Sound Bites: Shady Nutrition Research, Foods that Fight Arthritis, the 5-Second Rule, and B12

Our weekly column on the latest nutrition and healthy eating news

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Healthy fats
By Megan O. Steintrager

Who’s Paying for Nutrition Research?

You may have seen a recent flurry of news stories about how the sugar industry sponsored research in the 1960s that minimized the link between sugar and heart disease, and played up the perils of fat. (If you’re not up to speed, just Google “sugar industry” and take your pick of stories based on the revelation originally published in JAMA Internal Medicine, from the likes of NPR, The New York Times, CNN, Mother Jones, and more). Once you’ve ingested that not-so-sweet news, check out NPR’s follow-up on the influence of other food industry players on health research. Spoiler alert: It’s not just the sugar industry that plays a role in research, and the shady funding didn’t end in the ’60s.

“5-Second Rule” Roulette 

Let that dropped popcorn kernel lie: Researchers at Rutgers University recently looked into the so-called “five-second rule”—the idea that it’s safe to eat food you’ve dropped on the floor as long as you pick it up within five seconds—and found that germ transference starts immediately, though the longer something is on the floor, the more bugs it’s likely to pick up. The type of food and the type of floor—and of course, what’s actually on that floor—also make a difference. Slate has an entertaining (if icky) synopsis of the Rutgers findings and other five-second-rule studies. Meanwhile, in news that would outrage George Costanza, the Harvard Health Blog has a roundup of research on double-dipping chips, which concludes that “while it’s reasonable to discourage double dipping, it’s unlikely to pose a major risk to your health.”

Dropped cookie on the floor

Eat This Kind of Fat to Fight Arthritis 

Unsaturated fats, such as those found olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish, might help slow the progression of osteoarthritis, according to an article in the October issue of the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter (available to subscribers). “High intakes of saturated fat were associated with a faster progression of knee osteoarthritis in a new prospective observational study, while consuming more heart-healthy unsaturated fats was linked to slower progression,” the article says. Your takeaway? Swap foods high in saturated fat (e.g. butter, fatty meats) for foods that contain unsaturated fats—a healthy-eating move that’s also been associated with many other health benefits (see the August 9th edition of Sound Bites).

Are You Getting Enough of this Important Vitamin?

Vitamin D deficiency was getting all the attention for a while—now B12 is getting its turn in the spotlight. Deficiency in this crucial nutrient can lead to fatigue, weakness, nerve damage, memory problems, depression, and even hallucinations. The vitamin is found in animal foods, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, so experts have long suggested supplementation for vegetarians and especially for vegans. However, vegans are not the only ones at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency—even some people who eat a diet rich in the nutrient cannot properly absorb enough of it from food. Read up on the dangers and signs of B12 deficiency and possible benefits of supplementation in the Harvard Health Blog  and The New York Times.

Foods high in vitamin B12

One Good Reason to Chill Out

A new study indicates that stress can diminish the benefits of a healthy diet, the Los Angeles Times reports. Then again, the study was incredibly small (only 58 people, all women), so, you know, don’t stress about it too much. (And to relax and eat better every day, try our tips for mindful eating.)

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