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'Health-Conscious' Californians Still Need to Trim Fat

August 02, 1988|KATHLEEN DOHENY

When it comes to reducing fat intake, identified last week as the nation's No. 1 dietary priority by the U.S. surgeon general, Californians still have a way to go.

Despite a reputation for being health conscious, Californians eat more fat than the national norm and are more likely to be obese than the nation's leanest residents in Hawaii and Utah, said a state dietitian.

"A 1985 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey shows that Californians and other Western state respondents get 38% of their total calories from fat," said Susan Foerster, chief of the nutrition and cancer prevention program for the California Department of Health Services in Sacramento. The national norm is 37%; the recommended limit 30%.

In another ongoing 26-state survey to determine the prevalence of such health risks as obesity, California tied for third place, with 18% of respondents reporting weights 120% above the ideal. (Also in third place: New York, Minnesota, Idaho and Florida.) Faring worst was West Virginia, with 24%.

At a news briefing last Thursday, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said: "Of greatest concern is our excessive intake of dietary fat and its relationship to risk for chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, some types of cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and obesity."

Myth of Abandoned Parents

It's a myth that adult children abandon their elderly parents, say two UC Berkeley researchers who studied the relationships of 425 old people and their children.

"On the average, elderly parents are in contact with a child once or twice a week," said Dorothy Field, a research psychologist at the university's Institute of Human Development. Field and Meredith Minkler, professor of public health at the institute, reported their findings recently in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

The researchers also found:

--Social contacts outside the family declined among both parents in the very-old category (85 and older) and among men in both the very-old and the old-old category (age 74-84).

For the latter age group, decreased mobility may minimize social activities, Field reasoned. And older men, along with younger men, she speculated, may not be as apt as women to initiate social contacts. Many of the old-old subjects have lost long-term friends to death, she added, and may not have yet developed deep friendships with others.

--Parents' satisfaction with their children increased over time, partly due to appreciation for their offsprings' care giving and concern, Field believes.

Corn Bran and Cholesterol

Corn bran can reduce blood cholesterol by 20% and has about one-fourth the calories of wheat bran, new research shows.

For the study, reported in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn., seven people with high cholesterol levels ate corn bran for 12 weeks, said Aaron M. Altschul, professor emeritus of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. The subjects' average cholesterol level of nearly 300 milligrams per tenth of a liter of blood declined to about 250, although one subject's cholesterol rose. (Those with levels of 240 to 260 milligrams are considered at moderate risk; those with levels above 260 at high risk.)

After supplementation was stopped, cholesterol levels returned to initial levels within 20 weeks.

The Runner's Edge

Runners concerned about performance may want to avoid donating blood for a month or so before competing, a San Diego exercise physiologist suggests.

Christopher Sadler, an exercise specialist at Sharp Memorial Hospital, studied the effects of blood donations on runners' performance as part of his master's thesis at San Diego State. Twenty subjects were blindfolded and had hypodermic needles inserted in their arms, but blood was drawn from only 10.

Two days later, those who had blood withdrawn took an average of 16 seconds longer to complete a 3-mile run, found Sadler, who reported his findings in the July issue of the journal Physician and Sportsmedicine. Performance levels generally returned to normal four weeks after giving blood, he said.

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