Prunes help to combat obesity and curb hunger, new research reveals

Eating a small portion of prunes daily can help weight loss and decrease appetite, according to new findings from the University of Liverpool.

The research also reveals that prunes contain no more sugar than a plum, its fresh fruit equivalent.

The study showed that including a modest portion of prunes as part of a weight loss diet, produced significant changes in body weight and waist size. There was also a trend for the prune eaters to achieve greater weight loss during the last four weeks of the study and long term effects on appetite were also observed.

CA Dried Plum finals

The researchers concluded that including prunes into weight control diets may be of benefit to long-term success, by tackling hunger and satisfying appetite.

CA Dried Plum finals

Natural dried fruits
Dieters have tended to shy away from dried fruits believing them to be higher in sugar than fresh. This perception has been reinforced by the introduction of dried fruits with added sugar, such as cranberries and fruit juice infused dried fruits. But traditional dried fruits, such as prunes, are simply dried plums, with the same natural sugar content as their fresh counterparts and no added sugar. One plum becomes one prune, water removed, so the calorie content remains the same.

Plums beneficial to teeth and gums
Another concern about snacking on dried fruit, is dental health. Cariogenic bacteria utilise sucrose to produce harmful acids and dental plaque, yet sucrose is minimal in prunes (0.15g/100g), the main sugars being fructose and glucose. California prunes also contain 26.5% carbohydrate as non-fermentable sorbitol, which is used widely in chewing gums for its low cariogenicity. Research on prunes is confirming that they contain certain bioactive compounds with antimicrobial properties, capable of inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease

Professor Jason Halford and Dr Jo Harrold, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, Liverpool University, presented initial results at the 2014 European Congress on Obesity , having assessed the effects of prunes on weight and appetite by studying 100 overweight and obese low fibre consumers – 74 women and 26 men; 43 years; BMI 29.8 in a 12-week study. All subjects received the same standard dietetic weight loss advice, plus the prune intervention group were provided with 140g/d (171g for men) prunes for snacks, whereas the active control group were advised on healthy snacks.

The study showed that including prunes as part of a weight loss intervention, produced significant changes in body weight (1.99kg/2.4%; p<0.000) and waist circumference (2.5cm/2.3%; p<0.000) from baseline. There was a trend for the prune eaters to achieve greater weight loss during the last four weeks of the study and enduring effects on appetite were also observed with AUC (area under the curve) analysis demonstrating increased fullness in the prune group after week 8 (p=0.05). It is worth noting too that study compliance was good and, despite the high daily doses, the prunes were well tolerated. The researchers concluded that including prunes into weight control diets may be of benefit to long-term success, by tackling hunger and satisfying appetite.

Women witth fatter tums better able to deal with stress

Salt Lake City: Women who have extra fat around their middle may enjoy significant health advantages over slimmer hourglass-shaped females, says a 37-nation study in the journal, Current Anthropology.

Elizabeth Cashdan, a Utah University anthropologist, says that being thinner could mean missing out on the hormones that make women physically stronger, more competitive and better able to deal with stress.

Her study shows that across the world, women’s average waist-to-hip ratio is higher than the magic number of 0.7, the upper threshold of a classic hourglass figure – and the shape that anthropologists believe indicate female fertility to the opposite sex.

It is thought that bigger women have more androgens, a class of hormones that includes testosterone.Androgens increase the waist-to-hip ratio in women by boosting levels of visceral fat, which is carried around the waist. Raised levels of androgens are linked to increased strength, stamina and competitiveness in women, says Cashdan.

Trading the benefits of a thin waist for better ability to be independently resourceful may prove a good deal in many societies, she adds – and this in turn may alter male preferences.

Thus, in Japan, Portugal and Greece, where women tend to be less economically independent, the men say they place a higher value on a thin waist than do men in Britain or Denmark, where there tends to be more sexual equality.

And in some non-Western societies where food is scarce and women bear most of the responsibility for finding it, men prefer larger waist-to-hip ratios.

“Whether men prefer a waist-to-hip ratio associated with lower or higher androgen levels should depend on the degree to which they want their mates to be strong, tough, economically successful and politically competitive,” says Cashdan .

Does TV violence make you eat more?

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Rotterdam: TV violence triggers an increase in hunger, according to new research.

According to Dirk Smeesters, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, people who are thinking about their own deaths want to consume more.

In a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, “The Sweet Escape: Effects of Mortality Salience on Consumption Quantities for High- and Low-Self-Esteem Consumers”, Dirk Smeesters and co-author Naomi Mandel (Arizona State University) reveal that “consumers, especially those with a faced with images of death during the news or their favorite crime-scene investigation shows.”

Smeesters and Mandel conducted experiments in Europe and the United States on 746 subjects who wrote either about their own death or a visit to the dentist (the control group). The findings revealed that consumers with low self-esteem writing about their death ate more cookies and listed more items on a hypothetical shopping list compared to those who wrote about the dentist. Similar effects were obtained by subliminally presenting the word ‘death’ to consumers and exposing them to death-related news.

Smeesters and Mandel explain this effect using a theory called ‘escape from self-awareness’. When people are reminded of their inevitable mortality, they may start to feel uncomfortable about what they have done with their lives and whether they have made a significant mark on the universe. This is a state called ‘heightened self-awareness.’ One way to deal with such an uncomfortable state is to escape from it, by either overeating or overspending.

Follow-up research found that death-related news can not only increase consumersÂ’ consumption behavior, but can also affect their preferences for domestic and foreign brands. More specifically, consumers who were exposed to death-related news (e.g. a news report about a fatal car crash) had more positive preferences for domestic brands, but more negative preferences for foreign brands compared to consumers not exposed to such news.

These effects were obtained because thinking about death made consumers more patriotic. These studies clearly demonstrated the potential negative effects of advertising foreign brands shortly after the broadcast of death-related programs on television.

About Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

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