This Week's Nutrition News Feed

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Olive oil and olives

In this week's news: Energy drinks may not be worth the energy, or the risk; eating right and exercising during pregnancy is a big boon for your baby; and researchers find yet another reason to start eating a Mediterranean diet, pronto.

Energy Boost or Bust?

Feeling run-down? Sluggish? Looking for a little boost? Maybe don’t reach for that energy drink. Researchers at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe say the global uptick in energy-drink consumption may pose a public health risk, particularly for young people. "From a review of the literature, it would appear that concerns in the scientific community and among the public regarding the potential adverse health effects of the increased consumption of energy drinks are broadly valid," the researchers conclude. These highly caffeinated non-alcoholic beverages, which may also include vitamins and other ingredients, can cause "caffeine intoxication," possibly leading to serious issues including heart palpitations, hypertension, nausea, convulsions, psychosis, and even, albeit rarely, death, according to studies included in the review. To mitigate the potential dangers, the authors have proposed regulations such as limiting the amount of caffeine per serving, clearer labeling, more responsible marketing and educating health-care professionals and the public about the risks.

Do it for Baby

Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy has its own specific challenges, especially when all you crave is pasta and ice cream, but a new study may tip the scales in favor of trying extra hard to do so. Eating healthier and increasing physical activity during pregnancy is not only beneficial for pregnant women, researchers at the University of Adelaide have concluded, it is also "directly associated with significant improvements in outcomes for babies." When pregnant women in the study increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduced that of saturated fats, and added exercise, such as 15-20 minutes of brisk walking, into their daily routines, their babies were found to be at reduced risk for respiratory distress syndrome and tended to have shorter hospital stays. "Our hope is that by following some simple, practical and achievable lifestyle advice, pregnant women can improve their health and the outcomes for their babies," one study co-author said.

Is there anything the Mediterranean diet can’t do?

In case you need yet another reason to embrace the Mediterranean diet, scientists now say it can reverse metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions, such as elevated blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels or abdominal obesity, that, in combination, increase the risk for heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Although the Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts was associated with the reversion of the condition, it was not associated from preventing its onset. However, the researchers concluded, adhering to an "energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet" — which calls for increased consumption of fruits, vegetables whole grains, legumes and nuts, decreased consumption of red meat, eating fish and poultry at least twice a week, and replacing butter with healthy fats like olive oil – may help head off obesity and hyperglycemia in people who have a high cardiovascular-disease risk.

Amy Reiter also contributes to FN Dish.
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