The world’s oldest person, Jiroemon Kimura, passed away last week at the age of 116. The Guardian looks at how diet in Japan contributes to longevity.

Aside from rice and green tea, the octogenarians share other perennials in their diets: miso soup, drunk regularly but in small quantities due to its high salt content, and nimono, a low-calorie dish of vegetables simmered in mirin, soy sauce and cooking sake.

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Macrobiotics for All Seasons book extract

Read an extract from Macrobiotics for All Seasons, which provides recipes that make eating a diet in tune with the seasons of the year rewarding for your health, as well as the environment. This approach to a healthy and sustainable diet reflects ancient folk wisdom from the Far East and up-to-date nutritional science from the West.

Based on forward-thinking dietary principles, macrobiotics aims to help improve health, increase energy levels and combat specific health conditions. 

FHT members: click here to log on and read the extract, which includes recipes for a healthy diet in the summer

Image: Lotus Publishing

Researchers at the University of Warwick have found a way to produce chocolate, using agar, that reduces its fat by half.

A report at an American Chemical Society meeting described a method using the popular gelling agent agar to make tiny “sponges” that displace fat.

University of Warwick researchers said water, fruit juice or even alcohol could replace up to half the fat.

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A recent study from the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina, reports that Tweeting may aid weight loss.

The researchers point out that actively using Twitter was associated with greater weight loss, and that participants mainly used Twitter to provide “informational support”, largely in the form of status updates.

They argue that further studies are needed to find engaging and useful ways of providing social support for participants in remotely-delivered weight loss programmes.

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Image: Twitter

The Daily Mail reports on how families use coconut oil to ease Alzheimer’s.

Professor Clarke, an expert on the way the body makes and uses energy, believes coconut oil and similar compounds might help by boosting the brain’s energy supply.

Most of the time our brains rely on glucose from carbohydrates, but if that isn’t available — because we haven’t eaten anything for a while or because we’re eating almost no carbohydrates — then our brain cells can switch to using the energy from our fat stores.

This energy comes in the form of small molecules called ketones.

As Professor Clarke explains: ‘Coconut oil contains a lot of a particular sort of fat that our bodies can use to make more of the ketone “brain food”.

‘It’s known as MCT (medium chain triglycerides) and it’s not found in the fats most of us eat.’ 

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A new study by researchers from The Ohio State University, the University of California, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, USA, and Karl-Franzens University, Austria, has reported that a high-fat diet and/or lack of oestrogen increases the formation of visceral fat.

There seems to be a switch in females, through Aldh1, between the breakdown and storage of fat.

After the menopause, the lack of oestrogen may mean that the body breaks down less fat and stores more, which may account for the weight gain many women experience during the menopause.

NHS news 

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The Sri Lankan government has drawn up a healthy menu for monks, as reported by BBC News Asia. This new healthy menu follows a reported increase in diet-related diseases due to the high cholesterol content of offerings from Buddhist devotees.

Traditionally monks do not cook and depend on donations given by devotees.

The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Colombo says on some occasions monks are given five-course meals.

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‘The Great Christmas Stuffing!’ from the British Dietetic Association (BDA)

The average person in the UK will consume around 6,000 calories (kcals) on Christmas day alone (versus the guideline daily amount of 2,000 kcals for women and 2,500 kcals for men)! 

In addition to this, over the festive period, which seems to kick off earlier and earlier, the average person may consume an extra 500 kcals per day, equating to a weight gain of around 5lb by the time January the first comes around.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is on hand to highlight some handy tips to ensure the only thing that gets really stuffed this Christmas is the turkey!

Prepare, plan and perform! If you are going to eat out, eat smaller meals beforehand and cut out any other treats beforehand. While we all like to enjoy the odd treat now and then, balance this with some healthy options, such as satsumas pilled high in a bowl, dried fruit, figs and nuts.

Buffet abundance! Don’t hover by the buffet table and if you do indulge, try and visit only once using a smaller dessert sized plate, avoiding the high saturated fat offerings like sausage rolls and quiche, in favour of fruit, skinless chicken and vegetable crudités. 

Office offerings! To avoid the office communal chocolate/mince pies etc. Take festive fruit like satsumas into work.

Supermarket splash! When going to the supermarket, make a list and stick to it. Avoid those aisles of temptation. If you want some festive snacks, try plain popcorn, pretzels, and vegetable crudités with a yummy low fat dip.

A bird in the hand..! Turkey is a great source of protein and a low fat meat. Most of the fat that is present in a cooked turkey will be found in the skin. Why not take the skin off before you tuck in?

Proportionate portions! About a third of your dinner plate should be vegetables, such as unbuttered Brussels sprouts, peas and carrots. Cook for the shortest length of time possible in the smallest amount of water necessary to keep all the nutrients in. Use the veg water for gravy and any leftover veg for a delicious soup. These make a great contribution to your 5-a-day and they also help fill you up to stop the urge to snack between meals.

Healthy helpings! If you want to go that extra step, try dry roasting potatoes on a non-stick baking sheet or use an oil spray instead of smothering them in goose fat. You can also make your gravy using vegetable water instead of meat juices, accompanied by a fruit-based stuffing with bread sauce made with low fat milk.

Tempting tipples! Those who like to indulge in a drink or two, tend to drink more over the Christmas period. Alcohol is very energy dense (7kcal/g versus 4kcal/g for protein or carbs and 9kcal/g for fat). Avoid sweet cocktails and creamy liquers. Try alternating your drink with a glass of water or other calorie free drinks. If you do enjoy a short with a mixer, stock up on low calorie mixers and unsweetened fruit juices and beware the home measures!

Who ate all the pies! The average mince pie contains about 250 kcals and that’s before it’s covered in cream or brandy butter. Remove the lid to cut kcals. Christmas is also the time of year when most houses have boxes and boxes of chocolates and biscuits to hand. Open one box of chocolates at a time rather than having five on the go and put unopened boxes away. 

Sian Porter, consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA, commented:

“Christmas should be a time to enjoy festive fun and special food. You shouldn’t feel guilty about treats

now and then but don’t make it an ‘eatathon’ that lasts from the end of November to the beginning of January. Make sure that they are treats and not the whole sum of your food intake. Stock up on some healthy alternatives too for some balance.

“This time of year, it is so easy to unwittingly consume a lot more calories than normal. Make plans to get yourself and the family active – dancing, shopping and post-meal walks all will help to burn off some calories.

“Have a Very Happy (and Healthy) Christmas.”

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The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has announced the results of its annual top 5 worst celebrity diets to avoid in the New Year.

January signals a UK-wide dieting frenzy. People up and down the country will be scouring the internet, book shops and magazines searching for the magical quick fix, or even a long-term solution to undo the damage of the festive season or to achieve their best body ever. 

The BDA has heard it all: the good, the bad, the weird and the whacky. Here, in the opinion of the BDA, are the top 5 celebrity diets to avoid in 2013

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