This Is How to Pick the Best Avocado

Even though I’m not the world’s biggest avocado lover (don’t @ me), I know all about how difficult it can be to find a good avocado at the supermarket. Whenever I show up with a fully loaded grocery list, ready to make guac like my life depends on it, it seems like the only avocados I can find are either way too hard and green or way too soft and brown. Could it be possible that they’re all bad, or do I just not know what to look for?

According to Katy Green, produce field inspector at Whole Foods Market, I just don’t know what to look for and odds are, I’m probably not alone. If you’ve ever found yourself staring down a pile of avocados wondering which ones were worth your time, these are all the tips you need to make sure that never happens again.

There are many different kinds of avocados, but only one that you’re probably going to see at the supermarket.

You’ve probably heard of Hass avocados, because, as Green explains, they make up roughly 95 percent of the avocados sold in the U.S. “Hass has one of the highest oil contents of all commercial varieties,” she explains, “which is what makes it so popular.” Other varieties include Bacon, Fuerte, Gwen, Pinkerton, Reed, and Zutano (a lot, I know!). These other varieties make up the remaining 5 percent of avocados across the country, which are rarely seen but play a big role behind the scenes.

Since avocado plants can’t self-pollinate, two varieties need to be bred at the same time to allow for cross-pollination. So, even though you never see these other varieties, they’re partially responsible for the Hass avocados that you find in stores.

Before you look for anything else, check out the color.

“On the Hass, color is an indicator of ripeness,” Green explains. She says if the avocado has a dark, purplish color, then it’s ripe, and if it has a vibrant green color, it’s not.

If it’s not ripe, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Naturally you’d want to use the ripest avocado you can find if you were planning on using it right away—say, for a party or because you have an intense avocado craving. But if you don’t want to use it right away, you may actually be better off buying a greener one, because it will continue to ripen after you’ve purchased it (more on that in a bit).

You can also use color to spot a bad avocado. “A bad Hass avocado will be black in color,” Green explains. If you can’t really tell the black avocados from the purplish avocados, she says you should remove the brown stem at the top of the avocado to get a look at the flesh—if it’s brown and decayed, skip it. If it’s green, you’re good to go.

Next, give it a feel.

“A good avocado should be firm or have a slight give to it,” Green explains, “you should not be able to feel pockets of air between skin and the flesh.” If you do notice pockets of air, that can be a sign that the avocado is already past its prime, even if it looks fine otherwise.

And, obviously, any avocados with mold on them are a no-go.

This probably won’t come as a surprise, but if you notice any kind of molding on the skin of the avocado, put it back. Luckily, you don’t need to feel it to spot that one.

If you’ve already purchased an unripe avocado, don’t sweat it—you can speed up the ripening process yourself.

Green says there are a couple of ways you can speed up the ripening process of an avocado all on your own. The easiest way is to simply leave your unripe avocados in a semi-warm area in your kitchen—in a day or two, they’ll be ready to eat. Or, if you’re really in a rush, you can put it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. This will rapidly increase the amount of ethylene produced, which is the gas released by some produce that causes fruits and vegetables to ripen. Once the avocado reaches desired ripeness, she says you can keep it at its peak even longer by storing it in the fridge.

Put your avocados to work in these recipes.

Tomato Avocado Toast

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

Sometimes it just doesn’t get much better than a simple avocado toast. Get the recipe here.

3-Ingredient Banana Avocado Pudding

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

If you feel like getting experimental with your avo, this recipe is calling your name. Get the recipe here.

Chicken and Pomegranate Quinoa Bowl

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

Avocado adds a luscious, creamy texture to everything from soups to grain bowls. Get the recipe here.

Take a vacation — it could prolong your life

Taking vacations could prolong life. That’s the finding of a 40-year study presented today at ESC Congress and accepted for publication in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.

“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” said Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, Finland. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”

The study included 1,222 middle-aged male executives born in 1919 to 1934 and recruited into the Helsinki Businessmen Study in 1974 and 1975. Participants had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, glucose intolerance, overweight).

