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The Science Behind What You Should Eat for a Good Night’s Sleep

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The Science Behind What You Should Eat for a Good Night’s Sleep


Sleep has become widely recognized as playing a really important role in our overall health and wellness — alongside diet, stress management, and exercise.


Recently, researchers have been learning more about how poor sleep influences our dietary choices, as well as how diet influences sleep quality. Not sleeping for long enough or poor quality sleep are associated with increased food intake, a less healthy diet, and weight gain. Lack of sleep also leads to increased snacking and overeating. And it causes us to want to eat foods high in fat and carbohydrates — with increased chemical rewards to the brain when we do eat these foods.


Essentially, poor sleep drives your body to find high energy foods to keep you awake which makes fighting the cravings for unhealthy foods very difficult to resist. But, on the other hand, when we have slept well our appetite hormones are at a normal level. We don’t crave unhealthy food so much — and we can make better choices about what to eat.

The Science of Sleep
All cultures around the world have traditions about which foods promote sleep. Foods such as milk, chamomile, kiwi fruit, and tart cherries, have all been said to work wonders for a good night’s sleep. Given how much the food we eat affects us on a day-to-day basis, it is not surprising that our diet plays such a big role in our quality of sleep. What we eat also has a big impact on our organ function, immune system, hormone production, and brain function.


A really important hormone that controls our sleep patterns is melatonin. Melatonin is produced in the brain and the amount of melatonin you produce, and how efficiently our brain uses it is affected by our diet. One of the biggest influence on our melatonin levels appears to be our intake of a type of protein called tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid — the building blocks of proteins. Essential amino acids are a group which our bodies cannot make; it can only be sourced through diet.

Eating and drinking for better sleep is about more than just avoiding caffeine.
Other nutrients that appear to be helpful for sleep include B vitamins and magnesium. This is because they help tryptophan to be more available in the body. If your diet is lacking tryptophan, B vitamins, or magnesium, it is very likely that your melatonin production and secretion will be affected and your sleep quality will be poorer.

It stands to reason then that following overly restrictive diets or diets that put you at risk of nutrient deficiencies can really affect your sleep. But by increasing your intakes of foods rich in specific nutrients, it may well help to promote better sleep quality and duration.


Dairy foods, for example, can be great at helping you sleep. Not only is dairy an excellent source of tryptophan, but it also contains magnesium and B vitamins which help to promote the activity and availability of tryptophan. Nuts, like dairy, also contain all the nutrients known to promote increased melatonin production and support its release.


salmon
Fish is a great source of tryptophan and B vitamins. Fish with bones, such as sardines, will also provide magnesium. Including fish in your diet regularly may help to promote healthy melatonin production when you need it. Pulses, beans, and lentils also contain high amounts of tryptophan and B vitamins. Adding some tofu or paneer to a vegetable stew or curry can also help to increase your likelihood of having a great night’s sleep. You could also add in some soya — which is another good source of tryptophan — to optimize your sleep potential.

And if you’re still struggling to sleep, it might be that you’d benefit from some meat. Meat of all kinds contains all the essential ingredients for a good night’s sleep. So if you can’t nod off at night, maybe think about adding some lean meat to your diet.


If you find yourself hungry before bed, for the ideal bed time snack, try a glass of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, a small banana or a few nuts — all of which can really help to improve your sleep and your willpower the next day. It’s also worth pointing out that it takes around an hour for the tryptophan in foods to reach the brain, so don’t wait until just before bedtime to have your snack. And it’s also advisable to have a balanced diet that includes plenty of foods that are high in tryptophan throughout the day to optimize your chances of a good night’s sleep.

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Gut Bacteria Tied to Depression

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Gut Bacteria Tied to Depression

For the first time, a population-based study has shown a link between gut bacteria and mental health, providing the strongest support to date that microbiota can influence mood, investigators note.
“The notion that microbial metabolites can interact with our brain — and thus behavior and feelings — is intriguing, but gut microbiome-brain communication has mostly been explored in animal models, with human research lagging behind,” Jeroen Raes, PhD, from University of Leuven and VIB Center for Microbiology, Belgium, said in a news release.
“In our population-level study we identified several groups of bacteria that co-varied with human depression and quality of life across populations,” said Raes.
The study was published online February 4 in Nature Microbiology.

