This Week's Nutrition News Feed

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In this week's news: Gluten-free diets spark a grain of concern; slow and steady may not win the weight-loss race; and that regrettably fattening lunch may have been your brain’s fault.

Gluten-free Gotcha?

For people with celiac disease or who are, for whatever reason, adhering to a gluten-free diet, a new study brings worrying news. Because rice is doesn’t contain gluten, it is used as a key ingredient in a host of gluten-free versions of breads, pastries, pastas and dairy products. But rice also naturally contains arsenic, in some cases quite a bit. The risk may be minimal for occasional rice eaters, but those who eat a lot of rice or rice-based products, like the increasing number of people who are going gluten-free, may be putting themselves at risk for arsenic poisoning. The co-authors of the study, published in Food Additives & Contaminants, say their analysis shows "we cannot exclude a risk to the health of people who consume these kinds of products." Scary.

Slow Dieting May Not Be Worth the Weight

It is a commonly held belief that, to keep weight off, you have to lose it slowly and gradually – and that weight you take off fast will be put back just as quickly. But a new study has found that the speed at which you take off weight does not affect the likeliness that you’ll put it back on. Australian researchers divided 200 obese people into two groups: One lost weight on a 12-week severely calorie-restricted (yet nutritionally sound) diet; the other shed pounds on a more moderate 36-week weight-loss regime. Those in both groups who had lost 12.5 percent of their weight (and more succeeded on the shorter diet, by the way) were placed on a weight maintenance diet. After three years, the rapid dieters had regained 70.5 percent whereas gradual dieters had regained an average of 71.2 percent – meaning the differences between them were not significant.

Beware the Calorie Counter in Your Brain

Why do we scarf down those fries when we know we should lighten up with a salad instead? Blame our brains. A new study, published in Psychological Science, has found that our brains prompt us to make eating decisions based, in part, on a food's caloric content. Researchers showed people pictures of 50 foods and asked them to rate how much they liked them, estimate their calorie content, and bid on the foods in an ersatz auction. Even though people's calorie estimates were way off, their bids correlated with foods actually higher in calories. What’s more, brain scans taken while participants were looking at the food images indicated that activity in the area known to predict immediate consumption, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, also matched up with high-calorie foods. "Our study sought to determine how people's awareness of caloric content influenced the brain areas known to be implicated in evaluating food options," the study’s lead author said. "We found that brain activity tracked the true caloric content of foods."

Amy Reiter also contributes to FN Dish.

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