Participants were randomised into a control group (610 men) or an intervention group (612 men) for five years. The intervention group received oral and written advice every four months to do aerobic physical activity, eat a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight, and stop smoking. When health advice alone was not effective, men in the intervention group also received drugs recommended at that time to lower blood pressure (beta-blockers and diuretics) and lipids (clofibrate and probucol). Men in the control group received usual healthcare and were not seen by the investigators.

As previously reported, the risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced by 46% in the intervention group compared to the control group by the end of the trial. However, at the 15-year follow-up in 1989 there had been more deaths in the intervention group than in the control group.

The analysis presented today extended the mortality follow-up to 40 years (2014) using national death registers and examined previously unreported baseline data on amounts of work, sleep, and vacation. The researchers found that the death rate was consistently higher in the intervention group compared to the control group until 2004. Death rates were the same in both groups between 2004 and 2014.

Shorter vacations were associated with excess deaths in the intervention group. In the intervention group, men who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37% greater chance of dying in 1974 to 2004 than those who took more than three weeks. Vacation time had no impact on risk of death in the control group.

Professor Strandberg said: “The harm caused by the intensive lifestyle regime was concentrated in a subgroup of men with shorter yearly vacation time. In our study, men with shorter vacations worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations. This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the intervention. We think the intervention itself may also have had an adverse psychological effect on these men by adding stress to their lives.”

Professor Strandberg noted that stress management was not part of preventive medicine in the 1970s but is now recommended for individuals with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease.6 In addition, more effective drugs are now available to lower lipids (statins) and blood pressure (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers).

He concluded: “Our results do not indicate that health education is harmful. Rather, they suggest that stress reduction is an essential part of programmes aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle advice should be wisely combined with modern drug treatment to prevent cardiovascular events in high-risk individuals.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by European Society of Cardiology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Potential drugs developed to help curb smoking

Washington State University researchers have created more than a dozen candidate drugs with the potential to curb smokers’ desire for nicotine by slowing how it is broken down in the body. The researchers hope the substances can help people reduce their consumption of tobacco, if not quit altogether.

The discovery, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, targets a liver enzyme, called CYP2A6, which metabolizes nicotine. Canadian researchers in the mid-90s found that people who have fewer copies of a gene for the enzyme tend to smoke less and are less likely to be addicted to smoking.

Nicotine triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, two pleasure causing chemicals produced by the body. But as it gets metabolized, users can experience withdrawal symptoms like tingling in the hands and feet, sweating, anxiety and irritability.

This is the feeling that the researchers are targeting, said Travis Denton, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, lead author and a former tobacco chewer who has been working on solutions to nicotine dependence for 15 years.

“I quit cold turkey and I know how hard it is. Would this have helped? I believe so, because again, the people who want to quit, really want to quit,” he said. “They just can’t because it’s too doggone hard. Imagine if you could take this pill and your jitters don’t come on as fast — it’s just super reinforcing to help you quit.”

Denton and Philip Lazarus, co-corresponding author of the paper and Boeing distinguished professor of pharmaceutical sciences, designed dozens of molecules that bind to CYP2A6 and inhibit its ability to metabolize nicotine.

“If you inhibit CYP2A6, it shouldn’t bother your overall health,” said Lazarus. “If we could specifically target this enzyme, people should be fine, and it will possibly help them stop smoking or at least decrease their amount of smoking.”

So far, the researchers have tested their candidate drugs to make sure they don’t disrupt other major enzymes that help the body metabolize other substances. This helped narrow the number of potential drugs down to 18.

Once the Food and Drug Administration verifies a drug’s safety, clinical trials would begin to see how it works in a human.

Other researchers working with Denton and Lazarus are Pramod Srivastava, Zuping Xia, Gang Chen, Christy Watson and Alec Wynd. All are currently or were previously in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at WSU Spokane. The work was supported by the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Washington State University. Original written by Eric Sorensen. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

C-section Recovery: What to Expect

If you’re planning a cesarean delivery or you want to be prepared in case you need to have a C-section, you might have questions about the recovery process. How much discomfort will you experience? What breast-feeding positions might work best for you? Understand how to take care of yourself and your baby during C-section recovery.