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Eat These 8 Foods to Get Your Healthiest Winter Hair

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Eat These 8 Foods to Get Your Healthiest Winter Hair


Regardless of where you live and how freezing or unseasonably warm it is outside, your hair is likely to struggle with the dry air of the winter months. “This lack of moisture causes dryness on our hair, scalp, and skin,” says Linet K., a celebrity hairstylist based in Los Angeles. “And turning on the heater when you’re inside provides warmth, but doesn’t add moisture to the air, so the air continues to dry out the scalp and skin,” she says. 


That dryness (and constantly pulling your winter beanies on and off) can also lead to breakage of your strands. Of course, there are products to help with that, but so much of beauty initiates within — that is, the fuel you put into your body can make a huge difference in your hair’s health. We checked in with experts in both beauty and nutrition on the vital nutrients you need to condition your hair and scalp this season. Here’s what you should add to your next meal.

1. Salmon: Your hair needs its dose of omega-3s, the fatty acid found mostly in fish oils, both to look and feel beautiful. “Essential omega-3 fatty acids help to hydrate your scalp and hair for a beautiful shine, and control an irritated, dry, or itchy scalp,” says Paula Simpson, a holistic nutritionist who specializes in hair and skin health. If you’re vegan, don’t worry — you can still get the nutrients from nuts and seed sources, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds, and even fish oil supplements.


2. Sweet Potato: This sounds kind of gross, but your hair needs vitamin A to produce sebum, the oil that is basically the hair’s natural conditioner, explains Kristin Dahl, the founder of Dahl House Nutrition and The Women’s Wellness Collective — too much of it is what makes the hair feel super greasy. And a single baked or roasted sweet potato has more than a day’s worth of vitamin A. You can also pick it up in other winter root veggies, mostly carotenoids like carrots and pumpkin (though PSLs don’t count, unfortunately).


3. Eggs: Of course, eggs are a major source of protein (which hair is literally made of, so it’s a necessary factor in keeping it healthy), but they are also a source of biotin, AKA vitamin B7. Biotin helps the body produce keratin, the protein you need to grow strong, healthy hair and nails, Simpson says. And it’s not just eating the eggs that helps the hair, Linet K. adds. Making an egg yolk hair mask can moisturize the hair and scalp and strengthen your strands. “Beat two to three egg yolks, depending on the length of the hair, and evenly distribute on the scalp and all over the top of the hair, letting it sit for 10-15 minutes. Wash out and shampoo and condition hair as usual,” she says.


4. Citrus Fruits: In addition to helping you ward off a nasty cold this season, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body absorb iron, another mineral that helps hair grow, Dahl says. Winter is the prime season for grapefruits, oranges, and limes, but you can also get a hit of vitamin C from broccoli, kiwi, and strawberries.


5. Beans and Whole Grains: The essential minerals zinc, selenium, and copper are probably already staples in your diet, and you don’t even realize it. Zinc, found in plant-based protein sources like kidney beans and chickpeas, and copper, in whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, are especially important for maintaining healthy hair follicles, Simpson says. “Certain beans also contain selenium, which creates an enzyme that can help protect hair from environmental pollutants,” Simpson adds. Essentially, go for that protein and veggie-packed grain bowl at lunchtime, and your hair should be pretty much good to go.

6. Avocado: We probably don’t need to instruct you to eat avocado, but here’s another reason why you can feel good about the choice to order avo toast with your mimosa: Your hair needs the vitamin E (one avocado has 28 percent of the recommended daily value of the vitamin). “Vitamin E is another antioxidant that helps maintain a healthy and hydrated scalp,” Dahl says. Not to mention, avocado is another great base for a hair mask, Linet K. adds, because the fatty acids act as a moisturizing agent for your scalp and roots.


7. Spinach: All the leafy greens — kale, microgreens, spinach, and more — are key for your iron intake, which helps not only your blood but also your hair too. “Iron is essential for red blood cell production, which fuels the scalp with oxygen and nutrients, and that can help prevent the thinning or loss of hair,” Simpson explains.


8. Bone Broth: Protein is one thing your hair really shouldn’t be deficient in, according to Dahl, and sipping on bone broth is a major source of the protein collagen. Along with helping hair grow and preventing pollution to hair follicles with its antioxidant properties, collagen has other potential benefits, like helping you maintain strong bones, smooth skin, and even gut health.

