NEW STUDIES SHAKE UP OLD ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT WELLNESS
Is cauliflower the new kale?
Like hemlines, vegetables are prone to trendiness. Unlike hemlines, vegetables are always good for you. And while kale is so 2015, cauliflower is now having its shining cruciferous moment. What’s behind the trend? Mostly the ready adaptability of the somewhat bland vegetable as a high-fiber, lowcarbohydrate, nutrient-dense replacement for starches. Dr. Atkins recommended mashed cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes way back in 1998, but it wasn’t until some genius came up with the idea of riced cauliflower that the caulias-starch swap really took off. Cauliflower “rice” in particular is now seen in virtually every grocery store; people also make their own by simply running raw cauliflower florets through a food processor. Not only can cauliflower rice replace rice in curries and soups, it can also be used in tacos, pizza crusts, couscous and tabbouleh. For those who like their cauliflower unriced, the internet is full of recipes for turning regular cauliflower florets into hearty low-starch meals. Named as a “powerhouse vegetable” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cauliflower has earned its place in the spotlight — and on the table.
Changing peanut butter guidelines for children
For decades, parents have been advised to introduce peanuts to their children as late as possible. After evidence showed that this advice may have inadvertently caused an uptick in peanut allergies, the National Institutes of Health did an aboutface and began recommending that parents actively introduce peanut-containing foods to infants. “In 2015, publication of the landmark LEAP [Learning Early About Peanut Allergy] study shifted a decades-old paradigm that peanuts should be withheld from young children at high risk for peanut allergy,” said allergist Dr. James Sussman, who practices in Santa Fe and Los Alamos. The paradigm shift began, Sussman said, when a London physician noted the very high rate of peanut allergy in Jewish children there, “while in a genetically similar group of Israeli children, this was virtually unheard of. In Israel it is common to give infants a peanut-based snack food, while in England young children did not eat peanuts.” This observation led to several studies confirming that early exposure to peanut butter actually reduces risk of peanut allergy in children. “The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines now recommend introducing peanut butter as early as four months for at-risk infants and when introducing solid foods to those not at risk,” Sussman said. “If there is any question of peanut allergy, it is critical that the child have an evaluation by a boardcertified allergist prior to the first peanut-butter ingestion. Whole nuts should never be given before age four due to choking hazard.” See the NIH guidelines at niaid. nih.gov for more information.
The myth of breakfast
In more “everything you know is wrong” news, breakfast is no longer considered the most important meal of the day. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that whether subjects were ordered to eat breakfast, to skip it or to continue with their previous breakfast habits, their weight was unaffected. A different study observed other health measures (cholesterol levels, resting metabolic rates, blood sugar levels) and similarly found no impressive effects related to whether or not someone ate breakfast. Breakfast skippers can feel vindicated. Those who do like their breakfast may want to stick with protein though — a 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that dieters who ate eggs for breakfast lost more weight than dieters who ate bagels, even when the breakfasts contained the same calories.
Pumping iron after 60
Sarcopenia — the loss of muscle mass during the aging process — is a natural part of life, but it’s not inevitable. Studies have shown that older adults can regain lost muscle mass, but it will take extra work. “We conclude that older adults require a higher dose of weekly loading than the young to maintain [muscle mass through strength training], yet gains in specific strength among older adults were well preserved and remained at or above levels of the untrained young,” a report from the Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says. Regaining lost muscle strength has benefits beyond looking good: more muscle mass means fewer falls, and falls are one of the main reasons seniors end up hospitalized. To build muscle safely, experts recommend starting off slowly and finding a good personal trainer.
Are the chemicals in nail polish harmful?
Beware that pretty pink on your nails — it may contain toxic chemical compounds. A 2015 study by researchers at Duke University and the Environmental Working Group found that endocrine disrupters from nail polishes had leached into the bodies of the two dozen women studied. Endocrine disrupters adversely affect the neurological, reproductive and immune systems; they are also associated with breast cancer. Other studies have found a trio of known carcinogens in many nail polishes — even ones labeled “toxin free.” Children and those who work in nail salons are most likely to be adversely affected. The safest brands are listed in the Environmental Working Group’s database at ewg.org/ skindeep.
Exercise and weight
First, let’s get this out there: Exercise is good for you. It helps prevent cancer, it improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels, it helps sleep, it builds muscle, it stabilizes mood. But it does not appear to do the main thing we associate with it: control weight. According to the January 2017 Scientific American, studies clearly demonstrate that all humans, whether gym rats or couch potatoes, burn about the same amount of energy. Why? Because basal metabolic rate, something we have almost no control over, accounts for the biggest portion of our energy expenditure. Our brains use a good deal of our energy; the human brain is so huge that even when we’re indolent, we’re burning hundreds of calories just to keep the noggin going. Actual exercise, the scientists found, accounts for only a minor percentage of our energy expenditure. Furthermore, studies have found that after exercise, people tend to move a bit less and eat a bit more, unconsciously keeping the energy input-output balanced. “You still have to exercise,” the report cautions. “This article is not a note from your mom excusing you from gym class.” The benefits of exercise are overwhelming. Just make sure to rely on diet, not exercise, for weight control.