Health Buzz: Alpha-Carotene Linked to Longer, Healthier Life

Think more protein, fewer carbs to maintain weight loss; for health benefits, try tai chi.

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Antioxidant in Orange Fruits and Vegetables Tied to Health Benefits

Go orange, at least when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Eating plentiful amounts of carrots, tangerines, and yes, even pumpkin pie may reward you with certain health benefits, new research suggests. People with high blood levels of alpha-carotene—an antioxidant found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables—live longer and are less like to die of heart disease and cancer than those with little or none of it in their bloodstream, according to a study that will be published in the March issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. During a 14-year trial, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that those with the highest concentrations of alpha-carotene were nearly 40 percent less likely to have died during the study than those with the lowest. Participants with medium levels, meanwhile, were 27 percent less likely to have died. But don't start popping alpha-carotene supplements, if you find them on drugstore shelves. Study authors say more research is needed to determine exactly how alpha-carotene-rich foods protect your health.

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  • Think More Protein, Fewer Carbs to Maintain Weight Loss

    It's a sad, well-worn fact that 90 percent of folks who lose weight fail to keep the pounds off. That abysmal success rate has left nutritionists scrambling to figure out how to help dieters maintain their weight loss without feeling like they have to stay on a "diet" in perpetuity, writes U.S. News's Deborah Kotz. Well, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine may provide a template for post-dieters to follow. It turns out, those who fill their plates with more protein and fewer processed carbohydrates—not all carbs are created equal—are better able to maintain their weight loss than those who eat a similar number of calories but shun protein for pasta, bagels, and bread. Processed carbs, often packed with sugar and white flour, fall into the category of high-glycemic index foods because they cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, which promotes the storage of body fat. "The results indicate that even a modest increase in dietary protein or a modest reduction in glycemic-index values was sufficient to minimize weight regain and promote further weight loss in obese patients after a successful weight-loss diet," write the Danish study authors.

    The study included nearly 800 overweight volunteers who lost an average of 23 pounds by following a low-calorie diet and were then randomly assigned to one of several eating plans in an effort to prevent weight regain over six months. Weight regain was less in those assigned to eat higher amounts of protein and "low-glycemic index" carbohydrates like high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains compared to those who were told to eat less protein and more high-glycemic index foods like white rice, French fries, and sugary cereal. Those who ate more protein also were more likely to continue losing weight than those who ate mostly carbohydrates, even the unprocessed ones. [Read more: Think More Protein, Fewer Carbs to Maintain Weight Loss.]

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    • For Health Benefits, Try Tai Chi

      The gentle, 2,000-year-old Chinese practice of tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion." But the Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter suggests a more apt description is "medication in motion," Courtney Rubin writes for U.S. News.

      Tai chi, the most famous branch of Qigong, or exercises that harness the qi (life energy, pronounced "chee"), has been linked to health benefits for virtually everyone from children to seniors. Researchers aren't sure exactly how, but studies show that tai chi improves the quality of life for breast cancer patients and Parkinson's sufferers. Its combination of martial arts movements and deep breathing can be adapted even for people in wheelchairs. And it has shown promise in treating sleep problems and high blood pressure.