Did you catch last week’s news about pomegranate juice and kidney disease? It seems that pomegranate juice just might be the next best thing… or not. The same holds true for orange juice, weight loss and heart disease. So before you get too excited about the wonders of the orange, let’s take a look at what research is telling us.
Middle-age is associated with a slow down of metabolism, distribution of weight and of course, an increase in risk for certain diseases, in particular heart disease. For women specifically, hormonal changes – namely a steeply progressive increase in testosterone, can contribute to a risk of developing metabolic syndrome (i.e. the cluster of risk factors — abdominal fat, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and insulin resistance –that increases the likelihood of developing heart disease and diabetes). In fact, data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation has shown that women have a a 1.45 times increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome in perimenopause and a 1.25 increased risk after menopause. So, the cards are automatically stacked against us. Let’s add overweight and obesity, poor eating habits and sedentary behavior to the mix and we have a veritable “heart condition in the making” cocktail.
Wondering where this is going?
Across the board, the key ways to improve one’s risk of developing disease include a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and good fats and regular physical activity. The formula isn’t a magic one and but it’s been shown time and again to improve the odds. However, we are a society of instant gratification so it’s easy to fall into the trap of a quick fix, whether that entails botox, diet pills, diet plans, sweating or the like without paying much attention. Hence, when I saw a study setting the stage for the latest and greatest answer to our problems, i.e. orange juice, I had to take a closer look.
Like pomegranate juice, orange juice is rich in flavonoids, naturally-occurring plant and vegetable compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Orange juice is also an important source of vitamin C, folate and potassium, which have been shown to help protect cells from bad, LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and possibly help lower blood pressure. But, can drinking orange juice help prevent heart disease in middle-aged women who are already at risk?
When researchers compared 26 premenopausal women between the ages of 30 and 48 who were considered overweight or obese, and asked them to engage in a 1-hour aerobic exercise (running) 3 times a week and either drink 2 glasses (16 oz) of orange juice daily or not, they observed the following:
- Regular aerobic exercise led to an average loss of 11% to 15% of fat and 1.2% to 2.5% of BMI depending on the group that women were assigned to.
- Women who drank orange juice along with their thrice-weekly exercise had as much as a 15% decline in LDL-cholesterol and an 18% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Daily orange juice intake also led to less muscle fatigue and better overall responses to aerobic training.
- Although drinking orange juice added to daily caloric intake, it actually led to a decreased consumption of other foods.
Should you start drinking orange juice to lose weight and save your heart? Not so fast. This study simply shows an potential associated benefit and does not prove that drinking orange juice causes a reduced risk in heart disease,; mind you, these women were only studied for three months. Moreover, the study was small and a much larger group is needed to demonstrate proof of a benefit. Additionally, the results did not show which components in orange juice are specifically linked to a potential risk reduction, or if there are components in the juice that are shared by other juices. On a more positive side, it did demonstrate the benefit of a balanced diet, regular physical activity and improvements in performance, perhaps as a result of extra nutrients and energy provided by the juice.
Time to juice up? Nope, just time to start opening your eyes a bit wider when you see headlines touting the amazing benefits of a quick fix. Rule number 1? There are no quick fixes.Read More
Every now and then I have to share some exciting news. And honestly? I don’t even know what to think about this one:
Got cellulite? There may be hope! (Do you hear the angels singing?!!!)
As women, we are both blessed and burdened with extra padding around the thigh and buttocks area. These days, thanks for JLo, some women are even trying to pack some extra stuff in their booty, and when they can’t they can even enhance their rear-ends with Booty Pop. But all kidding aside, while it might be great to have some extra junk in the trunk, the unsightly bumps due to numbers of large fat cells in fatty tissue can be downright difficult to overcome or get rid of, even with ample exercise, weight training and a proper diet. Indeed, aging in connective tissue can lead to an imbalance between the body’s ability to produce and breakdown fat, causing even more cellulite.
The news…German researchers are studying if shockwaves aimed at the thigh region plus intensive gluteal strength training can help solve the cellulite problem. Over 12 weeks, roughly 200,000 women under age 18 or over 65 are receiving:
- Six sessions of shockwave therapy (given every 1 to 2 weeks; 2000 focused impulses) plus twice daily gluteal exercises consisting of 15 quadruped hip extensions and 15 quaduped hip extensions with the leg straightened, or
- Six sessions of sham shockwaves (given every 1 to 2 weeks) plus twice daily gluteal exercise as described above.
Cellulite is measured (or graded) on a scale of 0 to 3, ranging from no dimple when skin is pinched to skin alterations or dimpling both when women are standing and lying down. The results of this study, which are not available yet, will focus changes in skin elasticity based on this scale, self assessment on appearance of thighs and buttocks and on any changes in blood or oxygen flow in thighs.
Wow! I’m excited. Cellulite is a challenge, no matter how much exercise you do. This is one procedure I might get my arms (and legs and butt) around! Shock it baby! I’m in!Read More
I’d love to be writing to tell you that researchers have discovered a bicycle specifically built to boost weight loss. However, better yet, it seems that any bicycle may be able to help you prevent weight gain during the premenopausal years. Moreover, the more you need to lose, the greater the benefits.
