A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined data from the expansive 10-year National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 50,000 Americans. Organized by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the research found that women of all ages who drank two to three cups a day of coffee had an average of 2.8% less body fat than those who did not drink coffee. Women aged 20-44 who drank the same amount had 3.4% less body fat than nondrinkers, and those aged 45-69 who drank four or more cups a day had 4.1% less body fat. In men, the relationship between coffee consumption and body fat was less significant.
According to senior author of the study, Dr. Lee Smith of Anglia Ruskin University, “Our research suggests that there may be bioactive compounds in coffee other than caffeine that regulate weight and which could potentially be used as anti-obesity compounds.”
Pandemic-EBT, an emergency hunger program Congress created two months ago, has only assisted a small fraction of the 30 million children it planned to help. The program issues electronic payment cards for families to buy groceries in the absence of school meals they once relied on but are no longer being provided. Collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts and transferring them to state computers, often-outdated, has proved to be a big challenge, stalling the Pandemic-EBT program.
Congress initiated the program in mid-March as part of the Families First act. Roughly 30 million children qualified for benefits, but by May 15 only about 4.4 million or 15 percent of them had received benefits. If the program overcomes its distribution challengers, families in need could receive as much as $10 billion. Congress has yet to approve an extension of the program through the summer. The House included an extension in a $3 trillion aid package, but it was rejected by Republican leaders in the Senate. Supporters says the cards could be a solution to the summer hunger that afflicts children every year in the absence of school meals. .
Restaurants across the U.S. have begun to reopen with outdoor and/or indoor seating, but for those who don’t want to cook at home, takeout and delivery remain the most widely accessible options. Are takeout and delivery safe? Public health experts generally say “yes,” and weigh in with specific advice.
Which is safer, takeout or delivery? “The safest choice is going to be the one that avoids contact with the most people,” according to Donald Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science at Rutgers University. For that reason, delivery remains the safest option, especially since online ordering is a contactless transaction. To minimize risk with takeout, pay in advance if possible, maintain a safe distance from other patrons, and ask restaurant staff to place food down before you pick it up.
What about packaging? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that although the coronavirus can survive and spread on surfaces, the risk is relatively low. “Even if an infected person did touch a package,” says John Williams, chief of pediatric diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh, “the risk of transmission is slim.”
Takeout utensils also pose a low risk, but if you are concerned, you can use your own utensils at home. Experts also say it’s not worth worrying about what food to order. There is no evidence that the coronavirus is transmissible via food. It transmits from person to person, so the bigger concern is the safety of restaurant workers. If you are concerned when ordering, ask the restaurant what measures it is taking to keep workers safe, such as wearing masks and gloves and maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Currently, 5.8 millions Americans live with some form of dementia, a degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss and an inability to perform certain tasks. While anecdotal and “soft” evidence has shown a correlation between diet and lifestyle and dementia, scientific studies have not yet established a link. Now, two new studies are investigating the connection between diet and lifestyle choices and the mitigation of dementia’s effects.
The first study centers on the MIND diet, a mashup of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Developed by the late Martha Clair Miller of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, the MIND diet prioritizes leafy greens over other vegetables, antioxidant-rich strawberries and blueberries over other fruits, and olive oil over butter or margarine while minimizing sweets and fast food. In 2015, Miller published a study showing that adults who followed the MIND diet were cognitively 7.5 years younger than their non-MIND diet peers. The new study will last three years, and participants will be tested to see if there is similar correlation between the MIND diet and cognitive function.
The second study, called U.S. POINTER, follows a Finnish study called FINGER. This trial focuses on lifestyle changes: Researchers will study the mental health effects of not only diet but also exercise, social stimulation, and management of risk factors for heart and vascular disease. This study, funded in part by the Alzheimer’s Association, is expected to release results by the end of 2022 or early 2023, and like the MIND diet study, could provide a blueprint for dementia mitigation programs.
Record numbers of Americans face hunger this year, as economic setbacks in the wake of COVID-19 leave tens of millions unable to afford adequate food to feed their families. An estimated 1 in 4 children could need food aid this year, a 63% increase compared to 2018. In total, approximately 54 million Americans may lack access to affordable and nutritious food this year, according to an analysis by the national food bank network Feeding America. “If the numbers stay like this, no way food banks can cope, it’s beyond our capabilities, a lot will depend on how long federal help lasts,” said Michael Flood, president of the Los Angeles Food Bank, which has distributed an average of 80% more groceries since the pandemic began.
