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Health & Wellness

New York trans fat ban has cut consumption, study finds PDF  | Print |  E-mail

New York City’s pioneering ban on all but the smallest amounts of trans fats in restaurant food has led to a significant reduction in consumption, a change that should translate into better cardiovascular health in the nation’s largest city, according to a new report. It also demonstrates that coffee shops, fast-food joints and other eateries can play a major role in improving the health of the public, the study authors said.

Officials from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted the study to assess whether the regulation that took effect in 2008 — which prohibits all restaurants from serving food prepared with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or dishes that contain more than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving — was making a difference for diners.

Public health officials had zeroed in on trans fats because they pose a uniquely potent health risk. Adding fewer than 4.5 grams of them to a 2,000-calorie daily diet can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 23 percent, studies have found.

Researchers fanned out across Manhattan in 2007 and examined the receipts of 6,969 diners as they left fast-food restaurants at lunchtime. (The researchers went to fast-food chains because the nutrition information on the items sold there was readily available.) In 2009, they repeated the exercise with 7,885 receipts. They found that diners consumed 2.4 fewer grams of trans fat per lunch after the ban went into effect, according to their study published in Tuesday’s edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.

That decline was offset by only a slight 0.55-gram increase in consumption of saturated fats, which are also associated with elevated cholesterol levels.

"Given that one-third of calories in the United States comes from food prepared away from home, this suggests a remarkable achievement in potential cardiovascular risk reduction through food policy," the authors reported.

Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston, said the findings showed "that public health initiatives, if done right, seem to work." A key factor, she said, was that diners didn’t have to choose: "The environment has been shifted so that you automatically will get the healthier option."

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has taken an active role in efforts to improve public health. In addition to leading the fight against trans fats, he has required chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menu boards and called for a ban on super-sized sugary drinks.

Trans fats are found naturally in meat and dairy products, but the biggest source in the American diet is processed oils, commonly partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Favored for their shelf-stable qualities, such oils were widely used in baked and fried foods.

The researchers found that the proportion of meals purchased that contained zero grams of trans fat rose from 32 percent before the ban went into place to 59 percent afterward. And they found that the benefits were shared equally by diners in working-class neighborhoods and patrons in tonier sections of the city.

Other cities and states followed New York City’s lead, including California in 2008. The federal government also required manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats contained in processed foods, beginning in 2003.

The food industry has responded by reformulating its products.

Nationwide, the average daily consumption of trans fats has gone from 4.6 grams in the 1990s to 1.3 grams in 2010, said Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Things are clearly much better."

However, in a report this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Scanlon and a CDC colleague noted that trans fats are still found in many processed foods, including up to 7 grams a serving in some microwave popcorns. More needs to be done, she said.

The changes made by restaurants were costly but necessary, said Joy Dubost, director of nutrition and healthy living at the National Restaurant Association.

"The science is very convincing with regard to consumption of trans fats, so the industry had been working on this," she said.

  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Health & Wellness  |  
Let the workouts begin! PDF  | Print |  E-mail

The Olympic Games kick off in three days, and Hub-area gyms have new ways for you to get in gold-medal shape. Grab your Gatorade and hit one of these fitness spots:

Boston Sports Club, UXF London Calling Edition

Try such moves as the Sugar Ray (boxing), the Mary Lou (gymnastics), the Lolo (track and field), the Winklevoss (rowing) and the -Mangold (weight lifting) in BSC’s homage to athletes Olympic and otherwise. The hourlong class involves 5-minute circuits of each exercise, repeated three to four times. “It’s pretty intense!” said Mark Samara, master trainer at the Boston Sports Club on Boylston Street. “But we can usually adjust to most fitness levels as long as people can complete the moves correctly.” Classes begin on Friday. 505 Boylston St., -617-236-1189, -mysportsclubs.com for class schedule.

