Go green & eat early: the latest research

29th March 2021 | Eativity editors

We all know we should eat more vegies, but most of us still don’t – only a tiny percentage of Aussies are eating the recommended five daily serves. Of all the veg that people avoid, probably the most neglected are leafy greens. But if you are snubbing spinach or giving kale the cold shoulder, you’re really missing out – not only are leafy greens absolutely chockas full of nutrients that boost heart, brain and overall health, new Aussie research has found they can also boost your muscle strength. So it turns out ol’ Popeye was right after all…

In other new nutritional findings from those clever clogs in white lab coats, researchers have found that what time you eat breakfast can reduce your risk of developing an increasingly common health problem, while another study that looked at intermittent fasting and stubborn belly fat has come up with some rather depressing results. Finally, in slightly less surprising news, it turns out that the more fast food joints there are in your local area, the higher chance there is of you having a heart attack. Fancy that.

Green leafy vegies essential for muscle strength

Eating just one cup of leafy green vegetables every day could boost muscle function, even if you don’t exercise, according to new Edith Cowan University research. The study found that people who consumed a nitrate-rich diet, predominantly from vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale and beetroot, had significantly better muscle function of their lower limbs.

Researchers examined data from 3759 Australians taking part in a 12-year study. They found those with the highest regular nitrate consumption had 11 percent stronger lower limb strength than those with the lowest nitrate intake, and also had faster walking speeds.

“Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity,” says lead researcher Dr Marc Sim. “Nevertheless, to optimise muscle function we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal.”

Muscle function is vital for maintaining good overall health, especially bone strength later in life. Poor muscle function is linked to greater risk of falls and fractures, and with around one in three Australians aged over 65 suffering a fall each year, eating more greens could be a simple way to help prevent these events and their potentially serious consequences.

Link found between fast food outlets and heart attacks

Researchers from the Hunter Medical Research Institute, the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health have found that for each new fast food outlet in an area, the number of heart attacks per 100,000 people went up by four.

The research team compared all cases of heart attack within the Hunter-New England Health District with the fast food outlet density of each local government area within the district. They found that fast food outlet density was positively correlated with an increase of heart attack, even after accounting for other factors such as age, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood-pressure, smoking status, diabetes and socioeconomic status.

Eating early could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

People who start eating before 8:30am have lower blood sugar levels and less insulin resistance, which could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study presented at the international Endocrine Society‘s annual meeting.

This finding was regardless of whether people restricted their food intake to less than 10 hours a day or their food intake was spread over more than 13 hours a day.

Insulin resistance occurs when the body doesn’t respond well to insulin that the pancreas produces and glucose is less able to enter cells. Insulin resistance and high blood sugar affect the body’s ability to break down food into its simpler components: proteins, carbs and fats. Metabolic disorders like diabetes occur when these processes are disrupted.

Previous studies have found that eating within a shortened timeframe each day consistently improves metabolic health. This new study suggests that what matters more is what time you start eating each day, not how long you fast between dinner and breakfast.

With 280 Australians developing diabetes every day, simple strategies like this could help to reduce rates of what Diabetes Australia calls “the epidemic of the 21st century”. Just make sure you choose a healthy breakfast to ensure you get the most health benefits.

Intermittent fasting and belly fat: what really happens

University of Sydney scientists have mapped out what happens to fat deposits during intermittent fasting, with an unexpected discovery that some types of fat are more resistant to weight loss… and it’s not good news for those looking to shift a pot belly.

Studying mice, researchers discovered that every-other-day fasting triggers a cascade of changes in fat tissue, but it depends on the type of fat and where it’s located in the body.

The researchers found that visceral fat – fat tissue surrounding our organs – which can accumulate into a “protruding tummy” in humans, was found to go into “preservation mode”, adapting over time and becoming more resistant to weight loss.

When you’re fasting, fat tissue provides energy to your body by releasing fatty acid molecules. But this study found visceral fat became resistant to this release of fatty acids during fasting. Senior study author Dr Mark Larance suggests it’s possible that a history of repeated fasting periods triggers a preservation signalling pathway in visceral fat.

“This suggests the visceral fat can adapt to repeated fasting bouts and protect its energy store,” he says. “This type of adaptation may be the reason why visceral fat can be resistant to weight loss even after long periods of dieting.”

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