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Eating ‘ultraprocessed’ foods accelerates your risk of early death, study says

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Eating ‘ultraprocessed’ foods accelerates your risk of early death, study says


 According to new research from France: We face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat according to a study published online February 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“Ultraprocessed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes,” wrote the authors of the study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals,”
This trend may drive an increase of early deaths due to chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, they say.
In the United States, 61% of an adult’s total diet comes from ultraprocessed foods, in Canada, it is 62%, and in the UK, that proportion is 63%, a recent study found. Yet research also indicates that eating ultraprocessed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, the study authors say.
To understand the relationship between ultraprocessed foods and the risk of an earlier-than-expected death, the researchers enlisted the help of 44,551 French adults 45 and older for two years. Their average age was 57, and nearly 73% of the participants were women. All provided 24-hour dietary records every six months in addition to completing questionnaires about their health (including body-mass index and other measurements), physical activities and sociodemographics.
The researchers calculated each participant’s overall dietary intake and consumption of ultraprocessed foods.
Ultraprocessed foods accounted for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of total calories, they found. Ultraprocessed food consumption was associated with younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, higher BMI and lower physical activity level.
Over the study period, 602 participants died. After adjusting for factors such as smoking, the researchers calculated an associated 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed foods consumed.
Further studies are needed to confirm these results, the authors say. Still, they speculate that the additives, the packaging (chemicals leech into the food during storage) and the processing itself, including high-temperature processing, may be the factors that negatively affect health.
Why are people eating more of these processed foods?
“We are living in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We are always stretched for time,” Fitzgerald said. “People are looking for quick solutions, a quickly made meal. Yet such convenience may come at a cost. Accumulating evidence has linked ultraprocessed foods to increased risk for chronic diseases, including dyslipidemia, obesityhypertension, and cancer. Whether this leads to an increased risk for death has never been investigated before.
When selecting food, taste is the No. 1 factor for most consumers, she said, but price and convenience are also important, and with ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is “probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat.
JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 11, 2019. Abstract

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Expert panel advises against surgery for shoulder pain

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Expert panel advises against surgery for shoulder pain

Surgery for shoulder pain that isn’t caused by an injury has no better results than nonsurgical options or placebo surgery, and comes with potential harms, an expert panel has concluded.  One suggested treatment option is chiropractic.

The international panel of clinicians, researchers and patients focused only on what’s called rotator cuff disease, as opposed to rotator cuff injuries that result in a tendon tear in the joint, which can require surgery to repair.

Their recommendations are based on two systematic evidence reviews that included seven randomized controlled trials with 1,014 patients, one focusing on the benefits and harms of so-called decompression surgery for rotator cuff disease and the other looking at whether the surgery produced meaningful improvements in pain, movement and quality of life.

In people who have shoulder pain without an injury, the most likely cause is degeneration of the rotator cuff tendon, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Rudolf Poolman, an orthopedic surgeon scientist in the department of orthopedic surgery at OLVG in Amsterdam.

“In fact, there is no real evidence that surgery is beneficial for any type of tendinopathy in the human body,” Poolman said in an email. “Shoulder pain is multifactorial and also factors not related to the shoulder – such as psychological and social factors – are very important to take into account.”

When Poolman and his colleagues analyzed the evidence, they found that after a year, there was little difference between patients who got surgery and those who did not. For example, on a pain scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the greatest pain, the average pain rating among patients who got surgery was 2.6, compared with 2.9 among those who did not.

When it came to rating return of function, on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the best function, patients who had surgery rated their function at 72, on average, while those who didn’t have surgery rated theirs at 69.

Another factor in the panel’s decision was the risk of harmful side-effects from the surgery. These included death, infections, blood clots, anesthesia-related problems and a condition called frozen shoulder.

The best management for patients is some combination of physical therapy, exercise programs, chiropractic therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections, the guideline panel writes in The BMJ.

“Shoulder pain can be excruciating and patients do need support and compassion,” Poolman said. “The evidence shows that surgery works as well as a placebo surgery or physiotherapy. Surgeons should realize this and reassure the patient that the pain will subside eventually and that surgery has potential side effects that can make matters worse.”

“The tendon degenerates as we get older. We’re not sure exactly why that happens but all the tendons in the body get a little weaker as we get older,” said McFarland, who wasn’t involved with the guideline panel.
The new guideline may not only discourage doctors from offering the surgery, but may also make reimbursement from insurance companies less likely, said Dr. Charles Jobin, an orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.
There’s also a possibility of injury from the regional anesthesia used with the procedure, Jobin said. “About one in 10,000 or 100,000 ends up with a nerve injury or issue. It’s exceedingly rare, but when it does occur it can be devastating. You come in because of a painful shoulder and you end up with a weak arm, a numb thumb or a pain down your arm that doesn’t go away.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2GtO729 and bit.ly/2GftLue The BMJ, online February 6, 2019.

