Breakfast is King – not necessarily

whats_for_dinner_1600_wht_11336Many people believe that having a large breakfast prevents overeating later in the day and can help you lose weight. Even doctors have suggested that you eat about a third of your daily calorie intake at breakfast, enhancing breakfast’s reputation as the most important meal of the day. But where’s the evidence?

James Betts, a senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Bath has dismissed the idea that “eating breakfast like a king” will kickstart the metabolism to burn more energy and prevent unhealthy food choices later on. “These are largely assumptions based on observations which have never been tested” he says.

Do healthy people eat breakfast or does eating breakfast make you healthy? He thought there would be lots of evidence but couldn’t find it. The idea seems to have started as a marketing ploy by John Harvey Kellogg at the turn of the century as he promoted his cereals.

So to test the theory he asked volunteers to either eat a 700 calorie breakfast or just drink only water until lunch. The “no breakfast group “ate more at lunch but not enough to make up the 700 calories eaten by the other group at breakfast. And it didn’t increase their hunger later in the day.

Hormone tests showed that the levels of hunger were similar in both groups until lunchtime but by mid-afternoon the people who had eaten breakfast were hungrier. By the end of the day however the breakfast eaters had usually burned off the extra calories through fidgeting or light exercise.

Other earlier research has shown that children who skip breakfast perform worse at school than children who have breakfast. But other related factors like poverty, neglect or lack of sleep may also contribute to the poorer performance.

There was also research that showed that men who skipped breakfast were more likely to have a heart attack!

Dr Peter Rogers, a psychology professor innutrition and behaviour at the University of Bristol, says that doctors who tell overweight patients not to skip breakfast should think again as it’s probably the easiest meal to miss out.

And going back to Dr Betts’ volunteers who drank only water for breakfast we now know that water also affects our calorie consumption.

Fighting fit? The new Heavy Brigade

Seems it’s not just us civilians who are getting bigger and more obese.

More than 25,000 British military personnel have been diagnosed as obese in the last 4 years. That’s several battalions!

There is now an “obesity working group” looking into the problem and devising ways to keep people fitter and increase  their knowledge of how to eat more healthily.

A spokesman for the National Obesity Forum said; “These people have got plenty of time to keep in shape and I think it’s a responsibility to feed them properly and give them any amount of time to do exercises and keep themselves in shape”.

obstacle_course_boot_camp_1600_wht_11454Soldiers are supposed to have carefully managed fitness routines involving at least four 1-hour sessions of PT a week.

They can also have a diet ranging from 1,500 to 7,000 calories a day depending on their duties. Clearly not everyone is following the exercise routine or eating healthily.

As one senior officer was quoted as saying; “There are obese soldiers in just about every regiment in the British Army and no unit is immune. It’s also a reflection of the quality of food served in some army cookhouses. Unless the armed forces changes the way it feeds its personnel you will have a problem”.

Of course there are statistics and statistics! The number had been calculated using the much disputed body mass index (BMI)  and the obesity cut-off point of 30.

The MoD rightly points out that this can be misleading as “it doesn’t differentiate between body fat and muscle and says individuals are assessed on their ability to carry out military activities rather than on their weight”.

It’s not just the Brits. It wasn’t that long ago that 40% of the German Army was considered overweight and in 2012 the American Army dismissed over 1,600 soldiers for excess body weight, a 15- fold increase on the figures in 2007.


Food to get middle-aged men in the mood….

couple_in_love_1600_wht_10952According to nutrition expert Ian Marber, writing in The Times, here’s what men of a certain age should be consuming to boost their libidos.

Caffeine – can temporarily enhance the male sex hormone testosterone. He recommends a daily shot of espresso to tickle your testes and stimulate testosterone production.

Pumpkin Seeds – not just for Halloween! A source of argernine which helps to improve blood flow in the small arteries found you know where. Works on same principle as Viagra i.e. making muscles relax to improve blood flow. Look it up!

Avacado – apparently eating monounsaturated fats frees up available testosterone (which declines from age 40).

Oysters – not just an old wives’ tale. Oysters, beef and lamb can help to raise your libido as they are rich sources of zinc which helps to keep testosterone levels high, Oestrogen, the female hormone is also found in men and if levels gt too high it diminishes testosterone. Zinc also stops testosterone being converted into oestrogen by inhibiting the action of aromatase.

Beetroot Juice – can imitate the effects of Viagra as it raises levels of nitric oxide which encourages this muscle to relax and enhance the blood flow. Effect doesn’t last long so sip it slowly.

Sardines or salmon – There is a well-established link between vitamin D and testosterone which in turn is linked to your libido. It’s estimated that half of male population could have low levels of this vitamin. Apart from exposure to sunlight biggest source is oily fish, Wild salmon better than farmed fish and higher than tuna.

Bananas – A rich source of vitamin B6 may help to increase levels of testosterone by diminishing levels of oestrogen in men. So could improve libido – it seems to work for monkeys!

Oats – as in getting them? Well oats can reduce cholesterol and high levels of cholesterol can reduce blood flow. They contain beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that binds to cholesterol and also increases the good cholesterol. A bowl of porridge isn’t just for Winter now is it?

Lentils –  are high in foliate which can reduce amino acids produced after eating protein which can encourage the build-up of plaque in your arteries. This reduces your blood flow and you know what that leads to. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables such as asparagus or spinach as these are rich in foliate.

Almonds – Eating almonds helps to keep glucose levels steady. In turn that helps keep insulin levels steady and insulin is something else that reduces the hormone testosterone and hence the libido.

