Brain biology may explain why some people tend to be couch potatoes while others are more active. That's the conclusion of a US study that found some brains may naturally encourage restless behaviors that burn calories and help control weight.
Researchers found that the brains of rats bred to be lean are more sensitive to a chemical produced in the brain called orexin A. This chemical stimulates appetite and spontaneous movement, such as fidgeting. The study also determined that compared with rats bred to be obese, the lean rats had a far greater expression of orexin receptors in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus.
"The greater expression of orexin receptors suggests the lean rats brains were more sensitive to the orexin the brain produces. The results point to a biological basis for being a couch potato," said senior researcher Catherine M. Kotz of the VA Medical Center, University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Obesity Center.
She said this research suggests that frequent unconscious movement, such as fidgeting, may burn calories and help control weight. It also could lead to the development of drugs to stimulate minor physical activity to promote weight loss.
Weight Loss May Cut Prostate Cancer Risk
Losing weight may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, says an American Cancer Society study of nearly 70,000 men. The study also found that obesity increases the risk of more aggressive prostate cancer.
The study participants reported their weight in 1982 and again 10 years later. The men were then followed until 2003. During that time, 5,000 of them were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Men who lost at least 11 pounds between 1982 and 1992 were about half as likely as other men to be diagnosed with non-metastatic, aggressive high-grade prostate cancer.
"Obesity is one of the most prevalent modifiable cancer risk factors. Previous studies have linked maintaining a healthy weight and weight loss to a decreasing risk of breast cancer," said study author Dr. Carmen Rodriguez.
"Our study linking obesity to aggressive prostate cancer adds to increasing evidence of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight through adult life. Although our study suggests that weight loss may lower the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, given the difficulty of losing weight, emphasis should be put on the importance of avoiding weight gain to reduce the risk of prostate cancer," Rodriguez said.
Juicing for Health
Fruits and vegetables are chock-full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, all of which play a crucial role in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer and most other serious ailments. The most protective effect comes from having 10 daily servings of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Juicing can help you achieve this goal.
Making mostly vegetable juices, which contain much less of the naturally occurring sugar found in fruit juices, is recommended. People new to juicing can develop diarrhea, so begin slowly. Start with four ounces of fresh juice each morning (equivalent to one to two servings of fruits and vegetables). After a week, add four ounces in the evening.
Fresh is best, but juice can be stored for up to two days in a closed container or frozen. Juicing should not be a substitute for eating whole fruits and vegetables. You still need the fiber that most juicers remove. The Vita-Mix 5000 juicer (800848-2649, www.vitamix.com) retains much of the fiber.
Vegetable Juice Recipe Ideas
Try these three-vegetable combinations for easy juicing.
The 3-C's (Carrot, Celery, Cabbage)
1-2 celery stalks
Small wedge cabbage
5 handfuls spinach
For more recipes, consult Juicing for Life by Cherie Calbom (Avery).
Caution: If you have diabetes, check with your doctor before starting a juice program. The naturally occurring sugars, especially from fruit, may elevate blood glucose levels.