Roundup: 'Maintain, Don't Gain' Challenge Offered for Holidays; Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Higher Asthma Risks

‘Maintain, Don’t Gain’ Through the Holidays

If you’re gearing up for Thanksgiving and looking forward to feasting on mounds of turkey and an array of fixings, you may want to reconsider your expectations. ‘Tis the season many Americans gain weight – anywhere between 1 and 5 pounds on average – say experts.

To help people stay healthy and avoid gaining weight during the holiday season, the Florida Department of Health is offering a “Maintain, Don’t Gain! Holiday Challenge” for the third straight year. Through a partnership with North Carolina State University, the nationwide seven-week challenge provides “tips, tricks and ideas to help maintain their weight through the holiday season.”

People who sign up for the Challenge will receive weekly e-newsletters; tips for healthy eating and managing stress during the holidays; weekly challenges with winners and prizes; social media support; healthy recipes; and support and motivation from other participants.

Of the 1,600 Florida residents who took part in the challenge last year, 67 percent reported they maintained their weight, 18 percent lost 3 to 5 pounds and 98 percent said they would keep using the strategies learned during the event. Florida had the second highest participation in the 2015 Maintain, Don’t Gain! Holiday Challenge.

The 10-day stretch between the Christmas and New Year holidays is the most common time of year people gain weight, according to a recent study done at Cornell University. A lot of excess weight can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other health problems.

“People don’t realize that we really are what we eat,” said Natalie Castro, R.D., chief wellness dietitian for corporate wellness at Baptist Health South Florida. “The nutrients we eat from the foods we choose directly impact our blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.”

The 2016 Maintain, Don’t Gain! Holiday Challenge challenge starts Monday, November 14, and runs through Saturday, December 31. There is no charge to participate.

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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Higher Asthma Risks

Adults and children with vitamin D deficiencies may be at an increased risk for asthma, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined data collected from more than 25,000 adults ages 18 to 79, and more than 9,700 children ages 6 to 17, who participated in a yearly U.S.  national health survey between 2001 and 2010. Those surveyed were  asked whether they had been diagnosed with asthma or experienced wheezing (a symptom of asthma) over the past 12 months. The participants also had been tested for vitamin D levels  in their blood.

Overall, 68 percent of the children and 70 percent of the adults had levels of vitamin D lower than the level considered healthy — about 30 nanograms per milliliter. This level constitutes a diagnosis of vitamin D insufficiency. Moreover, about 1,200 children and 1,800 adults had been diagnosed with asthma.

Asthma involves inflammation and a narrowing of the airways, causing spasms in the bronchi of the lungs which make it difficult to breathe. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 12 Americans has asthma — about 25 million — and the numbers are increasing.

Children with vitamin D insufficiency were 1.35 times more likely to have asthma compared with children with adequate levels of vitamin D, the researchers found.

Adults with vitamin D insufficiency were not at increased risk for an asthma diagnosis, but they were more likely to say they experienced wheezing in the past year, compared with those who had adequate levels of vitamin D.

It’s not the first time that healthy levels of vitamin D is tied to asthma relief. Earlier this year, a study found that vitamin D supplements, in addition to asthma medication, appears to cut the risk of severe asthma attacks. Other studies have found that children whose mothers consume higher amounts vitamin D during pregnancy have a lower risk of asthma than children whose mothers consume lower amounts of vitamin D.

You can get some of the vitamin D you need from your diet. The nutrient occurs naturally in a few foods, including salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, egg yolks, cheese, mushrooms and beef liver – and in fortified foods such as milk, yogurt, orange juice and breakfast cereal. Sunlight triggers vitamin D production in the body, which is why it’s known as the sunshine vitamin.

Because vitamin D can come from sun, food, and supplements, the best measure of one’s vitamin D status involves blood tests through a primary care physician.

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Impact of Sugary Caffeinated Drinks on Sleep Duration

A growing number of studies have linked the consumption of sugary beverages to metabolic syndrome, a combination of conditions including high blood sugar and excess body fat, which can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Now, a new study finds that people who sleep 5 or fewer hours a night are more likely to also drink significantly more sugary caffeinated drinks, such as sodas and energy drinks. Researchers led by University of California (UC) San Francisco scientists analyzed data on more than 18,000 adults.

The UC team analyzed the 2005-2012 records of 18,779 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), an ongoing national study of dietary habits of U.S. adults administered by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The data includes participants’ reports of how much sleep they usually got during the work week, along with their total consumption of various beverages, including caffeinated and non-caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, drinks with artificial sweeteners, and plain coffee, tea, and water.

The researchers found that people who regularly slept five or fewer hours per night also drank 21 percent more caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages—including both sodas and non-carbonated energy drinks—than those who slept 7 to 8 hours a night. People who slept 6 hours per night regularly consumed 11 percent more

caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages.  The UC team, however, did not find a link between sleep duration and consumption of juice, tea, or diet drinks.

Previous studies have indicated that sleep deprivation can increase hunger, particularly for sugary and fatty foods. The study is published in the December 2016 issue of Sleep Health.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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