Roundup: Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat, HPV Vaccinations, Heart-Healthy Yogurt

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February 23, 2018

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It’s Best to Focus on Quality Foods, Less on ‘Low-Carb’ or ‘Low Fat’ — Researchers Find

What’s better for you if you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off? A low-fat diet or one low on carbohydrates? Low-carb diets have been very popular in recent years, mostly for its short-term success in helping people shed pounds by reducing added sugars and refined grains.

But a new study published this week in JAMA found that “low fat vs. low carb” doesn’t really matter that much, as long as people follow common-sense rules — and highly cited guidelines from dietitians — to cut back on added sugars and avoid refined grains and highly processed foods in favor of whole grains and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The new research was led by Christopher D. Gardner, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. It involved more than 600 people with $8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Nutrition Science Initiative and other groups.

Dr. Gardner and his team initially set out to compare how overweight and obese people would fare on low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. The conclusion: a tie.

“In this 12-month weight loss diet study, there was no significant difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet,” researchers said. They added that “no one diet should be recommended universally,” which means that general nutritional U.S. guidelines focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is the best way to go overall for most U.S. adults, researchers said.

“We really stressed to both groups again and again that we wanted them to eat high-quality foods,” Dr. Gardner said. “We told them all that we wanted them to minimize added sugar and refined grains and eat more vegetables and whole foods. We said, ‘Don’t go out and buy a low-fat brownie just because it says low fat. And those low-carb chips — don’t buy them, because they’re still chips and that’s gaming the system.’”

Dr. Gardner said many of the people in the study were surprised — and relieved — that they did not have to restrict or even think about calories.

The researchers recruited adults from the Bay Area and split them into two diet groups, which were called “healthy” low carb and “healthy” low fat.

Dietitians involved in the study stressed to both groups they they wanted them to eat high-quality foods and minimize added sugar and refined grains and eat more vegetables and whole foods. We said, ‘Don’t go out and buy a low-fat brownie just because it says low fat. One key factor: None of the participants was asked to count calories.

Dr. Gardner said many of the people in the study were surprised — and relieved — that they did not have to restrict or even think about calories.

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Too Many Teens Not Getting Full HPV Vaccinations, New Study Says

A new study has found that vaccination rates for American teenagers is even lower than the commonly stated national rate. An analysis from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association finds that 29 percent of the teens its members insure receive a first dose of the HPV vaccine by their 13th birthday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 43 percent of teens nationally are up-to-date on all the recommended doses of the vaccine.

The CDC recommends children get two doses of the HPV vaccine beginning at age 11 or 12 to protect against cancers caused by HPV infections. Although most children are getting their first dose of the HPV vaccine, many are not completing the vaccination series, the CDC said.

HPV-related cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, the CDC says. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). HPV cancer normally does not have symptoms until it is advanced and difficult to treat.

Each year, about 31,000 men and women in the U.S. are diagnosed with a cancer caused by an infection from the human papillomavirus, or HPV. It’s the most common sexually transmitted virus and infection in the U.S.

“With over a dozen extensive safety studies and more than 270 million doses given worldwide over the past 10 years, national and international organizations are confident that the HPV vaccine is extremely safe,” says Richard C. Wender, M.D., chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society, stated in the news release by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Assocation (BCBSA) regarding the study’s results. “If we vaccinate all 11- and 12-year-olds and continue screening, we can actually eliminate cervical cancer within a generation and dramatically reduce the risk for all HPV related cancers.”

The BCBSA also conducted an online national survey of 739 parents of children ages 10 to 13 who have not yet received the HPV vaccine. The survey found that 52 percent of parents said they do not intend to give their child the HPV vaccine. The top three reasons parents cited for not giving their child the HPV vaccine:

– Concern for adverse side effects (60 percent);
– View that their child is not at risk, so the vaccine is unnecessary (24 percent);
– Did not have enough information about the vaccine (12 percent).

In late 2016, the CDC updated its HPV vaccine recommendations, urging parents to have their children, 11 to 12 year olds, get two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart. The guidance was modified after public health officials found that two doses of the HPV vaccine in younger adolescents provided levels of protection similar to those seen with three doses in older adolescents and young adults. Parents can take advantage of any visit to the doctor’s office to get the HPV vaccine for their child.

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Eating Yogurt Lowers Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Adults with High Blood Pressure

The health benefits of eating yogurt, mainly how its probiotic properties can help the digestive system, have been touted by nutrition experts and doctors, alike. Now the popular dairy product is being credited with the ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in a group of people who are already at risk of heart attack and stroke –adults who have high blood pressure.

Eating two more servings of yogurt a week lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in men and women with hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Hypertension. Eating yogurt regularly was associated with a 30 percent reduction in heart attack risk in women and a 19 percent reduction in men, the study found. Overall, participants had about 20 percent lower risks of major coronary heart disease or stroke.

The researchers referenced the fermented milk in yogurt as the key ingredient making the difference. While this study is the first to look at yogurt’s role in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease specifically in adults with high blood pressure, it’s not the first time medical research has cited how fermented dairy helps with vascular disease.

“Early studies suggested  that regular consumption of fermented dairy products such as yogurt was associated with a lower risk of atherosclerotic vascular disease and a reduction in arterial stiffness in hypertensive subjects,” the article notes.

Major coronary heart disease and stroke were the two main types of cardiovascular disease examined in the recent study. It also found eating foods that can help keep high blood pressure under control had a positive impact. Hypertensive adults who ate yogurt regularly in combination with a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, reduced their of these two diseases by 27 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

Participants in the study who ate the most yogurt also “tended to be more physically active, drank less alcohol, and were less likely to smoke,” the study found. All of these lifestyle factors lower a person’s risk of heart disease, whether or not they have high blood pressure.

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