When you eat trumps what you eat in staying healthy

Preventing obesity may come down to timing, in mice, at least. Mice allowed meals only within an eight-hour period were healthier than those that munched freely through the day, even when they consumed more fat.

Satchidananda Panda, of the Salk Institute, La Jolla, Calif., and colleagues fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet. One group could snack whenever they liked, while the other could only eat during an eight-hour window. Two other groups were fed a healthy diet under the same conditions.

Three months later, the weight of mice on the all-day, high-fat diet had increased by 28 percent. Their blood sugar levels had gone up - a risk factor for diabetes - and they also had liver damage. In contrast, mice eating a high-fat diet for only eight hours per day stayed healthy and didn't become obese. They also had better balance than mice on a healthy diet.

Panda thinks the shortened feeding period gives metabolic systems longer to perform their function uninterrupted by a new influx of nutrients (Cell Metabolism).

The researchers have now begun experiments with human volunteers.

Natural health benefits

If you made just one change in your diet for better health, you'd probably get the biggest bang for your buck by transitioning to a diet based on whole foods.

"Highly processed foods such as refined carbohydrates have a lower nutrient profile, and they are lower in fiber (which makes you feel fuller). This is important, especially if you're trying to lose weight," says Jessica Crandall, R.D., C.D.E., dietitian for Sodexo Wellness and Nutrition and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Hepatitis test

It kills more people in the U.S. than AIDS. It's also the country's leading cause of liver transplants. To curb the huge number of hepatitis-related deaths, it's now recommended all baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C.

About 3.2 million people in the U.S. are thought to be infected with the virus - two million of them born between 1945 and 1965, the baby-boom generation, who are partly at risk of having caught the virus through drug use or receiving blood transfusions before screening became widespread in 1992.

Through one-off blood tests, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts, 800,000 new infections will be identified and 120,000 hepatitis-related deaths will be avoided in this age group. Most people with the virus are symptomless, so are unaware they have it. A three-drug treatment can now cure about 79 percent of people with the disease.