Friday, January 28, 2011

Cranberry and Urinary Tract Health

     Many of us have heard about the health benefits of cranberries and the urinary tract. But have you ever wondered how beneficial it actually is? Or whether it is just an old wives tale? A study published in the Molecular Nutrition Food Research Journal analyzed the effects cranberry juice cocktail has on urinary tract health and the results were a positive surprise.
     Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can affect both men and women and are one of the most common bacterial infections in adults today. The infection occurs when hostile bacteria contaminates the urinary tract. Typically, the bacterium attaches itself to the uroepithelial cells in the urinary tract via an adherence mechanism on the bacterial cell, known as fimbriae. 90% of acute UTIs are strains of the bacterium E.coli. Therefore, the researchers for this study used E.coli as the bacterial component.
     Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail (which contains 27% pure cranberry juice by weight) was the product chosen for this study. The researchers tested and observed the interaction of the E.coli strain and the uroepithelial cells in the presence of cranberry juice. What they found was that specific molecular compounds in cranberries known as proanthocyanidins (PACs) have anti-adhesive affects on uropathogens, such as E.coli. Under microscopic view, the fimbriae were not observed at all on the E.Coli strain when cranberry juice was present. Therefore, E.coli was not able to attach itself to the urinary tract wall and contaminate cells, leading to infection. These results display that the consumption of cranberries (even cranberry juice cocktail) can in fact reduce the risk of obtaining a UTI. It is important to be aware, however, that this does not mean cranberries can cure a preexisting infection. Once bacteria attaches itself to uroepithilial cells, cranberry compounds cannot remove it. Also, the study found that these anti-adhesive effects lasted approximately 10 hours after consumption of cranberry juice. Some people are more prone to UTIs than others. For those who are, it may be worth adding more cranberry, even cranberry juice cocktail, into your daily diet.

Camesano, T.A., Gallardo-Moreno A.M., Pinzon-Arango, P.A., & Liu, Y. (2010). Direct adhesion force measurements between E.coli and human uroepithelial cells in cranberry juice cocktail. Molecular Nutrition Food Research Journal. 54, 1-9.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another reason to eat blueberries

As science has proven, blueberries have considerable health benefits. Blueberries’ high antioxidant properties help prevent disease as well as assist in memory function.  On top of all this, a recent study has found yet another reason to praise the tiny berry. They may play a role in decreasing the risk of diabetes. Researches in Louisiana were curious to see if blueberries assisted in improving insulin sensitivity in a group of people at a high risk for diabetes. Insulin sensitivity is chosen because it’s a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

The study consisted of participants who were all obese and not diabetic. The participants were split into 2 groups. One group received a smoothie with blueberry powder to be consumed with breakfast and dinner. Another group received a smoothie identical in taste, smell, and color to also consume with breakfast and dinner, but without the blueberry powder. Participants were informed to abstain from any other berries, grapes, and wine throughout the study as this may alter the outcome.

At the completion of the study, participants’ blood glucose levels and their sensitivity to insulin were tested. After the evaluation, the researchers found that 67% of the participants in the blueberry group had a 10% or greater improvement in their insulin sensitivity, compared to only 41% in the control, “non-blueberry” group. This is exciting news especially since blueberries are such a versatile fruit. They taste great in breads, on top of cereals, in smoothies and are just as delicious when eaten alone. Whether you are at risk for diabetes or not, here is another reason why adding blueberries to your healthy eating plan can have a positive effect on overall health.

Cash, K.C., Cefalu, W.T., Champagne, C.M., Johnson, W.D., & Stull, A.J (2010). Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women. The Journal of Nutrition: Nutrition and Disease, 1764-1768.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Myth #8: Acai berries can help you lose weight.

• Grown in the Amazon River basin in Brazil, acai is a deep purple berry that tastes like a combination of wild berries and chocolate.

• Some web sites selling acai products claim that acai's fiber and essential fatty acid content help it burn fat more efficiently, process food more quickly, cut down on cravings, and boost metabolism.


• Companies can make these claims because over-the-counter supplements are not closely regulated, so manufacturers can over-sell the health benefits of their products.

• The acai berry does have antioxidants, but so do many other fruits, including blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries.

• Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules in the body called free radicals, and may possibly help against diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

• When it comes to weight loss, there is not enough research to state that acai berries can help.

• No single food has the key to weight loss. To lose weight, you need to control calories with a healthy lifestyle approach that includes plenty of physical activity, nutritious foods, and adequate rest.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Myth #7: Certain foods can burn fat

• Many people believe that certain foods like grapefruit or cabbage soup will help you burn fat.


• No specific food makes you burn fat.

• If you want to lose fat, you have to give your body less calories than it needs, ideally about 500 calories below maintenance level each day. If your body needs 2500 calories each day to stay at your current weight, you will lose weight by eating 2000 calories per day.

• The other option to lose weight would be to exercise so that you are burning extra calories.  A minimum of thirty minutes, five times a week is recommended. Ideally, one should exercise sixty minutes, five times a week for weight loss.  Remember, you don't need to do all that exercise at one time (see Myth #6).

• For optimal fat burning, weight loss and wellness, enjoy both exercise and healthy eating.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Myth #6: You need to exercise 30 minutes at a time for the full benefit.


• Physical activity does not need to be vigorous. Moderate-intensity activity can produce health benefits.

• Adults should engage in physical activities for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the week.

• Research has shown that the activity does not need to be done all at one time.

• The recommended 30 minutes can be split into 2 - 15 minute intervals or even 3 - 10 minute intervals and will provide the same benefits.

• Regular physical activity can be fun - join a sport, go dancing, take a brisk walk with a friend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's a new year for wellness

2010 ended with snow and it looks like we are headed into more snow.  Snow can be disruptive.  It is more difficult getting around.  There are cancellations in business and school.  However, fresh snow can be exciting.  First, you may need to shovel the driveway. Be careful!!!  If you need to shovel, breath. Don't hold your breath while shoveling! When one holds their breath while lifting, it is called the Valsalva Maneuver.  This will increase your blood pressure, cause dizziness, fainting, decreased blood flow to the heart, and even stroke.  If you have heart disease, high blood pressue, had a stroke in the past, live a sedentary life, or smoke, hire someone to shovel for you. If you plan on shoveling as I did in December, dress warmly in layers, warm up your muscles beforehand, bend your knees to lift (not from your back), go slowly and take breaks.  If you feel any pain, stop. 

Once you can get out of your house or apartment, it is time to enjoy the snow. Go for a walk, cross country ski, go sledding. Enjoy the peacefulness of the fresh white powder.

A foot of snow is expected for tomorrow in New York City.  If that happens, I am ready to cross country ski in Central Park.  I hope to see you there.