity.”

Suspected obsoegens come in many different forms—here are some of them.

Previous studies have found an increased rate of diabetes among farmers and pesticide applicators, but it appears that even the low doses that the general public encounters can mess with our hormones. For instance, organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT (now banned, but its harmful breakdown product is persistent in the environment) have been linked to obesity, along with organophosphate pesticides and carbamates (the popular household insecticide Sevin is a carbamate pesticide).”Pesticides are designed to interfere with a lot of hormonal processes that insects require to replace themselves,” explains world-renowned researcher Theo Colborn, PhD, president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange. “The same chemicals that affect insects affect us.”

How to avoid exposure:

Eat organic! Researchers have found that it takes just five days of eating organic to rid the body of virtually all pesticide residues. If the obesity link isn’t compelling enough to go organic, consider that other pesticides have been linked to certain cancers, ADHD, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and other health issues. And instead of using foggers and insecticide to combat household bug issues, adopt natural pest-control measures in your home.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Studies in the lab find that BPA has the ability to accelerate fat-cell differentiation, disrupt pancreatic functioning, and cause insulin resistance, leading to obesity problems. In addition, other studies have linked BPA exposure to neurological development problems and sexual reproductive problems, including male infertility, in humans.

How to avoid exposure:

Scientists still don’t know the number one exposure source of BPA, but because the chemical is produced in such high volumes, it’s been found virtually everywhere. Until more data is collected about how BPA gets into our bodies, one prudent step to take is to minimize your handling of cash-register receipts—some have a high BPA content—so tell cashiers you don’t need a receipt for minor purchases. Also, choose food that’s fresh, frozen, or sold in glass jars over canned food, since most metal cans contain varying levels of BPA.

Personal care products

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals tied to obesity, and they are ubiquitous in the personal-care product industry, particularly due to the chemicals’ use in synthetically fragranced products. A 2010 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children with higher phthalate levels in their bodies experienced stunted growth.

How to avoid exposure:

Avoid personal care products that list “fragrance” or “parfum” as an ingredient, and nix air fresheners and scented candles. They are likely laced with phthalates and a host of other hazardous materials. (Choose beeswax if you need candles.)


Chemicals in vinyl chloride plastics called organotins persist in the environment, and are strongly linked to obesity. Exposure of mice to the organotin tributyltin (used on ship exteriors to prevent the buildup of crustaceans) before birth created permanent changes that pre-disposed the animals to weight problems. PVC plastics, such as pipes, vinyl flooring, and other vinyl products, contain dibutyltin, another organotin. Adding insult to injury, vinyl is also laced with phthalates, an obesogen listed above.

How to avoid exposure:

Avoid bringing vinyl products, including flooring, shades, purses, and shower curtains, into your home, and practice effective cleaning—PVC breaks down and can lurk in household dust.

Nonstick products

In a 2010 review article of published literature on the subject, Newbold links IDs perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) to obesity. PFOA (sometimes called Teflon) is used in many nonstick cookwareand kitchenware lines, along with stainproof coatings on furniture, greaseproof food wrappers, microwavable popcorn bags, and waterproof materials.

How to avoid exposure:

If you already own nonstick kitchenware, don’t freak out. But when you start to see scratches and chips, replace it with American-made cast iron or untreated stainless steel cookware.


Polybrominated biphenyls (PCBs) were used widely as flame retardants in the electricity industry, but they’re no longer made because of the compound’s environmental and health effects. Newbold says the obesity-inducing mechanism of PCBs could be similar to that of BPA and some pesticides, working through estrogen receptor pathways. (The same company that made the bulk of PCBs is now behind the push for a chemical farming system and genetically engineered food.)

How to avoid exposure:

Since people are exposed to PCBs by eating contaminated fish, meat, and dairy products, eating lower on the food chain more often can help reduce your exposure. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to go completely vegan, but you could ease into a more plant-based diet by giving Meatless Mondays a try.


Soy is low in fat, but it’s also a phytoestrogen, meaning it has plant-based estrogenic properties. Doses comparable to those eaten in the Western diet have been shown to promote fat-cell growth. Newbold says parents should be especially wary of feeding soy to babies or children. “Studies have shown that kids on soy formula have a tendency to gain weight,” explains Newbold, who notes that soy affects developing children differently than adults. Babies born small for their gestational age who are put on high-calorie “catch-up diets” also face an increased risk of obesity later in life.

How to avoid exposure:

Since developing babies and young children seem to be most sensitive to soy, Newbold suggests that women breastfeed, if possible, and parent avoid giving young kids soy products.


