To Juice or Not To Juice?

The juice cleanse craze is crazier than ever! Celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Beyoncé (just to name a few), college students, and health advocators are all promoting it. Nonetheless, juicing is a controversial topic, with many pros and cons. But DiSH lab is ready to dig through literatures to find out all we can about juice cleanses.

First, we need to address what is the juice cleanse and why does it attract the public? A juice cleanse is a detox diet that consist of consuming only the juice of raw vegetables and fruits for a limited amount of time. Juice cleansing is supposed to detoxify the digestive system. Doing so, involves several benefits such as weight loss, increase energy, increase mental clarity, better sleep, and improve complexion.  If juice cleanses do exactly what they are set out to do, then it is no wonder that the market for juicing companies skyrocketed within the past few years. However, in a small study done by Dr. Roman Huber, one week of juicing did show an immediate decrease in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), but the levels returned to normal just one week later. So, is juicing really as effective as they are claimed to be? (see: Huber Juice Fasting)

Glenn Braunstein, MD, professor and chairman of the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and other experts explained that our bodies are natural detoxifiers and do not need other methods of “cleansing.” Registered dietitian, Jennifer Nelson, also argues that juicing eliminates important nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants from in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables. Because fiber is eliminated in the juicing process, the body is more likely to absorb fructose, which may affect blood sugar levels, according to Food Republic. But, others like Cathy Wong, a naturopathic doctor, certified nutrition specialist, and author of The Inside Out Diet, suggests that detoxes may help you get rid of unhealthy eating habits and aid in establishing healthier habits after the cleanse. However, most professionals agree that juicing does not produce any lasting results in weight loss.

The question ultimately comes down to whether to juice or not to juice. Remember that even though a product contains only natural or organic ingredients, it does not necessarily means that it is safe for your body. It is important to do your research before you dive into anything that might have potential harm to your body. Each of us and our bodies are unique. Some may benefit from juicing, while others do not. Juicing may be especially dangers to those with diabetes, cancer, anemia, intestinal obstruction, gallstones, or people who are underweight or with a history of eating disorders and should consult with their doctor before going on any kind of diet.

And last but not least, we have to ask ourselves, is there really any difference between a juice cleanse and a low calorie diet? If not, it might not be worth your time since, as the DiSH Lab knows, low calorie dieting just doesn’t work in the long term.

DiSH Lab Taking Over the SPSP Preconference!

The DiSH lab is extremely excited to be attending the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) this February 13th-15th, 2014 in Austin, Texas!

The Social, Personality, and Health Network Preconference today will cover various topics regarding physiological and health effects on emotions, stress, attitudes and behaviors, as well as a discussion of the current genetic factors and its role in social, personality, and health research. The SPHN preconference is a big deal for DiSH lab this year because not only is Dr. T co-chairing the preconference, but also all of DiSH lab’s students will be presenting their own research at the Data Blitz (See below for DiSH student’s research topics)!

What is the Data Blitz, you ask? Well, the Student Data Blitz gives students the opportunity to present their research findings for 2 minutes on 2 slides. The program also offer a $500 travel award to students with the most outstanding Blitz submission. Who could that be, you ask? None other than DiSH Lab collaborating student, Jeff Hunger of UCSB! As if that’s not enough good news, Traci Mann (Dr. T’s advisor from grad school) is now the Social Personality & Health Network (SPHN) president, and Dr. T will continue her position as Co-Chair next year!


DiSH Students’ Research Topics:

Britt– Life History Theory and Weight
Laura– Comfort Eating and Stress
Angela– Weight Salience and Food Choice
Jenna– Stress Tolerance and Health in College Students Versus Drug Addicts
Jeff– Weight Labeling and Adult Obesity
Mary– Masculinity and Perceptions of Doctor Competence and Patient Honesty



(Visit SPHN website for schedule and more info)

Is Eating More Psychological Than Biological?

A recent article in UCLA’s Total Wellness Magazine titled “Mind Over Stomach: The Psychology of Eating,” discusses various ways that our environment influences how much we earn and drink. As it turns out, our physiological drive is not the only powerhouse controlling our stomach. Environmental, social, and perceptual factors such as music, family, and plate sizes all influence the amount and type of food we consume. This fun and “digestible” article guides the reader through several fascinating food studies about size-contrast illusion, the variety effect, and the salience principle (just to name a few) and other phenomena that affect how and what we eat. Whether you are trying to eat more or eat less, being aware of these sneaky influencers is important for maintaining a healthy and mindful diet.

Of course, I saved the best part last. This fabulous piece is written by our very own DiSH Lab RA, Allison Newell, and reviewed by Dr. T!