Treat your C-section incision with care.

During the C-section recovery process, discomfort and fatigue are common. To promote healing:

  • Take it easy. Rest when possible. Try to keep everything that you and your baby might need within reach. For the first couple of weeks, avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby.
  • Support your abdomen. Use good posture when you stand and walk. Hold your abdomen near the incision during sudden movements, such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing.
  • Seek pain relief. Your health care provider might recommend a heating pad, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), or other medications to relieve pain. Most pain relief medications are safe for breastfeeding women.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking lots of fluids can help replace those lost during delivery and breastfeeding, as well as help prevent constipation.

Look for signs of infection.

Check your C-section incision for signs of infection. Contact your health care provider if:

  • The incision is red, swollen, or leaking discharge
  • You have a fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
  • You experience increasing pain around your incision

Experiment with breastfeeding positions.

You can begin breastfeeding almost immediately after the C-section. To minimize discomfort, place a pillow over the incision while holding your baby. Breastfeeding positions that work well during C-section recovery include:

  • Football hold. Hold your baby at your side, with your elbow bent. With your open hand, support your baby’s head and face him or her toward your breast. Your baby’s back will rest on your forearm. It might help to support your breast in a C-shaped hold with your other hand. For comfort, put a pillow on your lap and use a chair with broad, low arms.
  • Side-lying hold. Lie on your side and face your baby toward your breast, supporting him or her with one hand. With the other hand, grasp your breast and touch your nipple to your baby’s lips. Once your baby latches on, use one arm to support your own head and the other to help support the baby.

If you’re having trouble breastfeeding during your C-section recovery or afterward, contact a lactation consultant for help.

Manage other postpartum signs and symptoms.

While you’re recovering from your C-section, remember that you’re also recovering from pregnancy. Here’s what to expect:

  • Vaginal discharge (lochia). Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days after the C-section. It might contain a few small clots. The discharge will gradually taper off during the first month postpartum, becoming watery and changing from pink or brown to yellow or white. Contact your health care provider if you have heavy vaginal bleeding, discharge with a foul odor, or you have a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.

  • Contractions. You might feel contractions, sometimes called afterpains, during the first few days after the C-section. These contractions—which often resemble menstrual cramps—help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. Your health care provider might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever. Contact your health care provider if you have a fever or if your abdomen is tender to the touch. This could indicate a uterine infection.

  • Sore breasts. Several days after the C-section, your breasts might become firm, swollen, and tender (engorgement). To ease discomfort, nurse, use a breast pump, apply warm washcloths or take a warm shower to express milk. Between feedings, place cold washcloths or ice packs on your breasts. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help, too.

    If you’re not breastfeeding, wear a firm, supportive bra, such as a sports bra, to help stop milk production. Don’t pump or rub your breasts, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk.

  • Leaking milk. If your breasts leak between feedings, wear nursing pads inside your bra to help keep your shirt dry. Change pads after each feeding and whenever they get wet.

  • Hair loss and skin changes. During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels increase hair growth and put normal hair loss on hold, creating an extra-lush head of hair. After delivery, however, hair growth decreases and your body begins to shed the excess hair all at once. Hair loss typically stops within six months. At the same time, stretch marks typically fade from red to silver. Skin darkening that can occur during pregnancy, such as dark patches on your face, will also slowly fade.

  • Mood changes. Childbirth can trigger mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. Many new moms experience mild depression, sometimes called the baby blues, which typically subsides within a week or two. In the meantime, take care of yourself. Ask for help and support. If your depression deepens or you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, contact your health care provider.

