Quick Studies: A snapshot of the latest research on diet, exercise, and more

Always Room for Dessert?

Does a small entrée lead to a big dessert? Researchers asked 74 people to eat as much of an entrée (macaroni and cheese) and a dessert (ice cream) as they wanted.

On four subsequent occasions, the scientists shrunk each participant’s entrée to 90 percent, 85 percent, 80 percent, or 75 percent of the amount that he or she had eaten on the first day.

People averaged 360 calories’ worth of the entrée on the first day and only 250 calories on the 75-percent day. Nevertheless, on all five days they ate roughly the same amount—about 95 calories’ worth—of dessert.

What to do: Keep in mind that you may not compensate for small—or large—serving sizes. While a smaller entrée may not lead to a maxi-dessert, other studies suggest that a larger entrée may not lead to a mini-dessert.

Appetite 2020. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2020.104684.

LUTS Move!

Staying active may help prevent lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) like increased urgency and frequency in men.

Scientists tracked 25,725 men for up to18 years. The most active men had the lowest risk of moderate or worse LUTS. But even those whose activity was equal to 2½ hours of brisk walking a week had a lower risk than those who did less.

What to do: Keep moving. This kind of study can’t prove that staying active prevents LUTS, but it’s good for your heart, brain, muscles, and more.

J. Gen. Intern. Med. 2020. doi:10.1007/s11606-020-05814-1.

Olive Oil & the Heart

Olive oil is linked to a lower risk of heart disease in the Mediterranean region. Is the same true in the United States, even though we eat far less?

Researchers tracked roughly 93,000 Americans for 24 years. Those who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil a day had an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who consumed olive oil less than once a month. Blood markers of inflammation were also lower in olive oil eaters.

The risk of heart disease was no lower for olive oil than for other plant oils like soy or canola.

What to do: Replace saturated fats like butter with unsaturated oils. (Second best: tub margarines. Stick margarines are higher in sat fat.) This kind of study can’t prove that olive oil or other unsaturated fats prevents heart attacks, but it fits with clear evidence that unsaturated fats lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 75: 1729, 2020.

Weight & Memory

Are thin people at greater risk for dementia, as studies have suggested?

Scientists tracked 1.1 million women for 18 years. Early in the study, those who started out underweight (or close to it) were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those with a healthy weight. But that link nearly disappeared after 18 years, suggesting that thinness was an early sign—not a cause—of memory loss.

After 18 years, women who started out with obesity had a 41 percent higher risk of vascular dementia (often caused by mini-strokes)—but no higher risk of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease—than those who started out with a healthy weight.

What to do: Aim for a healthy weight.

Neurology 2020. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000008779.

Photos (top to bottom): stock.adobe.com: Yakobchuk Olena, digitalskillet1, DragonImages, Monkey Business.