Equinox, Ultimate Olympics Fitness Challenge

Area group fitness manager Kristy DiScipio has devised a class exclusively for the Back Bay club that takes elements of eight Olympic events: shot put, hurdles, gymnastics, swimming, kayaking, weight lifting, tae kwon do and track to create one super-challenging class for beginner to advanced athletes. The hourlong sweat session is divided into three rounds — qualifying, semifinal and medal — where participants track the number of repetitions completed during the allotted time for each exercise to earn a spot at the top of the class. “Everybody wins, but for the spirit of competition some people can go a little bit harder,” DiScipio said. “Have fun with it! It’s a fun workout, it’s something a bit different and it ties into what’s going on in London.”Classes begin Aug. 21. 131 Dartmouth St., 617-578-8918, equinox.com for class schedule.

The Sports Club/LA, the July Games

Defend Boston’s honor in the Sports Club/LA’s challenge: have a trainer record your personal-best time in events including a 1 mile run, a 500 meter row, a 4.53 mile bike ride and 100 bench jumps, or see how many reps you can do in one-and-a-half minutes for pull-ups, two minutes for push-ups or two minutes for kettlebell swings. Enter your progress at www.facebook.com/#!/thesportsclubla/app_259197494196191 — each city has a flag to keep track of the leaders, and participants can enter as many times as they like. When the contest ends, the gold, silver and bronze finishers will win free personal training sessions. The contest is open through July 31. ---4 Avery St., 617-375-8200, -thesportsclubla.com.

HealthWorks, HW Olympics

Can you beat the pros? Members can test their skills during HW’s Olympics, a weeklong promotion pitting gym-goers against HealthWorks trainers for speed in events such as the 1-mile and quarter-mile runs or 5-mile and 1-mile bike rides, or max out your reps in events such as chin-ups, push-ups, wall squats and planks. Plus, all members can battle each other in an attempt to win a gold medal in each event. The contest is open next week. Go to healthworksfitness.com for locations.

Train like an Olympian at Boston Boxing & Fitness

Babson student Tommy Duquette, who trains at Boston Boxing, was one fight away from representing the United States in London at the Olympic Trials in Colorado Springs. Train on his level (or at least as close to it as the non-superhuman among us can get) with the experts at Boston Boxing & Fitness. On the floor, “you have a casual boxer all the way to Tommy,” said owner Ed LaVache. Thinking about hopping into the ring? “Don’t be intimidated,” LaVache said. “Everyone’s gonna make you feel at home here. You’re gonna love it.” 100 

  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Health & Wellness  |  
Salon owner does her part for breast cancer prevention PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Salon owner Rebecca Tambascia understands the potency of chemicals that so many people use without a second thought every day. That is why she uses natural products whenever possible – and that’s also why she has united her salon to raise funds for breast cancer prevention.

She and the employees and clients at her salon, Essential Beauty at Atlantis in Hyannis, will be raising funds for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition’s Against the Tide annual fundraising event for breast cancer prevention. Against the Tide consists of swim, kayak, walk, and run, as well as a new Aquathlon this year.

The salon will be raising funds through a special event Aug. 10 that includes a Mojo natural malt beverage tasting, appetizers from local restaurant 586 Bistro, fingernail polish changes from the new Zoya nail polish line, hair touch-ups and makeup services from Aveda artists, and organic and eco-friendly clothing and accessories for sale from Shift Boutique.

 “The reason why I’m supporting MBCC is because its funds go toward prevention, which I think is really key,” said Tambascia. “Between one in seven and one in eight women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with breast cancer! I think that’s just scary when you really stop and think about it.  Why is that number so high?”

Tambascia said she is very cautious of what she brings into her home and what she feeds herself and her two children.  Being in the hairdressing industry makes it difficult to remain chemical-free, but Essential Beauty does what it can, she says.  “Our product line is from Aveda Concepts, and they’re as close to natural as you can get.  This includes their hair coloring products, which are 98 percent naturally derived,” said Tambascia.