  • Postpartum depression. If you experience severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue and lack of joy in life shortly after childbirth, you might have postpartum depression. Contact your health care provider if you think you might be depressed, especially if your signs and symptoms don’t fade on their own, you have trouble caring for your baby or completing daily tasks, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

  • Weight loss. After your C-section, you’ll probably feel out of shape. You might even look like you’re still pregnant. This is normal. Most women lose more than 10 pounds during birth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During your recovery, you’ll drop more weight as your body gets rid of excess fluids. After that, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

The postpartum checkup

About six weeks after delivery, your health care provider will check your abdomen, vagina, cervix, and uterus to make sure you’re healing well. In some cases, you might have the checkup earlier so that your health care provider can check your C-section incision. He or she might do a breast exam and check your weight and blood pressure, too. Use this checkup as an opportunity to talk about resuming sexual activity, birth control, breastfeeding and how you’re adjusting to life with a new baby.

Also, be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you might have about your physical or emotional health. Your health care provider will likely be able to provide advice and assurance as you adjust to life with your newborn.

Updated: 2015-03-20

Publication Date: 2012-04-25

A 24-Year-Old Man Developed a Rare ‘Megacolon’ and Needed Emergency Surgery

By Beth Mole for Ars Technica

Doctors are urging caution after a 24-year-old U.K. man underwent emergency surgery when they discovered that his severely enlarged colon, filled with feces, had burst. He was dealing with two rare conditions known as “megacolon” and “megarectum.”

At the time of the surgery, the man had “reduced consciousness” and severe abdominal pain, as well as air trapped under his diaphragm, failing kidneys, and acidic blood.

Doctors elaborated on the man’s rare conditions in a short communication published this month in BMJ Case Reports.

These are poorly understood ailments marked by enlarged entrails that aren’t caused by a physical blockage. Sometimes they can be explained by genetic abnormalities or other acquired conditions, such as diseases that affect intestinal motility or muscle and connective-tissue function. But in this case, the man seemed to have a chronic, idiopathic case, meaning his gargantuan guts had no clear cause.

Typically, the diameter of a healthy adult’s rectum and sigmoid colon (the S-shaped region of the colon closest to the rectum) is in the range of five to six centimeters or so. This man’s innards, however, had reached up to 18 centimeters at some points—and they were packed with poop.

He had a long history of constipation and had shown up at an emergency department two days before doctors discovered his colon had ruptured. He had come in complaining of abdominal pain and diarrhea. His stomach was bloated, tender, and emitting “quiet bowel sounds,” the doctors noted. They sent him home with a plan to use laxatives and enemas. But that turned out to be too little, too late. Days later, his pain and symptoms had gotten worse.

The doctors note that the intense intestinal pressure from such an extensive backlog of logs can easily lead to a bowel blowout. Still, because the conditions are rare and poorly understood, doctors often strain to figure out how to best treat them.

In many cases, simple things like laxatives, enemas, and dietary changes can help.

“However, if these methods fail, it is important to consider early surgical therapy,” the doctors concluded. And that would have likely helped in this case, they say, writing:

“An earlier appreciation during a previous admission that this was a
rare presentation of chronic idiopathic megacolon and megarectum may
have prevented the perforation and elective surgery could have been
planned.”

The doctors performed a surgery that removed part of the man’s damaged colon and closed the hole. The publication did not include the follow-up that addressed the unidentified man’s recovery.

Related:

After Treating a Man With a Rare ‘Megacolon,’ Doctors Warn to Take Patients’ Symptoms Seriously

By Beth Mole for Ars Technica

Doctors are urging caution after a 24-year-old U.K. man underwent emergency surgery when they discovered that his severely enlarged colon, filled with feces, had burst. He was dealing with two rare conditions known as “megacolon” and “megarectum.”

At the time of the surgery, the man had “reduced consciousness” and severe abdominal pain, as well as air trapped under his diaphragm, failing kidneys, and acidic blood.

Doctors elaborated on the man’s rare conditions in a short communication published this month in BMJ Case Reports.

