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Nearly a Quarter of U.S. Teens Have Diabetes or Prediabetes

The prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes among teens is up from 9 percent in 1999-2000 to 23 percent in 2007-2008, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a continuous database analyzing the health and nutritional status of Americans, to find that children ages 12 to 19, about 34 percent of whom are overweight or obese, are at increased risk for several cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Prevalence of at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor was at 37, 49, and 61 percent for normal weight, overweight, and obese teens, respectively.

May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors among US adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics. 2012;129:1035-1041.

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Red meat Hans Diehl, DrHSc, MPH

In a large new study, scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the more red meat a person eats, particularly processed red meat like hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts, the greater the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The research, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tracked the dietary habits of 200,000+ men and women for a decade or more, and found:

  • A mere 2-ounce serving a day of processed red meat increased the risk of diabetes by 50%.
  • A 4-ounce serving a day of unprocessed red meat (such as steak, hamburger, and pork) was linked with a 20% increased risk of diabetes.
  • Eliminating just one serving of red meat a day and eating instead a healthful protein-rich substitute like beans lowered the risk of diabetes by up to 35%.

Healthy Lifestyle

The scientists, led by Harvard research fellow Dr. An Pan, stressed the need for Americans to fight the relentless upward trajectory of diabetes by adopting a healthier lifestyle. That would include eating more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and lentils), daily physical activity, and loss of excess weight.

According to an article appearing in the March 28th Wall Street Journal, "The evidence of a causal link with cancer, while not yet definitive, is far clearer with excess weight and lack of physical activity than with specific foods or nutrients."

The report, published online Wednesday in the journal Cancer, is by researchers from the CDC, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society.

HDL-Cholesterol: the Scene is Changing

Atherosclerotic blood vessel
Cholesterol-filled atherosclerotic coronary artery
Credit: Courtesy: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

  by Hans Diehl, DrHSc, MPH  

Ever since my heady clinical days at the residential Pritikin Longevity Center, I advised participants following its very low-fat, fiber-rich, plant-food centered diet not to worry about the common lack of improved HDL-cholesterol levels. This was in contrast to the clinical practice, which has not changed over the last 35 years, where clinicians advise their patients to try to increase their cardio-protective HDL numbers (their "good" cholesterol) by enhancing their daily exercise, losing excess weight, and by using some wine. And yet, in this residential, well-controlled lifestyle environment, HDL numbers more often than not did not go up over a period of 4 weeks in spite of a rigorous daily exercise program accompanied by loss of excessive weight.

Harvard: Dairy not needed for Health

Hans A. Diehl, DrHSc, MPH

The Harvard School of Public Health sent a strong message to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and to nutrition experts everywhere with the release of its “Healthy Eating Plate” food guide. The University was responding to the USDA’s recent "My Plate" guide for healthy eating, which replaced the outdated food pyramid.

Harvard’s nutrition experts did not pull any punches, declaring that the University’s food guide was based on sound nutrition research and more importantly, it was not influenced by food industry lobbyists. "Unfortunately, like the earlier USDA Food Pyramids, the most recent "My Plate" guide for healthy eating mixes science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not a recipe for healthy eating," said Walter Willett, MD, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

More From Harvard: Red Meat Not Good For You

In a study published online March 12 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality.

The researchers prospectively observed 37,698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for up to 22 years and 83,644 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for up to 28 years who were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at baseline. Diets were assessed through questionnaires every four years.

The bottom line: One daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk.

Click here to read Harvard's press release.