Daily activity levels several times higher than the commonly recommended minimum are strongly associated with lower risk of five common chronic diseases – breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, finds a new study in The BMJ. A team of researchers based in the US and Australia came to this conclusion after analysing results of 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016 examining the associations between total physical activity and at least one of the five chronic diseases.
Most health gains occurred at a total activity level of 3,000-4,000 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes a week, with diminishing returns at higher activity levels. A person can achieve 3,000 MET minutes a week by incorporating different types of physical activity into their daily routine – for example, climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for 25 minutes. That’s several times more than current World Health Organisation recommendations of a minimum total physical activity level of 600 MET minutes a week.
Maternal high-fat diet during pregnancy can affect baby’s gut microbes
The community of microbes – the microbiome – living in a baby’s gut can be influenced by the mother’s diet during pregnancy. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, US, found that babies born to mothers who consumed a high-fat diet during pregnancy had a distinctly different gut microbiome.
The study involved a representative group of 157 pregnant women in the US, who answered a questionnaire on their pregnancy diets. The mothers ate a diet that on average was 33 per cent fat, with a range of 14 to 55 per cent fat. Then, the researchers divided the mothers whose fat intake was significantly different from the average into two groups: the control group and the high-fat group. Their babies’ first stool sample was examined to determine the type of bacteria present at birth in the infants’ gut, and again when the babies were four to six weeks of age.
The microbiomes of babies of high-fat diet mothers had fewer numbers of bacteroides microbes, both at birth and several weeks after. Having fewer bacteroides in the gut on a consistent basis could affect energy extraction from food and the development of the immune system, the researchers suggest.
The healthiest eaters are the most culturally ‘fit’
A new study shows people who fit better with their culture have healthier eating habits. Researchers from the US, Japan, and Chile analysed samples of eating habits of middle-aged adults in the US and Japan.
Participants were also quizzed on how well they fit in with their country’s predominant culture.
In the US, participants with high scores on independence had the best cultural fit, while in Japan, this was the case with participants with high scores on interdependence. In the US, being independent predicted eating a healthy diet including higher amounts of fish, protein, fruit, vegetables, and fewer sugary beverages.
More independent adults were less likely to use food as a way to cope with stress. While the overall diets in Japan were healthier than US participants, those in Japan who rated themselves as more interdependent showed healthier eating habits then their Japanese peers who did not.
“Our results suggest that if you want to help people to eat healthier – or if you want to promote any type of healthy behaviour – you want to understand what meaning that behaviour has in that culture, and what motivates people to be healthy in that culture,” says lead author Cynthia Levine.