These are poorly understood ailments marked by enlarged entrails that aren’t caused by a physical blockage. Sometimes they can be explained by genetic abnormalities or other acquired conditions, such as diseases that affect intestinal motility or muscle and connective-tissue function. But in this case, the man seemed to have a chronic, idiopathic case, meaning his gargantuan guts had no clear cause.

Typically, the diameter of a healthy adult’s rectum and sigmoid colon (the S-shaped region of the colon closest to the rectum) is in the range of five to six centimeters or so. This man’s innards, however, had reached up to 18 centimeters at some points—and they were packed with poop.

He had a long history of constipation and had shown up at an emergency department two days before doctors discovered his colon had ruptured. He had come in complaining of abdominal pain and diarrhea. His stomach was bloated, tender, and emitting “quiet bowel sounds,” the doctors noted. They sent him home with a plan to use laxatives and enemas. But that turned out to be too little, too late. Days later, his pain and symptoms had gotten worse.

The doctors note that the intense intestinal pressure from such an extensive backlog of logs can easily lead to a bowel blowout. Still, because the conditions are rare and poorly understood, doctors often strain to figure out how to best treat them.

In many cases, simple things like laxatives, enemas, and dietary changes can help.

“However, if these methods fail, it is important to consider early surgical therapy,” the doctors concluded. And that would have likely helped in this case, they say, writing:

“An earlier appreciation during a previous admission that this was a
rare presentation of chronic idiopathic megacolon and megarectum may
have prevented the perforation and elective surgery could have been
planned.”

The doctors performed a surgery that removed part of the man’s damaged colon and closed the hole. The publication did not include the follow-up that addressed the unidentified man’s recovery.

Related:

Here’s What Dry Brushing Your Skin Actually Does—and Doesn’t Do

On the growing list of wellness and beauty treatments billed as “detoxifying,” you may have noticed a little something called dry brushing, which is as appealing or unappealing as it sounds, depending on how you feel about running a brush with stiff bristles against your skin. Walk into a luxe spa and you may well be given a long-handled wooden brush along with your robe and slippers.

What should you do with this thing, exactly? “Dry brushing is the process of using a brush with stiff bristles against the skin to help exfoliate dead cells from the skin surface and enhance blood flow,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, tells SELF. “Typically, the brushes that are used have long, natural bristles that offer firm resistance against the skin and long handles so that they can be used even on hard to reach areas like the back.” The “dry” part of dry brushing refers to the fact that neither the brush nor your skin should be damp while you do it.

With roots in ancient healing practices, dry brushing is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., with hopeful users turning to the bristly treatment—performed in a spa setting or at home—for a number of healthy promises, only a couple of which it can actually deliver on. Among other purported benefits, dry brushing is said to increase drainage of lymphatic fluids, thereby flushing toxins from the body. There’s not much truth to this concept. For one thing, your body handles its own detoxification. “The only detoxifying organs in the body are the liver and the kidneys,” says Dr. Zeichner.

What’s more, he adds, “Dry brushing is used on the surface of the skin, while your lymphatic vessels are deep under the skin surface. While exercise and contraction of your muscles may help improve lymphatic flow throughout the body, we do not have good data showing that a treatment like dry brushing is truly effective for this purpose.”

Dry brushing also won’t help digestion, get rid of spider veins, or scrub away cellulite.

There’s one thing dry brushing really can do, and that’s exfoliate your skin.

Dry brushing is an effective physical exfoliator. “Gently brushing the skin is a form of physical exfoliation, meaning it can slough away dead skin, leaving it smoother,” Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, M.D., NYC dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology, tells SELF. “When you exfoliate on dry skin, the friction is increased as opposed to when the skin is wet. When the friction is increased, exfoliation is more effective.”

Exfoliating this way “can enhance skin radiance and light reflection so the skin looks brighter,” says Dr. Zeichner. If you hear anyone claim that dry brushing diminished their cellulite, it’s probably this trick of light reflection at work.

