How sweet it is! But does eating sweets affect your desire for eating more of them?
Evaluation of studies published to date provides no evidence that consuming sweet foods or beverages (regardless of whether they are artificially or naturally sweetened) influences desire for more sweets. Experts agree that humans innately like sweet foods. However, with today’s skyrocketing obesity rates and the presence of sugars in many of the foods and beverages we consume, most health recommendations suggest substantially lowering the amount of sugar we eat—a goal easier said than done. Indeed, chronic consumption of sweet foods might make some of us want even more—the veritable “sweet tooth” phenomenon. Conversely, eating sweet foods (whether they contain real sugar or low-calorie substitutes) might suppress the desire to consume additional sweet foods in some people. Despite today’s focus on understanding ways to help people eat less sugar, the verdict is still out as to whether increasing or decreasing the sweetness of a food, beverage, or meal affects our desire to seek out more sweets. Responding to this knowledge gap, Appleton et al. scoured the literature for all previously published studies on the topic and combined the data in a process that scientists call a meta-analysis .

Appleton KM, Tuorila H, Bertenshaw EJ, de Graaf C, Mela DJ. Sweet taste exposure and the subsequent acceptance and preference for sweet taste in the diet: systematic review of the published literature. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018;107:405–19.

Garbage in, garbage out: what can researchers do with errors in electronic medical data?
Painstaking analysis of individual body weights in electronic medical databases suggests that 1 in 100 values is likely incorrect. Removing these erroneous data is critical for accurate interpretation of relations between body weight and health. Analyzing large, electronic medical databases has become a mainstay for clinicians, researchers, and public health experts interested in studying almost every aspect of human health and well-being. This is particularly true when it comes to understanding relations between body weight and risk of a variety of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, there are inevitably mistakes in these databases, and inclusion of erroneous data can have substantial impacts on conclusions- drawn from them. For instance, if a person’s weight is 185 pounds but is entered into the database as 18.5 pounds, this could bias results obtained. Removing inaccurate values from large databases is exceedingly difficult for a variety of reasons, and researchers continue to grapple with ways to do this efficiently. Thielke et al. report one possible solution to this enduring scientific challenge.

Chen S, Banks WA, Sheffrin M, Bryson W, Black M, Thielke SM. Identifying and categorizing spurious weight data in electronic medical records. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018;107:420–6.

Do teenage girls with anorexia nervosa recover muscle mass after treatment?
Anorexia nervosa, a serious consequence of inappropriate body weight perception, can lead to life-threatening loss of muscle. New research finds that this deficit is not necessarily reversed with rehabilitation. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder driven by an intense fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia suffer from distorted perceptions of their body weight, feeling as if they are overweight even as they become dangerously thin. To maintain what they perceive as “healthy” body weight, people with anorexia severely limit their food intake and often follow extreme exercise programs. Together, this can lead to critically low lean body mass with serious, long-term detrimental effects on physical health such as loss of muscle mass. These unhealthy outcomes are of particular concern during adolescence, when dietary protein requirements increase to support growth and development associated with puberty. Little is known, however, about whether deficits in lean body mass are corrected after successful treatment. To help fill this knowledge gap, Haas et al. assessed total body protein in teens with anorexia nervosa before and 7 months after they were treated. 

Haas V, Kent D, Kohn MR, Madden S, Clarke S, Briody J, Fischer F, Műller MJ, Gaskin K. Incomplete total body protein recovery in adolescent patients with anorexia nervosa. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018;107:303–12.

Trade-offs: is mother’s employment good or bad for infant and young child nutrition in developing nations?
Whereas women’s employment has myriad benefits to families worldwide, some worry that it might negatively affect breastfeeding and child nutrition in low-income nations. New findings should quell these concerns. In 2016, the United Nations adopted 17 broad-ranging objectives, referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals, that collectively call for global action to promote prosperity of all people. One of these goals is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. This includes encouraging employment outside the home. Although women’s employment has many benefits (for instance, improving household financial security and ability to purchase nutritious food), there is some concern that increased time spent at work might have negative trade-offs, such as lowering breastfeeding rates or having less time to prepare meals. To help understand whether there might be these sorts of unintended negative consequences of women’s employment, Oddo and Ickes analyzed an extensive dataset collected previously in 50 low- and middle-income countries.

Oddo VM, Ickes SB. Maternal employment in low- and middle-income countries is associated with improved infant and young child feeding . American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018;107:335–44.

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