Livin' on the MDedge

Cook your amphibians before you eat them


Novel food for thought

When you were growing up, your parents probably told you to brush your teeth before you went to bed, warned you not to run with the scissors or play with matches, and punished you whenever you used the neighbor children to play Schrödinger’s cat.

Closeup of a frog World Wildlife/StockSnap

They did those things for your own good, of course, and now the nation’s mother – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – is doing the same by warning us about novel outbreak–associated foods. As in, “Put down that novel outbreak–associated food! You don’t know where it’s been!”

Seriously, you don’t know where it’s been. CDC investigators identified 28 novel foods that were linked to 36 foodborne-disease outbreaks that occurred during 2007-2016, including moringa leaf (herb/spice), tempeh (grain), frog, sprouted nut butter, and skate.

The novel foods implicated in these outbreaks were more likely to be imported, compared with 14,216 outbreaks that occurred from 1973 to 2016, and about half didn’t require refrigeration. Two-thirds did not need to be cooked after purchase. Another thing your parents wouldn’t like: Some can’t be washed, like sheep milk, sugar cane, or the aforementioned nut butter.

We wanted to get a food expert to comment on these novel foods, but our editor said that the assistant manager of our local Burger King wasn’t expert enough, so we’ve commandeered someone else’s expert. Cynthia Sears, MD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told all about the dangers of frogs: “Essentially all amphibians are contaminated, often with salmonella. Eating any amphibian that is not thoroughly cooked is a risk.”

Be sure to cook your amphibians before you eat them. Advice that your parents would be proud to share.

Dieters should stay away from diet drinks

When a drink is labeled “diet” many assume that the calorie-free beverage is the best choice. However, one of the largest studies to date on artificial sweeteners is out to set the record straight.

Glasses with beverages American Heart Association

Artificial sweeteners, or nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS), are used in most if not all diet products to give the illusion of sweetness without the caloric guilt. Some studies say they help with weight loss for that very reason, but others say they can contribute to weight gain. So which is it?

Researchers at the University of Southern California sought to add some clarity to the research already out there.

They looked at an even-gendered split of 74 participants who drank 300 mL of drinks sweetened with NNS, table sugar, or water. The researchers then used functional MRI to see how parts of the brain responsible for appetite and cravings responded to images of high-calorie foods. They also looked at glucose, insulin, and other metabolic hormone levels, as well as how much food the participants ate at their free buffet. (In the participants’ defense, who can say no to a free buffet?)

The researchers made some interesting observations:

  • Women who drank the NNS drink ate more than did the table-sugar group, but all men ate the same.
  • Images of those calorie-packed goodies increased cravings and appetite for obese men and women in the NNS group, compared with the table-sugar group.
  • For all participants who drank the NNS drink, there was a decrease in the hormone that tells the body it’s full.

“By studying different groups we were able to show that females and people with obesity may be more sensitive to artificial sweeteners. For these groups, drinking artificially sweetened drinks may trick the brain into feeling hungry, which may in turn result in more calories being consumed,” Kathleen Page, MD, the study’s corresponding author, said in a separate statement.

Today’s lesson? Don’t believe every label you read.

Instagram vegetables and the triumph of peer pressure

You and your family are sitting down for dinner. You’ve taken the time to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal. Vegetables, rice, seafood – all the right things. But the children around you refuse to partake. What can you do? Why, show them a highly liked photo of broccoli on Instagram!

Vegetables on a cutting board Teresa Burton/IMNG Medical Media

In reality, kids will probably never like to eat their vegetables, but according to a study published in Appetite, viewing highly liked images on social media can compel adults to eat theirs.

The investigators recruited a group of 169 adults aged 18-28 (average age, 21) and showed them a series of mock Instagram posts of all sorts of food, everything from Brussels sprouts to chocolate cake, as well as nonfood images to act as a baseline. The images had a varying amount of likes. After viewing the images, study participants were offered a snack buffet consisting of grapes and cookies.

The results were a triumph of peer pressure. Those who viewed highly liked images of nutritious foods ate a significantly larger proportion of grapes, compared with those who saw highly liked images of unhealthy food or nonfood.

The authors cautioned that more research is needed, but they said that they’re onto something in the eternal struggle of getting people to eat better. If Mikey liked it, maybe you should, too. Just as long as you don’t try to encourage the eating of peas. That is a dark road none should take, and no one should ever be subjected to that cursed food.

It’s nice to share … hypertension?

You may have heard that, over time, you begin to resemble your spouse. You may have also heard that, as time goes by, your pet might start to resemble you, but that is a story for another time.

Illustration of two people riding a tandem bicycle sabelskaya/iStock/Getty Images Plus

A lot of the time, it’s human nature that people partner with someone who is similar to them in physical and environmental status. If you like to go jogging at 5 a.m., you might want a spouse who does the same. A study done using data from couples in Japan and the Netherlands found that couples who had the same lifestyle had similar levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also had similar illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes.

It’s important to note that many of the couples were not very genetically similar but had similar lifestyles. Encourage your partner to have a healthier lifestyle, so you can live on for many years to come!

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