Kids’ excess weight is causing serious health problems
An American Psychological Association survey reported that 42 percent of U.S. adults gained around 29 pounds in the first year of the pandemic. So it’s not surprising that the percentage of obese children and teens jumped from 19 percent to 22 percent over the same time period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That cannot become the new normal — it’s far too damaging to young people’s health, today and tomorrow.
According to researchers from the University of Georgia, kids’ excess visceral belly fat infiltrates organs and causes arterial stiffness. That sets them up for everything from high blood pressure to premature heart attacks and strokes, impotence, decreased cognition and increased risk of mental health conditions. In their study of 600 kids, published in Pediatric Obesity, the researchers concluded: The more belly fat, the more damage to the circulatory system. Plus, the researchers found that 145 of the kids had already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, a fast train to even more cardio-damage. As one of the researchers explains, “[Type 2 diabetes] is a very pervasive, scary condition in youth, even more so than in adults. Many body systems tend to degrade at a more accelerated rate if the disease occurs during the growing years. This disease attacks the brain, the kidneys, the bones, the liver.”
So, if your child is obese, talk with your pediatrician, consult a nutritionist, start a family exercise program, and make sure you’re eliminating processed and red meats and dishing up plant-based meals without any added sugar, sat or trans fats.
Foods that help you sleep and foods that fuel insomnia
In “Sleeping Beauty,” a princess is cursed to sleep for 100 years, until she is awakened by a handsome prince. If you have insomnia, you may think you’d enjoy getting knocked out like that, but opting for a diet that helps promote a good night’s rest is a smarter option.
Quality sleep tamps down inflammation, promotes heart health and better cognition, and helps regulate blood sugar. And for folks who have sleep apnea and insomnia — well, it’s vital. A new study published in European Respiratory Journal tracked folks over 15 years and found that people who have both insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea were almost 50 percent more likely to die over that time period than folks without either condition.
So, what foods promote a good night’s sleep? Pumpkin, chia seeds and almonds deliver magnesium — which is thought to help regulate your body’s timekeeping system. Beans, leafy greens, avocados and bananas are rich in potassium, which helps improve sleep quality, according to the Sleep Foundation. Other smart bites include foods that provide melatonin or precursors to melatonin, such as tart cherries, walnuts and pistachios. Melatonin helps with the timing of your circadian rhythm (24-hour internal clock) and with sleep.
While you’re at it: Don’t eat foods that crank up insomnia, such as those with added sugars, ultraprocessed foods and red meat. One study found that folks who eat 4.5 ounces of red meat a day get around two hours less sleep a night, and the sleep they do get is poorer quality than that of non-meat-eaters.
Chew this over: Gum disease can trigger mental illness
The boar’s bristle toothbrush was invented in China in 1498. Stiff coarse hairs from a hog’s neck were used to clean teeth until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced as Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush. Floss was mass marketed much earlier — Johnson & Johnson first sold dental floss in 1896.
Despite a long history of teeth- and gum-saving products being available, around 40 percent of adults age 30 and up in the U.S. have periodontitis — advanced gum disease that is associated with stroke, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and problems in pregnancy. Now research in the journal BMJ Open has found that over the course of around three years, folks who are diagnosed with periodontal disease are also at a 37 percent increased risk of developing anxiety, a 29 percent increase in depression risk and significant increased risk of other serious mental illnesses.
On top of that, their risk of developing cardiovascular disease goes up 18 percent, and the risk for Type 2 diabetes rockets up by 26 percent, and the risk of developing autoimmune disease was increased by 33 percent.
Clearly, to protect your mental and physical health you need to brush two to three times a day, floss daily and see your dentists for checkups and cleanings as recommended (minimum twice a year). Psst! Don’t use coated floss — it may have PFAs on it, those carcinogenic chemicals that have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, decreased semen quality and ulcerative colitis in adults and thyroid disease and lowered sex and growth hormones in children.
Overcoming your resistance to using resistance bands
When “Star Trek’s” 7 declared, “Resistance is futile,” she was telling the Borg’s adversaries there was no way to escape the collective hive mind. That’s nonsense. It just takes the right band of resistance-fighters, say, from the Starship Enterprise, to find a way to preserve an individual’s health and well-being.
Here on planet Earth, resistance bands are much easier to enlist in your quest for better health. They’re simple pieces of elastic of various lengths. They can be flat and wide or come as tubing — with or without handles. Often color-coded from light to dark to indicate increased resistance, they facilitate two beneficial activities: stretching and strength building.
For stretching, they help you reach and hold positions that extend your legs, arms, hips and shoulders, loosening tight muscles and tendons, promoting flow of your lymphatic system, and improving blood flow throughout your muscles. That primes you for muscle building.
For strength building, the bands allow you to determine how much effort you want to expend. The great news is that you can achieve significant results using moderate resistance with excellent form and going to the point of near exhaustion. Your goal is to use bands that get you to near exhaustion with three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise. Five easy-to-do ones are available at health.clevelandclinic.org; search for “should you try resistance bands.”
The rewards of using resistance bands are increased flexibility and strength, improved balance, reduced lower-back pain, and lower blood pressure, blood lipid and glucose levels (increased muscle mass boosts metabolic processes). Irresistible, for sure!
Processed meats make IBD lethal
The lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, Mike McCready, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 21. And although it did cause multiple onstage emergencies (exit stage left), these days he is much better able to deal with the disease. “I’ve learned solutions to living, whether it be working out when I feel better, to eating a certain way … there is a positive solution to this, and it has to come from within, from each individual patient,” he says.
Well, there’s new info on diet and irritable bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s, that should be pretty universally applied by everyone who contends with those conditions. A presentation at the Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Disease meeting looked at four years of data on 5,763 patients around age 40 with IBD and found that those with IBD (especially with Crohn’s) who ate processed meats four or more times a week were 53 percent more likely to die than folks with IBD who ate it less than once a week. That damage is done in a week simply by eating bacon with one breakfast, a turkey sandwich, a corned beef sandwich and one pepperoni pizza!
If you have IBD, work with your doctor and a nutritionist to make a management/treatment plan. And while each patient is unique, there are foods that may help ease your discomfort: bananas; an electrolyte drink diluted with water; applesauce; smooth peanut butter; bland soft foods like broth, cooked vegetables, potatoes without skin, broiled or steamed fish; and healthy oils like canola and olive.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.