Do Americans Have A Fat Chance?

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Fatty foods make us less sad. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, 12 healthy volunteers underwent a 12-hour fast. Then they were attached to a gastric-feeding tube administering 250 milliliters of fatty acid or saline solution while having MRI scans. Before receiving the infusions, they listened to 11 minutes of sad classical music and looked at 10 sad faces projected on a screen. The volunteers receiving the fatty acid became 50% less sad. The fatty acid reduced the behavioral and nerve cell responses to sad emotions. It seems comfort foods are scientifically comforting.

However, teddy bears can be comforting. Fatty foods are also scientifically fattening. New York City requires fast-food chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. The law went into effect in 2008. A 2011 report published in the British Medical Journal found 17% of customers changed their order because of the posted calories. Since the law was passed, fast food restaurants have also changed their food. Cosi started using low-fat mayonnaise, Starbucks offered low-fat milk and Applebee’s introduced an under-550-calorie menu. Considering more than 66% of Americans are overweight or obese, restaurant-goers need to become a “counter-culture”.

We also need to remember gout is a consequence of eating fatty food. Gout is a type of arthritis causing extreme swelling, inflammation and joint pain – mostly in the feet. It’s caused by too much uric acid, which can crystallize and migrate to various joints. Although genetics, being male and increasing age increase gout risk, diet is a controllable factor. Uric acid is a chemical byproduct of metabolizing high fat and high sugar foods, as well as alcohol. A 2011 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found 20% of Americans have elevated uric acid levels. Obviously, we’re not taking the “out” from gout.

Another consequence of too much body fat is diabetes. However, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found higher muscle mass lowers diabetes risk. Researchers analyzed data from 13,644 adults and found that for each 10% increase in the skeletal index – the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight – there was an 11% decrease in insulin resistance and a 12% decrease in pre-diabetes. In 2011, according to the American Diabetes Association, 74 million Americans have pre-diabetes – their blood glucose levels are higher than normal – but we can “muscle our way into” better health.

Knight Pierce Hirst has written for television, newspapers and greeting card companies. Presently she writes a 400-word news blog that is published 3 times a week. KNIGHT WATCH is a second look at uniquely interesting news items that requires only seconds to read at http://knightwatch.typepad.com.

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