Science Catch-up. Walk And Bike To School Day.


by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Welcome to our Thursday Science Catch-up: curated links by The Health Sciences Academy. Get our email updates every other Thursday here (it’s free).

Let’s catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Click on your favourite topics to read our summary:

1. What’s your child’s walk count?

2. Give yourself more bedtime to snack less?

3. Is the non-stick coating of frying pans causing rebound weight gain?

 

What’s your child’s walk count?

Study link

Of all things being tracked today, children’s walk count is one of them. And when trying to measure this, a recent study uncovered a little-known statistic…

Among 10 to 13 year-olds, boys are LESS likely than girls to walk places – whether it’s for exercise or just to get around.

But why are scientists monitoring children’s walking habits anyway?

Well, it might be much more important than you think…

Who walks when? (Taverno Ross et al., 2018).

They may not be a full-on spin class, but regular brisk walks have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits, including a reduced risk of all-cause chronic disease.

This is especially critical for boys and girls of this age, because as they transition into adolescence, there’s often a big drop in exercise levels. Even amongst the girls in this study, the number who walked to get exercise HALVED between the 5th and 7th grade!

The importance of moving the body, even moderate exercise like walking to school (or indeed to work), is so big that campaigns like Walk and Bike to School are underway to encourage it.

Walking and biking places is not only an eco-friendly alternative, but provides huge advantages – from reducing the risk of all-cause mortality to lifting our mood and even enhancing brain performance.

But how much physical activity do children need?

The answer depends on the child’s age, gender, and other variables. For example, desired activity levels for a 3-year-old are different to a 10-year-old. You’d know this if you’re studying for our Child and Brain Development certification (see Module 18). Or if you’d like to know if this specialised certification is right for you, you can watch our free introductory workshop here.

 

Give yourself more bedtime to snack less?

Study link

Struggling to stop yourself snacking on sweet treats? There’s suddenly a lot of people saying that getting more sleep might be the key to that…

But why are they saying that? Is there really much evidence for it?

Let’s dive into the science and see if we can get to the bottom of this…

All these headlines are based on a recent study which showed that those who got extra sleep had a reduced intake of sugary foods during the day. Sounds promising, right?

There’s only one problem. That wasn’t even what the study was trying to prove!

This headline was taken from a very small pilot study, with only 42 people, which was aiming to show that the researchers’ methods of ‘sleep education’ could help people get into better sleeping habits…

Participants were also asked to keep a food diary, which is how the result of reduced sugar-snacking was identified, but that’s not the best way to measure people’s real food intake.

Sleep duration and quality comparison (Hall et al., 2018).

There’s a bigger story that the headlines haven’t covered: the study was a success!

Sleep education did lead to significant improvements in the participants’ sleeping habits, and although this is not very good evidence on food intake, there is actually already a whole host of existing scientific literature on the health benefits of sleep…

It’s even been shown to impact our dietary habits and obesity risk, as well as our general physical and mental health.

The real story here is that there are effective techniques that can really help us to get more shut-eye. And that’s good news, since it’s thought that less than two-thirds of us are getting the optimal amount of sleep for our wellbeing…

(So maybe tonight we should try replacing sweet snacks with sweet dreams.)

Now, a question we get a lot is…

Does night eating cause weight gain?

In other words, does it really make a difference whether you eat your bolognaise dinner at 5:00pm or at 10:00pm? Or is it better to eat a big breakfast than a big evening meal?

With so much hearsay out there, it’s time to settle this debate once and for all… We put science to the test in this short training for you, including whether the 4 theories surrounding night eating and weight gain have been disproven (or not!).

 

Is the non-stick coating of frying pans causing rebound weight gain?

Study link

If you’re helping a client who is struggling to keep the weight off, then this is a must read for you…

A recent US study has linked substances called perfluoroalkyls (PFASs) found in non-stick coatings to putting more weight back on after a diet.

So is this the big ‘boogieman’ to blame for our inability to keep the fat gone? Or is this a media panic over nothing?

As always, I went straight to the source to bring you the truth of it…

It’s been well documented that the hardest part of weight loss is usually keeping it gone in the long term, and many people regain the weight after the first 6 months (something we teach how to mitigate inside our Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner Certification – PDF curriculum here).

But what does weight regain have to do with non-stick substances?

This study linked unwanted regain to PFASs, a class of chemical used in food packaging and non-stick coatings for cookware.

The researchers looked at data from a previous weight loss study which involved taking blood samples, so they were able to measure the levels of five different PFAS levels. Two of those, PFOA and PFOS, seemed to have an impact on the weight gain…

But what kind of impact, and how could these chemicals cause it?

Women with the highest PFOA levels regained about 2 extra kilograms on average, compared to those with the lowest blood PFOA levels.

Those with the highest PFOA levels saw a greater weight gain later on (Liu et al., 2018).

The scientists hypothesised that it’s because the PFASs can slow a person’s metabolic rate, meaning that they use up calories slower even when they do the same activities as someone else. And yes, the participants with highest PFOS levels had a slightly slower metabolism after the first 6 months.

So far it’s not looking good, but hold on a minute…

While this does seem a bit worrying, this kind of study (called observational research) can NOT prove that it’s the PFASs causing the weight gain!

Because the study wasn’t done under controlled conditions, there are a lot of other things which might cause both higher PFAS levels and higher weight gain. It’s possible that different diets might be responsible. Perhaps larger exposure to non-stick coating means people are frying more foods…

What’s more, the weight gain effect was only found in women, and their PFAS levels didn’t change their ability to lose weight in the first place…

Then what should we be taking away from this study?

There are a huge number of things that can affect metabolic rate and weight loss success. And though it’s certainly possible that exposure to substances like PFASs contributes to obesity, it isn’t time to replace all your non-stick cookware just yet – especially if a stickier pan means you’ll use more oil!

This kind of study is a starting point. It tells us we should apply the right testing methods to investigate if it’s really the PFASs causing the issue, and how it could be happening.

In other words, this study isn’t quite as alarming as it sounds!

Note: Our bodies deal with a multitude of harmful substances every minute, and learning the molecular mechanisms behind it is important to advise clients in a smart and educated way. If you’ve recently joined our Detox Specialist Certification, welcome!! For the rest of you, you can get a sneak peek here.

 

 

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The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for their students. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL doctoral researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups.
Connect with Alex via email.

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