HEALTH BITES

Chocolate may improve heart health; active video games as good as a workout; high salt intake cuts fat absorption in mice

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2015, 6:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2015, 6:47am

Chocolate may be good for the heart

Love chocolate? Eating up to 100 grams of it every day could be good for your heart, a new study by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has found. Based on data from 21,000 adults from Norfolk, England, and a systematic review of available international research, the scientists calculated that compared with those who ate no chocolate, higher intake was linked to an 11 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25 per cent lower risk of associated death. There doesn't seem to be any evidence for cutting out chocolate to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, conclude the researchers in their study in the journal Heart. However they note that no definitive conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from this study. Reverse causation - whereby those with a higher cardiovascular disease risk profile eat less chocolate than those who are healthier - may also help to explain the results, they add.

Active video gaming gives kids a good workout

Active video games may be a source of moderate or intense physical activity in children, suggests a new study by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, that compared energy expenditure playing an Xbox 360 Kinect game to unstructured play at an outdoor playground. In the study published in the Games for Health Journal, children aged between five and eight years old were given three accelerometers - for each wrist and the hip - to assess body movement. During a three-week period, each child engaged in one active video gaming session and one unstructured outdoor playtime. Each session lasted 20 minutes. A significant difference was found for the accelerometer located on the hip of participants, with active video gaming having a greater percentage of moderate to vigorous intensity than unstructured outdoor play. "We're not saying video games should replace outdoor play, but there are better choices people can make when choosing the types of video games for their children," says Hollie Raynor, director of UT's Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory and associate professor of nutrition.

High salt prevents weight gain in mice on a high-fat diet

In a study that seems to defy conventional dietary wisdom, University of Iowa scientists have found that adding high salt to a high-fat diet actually prevents weight gain in mice. But before you use that as an excuse to indulge in fast food, the researchers caution that very high levels of dietary salt are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease in humans. Rather than suggest that a high salt diet is suddenly a good thing, the researchers say these findings really point to the profound effect non-caloric dietary nutrients can have on energy balance and weight gain. The researchers found that varying levels of salt had a significant effect on digestive efficiency - the amount of fat from the diet that is absorbed by the body. Says Dr Michael Lutter, co-senior study author and UI assistant professor of psychiatry. "Our findings, in conjunction with other studies, are showing that there is a wide range of dietary efficiency, or absorption of calories, in the populations, and that may contribute to resistance or sensitivity to weight gain."