It can also give you that ever-sought-after ruddy, youthful glow. “In general, rubbing the skin (whether it is with a dry brush, any applicator, or your hand) will increase blood flow and circulation [in the area],” says Dr. Levin. “The skin will then have a pink to red appearance, looking slightly swollen, which can give a more youthful appearance—but this is temporary.”

Ellen Marmur, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, points out that dry brushing stimulates sensory nerves, which can be invigorating. For this reason, she recommends incorporating it into your morning routine, when you want to be alert.

If you want to try dry brushing, be gentle—or skip it altogether if you have sensitive skin.

If you’re considering giving dry brushing a try, Dr. Marmur recommends a medium-firm, plant-based brush for the body. “The brush should never break the skin and it also shouldn’t hurt,” she says. “Also, don’t use the same brush on your face as you do your body, since your face is much more delicate and needs a softer brush.”

“Brushing too vigorously or frequently can create small micro-cuts and cause irritation and dryness,” warns Dr. Levin, who suggests people dry brush no more than one to two times per week—and try not to rub so hard as to cause irritation.

She suggests taking a shower afterwards to rinse away the dead skin cells that were exfoliated, and to follow with moisturizer.

Dry brushing is not recommended for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and excessive dry skin, as it can aggravate the condition—and also cause often painful irritation. “For those with a common skin condition called keratosis pilaris (KP) or ‘chicken skin,’ dry brushing could theoretically improve with exfoliation,” says Dr. Levin, “however it can also worsen the condition since it can cause irritation is done too frequently, too strong, and too aggressively.”

Bottom line, brush with care—and manage your expectations.

More Than 12 Tons of Raw Ground Beef Recalled for Possible E. Coli Contamination

Outdoor burger season may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean you should be any less vigilant about your safe cooking practices—especially with the news that more than 12 tons (25,288 pounds) of raw ground beef were recalled for possible E. coli contamination.

The recall only affects 10-pound chubs of “EXCEL 93/7 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” that were produced and packed by Colorado-based Cargill Meat Solutions on August 16 and shipped to warehouses in Colorado and California, according to an announcement from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The beef in question has a “use/freeze by” date of September 5, 2018 on the label. The recalled products also read “EST. 86R” inside the USDA’s mark of inspection.

Cargill discovered the issue on August 22 when it reviewed its records and found that some of its product may have been associated with another product that was presumed to be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a strain that can cause particularly severe illnesses. However, there have not been any reports of illnesses to date.

As SELF wrote previously, E. coli can cause diarrhea that may be bloody, among other symptoms.

In addition to diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic, an E. coli infection may come with abdominal cramping or pain and nausea or vomiting.

Most otherwise healthy adults are able to get over an E. coli infection in about a week without any special treatment. But in severe cases, an infection can become serious—even deadly. One particularly serious complication of an E. coli infection is called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a life-threatening form of kidney failure.

So if you’re experiencing any symptoms of dehydration or your symptoms aren’t improving (especially if your diarrhea is severe, persistent, or bloody), it’s important to get medical attention.

The FSIS is urging consumers to avoid eating the recalled products and instead throw them out or return them to where they were purchased. This is also a great time to brush up on your basic food safety rules, which include making sure your ground beef is cooked up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill bacteria.

Related:

Sucralose produces previously unidentified metabolites

Sucralose, a widely used artificial sweetener sold under the trade name Splenda®, is metabolized in the gut, producing at least two fat-soluble compounds, according to a recent study using rats. The finding differs from the studies used to garner regulatory approval for sucralose, which reported that the substance was not broken down in the body. The new study also found that sucralose itself was found in fatty tissues of the body.

The researchers used the same experimental model used by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to assess the safety of foods based on accepted daily intake. In this case, that involved administering an average dose of 80.4 milligrams/kilogram/day to 10 rats for 40 days. Urine and feces from the rats were collected and assessed for those 40 days, and for the following two weeks. At the end of the two-week follow-up period, fatty tissue from a subset of the rats was also tested.