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More Evidence Links Gut Bacteria to Dementia

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More Evidence Links Gut Bacteria to Dementia


Depletion of certain gut bacteria, and an elevated level of other bacteria, are associated with an increased risk for dementia, a new study suggests.
“Although our study has numerous limitations, the results suggest that the gut microbiome could be a new target for the management of dementia,” study author Naoki Saji, MD, PhD, Vice Director, Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders, National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Japan, told Medscape Medical News.
Doctors should urge patients to “take care of their gut,” said Saji.
The gut microbiome refers to microorganisms that live in the digestive tract; there are about a thousand different species of bacteria, comprising trillions of cells. Recent research has correlated certain changes in gut bacteria with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, and studies have shown that changes in diet can alter gut bacteria.  
The study was presented here at the International Stroke Conference (ISC) 2019, and published online January 30 in Scientific Reports.
International Stroke Conference (ISC) 2019: Poster WP569. Presented February 6, 2019.
Scientific Reports. Published online January 30, 2019. Abstract. 

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Nearly Half of US Adults Have CVD — Mostly Hypertension

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Nearly Half of US Adults Have CVD — Mostly Hypertension


Nearly half of all adults in the United States in 2016 — 48% or 121.5 million — have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to the annual statistical update on heart disease and stroke from the American Heart Association (AHA).
This reported prevalence of CVD represents a significant increase over previous years. It was driven mainly by an increase in the number of people classified as having high blood pressure, after the 2017 guidelines redefined hypertension as 130/80 mm Hg, instead of the previous threshold of 140/90 mm Hg.
When adults with only a diagnosis of hypertension are excluded, the prevalence of CVD drops from 48% to 9%.
“That might seem like good news, but 9% of the US adult population represents more than 24.3 million Americans with coronary artery diseaseheart failure, or stroke,” Mariell Jessup, MD, AHA chief science and medical officer, said in a statement.
The AHA’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update was published online January 31 in Circulation.

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With self-compression, Women Suffer Less and Mammogram Quality Does not Suffer

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With self-compression, Women Suffer Less and Mammogram Quality Does not Suffer


There are many reasons women dislike mammograms, chief among them the awkward and often painful process of having their breasts squashed by a technician into a machine that flattens them for the images.


But a trial in France suggests that breast cancer screening might be just as effective and less unpleasant when women can control the compression device themselves.


“Our study did not report any decrease in image quality when self-compression was performed,” said lead study author Dr. Philippe Henrot of the Institut de Cancerologie de Lorraine Alexis Vautrin in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy.


For the study, researchers randomly assigned 548 women to either get mammograms that allowed them to place their breasts in the machines and control the compression themselves, or to get traditional mammograms with radiologists positioning women’s breasts.


The goal of compressing the breast is to make it as thin as possible so radiologists get a more detailed two-dimensional image that can make it easier to spot any abnormalities that might be cancer.


Two things can go wrong when the breast isn’t compressed enough in the mammogram machine. Either healthy tissues overlap in ways that make it appear as if there are potentially cancerous abnormalities and women get unnecessary invasive follow-up tests, or a real tumor is hidden behind healthy tissue and goes undetected.


In the current study, however, when women compressed their own breasts in the machine, they achieved breast thickness that was within 3 millimeters of what women typically had with the traditional mammogram process. That difference is too small to suggest that self-compression isn’t as good as traditional mammograms, the study authors conclude in JAMA Internal Medicine.


In fact, the researchers found that women compressed their own breasts a little bit more, on average, than radiologists did when they controlled the machines. But women also reported less pain when they handled compression themselves.


“Despite knowing the utility of mammograms, many women dread having this exam, because it can be uncomfortable or painful,” Henrot said by email. “Self-compression could be proposed as an alternative in women who dread having a mammogram.”


There was also no difference between the groups in the image quality of the mammograms or the number of additional images radiologists had to take.


One limitation of the study is that many participants had a personal or family history of breast cancer, which might make their experience different than that of other women, the study authors note.


The study also didn’t assess how much extra time it took to provide mammograms when technicians explained to women how to handle compression themselves. Time constraints might impact how many places could give women this option, the researchers point out.