For some time now, experts have been telling us that daily exercise, even walking can help stave off weight gain. But is all walking created equal? And what about bicycling, which evidently, only 5% of the population over the age of 16, and mostly women, engage in?
Researchers report that among a pool of over 18,000 women studied between 1989 and 2005 (as part of the ongoing Nurses Health Study):
- Increasing the amount of biking over the study period seemed to hold weight gain to a mininum even if that biking equaled only 5 minutes a day.
- Women with normal weight who biked for more than 4 hours a week by the study weight had about a third lower odds of gaining about 5% of their body weight than women who did not bike at all.
- Women who were considered overweight and obese had about half the odds of gaining weight if they biked for at least 2 to 3 hours a week.
- Brisk walking was much better at holding off weight than slow walking — by about a half pound.
The key take-away points of this study is that exercising is not created equal as we age. In this case, more is less is the rule of thumb, meaning that if you weigh more, you may gain less over time if you start bicycling at least 2 to 3 hours a week. If you are lean and mean, well, biking can still yield some significant benefits when it comes to weight gain.
Biking is definitely built for staving off weight gain. Go for it!Read More
Yikes! Seems like every time you turn around, there’s another study upping the ante on exercise. Last year, I wrote about 2005 USDA guidelines suggesting that adults need about 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for health and weight maintenance, i.e. at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily to stave off gradual, unhealthy body weight combined 30 minutes daily can help prevent chronic diseases. To achieve optimal physical fitness, the recommendations suggested the incorporation of cardiovascular conditioning, weight training, and resistance exercise to improve strength and endurance. Conversely, 2008 Federal Guidelines suggested that adults needed about 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise to maintain health, while the Institute of Medicine suggested 60 minutes a day to prevent weight gain. Confused yet?
Researchers followed a group of over 34,000 women (mean age ~54) for 13 years, examining their amount and type of weekly physical activity (e.g. high versus low intensity), body weight, height, menopausal status, use of hormones or not, chronic disease, alcohol use, smoking and diet. (If you’re wondering, high intensity refers to running. bicycling, aerobic exercise or dance or use of aerobic machines, while low intensity refers to yoga, stretching, tennis, squash or racquetball, and lap swimming.)
Overall, study findings showed that on n average and regardless of physical activity level, women gained almost 6 pounds over the course of the study. However, women who exercised anywhere from 2.5 hours to less than 7 hours a week gained significantly more weight then women who exercised at least 7 hours a week (or one hour a day). In fact, women who exercised less than an hour a day were significantly more likely to gain at least 5 pounds over the first three years of the study. Note that these results apply only to normal weight women (body mass index <25).
I’ve recently increased my level of physical activity to an hour a day, not because of these study results but because I’ve been unhappy about the hormonally-driven tire that’s starting to appear around my midsection. I must tell you; it’s a huge time commitment. Undoubtedly, if you are busy in your career or with your children, finding an hour a day to exercise can be difficult. What remains unclear is whether or not this hour can be divided into increments.
What do you think? Do you have the time? Are you motivated? Or does this information discourage you?Read More
Hey. We’re all going to get there one day – slowing down, lower coordination, challenged balance, right? Hmm, maybe not. At least I’d like to think that it’s possible to delay or stave off the natural physical decline of aging. So what’s the deal anyhow?
Estrogen strikes again!
Declining levels of estrogen as a women ages are linked to changes within the body that directly affect physical function. And like many other age-related changes that occur, hormone therapy has been overpromised as a panacea for physical functioning. In fact, for years, women have been advised the hormone therapy might benefit and even improve overall functioning. Yet, reports supporting this particular benefit of hormone therapy have been inconsistent, with some showing improvements and other, actually showing detriment.
The latest evidence to emerge against hormone therapy comes from a comprehensive analysis of 2,400 older postmenopausal women who had taken HRT or placebo tablet. The women had all been part of the the Women’s Health Initiative Study, which, as you may recall, was halted when HRT was found to increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer.
In the analysis, women were assessed for physical function (i.e., grip strength, chair stand – the number of times a woman could stand up from a chair without using her arms and timed walk – the time it took to walk a 6-meter course) at the study’s start, and at 1, 3 and 6 years.
What they found.
Over the study’s course:
- Grip strength declined by 12%
- Chair stands declined by 3.5%
- Walk pace slowed by 11.4%
- No differences in physical function were seen in women taking HRT compared to those who had taken placebo
The overall conclusion? Hormones will not slow or benefit physical declines that occur as we age.
So, are we all doomed?
Studies suggest that to stave off physical declines as we age, we need to keep moving! Walking for 30 minutes a day can help to maintain bone strength. Yoga and bo su can help build and maintain balance. Tai Chi or Chi Gung can assist with focus and keep those muscles suppple. Whatever you do, it’s a use it or lose it proposition.
What’s your strategy?
Want to read more? Reuter’s Health has an excellent write-up on this study. (Special thanks to Executive Editor Ivan Oransky for pointing me to these data.)Read More