Both green and black tea leaves are harvested from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. While both teas seem to have certain health benefits, the heating and drying process that creates green tea results in higher levels of compounds associated with improved brain function. A 2017 review of more than 100 studies found that green tea may help reduce anxiety and improve both memory and attention. Antioxidants are the most abundant beneficial compounds in tea, but the studies indicate that the amino acid L-theanine in combination with caffeine may be more closely linked to tea’s mental health benefits. Early studies also suggest that these compounds may help ward off depression and dementia.
Flavanols, another set of bioactive compounds in tea, have also been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. While more rigorous studies are needed, many scientists agree that drinking tea certainly can’t hurt. Ask anyone from the UK, and they’ll agree, as even the ritual of afternoon tea offers a mental health break. According to the UK’s Tea Advisory Panel, average daily intake has now reached 100 million cups. Tea consumption is up in the US, too, from 12.7 ounces per person per year in 2007 to 14 ounces in 2019, according to United Nations data. As tea consumption continues to increase globally and in recognition of tea’s health benefits, the United Nations has designated May 21 as “International Tea Day.”
Women consuming one or more sugary drinks a day have a 19 percent greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease than those who don’t drink sugary drinks, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The study examined 20 years of data from 106,178 women and found that heart disease risk varied among types of beverages. Surprisingly, the risk was 42 percent higher for those who drank one or more sugar-added fruit drinks daily, while it was 23 percent higher for those drinking soda everyday. Overall, the chance of needing heart surgery for clogged arteries was 26 percent higher for women who had drank one or more of any type sugary drink daily, and the same women were 21 percent more likely to have a stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. .
Indonesia’s wildlife markets may pose a continued threat of spreading pathogens, despite the ban on wildlife trade for consumption instituted in nearby China. In the Indonesian city of Tomohon, butchers still prepare bats, rats, snakes, and lizards removed from the wildlands of North Sulawesi. Some butchers also slaughter dogs, sometimes taken from city streets. In light of the coronavirus, animal rights activists have increased pressure on local officials to close the popular bazaar, known as the Tomohon Extreme Meat Market.
Many local Indonesians believe that wild animals have medicinal benefits. Bats, for instance, are said to cure asthma, and bat meat is sold regularly along with snake meat in North Sulawesi supermarkets. Convincing officials to close wet markets or prevent the sale of bat meat may face some cultural hurdles, especially since the origin of the novel coronavirus remains unknown. While scientists point to similarities between the novel coronavirus and known coronaviruses in animals—particularly bats—no peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency, or academic expert has confirmed this hypothesis. Nonetheless, Indonesia now has the second highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in East Asia with 1,028 deaths and 15,438 reported cases. In a letter to the Indonesian president, a coalition of animal rights groups called Dog Meat Free Indonesia urged the leader to close the Tomohon Extreme Meat Market, adding, “If we do not act, the question is not whether another similar pandemic will emerge, but when.”
A 20-year study recently published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology claims that filtered coffee may lengthen your life compared to unfiltered coffee. The study observed over half a million Norwegian men and women between the ages of 20 and 79. Over a 20-year period, drinking filtered coffee was related to a 15% reduced risk of death from any cause, compared to drinking boiled or pressed unfiltered coffee, which increased the risk of death in men aged 60 and above.
Specifically, drinking filtered coffee was associated with a 12% reduction in risk of death from heart disease among men and 20% reduction among women. In the study, those drinking one to four cups of filtered coffee a day had the lowest rates of mortality. Study author Dag Thelle noted that filtering coffee removes substances that elevate “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and explained how the study results are not due to variables such as age, gender, or lifestyle habits.
This 20-year study adds detail to previous studies revealing coffee’s health benefits, such as the 2017 umbrella study in The British Medical Journal that examined more than 200 meta-analyses and found that drinking three to four cups of black coffee a day may help lower the risks of heart disease, numerous types of cancer, and various neurological and metabolic disorders, as well as overall mortality.
As the pandemic continues, consumers have been anxious about contracting the virus from food, food packaging, and other packaged goods. In light of these concerns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently reiterated their guidelines assuring those concerned that there is a very low risk for contracting the virus through food or packaging.
“We want to reassure consumers that there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” the FDA wrote in a news release. With no evidence pointing to food products and packaging transmitting the virus, experts say you may want to concern yourself more with the act of going to the store. “You’re really more likely to get it from going to the grocery store and touching a dirty handle or doorknob and then touching your face,” NBC investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen said.
Disinfecting packages before touching, washing hands as soon you get home, and even leaving groceries out for 24 hours to kill a potential live virus are among the other risk-reducing strategies mentioned.