Not only do babies born to mothers who smoked throughout pregnancy face an increased risk of being born prematurely and underweight, but strong research also suggests that those same babies face an increased risk of being obese as they grow older. Nicotine (or nicotine plus some other component of cigarette smoke) could tinker with the child’s metabolic system; researchers just aren’t sure yet of the mechanism. Perhaps compounding the problem, low-birth-weight babies born to smokers could also be put on a “catch-up diet” referenced above, further increasing their risk of obesity later in life.

How to avoid exposure:

Don’t smoke if you’re pregnant, and do your best to eliminate second- and third-hand smoke.

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Dieting Mistakes You Are Making

Kate Fodor
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Eating less, but not losing

Trying to slim down and feeling frustrated?

If you’re giving it your all but the number on the scale still isn’t budging, you may be sabotaging yourself in spite of your best intentions.

Here are a dozen dieting don’ts to help save your weight-loss efforts.

You eat fake foods

We admit that prepackaged weight-loss products like shakes and bars are convenient, but they may not be helping you to lose weight in the long run.

“You never feel satisfied after you eat something like that, because it’s just a bunch of processed stuff,” says Manuel Villacorta, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

There are lots of healthier, more filling options with the same or fewer calories, like a cheese stick or a serving of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries.

You burn the midnight oil

Sure, you need to log time at the gym, but to lose weight, you also need to log time in your bed.

Skimping on sleep, especially sleeping less than five or six hours a night, can slow your metabolism and cause hormonal changes that hurt your weight-loss efforts.

Being tired may also make you eat more. One recent study found that people who are sleep-deprived consume a whopping 500 extra calories a day.

You exercise too much

Yes, you read that right. Exercise is important, but Villacorta maintains that being too focused on it can backfire.

“People think that if they exercise they will magically lose weight, and then they get frustrated,” he cautions.

In fact, about 80% of dieting time and energy should be focused on nutrition and 20% on exercise, he says. “If I have a client who’s exercising six times a week, sometimes I’ll cut that in half and have them spend the extra hours shopping and planning meals.”

You always choose the salad

Contrary to popular belief, heading for the salad bar may not be your best option.

Salads may not contain enough carbohydrates to help control hunger hormones, according to Villacorta. He suggests a healthy soup and sandwich instead, or tossing a serving of brown rice, lentils, or garbanzo beans into your greens. And beware of high-calorie salad bar additions like blue cheese and candied walnuts.

Add enough of those and “you may as well just have a burger,” he says.

You’re a high-calorie health nut

Just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean you can eat a mountain of it.

Switching from white bread to whole wheat bread, eating nuts instead of chips, using olive oil instead of butter —these are all healthy changes. But they aren’t low-calorie substitutions, so portion control is still key.

You eat too early

Popular wisdom says not to eat in the evenings, but that may not make sense unless you turn in extra early.

“People eat at 6:00 and stay up until 11:00 or midnight, so their bodies are naturally asking for fuel again,” Villacorta says. “I tell people to aim to eat 70% of their calories before dinner and 30% at dinner, but it doesn’t matter how late dinner is.” Healthy eating in the evening can prevent a late-night binge on ice cream or cookies.

You’re a loner

Remember the buddy system from your kindergarten field trips? It works for dieting, too. Studies show that support from friends and family increases the likelihood that women will lose weight.

If you can’t get what you need from your nearest and dearest, other forms of support—including advice from a weight-loss counselor or encouragement from online buddies—can also do the trick.

You never snack

To keep your metabolism at its peak, you need to eat every three to four hours.

“People think they need to eat less frequently, but really they need to eat more often, in smaller amounts,” Villacorta advises. “There’s no real reason you need to think in terms of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

You don’t have a diary

One large-scale study found that keeping a daily food journal doubled the amount of weight participants lost.

Researchers speculate that simply writing down what you put in your mouth makes you more accountable and cuts your daily calories.

Create your own food log or use one of the many available for free online.

You don’t like water

Substituting water for sugary sodas and even for juices can make a major dent in your daily calorie count. Drinking water may also help you manage your appetite.

In one study, people who drank two glasses of water before eating a meal consumed up to 90 fewer calories.

You skip breakfast

There’s lots of evidence that people who eat breakfast tend to have healthier weights, so start the day right by making time for a morning meal.

Experts say whole-grain cereal is one of the best breakfast choices for dieters.

It’s quick and easy, too—so there goes the excuse about not having time before work.

You hate to cook

Restaurant meals are frequently more caloric than home-cooked ones, so dust off your apron and hunt down some healthy recipes.

When you do eat out, consider splitting a meal with your date or asking the water to serve you half of your meal and have the other half boxed up to go.

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