While more research is still needed to show that self-compression is feasible, the results suggest that self-compression might be a way to make the mammogram experience more tolerable, said Dr. Deborah Korenstein of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.


“The benefit of letting women do it themselves is twofold: the main concept is that it will result in a less painful test, which will prevent women from avoiding future mammograms because of fear of discomfort,” Korenstein, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.


“It is also possible that women will actually tolerate more compression if they can control it themselves, which would lead to better quality images,” Korenstein added. “That has not been demonstrated but is certainly a possibility.”


While some women may indeed be less reluctant to get mammograms when the experience is more comfortable, it’s impossible to know whether self-compression could make a meaningful difference in the proportion of women who get screening mammograms, said Dr. Karsten Juhl Jorgensen, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Rigshospitalet, in Copenhagen, Denmark.


And discomfort during mammograms may not be the most important problem with breast screening to address, Jorgensen, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.


“There are much more important harms to consider than pain, for example the possibility to be diagnosed with cancer unnecessarily, a risk that is several-fold greater than the chance to reduce breast cancer mortality,” Jorgensen said.


SOURCE: bit.ly/2BnFrXR JAMA Internal Medicine, online February 4, 2019.

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Fat on the Body = Less Healthy Brains

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Drs. Oz and Roizen By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Obesity and your brain are not a happy couple

Feb 5, 2019

In Japan, most Sumo wrestlers weigh 300-400 pounds. While they’re professionally active, they follow a diet and workout routine that helps keep them surprisingly healthy, considering their girth. But once they stop training, they’re prone to Type 2 diabetes, high LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, and they have a life expectancy that’s 10 years shorter than the general population.


It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that sooner or later, being chronically obese is going to exact consequences. Belly fat and brains … if you got one, you’re losing the other!


In a study published in Neurology, researchers found that people with the highest body mass index and the highest waist-to-hip ratios (fat around the middle), had the lowest volume of brain gray matter. This matter contains most of the brain’s nerve cells, memory transmission centers and synapses


People with a BMI of 30 or above and a waist-to-hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females had an average gray matter brain volume of 786 cubic centimeters. Folks with healthy BMIs and waist-to-hip ratios had an average volume of gray matter of 798 cubic centimeters. 


Just being overweight, even without a huge belly, is associated with a smaller hippocampal memory-relay center.


Such gray-matter shrinkage puts you at risk for dementia! So, let this be the year that you’re summa (not Sumo) cum laude about your health! 

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Six ‘Obesity-Related’ Cancers on Rise in US Young Adults

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Six ‘Obesity-Related’ Cancers on Rise in US Young Adults


In the United States from 1995 to 2014, the incidence of six of 12 obesity-related malignancies increased among “young” adults (25-49 years), according to a new observational study.
However, the incidences for these cancers — except for colorectal cancer —also rose in older adults (50 years or older), acknowledge the authors, led by Hyuna Sung, PhD, cancer epidemiologist and principal scientist, Surveillance and Health Services Research Program at the American Cancer Society. The study was published online today in The Lancet Public Health.
But the young adults, who were the focus of the study, had larger annual percentage increases than the older adults.
In young adults, the six obesity-related cancers that increased in incidence in were multiple myeloma, colorectal, uterine corpus, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer.
On the other hand, the six obesity-related cancers that did not increase in young people were breast, esophageal, gastric cardia, liver and intrahepatic bile duct, thyroid, and ovarian.
Despite the findings, the study is not evidence of a causal relationship between obesity and cancer.
Furthermore, an expert not involved with the study questioned the concept of “obesity-related” cancers.
“The obesity­–cancer story is far from clear and while the authors selected cancers that might be obesity related, they also might be related to other factors not considered that may be changing over time but that were not examined,” Ruth Etzioni, PhD, a biostatistician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told Medscape Medical News.
Lead author Sung commented at length about food quality as a possible contributor to the newly found trends: “Obesity is associated with health conditions that can contribute to the risk of cancer. For example, diabetes, gallstones, inflammatory bowel disease, and poor diet can all increase the burden of cancer,” she said. “The quality of the American diet also has worsened in recent decades. More than half of adults who were 20 to 49 years old between 2010 to 2012 reported poor dietary habits, such as eating little fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and shellfish at the same time as eating too much salt, fast food, and sugary drinks.”
The study was funded by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. The study authors, editorialists, and Etzioni have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Lancet Public Health. Published online February 4, 2019. Full textEditorial

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