Nutrition News: How Healthy Is Dried Fruit? Plus, Mediterranean Diet Under Fire; Antibiotics and Childhood Obesity

Should the Mediterranean diet be redefined? Plus: Antibiotics and kids' weight — and dried fruit, considered.
Dried fruit: yea or nay?

Is dried fruit good for you or something to be avoided? Time magazine put the question to nutrition experts and most agreed that dried fruits — raisins, figs, prunes, etc. — were great, healthy go-to snacks, albeit with a caveat or two. “Dried fruits are an excellent source of fiber and a concentrated source of antioxidants,” University of Scranton chemistry professor Joe Vinson said. Yet while dried fruits are convenient, portable, durable and often downright tasty, they also contain a lot of sugar, so it’s a good idea to keep portions small and check to make sure they don’t contain any added sugar. “When the native sugar of the fruit is combined with extra added sugar, you are now in the realm of candy,” David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told the magazine.  

Is the Mediterranean diet overblown?

Do advocates of the Mediterranean diet have it all – or, well, half — wrong? A team of filmmakers, helmed by British cardiologist Aseem Malhotra, are set to travel to Pioppi, Italy, for a firsthand look at the town where much of the research underscoring the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet originated. They posit that Pioppi residents’ longevity and good health are due not only to the foods they eat, but to their overall lifestyle as well. “We need to redefine the Mediterranean diet,” Dr. Malhotra told The New York Times. “The truth is that it’s a lifestyle. It’s the whole approach. It’s the food. It’s the social interaction. It’s getting the right kind of exercise. It’s being outside. It’s getting sunlight and sunshine. The question, though, is how can we combine all these lessons from this village with what we know about modern medicine.” To avoid accepting funding from commercial enterprises, the filmmakers are looking to publicly fund their documentary, The Pioppi Protocol, on Kickstarter.

Antibiotics may be making kids fat

A new culprit in the childhood obesity crisis: antibiotics. A new study has found that children who take antibiotics during their childhood may gain weight more quickly than those who don’t and that the extra pounds may be progressive and permanent. According to the study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, healthy 15-year-olds who were given antibiotics seven or more times during their childhood weighed three pounds more, on average, than those who weren’t. “Antibiotics at any age contribute to weight gain,” the study’s lead author, Brian S. Schwartz, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Wall Street Journal. Past studies have suggested that when very young children are given antibiotics, the medicine may kill off certain bacteria in the gut, changing the way food is broken down and calories are absorbed.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish .

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