Archive for May, 2012

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Yes, according to a new study.

Bananas have long been a favorite source of energy for endurance and recreational athletes. Bananas are a rich source of potassium and other nutrients, and are easy for cyclists, runners or hikers to carry.

Research conducted at Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab in the Kannapolis-based North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) has revealed additional benefits.

“We wanted to see which was more beneficial when consumed during intense cycling — bananas or a carbohydrate sports drink,” said Dr. David C. Nieman, director of the human performance lab and a member of the College of Health Sciences faculty at Appalachian.

“We found that not only was performance the same whether bananas or sports drinks were consumed, there were several advantages to consuming bananas,” he said.

The bananas provided the cyclists with antioxidants not found in sports drinks as well as a greater nutritional boost, including fiber, potassium and Vitamin B6, the study showed. In addition, bananas have a healthier blend of sugars than sports drinks.

I know by running friend, Mary, always carries her banana on a weekly long run. She likes it and says it is easy on her stomach.

Around 100 calories or so, a banana is certainly just as good nutritionally and better tasting than a heavily sugar-laden running gel. But, I don’t know if your digestive system would like to break down the bulk during a very long run, such as a marathon though.

I would think for any run less than 10 miles or so, you should be fine.

I will give it a try and let you know.

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My 2012 Los Angeles Marathon Bib and Finisher’s Medal

The answer is NO, despite the fact there have been some deaths during marathon races.

What the researchers found was that, even as participation in marathon racing almost doubled during the past decade, to more than 473,000 finishers in 2009 from about 299,000 in 2000, the death rate remained unchanged, and vanishingly small. A total of 28 people died during or in the 24 hours immediately after a marathon, most of them men, and primarily from heart problems. (A few of the deaths were due to hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, in those who drank excessive amounts of fluid.) Those numbers translate into less than one death per 100,000 racers.

“Our data shows, quite strongly, that marathon running is safe for the vast majority of runners,” Dr. Pham says, “and I suspect that, for many of the runners,” the activity saved them from suffering a heart attack that might otherwise have been brought on by a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle.

A similar epidemiological study, published in January in The New England Journal of Medicine, reached the same conclusion as Dr. Pham’s report, even as its authors looked more widely at data involving fatal and nonfatal cardiac arrests in half and full marathons over the past decade. The researchers found 59 cases of cardiac arrest during a half or full marathon, 51 of them in men, and 42 of them fatal. The average age of the affected racers was 42, and an overwhelming majority of them were approaching the finish line — within the last six miles for the marathon and the final three for the half — when they fell.

“The findings reinforce what we really already knew,” says Dr. Paul Thompson, the chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, an author of the study and a longtime marathon runner, “which is that you are at slightly higher risk of suffering a heart attack during a marathon” than if you were merely sitting or walking sedately during those same hours. “But over all, running decreases the risk of heart disease” and therefore the likelihood of your suffering cardiac arrest at all.

But, Dr. Thompson continues, running does not absolutely inoculate anyone against heart disease. “Genetics, viruses, bad habits from the past, bad diet or plain bad luck” can contribute to the development of plaques within the arteries or of heart damage like cardiomyopathy, an unnatural enlargement of the heart muscle, which running simply cannot prevent.

So, have regular physical exams by your physician and if you have a family history of heart problems see a cardiologist before you run a marathon.

The activity of training and running a marathon can be greatly rewarding and beneficial for your heart.

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Yes, according to a new study on coffee and longevity.

Researchers have some reassuring news for the legions of coffee drinkers who can’t get through the day without a latte, cappuccino, iced mocha, double-shot of espresso or a plain old cuppa joe: That coffee habit may help you live longer.

A new study that tracked the health and coffee consumption of more than 400,000 older adults for nearly 14 years found that java drinkers were less likely to die during the study than their counterparts who eschewed the brew. In fact, men and women who averaged four or five cups of coffee per day had the lowest risk of death, according to a report in Thursday’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research doesn’t prove that coffee deserves the credit for helping people live longer. But it is the largest analysis to date to suggest that the beverage’s reputation for being a liquid vice may be undeserved.