Green Tea – drink a few cups a day as the anti-oxidant flavanol catechin can improve blood flow, and you know where we’r going with that.

Apart from the libido angle these all seem like the kind of healthy foods we should all be eating anyway. I’m no expert so if you want to know more check out Ian Marber’s web-site at

And if you live in Lancashire see Nik’s expertise at QfLFitness



Can we afford to eat healthily?

tape_measure_around_plate_1600_wht_15585No, according to Eleanor Mills in the Sunday Times yesterday.

She starts her column by pointing out that for the first time in history poor people are fatter than rich people.

At one time of course being generously proportioned meant you could afford to eat well. The we had the idea that pale and thin was good – “you can’t be too rich or too thin” – well yes you can actually and why I support the “No More Skinny” campaign.

But that’s a different story. She says expensive clothes tend to come in smaller sizes than supermarket own-brands, the average British woman is a size 16 (that’s 40-32-42 in inches) and the only part of retail doing well is Plus Size.

If you haven’t got much money it goes further in a fast-food outlet according to research at Cambridge University. They found that eating healthily costs three times as much as eating junk food.

Over the past decade healthy food had increased in price by over twice as much as junk food based on a study of almost 100 food items, taken from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) consumer price index basket, including salmon, yoghurt and tomatoes at the healthy end of the spectrum to pizzas beef burghers and dough its at the other end.

The author of the study said “The increase in price difference is a factor in increasing health inequalities and a deterioration in the health of the population”. An that’s no joke given the cost to the NHS of obesity and diet-related ill-health like type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

The experts seem to think that we can do nothing about it and teaching people to be able to cook well on a low budget won’t help. For example Dr Joun Middleton at e the UK of Public Health charity puts the blame for the poor being obese purely on high prices. I think sometimes charities take a simple point of view to make it easier to get there point across and raise money. How can teaching people to cook not help?

Mills doesn’t agree either pointing out that in many cultures people eat well on low incomes citing Indian cuisine as a good example or making home made soup from beans and pulses. But she acknowledges that having the time to do it is a factor, putting a pizza in the oven for ten minutes when you’re in a hurry to get to work is easier than cooking from scratch. But you can use a slow cooker overnight and it only takes 20 minutes to cook fish and boil potatoes.

  • A 2014 Nuffield Health study found that 1/3 of people in the UK said they could;t afford to eat a healthy diet and 1/7 said they didn’t have time to prepare balanced meals.
  • DEFRA found that the pest 10% of households by income bought the least fruit and vegetables – almost 3 portions a day down 14% since 2007.
  • In 2013 price was rated as the most important factor influencing food choices but if you haven’t got a car getting to a cheap supermarket with kids in tow can be a problem.

Cooking is apparently back on the school curriculum. This has got to be a good thing. When I was at school, a long time ago I admit, boys did joinery or woodwork at boys’ schools and girls did cookery or domestic science. Both were useful skill sets that more recent generations seem to lack.



Mums could do better when it comes to baby food

chef_stiring_pot_anim_500_wht_6703Baby foods from leading brands contain far fewer nutrients than home-made food. 

A study by the University of Glasgow, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that many contained high levels of sugar.

Some are promoted for babies from 4 months of age when experts think babies should still be on breast milk or formula.

You would have to feed your baby twice as much shop bought baby food as home-cooked food to provide the same level of protein and get the same energy. It’s cheaper and healthier for your baby to make your own.

Researchers at the university said “The UK infant food market mainly supplies sweet, soft, spoonable foods targeted from age 4 months… that are no more energy dense than formula milk and generally less nutritionally dense than home-made foods”.

The National Childbirth Trust say that babies don’t generally need solid foods until around 6 months.

The family that eats together makes children happier

stick_figure_watching_tv_pc_1600_wht_3837Although I’ve just posted about children having too sedentary a life-style one area where the government would like us to sit down more is to have a family meal together.

Public Health England says children are becoming anxious and unhappy because of lack of exercise, a poor diet and too much TV-watching.

The Director of Health and Well-being said there was ” a consistent association between behaviour and the impact on well-being”. The dangers for inactive children are both physical and mental.

The British Heart Foundation has gone so far as to warn that this generation of children might die before their parents because of inactivity and poor diet.

There are also links between inactivity and mental and social problems.  Activity is associated with better concentration levels , more positive social behaviours such as being kind to classmates, and higher self-esteem.

The more time children spend in front of a TV screen the more prone they are to experiencing social and emotional problems and low self-esteem.

Long hours watching TV or playing computer games “is associated with reduced feelings of social acceptance and increased feelings of loneliness, conduct problems and aggression”. Most of our 11-year old children watch more TV than in other European countries.

The recommendations, timed to coincide with the start of the new school year, has led to accusations of the government adopting a granny state approach. One website for Mums said it would be better if the government gave practical advice rather than being a parental authority.

We all want the best for our kids –  including wanting them to be happy and healthy – but some people need to be told!

Breastfeeding – a mother’s gift of love and care


“Breastfeeding is a mother’s gift to herself, her baby and the earth.”

Pamela K. Wiggins

From The rants in my pants

Mother’s milk, time-tested for millions of years, is the best nutrient for babies. Numerous studies have demonstrated a number of important health benefits to breastfeeding. Among them:

  • Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children
  • Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15
  • Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life, are able to lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

Babies also benefit from the physical closeness of nursing. Gazing into their mothers’ eyes, babies come to understand that they are loved and protected and that their mothers are there to provide…

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