White House focuses on microbiome, the trillions of microbes that link to cancer risk

The bacteria and other microbes living inside us will soon get a much closer look, with the White House announcing a major new initiative today that promises to speed up our understanding of how the trillions of microorganisms play a role in diseases, such as cancer.

The National Microbiome Initiative is a collaboration of government and private industry and it has a broad aim to understand the microorganism communities on Earth and beyond. These communities include bacteria, viruses and fungi. As part of the Initiative the government pledged to support more than $121 million over the next couple years to research. That includes everything from investigating microbes’ role in land, sea, and space. It also involves looking at microbes in animals, including us humans.

1214977_sA lot of the microbiome research already involves human health. Largely ignored until recently, scientists now know that our skin, mouth, gut and almost every part of our body is teeming with microbes that we depend upon for good health. Whether these microbes outnumber human cells ten to one or they’re about even, we know there are trillions of them. And that they are important. Continue reading

Study: Toddlers who try more veggies less picky years later

If you’re the parent of an infant or toddler, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to how you can raise a non-picky eater who enjoys a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and doesn’t overdo it on junk food. Diets rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and low in sugary and energy-dense foods and drinks can help kids (and parents) maintain a healthy weight, prevent cancer as adults and reduce their risk of other chronic diseases.

Raising kids that prefer healthy foods isn’t easy, but a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests strategies that parents can try with their young children that may affect what foods kids enjoy and eat more of as they get older. It joins a growing body of research pointing to the importance of introducing a wide variety of vegetables to children under the age of 2. It also provide new evidence that parents should avoid introducing foods low in nutrients, but high in saturated fat, added sugars, or salt to young children who haven’t yet tasted them.

This study used data from the NOURISH trial, a randomized control trial that began in Australia in 2008. The original study looked at whether providing new mothers with guidance on feeding and parenting practices affected outcomes as children got older. In this new study, researchers analyzed data from 340 mother-child pairs to see whether the amount of fruits, vegetables, and noncore (low-nutrient) foods tried by 14-month olds affected their preference for and intake of these foods, food fussiness, and weight about two and half years later. Continue reading

Daily weight check, small calorie cuts, more activity can help young adults prevent weight gain

Losing weight is hard. Keeping it off is harder. It’s definitely doable — we’ve written about successes here — but wouldn’t it be great if young adults could prevent gaining too much weight in the first place? A new multi-year study suggests that with daily weigh-ins and a few small changes, you can.

The study is among a growing area of research looking at ways to prevent weight gain, and it’s one of the largest randomized controlled studies on the topic to date. Previous research cited in the study suggests that young adults gain about 1.5 pounds per year. Over a couple decades, that adds up. And with two-thirds of US adults now overweight or obese, the research carries important potential for slowing the obesity epidemic. That, in turn, will play a role in cancer prevention. AICR research shows that carrying too much body fat is a cause of 11 cancers, including postmenopausal breast, ovarian and advanced prostate.

This study built upon prior research about how knowing and tracking your own weight can help with weight control.

Study researchers split almost 600 young men and women into one of three groups: two interventions and a comparison. Ages ranged from 18 to 35 and about half were overweight. Continue reading