March madness

March, as it turns out, was a good month for interesting research in the area of health and wellness and cardiovascular disease (not to mention a great month for basketball!). Some of it is obvious stuff. All of it bears repeating nonetheless. Here’s a round-up of a few interesting studies that have come out over the last few weeks that caught my eye.

Limit meal-time distraction to minimize weight gain

You know this already. Sit down, eat slowly, pay attention to your food. Turn off the TV or move away from the computer screen and chances are, you’ll eat less. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 24 other research studies looking the degree to which attention to food (or lack thereof) influences food intake. Turns out inattention leads to more food intake during the current meal and even more so in the next one. My friend and colleague, Dr. Howard Lewine, wrote about it on for Aetna Intelihealth . Read more here.

Summary: Slow down. Pay attention. Eat less.

Docs who exercise talk more about exercise with their patients

I find this is totally true. I love to exercise, and as a result discuss exercise frequently with my patients. I can talk expectations (‘When I got back into running, I could only run to the end of the block before gasping for air…’). I can talk training programs (‘Have you ever heard of the couch to 5K program? It worked great for me…’). And I can talk about the tangible benefits, not only in lowering risk of heart disease, but in feeling better about yourself.

A research study presented this month at an American Heart Association conference confirmed my own personal observation (n=1=Dr. Reena Pande!). Fit doctors were 2-5 times more likely to talk about exercise with their patients than less active doctors. In addition, improving doctors’ own activity levels helped them talk more about exercise with their patients.

Summary: Docs, get moving, and then pass on that advice to your patients.

Sugary drinks linked to deaths

This is another one that we all suspect is true, but new research from the Harvard School of  Public Health shows that higher intake of sugary beverages was linked to over 180,000 deaths each year worldwide, including nearly 25,000 in the US alone. These deaths were a result of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Countries with the highest intake of sugary beverages (mainly in Latin America and the Carribean) had the highest associated rate of death. Countries with the lowest intake of sugary drinks (for example, Japan) had lower associated rates of death.  This was not just a problem of wealthy nations. In fact, nearly 3 out of 4 deaths attributed to high consumption of sugary drinks were in low and middle income nations.

Summary: This observational study doesn’t prove that sugar-sweetened beverage are the direct cause of these deaths. But the message is clear nonetheless. Drink fewer sugary beverages (soda, juice, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks). Plain and simple. Remember: One 12-ounce soda can has the same amount of sugar as 10 teaspoons of sugar. Do you really need that?

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