Beyond the Buzz



Eating wheat packs on the pounds?

“Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health,” proclaims cardiologist William Davis in his best-selling book, Wheat Belly.

Wheat consumption and obesity rates have increased in the United States since the mid- 1980s, as Davis notes. We’re also eating more calories now, although wheat—along with sugars, fats, and oils—accounts for much of the increase.

And cutting bread, bagels, pasta, tortillas, piz- za crust, muffins, pancakes, crackers, croissants, cereal, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pies, pita chips, pretzels, and dozens of other wheat foods out of your diet would certainly make a dent in your weight…assuming you didn’t replace their calories with calories from other foods.

However, no good studies have tested whether wheatless diets are any better for losing weight—or keeping weight off—than other popular weight-loss diets.

The truth is that you can lose weight on just about any diet that cuts calories. Unfortunately, after six months or a year, most people begin to regain the weight they lost, no matter which foods they cut to lose the weight.1

“What we’re really interested in is a scenario that helps you lose weight and keep it off in the long term,” says Julie Jones, professor of foods and nutrition at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. And there’s no good evidence that slashing carbs helps you do that.

“Avoiding wheat isn’t the answer,” says Jones, who recently reviewed the evidence for many of Wheat Belly’s claims.2

Some people—those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance—need to avoid wheat. “But don’t do it to lose weight,” says Jones. “This, like the rest of all fad diets, will run its course.”

Bottom Line: Unless you cut calories, eliminating wheat won’t help you lose weight or keep
it off.

1 N. Engl. J. Med. 360: 859. 2009.
2 Cereal Foods World 57: 177, 2012.

Dairy foods cause ovarian cancer?

“Milk linked to ovarian cancer,” reported CBS News in 2004.

Dairy foods—especially low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese—supply calcium and vitamin D for bones and may protect against colorectal cancer and high blood pressure.1 So how did dairy get a bad rap when it comes to the seventh leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide?

In 1989, a study reported that women with ovarian cancer were more likely to say that they ate foods that were higher in lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk.2

But having a disease can color what people remember eating. To avoid that possible bias, researchers pooled the data from 12 studies that asked more than half a million healthy women what they ate and then fol- lowed them for the next 7 to 20 years.

Women who consumed the most milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream were no more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer than those who ate the least. However, the researchers found a “weak” (their word) 19 per- cent increased risk in women who consumed at least 30 grams of lactose per day.3

To get 30 grams, you’d need to consume roughly 21?2 cups of milk, 2 cups of yogurt, 3 cups of ice cream, greek yogurt, or cottage cheese, or 27 pounds of cheddar.

How might lactose raise the risk of ovarian cancer if dairy doesn’t?
It’s not clear. Could dairy foods have some other nutrients that lower risk and counteract the lactose? Could genes play a role? Or could the “weak” link simply be due to chance?

“If there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer, it’s only at very high intakes of lactose,” says Shelley Tworoger, an ovarian cancer re- searcher at Harvard University. “Even then, it was still a relatively modest association.”

In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research declared that there

Only “weak” evidence links large amounts of lac- tose to ovarian cancer.

wasn’t enough evidence to reach a conclusion about dairy’s effect on the risk of ovarian cancer.

So what does increase risk? A family history of ovarian cancer, having used hormone therapy, or never having been pregnant. So may excess weight. (Oral contraceptive use can lower risk, notes Tworoger.)

One of the reasons the survival rate for ovarian cancer is so low: the disease often causes no noticeable symptoms until it has spread to a dis- tant site, when the five-year survival rate drops to only about 27 percent.

But new advances to detect the cancer early may be coming.

In January, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that PAP smears, which are routine screening tests for cervical cancer, could detect telltale DNA from endometrial and ovarian cancers as well.4

“There’s a lot of potential, but more work needs to be done to understand if we can use this to identify tumors in healthy women that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to identify,” says Tworoger.

Bottom Line: There’s only weak evidence that large amounts of lactose (equal to what you’d get in 2 1/2 glasses of milk) increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

1 Br. J. Nutr. 96 Suppl. 1: S94, 2006.
2 Lancet 2: 66, 1989.
3 Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 15: 364, 2006. 4 Sci. Transl. Med. 5: 167, 2013.


The Time You’re Most Likely to Binge

With Labor Day weekend in sight, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be invited a cookout or two. While barbecues make for great outdoor parties, they can seriously sabotage your waistline: People are more likely to binge at barbecues than other meals, according to a new survey by Forza Supplements.

For the survey, 8,000 people across the U.K. answered an online questionnaire about what they ate at barbecues. The results showed that the average person consumes nearly 3,000 calories when they attend one—that’s 1,000 calories more than the recommended amount per day. The problem? Many people treat cookouts like all-you-can-eat buffets—51 percent said they usually double back for a second helping, and some people said they go back to the buffet even more than that.

When you’re going back for seconds or thirds, it’s easy to lose track of calories. Not completely sure how much food makes up a reasonable portion size? Check out this chart before your next barbecue as a reminder:

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Does It Matter How Often You Work Out?

Can’t drag yourself to the gym today? Don’t sweat it—just log extra time tomorrow. When it comes to a few major exercise health benefits, it doesn’t matter how frequently you work out, as long as you get at least a total of 150 minutes of physical activity each week, according to new research published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 

The researchers analyzed a nationally representative sample of 2,324 active Canadian adults who participated in the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Everyone in the study did at least 150 minutes of moderately intense to vigorous activity per week, but some people broke it up into five to seven weekly sessions, while others worked out one to four times a week. Both groups’ risk of health conditions like metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood fats and cholesterol, and high blood sugar was about the same. That said, the people who exercised for the most cumulative minutes per week were the healthiest.

That’s because the total amount, type, and intensity of activity all have a much greater affect on your body than frequency, says study author Ian Janssen, PhD, associate professor at the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University in Canada.

So does this mean you can just work out for two and a half hours and then call it a day for the rest of the week? Not quite. The researchers didn’t look at the one-day-a-week option specifically (just one-to-four days, and five-to-seven), so it’s a stretch to say that you can work out just once and see the same health benefits as hitting the gym daily.

Also, while fewer, longer gym sessions might lower your cardiovascular risk factors, they won’t necessarily help you meet your fitness goals, like training for a big race or losing weight—and could even lead to joint irritation and muscle soreness, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report.

The bottom line: If you can’t squeeze in regular workouts, it’s OK to do two or three longer workouts each week—but exercising more frequently for shorter periods is still the ideal.

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