"We are very fortunate to have such tremendous support from Rebecca and her team at Essential Beauty, demanding greater protection of their children's future health in our effort to stop breast cancer before it starts," says MBCC Director of Events and Communication Cheryl Osimo. “Rebecca has worked hard with her team of stylists and Aveda specialists to support the Cape Cod Against the Tide since its inception over a decade ago. It has always been an outstanding fundraising event, and this year will be no different.”

Tambascia invites people to join her Against the Tide team, which is participating in the walk component of Against the Tide. You may do so by registering for the event at www.mbcc.org/swim and selecting to join Team Essential Beauty, or make a donation to Team Essential Beauty through team captain Becca Tambascia at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/teamessentialbeauty/.

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Provincetown 'washashore' develops groundbreaking Alzheimer’s treatment PDF  | Print |  E-mail

At first glance, you wouldn’t have thought that the middle-aged man sitting comfortably on a leather sofa in a living room overlooking the West End moors was anything more than a prosperous second-home owner, relatively common in this town.

But this man, Dr. Richard Wurtman, wasn’t just enjoying a beautiful summer day. He was in the middle of explaining to a reporter how he came up with an idea that improves memory in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease. And he had been doing that all day to a variety of other callers who had just learned of Wurtman’s disease treatment, published in the July 10 online edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

A clinical trial testing the efficacy of Wurtman’s idea of how to manage — not cure — the devastating loss of memory that affects Alzheimer’s patients showed that a nutrient “cocktail” composed of three ingredients found in naturally occurring dietary compounds appears to help overcome loss of connections between brain cells in people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s patients gradually lose those connections, called synapses, leading to memory loss and other cognitive impairments. The clinical trial was the second to test the nutrient cocktail and the results both confirmed and expanded the findings of an earlier trial that showed that 40 percent of the patients who consumer the nutrient drink improved in a test of verbal memory.

The second trial, announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Wurtman has worked his entire career as a professor and researcher in brain and cognitive science, tested twice as many patients and produced even better results.

“I’m shocked and amazed it works,” Wurtman said Monday, sitting in the living room of the house he and his wife built 27 years ago as a weekend respite from their busy lives in Boston. “It’s so rare for something that works in a rat brain to work in a human brain.”

He probably shouldn’t be so surprised, based on his past research successes. Wurtman’s idea of treating sleep disorders with melatonin revolutionized a problem that affects millions of people around the world. And an earlier idea developed with his wife, Dr. Judith Wurtman, led to serotonin becoming the standard management technique for severe premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.

Even with his distinguished record of success, Wurtman was still giddy about what is potentially a huge step forward in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Health & Wellness  |  
Medical test could save babies across globe PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Last fall, George Xu and Stephanie Yaung, two second-year . students, were taking a class at Harvard Medical School when a couple with a child diagnosed with PKU, a rare condition in which a baby is born without the ability to properly break down an amino acid called phenylalanine, visited their class.

In the U.S., screening for such diseases in newborns is nearly universal, so the child had managed to avoid mental retardation and other symptoms that can be found in youngsters who go untreated.

Globally, however, only one in four newborns is screened for such easily treatable diseases, and in rural parts of China, Xu’s and Yaung’s native country, the number plummets to one in 10.

“It’s a real tragedy that not every newborn is able to be screened,” said Xu, 24.

So using his Cambridge bedroom as their ad hoc laboratory, the two students developed a device resembling a pregnancy test that, within minutes, could not only tell doctors whether a newborn has PKU, but allow them to continue to monitor the level of phenylalanine in the infant’s blood.

In May, the company the students went on to found, Quantamerix, was named a MassChallenge finalist. And they plan to develop separate tests for two other diseases that can lead to developmental defects — G6PD and congenital hypothyroidism — and sell them first in western China for about $10.

“The biggest obstacle has been trying to target a market halfway around the world,” Xu said. “But our long-term goal is to bring newborn screening to every single newborn in the world.”

  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Health & Wellness  |  

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