Friday, April 01, 2011

You Can Have Your Candy And Eat It Too -- Without Adverse Health Effects Shows New Study

Journal article here

Good news for candy and chocolate lovers: they tend to weigh less, have lower body mass indices (BMI) and waist circumferences, and have decreased levels of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome, according to a new study(1) published in Nutrition Research.

The findings are positive, but lead researcher Carol O'Neil, PhD, MPH, LDN, RD, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, cautions it is all things in moderation. "We certainly don't want these results positioned as eating candy helps you to lose weight," she said. "This study adds to the evidence base that supports candy's role as an occasional treat within a healthy lifestyle."

The study examined the association of candy consumption (broken into three categories: total candy, chocolate or sugar) on total energy intake (calories), nutrient intake, diet quality, weight status, CVD risk factors and metabolic syndrome in more than 15,000 U.S. adults 19 years of age and older based on 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

Candy Consumers Successfully Navigate Calories In, Calories Out

Results of the study showed that while candy contributed modestly to caloric intake on days it was consumed, there was no association of total candy intake to increased weight/BMI -- suggesting that over time, consumers were able to balance longer-term caloric intake. This is an important finding, as the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) emphasize the concept that calorie balance over time is the key to weight management.

"The DGAs devote a whole chapter to helping consumers understand the key principles of weight management: know how many calories your body needs, learn the calorie content of foods and beverages, and recognize the correlation between the two," said Roger A. Clemens, DrPH, University of Southern California, and 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee member. "It's all about balance, moderation, variety in the diet and physical activity – and this study suggests some candy consumers may understand how to navigate the calorie equation."

Other findings include:

Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Candy consumers were found to have a 14 percent decreased risk of elevated diastolic blood pressure and lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels than non-candy consumers (CRP is a non-specific marker of general inflammation and one way to assess risk for cardiovascular, other chronic diseases as well as physical activity and stress.). For high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), chocolate candy consumers had better values of this "good" cholesterol, specifically a 19 percent decreased risk of a lower HDL-C.

Metabolic Syndrome. Chocolate candy consumption was associated with a 15 percent reduced risk of metabolic syndrome – a group of risk factors linked to overweight and obesity that can lead to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Diet Quality. Measured by the Healthy Eating Index 2005 (HEI-2005), the study found that diet quality was not affected by total candy or chocolate candy consumption when consumed within energy limits. While sugar candy consumers did have a lower HEI than non-consumers, the difference between the two was quite small.

"Candy is a unique treat that can provide moments of joy and happiness. Consumers should feel confident that candy, consumed in moderation within a diet balanced with regular physical activity, can be part of a healthy, happy lifestyle," said Alison Bodor, senior vice president of public policy and advocacy, National Confectioners Association.


Brain link to anti-social and yobbish behaviour in teenagers

Those who have studied psychopathy, as I have, certainly do tend to get the subjective impression that a psychopath has a "bit missing" in his brain. This may be a small move towards identifying the "bit" concerned

Bad behaviour in teenagers could be explained by stunted growth of the "caring-sharing" areas of their brains, study suggests. Scientists have found that yobs and hoodies have smaller regions of the brain that deal with emotions especially fear and the ability to feel the pain of others. This suggests that their anti-social behaviour could have a biological basis and could lead to possible new treatments.

The study led by Cambridge University attempted to explain why five per cent of school age children suffer from Conduct Disorder (CD), a recognised psychiatric condition characterised by aggressive and anti-social traits.

They looked at 63 boys with an average age of 18 with CD, some of whom developed problems at an early age and some who began to display anti-social behaviour in adolescence. They were compared with a group of 27 "normal" teenagers from similar backgrounds.

Brain scans showed that two regions were significantly smaller in affected teenagers, including those who only became badly behaved when they reached adolescence. The two areas were the amygdala and insula, which contribute to emotional perception, empathy, and the ability to recognise when others are in distress.

Rates of CD have increased sharply around the world since the 1950s. The condition can develop in young children, or not show itself until the teenage years. Those affected are at greater risk of mental problems, substance abuse and criminality in later life.

It has long been thought that adolescent-onset CD is merely the result of susceptible teenagers imitating badly-behaved peers. But the new research challenges this view, pointing to brain changes that affect all youngsters with the condition.

The scientists are cautious about how to interpret the findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Professor Ian Goodyer, one of the researchers, said: "We hope that our results will contribute to existing psychosocial strategies for detecting children at high risk of developing anti-social behaviour."

He stressed their study had not demonstrated a foolproof "test" and only provided a springboard for further, more extensive, research. He said environmental and family factors also played a part.

Dr Graeme Fairchild, co-author from the University of Southampton, said: Changes in grey matter volume in these areas of the brain could explain why teenagers with conduct disorder have difficulties in recognising emotions in others. "Further studies are now needed to investigate whether these changes in brain structure are a cause or a consequence of the disorder."

Dr Andy Calder, from the Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, another author, said: "Only when we are confident that we understand why the disorder develops can we apply this knowledge to the further development and evaluation of treatments. "The disorder has a devastating impact on families and communities and at the moment we have few effective treatments."


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