The researchers, from North Carolina State University and Avazyme Inc. — an analytical testing company — used techniques designed to detect both fat- and water-soluble metabolites. That’s significant because industry did not use state-of-the-art techniques that targeted the full suite of fat-soluble metabolites in the studies it submitted to the FDA when seeking FDA approval for sucralose.

“Our techniques were more suited to extracting and preserving fat-soluble metabolites,” says Susan Schiffman, an adjunct professor at NC State and co-author of the recent study. “We were also able to use state-of-the-art analytical techniques to identify those metabolites.

“We found two metabolites in urine and feces throughout the sucralose dosing period,” Schiffman says. “Those metabolites could still be detected in the urine 11 days after we stopped giving the rats sucralose, and six days after the sucralose itself could no longer be detected. That’s particularly interesting, given that the metabolism studies that the FDA’s approval were based on reported that ingested sucralose was not metabolized.”

Specifically, the metabolites were acetylated compounds, which are highly lipophilic — meaning they are easily dissolved in fat. That means they are more likely to stick around in the body.

In addition, the researchers found that sucralose itself was detected in the adipose, or fatty, tissues of rats two weeks after the rats had stopped receiving sucralose.

“Based on previous studies, we know that sucralose can be passed on by nursing mothers in their breastmilk,” Schiffman says. “And, among other findings, we know that sucralose can reduce the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Our new study shows that sucralose is also creating metabolites whose potential health effects we know little or nothing about.

“As a result, we feel that it may be time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of sucralose,” Schiffman says.

Story Source:

Materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

More accurate measure of body fat developed

Cedars-Sinai investigators have developed a simpler and more accurate method of estimating body fat than the widely used body mass index, or BMI, with the goal of better understanding obesity.

The new method is highlighted in a study published in Scientific Reports, one of the Nature journals.

“We wanted to identify a more reliable, simple and inexpensive method to assess body fat percentage without using sophisticated equipment,” said the study leader, Orison Woolcott, MD, of Cedars-Sinai.

While the BMI is commonly accepted, many medical experts in the field of obesity consider it to be inaccurate because it cannot distinguish among bone mass, muscle mass and excess fat. BMI also does not account for the influence of gender — women generally have more body fat than men.

The new formula developed at Cedars-Sinai is called the relative fat mass index, or RFM, and it uses only height and waist circumference measurements.

“Our results confirmed the value of our new formula in a large number of subjects: Relative fat mass is a better measure of body fatness than many indices currently used in medicine and science, including the BMI,” Woolcott said.

For the first time, researchers examined more than 300 possible formulas for estimating body fat using a large database of 12,000 adults who participated in a health and nutrition survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the next step, investigators calculated the relative fat mass for 3,500 patients and compared the results to the patients’ outcomes from a specialized, high-tech body scan called DXA, widely considered one of the most accurate methods of measuring body tissue, bone, muscle and fat. The patients’ RFM results corresponded most closely with the precision of the DXA body scan.

“The relative fat mass formula has now been validated in a large data base. It is a new index for measuring body fatness that can be easily accessible to health practitioners trying to treat overweight patients who often face serious health consequences like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease,” said Richard Bergman, PhD, the senior author of the study and director of the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular Diabetes and Obesity Wellness and Research Center.

And the best part, according to Woolcott: “You don’t need a bathroom scale to determine your relative fat mass, just a measuring tape.”

To determine relative fat mass (RFM), you need to measure your height as well as your waist circumference. To measure your waist, place the tape measure right at the top of the hip bone and reach it around your body for the most reliable result. Next, put those numbers into the relative fat mass equation — making a ratio out of the height and waist measurements. The formula is adjusted for gender:

Relative Fat Mass Formula

MEN: 64 — (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM

WOMEN: 76 — (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM

More than 93 million people — nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population — are considered overweight, according to the CDC. Obesity is associated with a poor quality of life and premature death from chronic disease.

“We still need to test the RFM in longitudinal studies with large populations to identify what ranges of body fat percentage are considered normal or abnormal in relation to serious obesity-related health problems,” Woolcott said.