You can find this article in the Total Wellness issue “Building Blocks of Health” on Page 21.

Total Wellness

iVillage Joins the DiSH Lab Press Coverage

The third time is the charm! Both Dr. T’s papers on long-term effects of dieting and relationships between weight loss and health outcomes are cited in iVillage’s recent article titled “BTW, That Recent Study About How Fat People Die Sooner Is Totally Bogus.” A recent media spread around research claiming that fat people die earlier than thin people caught the article’s author Ragen Chastain’s, attention, in which she referred to Dr. T’s research to question the credibility of this claim. Dr. T’s research found that there is insignificant support that dieting will result in lasting weight loss and that weight loss correlates with better health. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people; therefore, it is better to say that behavior, not weight, is a greater indicator of health outcomes.

The passage below is from the original article:

“Mann and Tomiyama’s study, though better designed, has received only a fraction of the attention.  I call this a Galileo issue…like the idea that the sun revolved around the Earth, the idea that anyone who tries hard enough can lose weight and that weight loss will lead to better health is widely believed, fervently supported, and heresy to question.”

To read the full text, click here.

Dr. T on RWJF Website!

Dr. T is on a roll with the press!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) website features our very own DiSH Lab Director, Dr. T, and acknowledged her recent Society of Behavioral Medicine’s 2013 Early Career Investigator Award (Congratulations too, Dr. T!). The award recognizes Dr. T’s paper on racial disparities in chronic psychological stress and body mass index (BMI) among girls between the ages of 10 and 19. The study looked into the disparities of 2,400 Black and White girls, and found that stress correlates with higher BMI levels. Furthermore, this correlation is more prevalent in Black girls than it is in White girls.

To read more about Dr. T’s interview with the Human Capital Blog, visit the original website.

Newest DiSH Paper Picked Up By

Three cheers for Dr. T, her grad school advisor Traci Mann, and DiSH Lab grad student Britt Ahlstrom on their latest research spotlight in, the award-winning online news website! debunks the relationship between weight loss and health outcomes with the help of Dish Lab’s research on the long-term effects of dieting. Many people associate weight loss with better health, but this DiSH Lab research shows that there are actually minimal health benefits. Weight change has no correlation with improved cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. In all, if you’re looking to improve your health, it’s better to stick to healthy habits such as exercising and eating fresh fruits and veggies! To read more, see the original Salon Website!


Research that Changed Research: Anti-Fat Bias Among Obesity Specialists

In honor of the fact that Dr. T, Angela, and Laura traveled to  Atlanta last week to attend the Obesity Society’s Annual meeting at Obesity Week 2013, today’s article covers a study performed there over a decade ago.

Weight bias and discrimination has been found in many professional settings, especially with regards to employment, salary, and promotion decisions. However, the prevalence of weight bias among health professionals in medical care institutions is a growing concern.  If weight bias exists in health professionals, then is the increase in obesity-related health problems associated with the reluctance of obese patients to seek health care and poor treatment adherence and outcomes?

Back in 2000, Dr. Marlene B. Schwartz and Dr. Kelly Brownell and their colleagues administered the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) and a self-report questionnaire of explicit attitudes to 389 clinicians and researchers who were present at the international obesity conference in 2001. Research has confirmed that the IAT is a valid measure to predict prejudice behaviors towards a particular group.  This word classification task is a timed procedure where subjects are given a list of words and asked to sort them into a good or bad category. In this situation, the subjects were given words that corresponded to thin or fat people (See Figure 1 below). Participants then completed measures of explicit bias, indicating how positively or negatively they felt in general toward overweight and thin people respectively.

Figure 1

The results indicated that the obesity specialists in study exhibited a significant implicit anti-fat bias. The passage below is from the original article:

“Health professionals exhibited a significant pro thin, anti-fat implicit bias on the IAT. In addition, the subjects significantly endorsed the implicit stereotypes of lazy, stupid, and worthless using the IAT…Characteristics significantly predictive of lower levels of implicit anti-fat bias include being male, older, having positive emotional outlook on life, weighing more, having friends who are obese, and indicating an understanding of the experience of obesity.”

So what brought the DiSH Lab to Obesity Week? We wanted to find out whether how the prevalence has changed over the past ten years since the original iteration of this study using the exact same procedure among the same population of individuals. Is weight bias among obesity specialists increasing, or is this one domain where weight stigma may not be flourishing? Stay tuned for results of our 10-year follow-up study. 

Research that Changed Research: Who will live longest: Underweight, Overweight, or Obese?