“There’s been concerns for a long time that coffee might be a risky behavior,” said study leader Neal Freedman, an epidemiologist with the National Cancer Institute who drinks coffee “here and there.” “The results offer some reassurance that it’s not a risk factor for future disease.”

This is wonderful news!

I love my Starbuck’s French Roast and Ronnie’s Diner’s special blend!

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Photo courtesy of Matt McGee on Flickr

From the press release:

Attention all 2012 Little League baseball and softball players! Oral Health America’s (OHA) NSTEP® program (National Spit Tobacco Education Program) is teaming with Little League International to launch its eleventh annual slogan contest where players have a chance to win a trip to the Little League World Series! To enter, Little Leaguers ages 8-14 create a ten-word phrase that describes why spit tobacco is dangerous and deadly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 2003 there has been a 36 percent increase in the rate of smokeless tobacco use among high school boys. This alarming statistic is what led parents of the 2011 slogan contest winner, John and Julie Lafakis, to participate with their son Lou. “In addition to being thrilled and proud of Lou’s slogan,” said John Lafakis, “we are equally delighted that the NSTEP contest provided an opportunity for our family to discuss the harms of tobacco use.”

NSTEP works with Little League International to educate families about the risks of spit tobacco use, including oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay, and nicotine addiction. “The health and well-being of children has been one of Little League’s guiding principles since its founding in 1939. We are proud to partner with NSTEP to educate young people about the dangers of smokeless tobacco,” said Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball.

NSTEP is also part of a coalition of organizations that influenced the limit on use of smokeless tobacco in Major League ballparks. For the first time in history, players are unable to use smokeless tobacco products on field and in front of fans and cameras. “The new limits are a positive step toward reducing the damaging influences of smokeless tobacco,” said Beth Truett, President and CEO of Oral Health America. “NSTEP is proud to have helped influence the ban and will continue to help educate Americans about the dangers of tobacco use.”

To enter the slogan contest, visit www.oralhealthamerica.org. The most creative slogan participant will win an all-expenses paid trip to Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA plus a $500 cash prize. Oral Health America will also make a $500 donation to the player’s Little League organization.

There is no reason for baseball, America’s past time, to be any longer associated with spit or smokeless tobacco.

Programs like this that increase awareness of the dangers of tobacco use should be encouraged.

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Perhaps yes, according to a new study regarding junk food in California schools.

Five years after California started cracking down on junk food in school cafeterias, a new report shows that high school students there consume fewer calories and less fat and sugar at school than students in other states.

The findings suggest that state policies can be successful to some extent in influencing the eating habits of teenagers. The study found that California high school students consumed on average nearly 160 calories fewer per day than students in other states, the equivalent of cutting out a small bag of potato chips. That difference came largely from reduced calorie consumption at school, and there was no evidence that students were compensating for their limited access to junk food at school by eating more at home.

While a hundred calories here or there may not sound like much, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the United States in the last four decades, and many researchers say that most children and adolescents could avoid significant long-term weight gain by cutting out just 100 to 200 extra calories a day.

“I would definitely say that 158 calories is significant,” said Daniel R. Taber, an author of the study and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “When you combine this study with other studies on California law, the body of evidence suggests the schools in California really have made healthier changes by getting rid of things like sweets and candy bars.”

California is one of several states that have sought to reduce childhood obesity by targeting junk food in schools. A decade ago it became the first state to ban the sale of soft drinks in grade schools, and it later enacted a similar ban in high schools. Since 2007, the state has also enforced nutrition standards for “competitive foods” in schools, the snacks and foods that are not included in meal plans but that students can get on school grounds — from vending machines, for example. California law limits the amount of fat, sugar and calories that can be found in these foods.

When I attended California public schools decades ago, we never had junk food vending machines at school. We had a fruit dispensing machine.

Schools who were hard pressed for funds succumbed to the promises of money from the food and soda vendors. It is time for them to go.

There is no right to have a junk food vending machine on campus and I am glad eliminating them is having a positive impact on student’s health.

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