Monday, September 04, 2000

Fitness research results

Controversy surrounds infants' low-fat diet

        Infants who eat a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol don't appear to suffer any delays in mental development, a new study has found.

        The results suggest that a low-fat diet in very young children might help protect them from heart disease when they reach adulthood. The idea of reducing fat at such a young age is controversial, however, because fat and cholesterol are essential components of the developing nervous system.

        Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland studied more than 1,000 children for five years. The children began participating in the study when they were 7 months old. About half the children's parents were shown how to feed their children a diet low in fat and cholesterol, which amounted to no more than 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat. The other parents received the standard health education.

        Five years later, the children raised on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet had blood cholesterol levels lower than those of their peers. And after a battery of development tests, the scientists found that a lower fat intake hadn't put the children behind in development.

        The study appeared last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


        Preventing strokes: In another recent study, researchers found that regular physical activity could help prevent strokes in women, reports Dr. Andrew Weil in his monthly newsletter.

        The Harvard study tracked more than 72,000 women ages 40-65 for eight years and learned that exercise can substantially decrease stroke risk. Even if a woman was previously inactive, the age women started exercising regularly did not effect the incidence of stroke.

        Dr. Weil suggests a brisk, daily walk as one of the easiest methods of stroke prevention. Walking can help protect against stroke by managing weight levels, lowering blood pressure and raising HDL (the beneficial cholesterol level).


        @ColText:Caffeine tasteless: Soft drink companies say they add caffeine to sodas as a flavor enhancer, but a new study has found that consumers can hardly taste the difference.

        Among 25 regular cola drinkers, all of whom said they preferred the taste of drinks with caffeine, only 8 percent could identify the caffeine-packed cola in a blind taste test.

        The study, which appeared recently in the journal Archives of Family Medicine, questions whether the motivation for adding caffeine is taste, or the mood-enhancing, dependence-producing qualities of the drug.



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