The prevalence of obesity and its association with health issues has been a growing concern in the United States. Many people are aware that obesity and overweight increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and disabilities. However, is the hype about obesity distracting us from health outcomes at other BMI levels?

Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D, and her colleagues looked further into the association of body weight and excess mortality through reports from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. By using baseline data from past surveys, researchers were able to estimate the deaths of U.S. individuals who are classified as underweight, overweight, and obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI) levels. Body mass index was calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. The BMI categories are as follows: underweight (BMI <18.5), overweight (BMI 25 to <30), and obesity (BMI ≥30).

The table below shows the risk of mortality at each BMI level broken down by age groups.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 9.27.57 PM

Dr. Flegal found that underweight and obesity increase the likelihood of mortality compared to those with normal BMI levels. However, improvements in medical care and cardiovascular treatment has led to a decrease in morality rates of obese individuals. These results are consistent with the increase in life expectancy in the United States. The passage below is from the original article:

“We did not find overweight (BMI 25 to <30) to be associated with increased mortality in any of the 3 surveys. Our results are similar to those of a previous analysis of NHANES I and II data that found little effect of overweight on life expectancy… In many studies, a plot of the relative risk of mortality against BMI follows a U-shaped curve, with the minimum mortality close to a BMI of 25; mortality increases both as BMI increases above 25 and as BMI decreases below 25, which may explain why risks in the overweight category are not much different from those in the normal weight category.”

The results from this study demonstrates the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. It is also important to note that not only is there an increase in excess mortality for obesity,  but also for underweight. And the most ground-breaking part of this study is that it seems that the lowest mortality risk falls somewhere between overweight and OBESE! Dr. Flegal’s research findings have inspired the DiSH Lab to reconsider BMI as a reliable marker of someone’s health – according to this study, it just isn’t.

Research that Changed Research: Stress and Telomere Length

Take a look at the United States Presidents (See photos). From the start of their term to the end, their appearances change dramatically. This is a perfect demonstration of how in just 4 to 8 years, chronic stress contributes to years of aging on the skin, gray hairs, drooping eyes, wrinkles, and even balding spots. It is obvious that being the President of the United States is not an easy job. But, why does psychological stress cause premature aging and health issues? Researchers discovered three possible ways of cell aging: immune cell function or distribution, oxidative stress, or telomerase activity.

Dr. Elissa S. Epel and her research team hypothesized that stress gets “under the skin” through the modulation of the rate of cellular aging. Evidence showed that long-term stress is significantly associated with increased oxidative stress, reduction in telomerase activity, and shorten telomere length. Therefore, to test their hypothesis, 58 premenopausal mothers were examined and separated into two categories: the control mothers (biological mothers of a healthy child) or caregiving mothers (biological mothers of a chronically ill child). The intention of the study was to indicate the importance of perceived stress of each mother and measure the objective stress. The average length and activity of the telomeres were measured quantitatively in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).

The following passage is from the original article:

“It is also notable that, in women, self-reported distress has been related to greater oxidative DNA damage (8-OH-dG) (12). Oxidative stress shortens telomeres in cells cultured in vitro (10). Our findings that perceived and chronic stress correlated with higher oxidative stress and shorter telomere length demonstrate this relationship cross-sectionally for the first time in vivo. Lastly, if the observed lowered telomerase activity represents chronic levels, it too could have contributed to the shortened telomeres in PBMCs.”

Dr. Epel’s research on the impact of psychological stress on telomere length opened the door to new interventions that may help lower perceived stress to help decrease the rate of telomere shortening. The prevention of telomere shortening is important in cell senescence and longevity, and therefore, helps to increase mortality rates and deterrence of diseases. Dr. Epel’s research findings reintroduce the importance of stress and its detrimental effects on health and guide DiSH lab’s own stress-related studies.

De-gendering eating disorders… round 2!

Read this sentence, “The victim of sexual harassment also had a history of eating disorders.” I bet you thought the “victim” was a woman. Despite society’s tendency to associate sexual harassment and eating disorders with women, these are not purely “female” issues, a topic that our blog has covered before in this previous post.

There is a wealth of research on sexual harassment and eating disorders separately, particularly focusing on women. This fascinating study from the University of Michigan though was the first to investigate a potential relationship between sexual harassment and eating disorders. Findings revealed that while women report greater sexual harassment and respond to sexual harassment with greater shape and weight concerns, men are significantly more likely to engage in purge-type behaviors (like vomiting or taking laxatives) when they experience high levels of sexual harassment. These findings are yet more evidence of the societal trend in where men are increasingly suffering from eating disorders, a particularly worrisome issue considering that most treatment and prevention programs are specifically tailored to women.