Everything you ever wanted to know about your health and fitness is coming soon to an iPhone near you. Or, more specifically, to an app named Health that runs on Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 8.
That’s today’s big news out of San Francisco, where Apple announced its foray into health and fitness tracking at the company’s annual World Wide Developer’s Conference.
As TechCrunch explains, Healthkit is “the company’s first real big foray into health and fitness tracking, and Health [is] an app for viewing all that info…the new Health app will combine data from various different health and fitness devices and apps, and make them accessible all in one place.” For example, the app will combine sleep, nutrition, activity, weight, and heart-rate data in tabs on a single screen.
With Healthkit, Apple is not only getting into the fitness-tracking game, it’s also making a push to modernize and mobilize healthcare. As Engadget reports,
Mayo Clinic, a Minnesota non-profit, is already working with Apple on making the software work best for both doctors and patients. In the examples shown today at Apple's WWDC event in San Francisco, Health advised patients of wellness plans set by their doctors and enabled a futuristic approach to healthcare; where doctors and patients interact constantly, in real-time, at very least on a data level.
Apple isn’t the first company to try to consolidate personal health and fitness info in one place. Microsoft launched web-based HealthVault in 2007, and Google followed with Google Health in 2008. HealthVault still exists, though Microsoft has refused to comment on the number of active users. Google shuttered its service in 2012, citing a lack of participation. As former manager of Google Health, Adam Bosworth, told the New York Times, “the service could not overcome the obstacle of requiring people to laboriously put in their own data.”
That’s where Apple Health is likely to succeed while these early services did not. It seems Apple’s app will do all of the work of integrating records and information from fitness-tracking devices, like Apple’s rumored iWatch, as well as doctors. That may make it an easy technology to adopt.
Tech insiders believe the highly-anticipated iWatch itself—a “smartwatch/wearable of some form directly from Apple”—could someday have self-monitoring capabilities beyond those of the popular FitBit or similar wristbands. Think: hydration, oxygen saturation, and blood sugar tracking. Apple hired several health and fitness experts in the past year, fueling those rumors, though the company has yet to make any official iWatch announcements.
A patent Apple filed in 2009 suggests wearables aren’t the only devices that will track health data. Future iPhones may have leads embedded in them that allow the phone itself to track cardiac data, giving users easy access to heart info as well.
For now, we know the Health app is coming. Amid the rest of the rumors, one thing is certain: this year is shaping up to be a big one for health and fitness.
Olympic village: The two-week home to world-class athletes and 10:30 p.m. root canals. That’s according to Paul Piccininni, dental director for the International Olympic Committee and a new AP report.
That’s right, the mouths of athletes are downright disgusting. Blame sugary sports drinks and gels—which generally speaking, may be worse for your teeth than Pepsi, says John M. Coke, D.D.S., professor of General Dentistry & Oral Medicine at the University of Alabama.
“The combination of high sugar and acid directly affects teeth enamel making it more vulnerable to decay. It also encourages acid producing bacteria to colonize, doubling the problem. This becomes a breeding ground for the bad bacteria, and can become a vicious circle of acid and decay,” he says.
Laugh as you may (“You could land the Space Shuttle on some athletes' teeth,” Piccinni told the AP), but poor oral hygiene is no joking matter. Of 278 visitors to an Olympic dental clinic, more than half had cavities, 75 percent suffered from diseased gums, and a fourth said teeth woes negatively impacted their quality of life, according to a study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Dirty teeth are also linked directly to poor nutrition and indirectly to more serious matters like cardiovascular disease, Coke says. The most acute implication though, is when an abscessed tooth leads to infection, Coke adds. Real-life proof: British rower Alan Campbell almost missed the ‘08 Games when an abscessed tooth morphed into an infection that spread to his shoulder, back, and knee, and required surgery before the Olympics.
Once Campbell started taking care of his pearly whites, he won bronze in London. “I'm not saying someone with perfect teeth is going to beat Usain Bolt," Campbell told the AP. "But myself with good dental hygiene versus myself with bad dental hygiene: The version of me with good dental hygiene will be the one that comes out on top.”
The recipe for making sure Campbell’s plight doesn’t become your own? Rinse with water. While it’s no replacement for a toothbrush, a quick swish can help to neutralizes teeth-ruining acids and promote saliva, which naturally cleans your teeth. And when you’re back from your run, brush thoroughly. The long you let let what you eat and drink—especially that sugary stuff—sit in your mouth, the more likely it is that bacterial will grow.
Gluten-free diets shouldn’t work. The science, as shown by recent research, isn’t on their side. But talk to the athletes who willingly deprive themselves of gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) and they’re likely to respond with miraculous tales: gone are their days of feeling bloated and fatigued. They’ve lost weight. They recover faster. And they’ve never felt better. Can they really all be deluding themselves?
As often is the case with nutrition, yes but also no. Gluten-free diets are indeed making people feel and perform better. But it likely has little to do with gluten. Instead, researchers from Australia believe they’ve found the true culprit in the form of fermentable sugar components, otherwise known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols, in case you were wondering). One of the most potent kinds, fructans, are poorly absorbed in the gut—and they just happen to be found in the same culprit foods that contain gluten: wheat, rye and barley.
Originally developed to help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients in the late 1990s, a diet low in FODMAPs has increasingly proven itself effective in managing symptoms of the disorder, if not widely known among the general population, says Susan Shepherd, an advanced accredited practicing dietician, senior lecturer at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, and one of the original proponents of the diet.
And this is where things get interesting. “The low-FODMAP diet has also been shown to be more effective than a gluten-free diet in improving gastrointestinal symptoms in people without celiac disease,” Shepherd said.
In other words, going low-FODMAP—which, in practice, also means essentially going gluten-free—can eliminate the worst symptoms people associate with gluten intolerance: abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
This is huge for athletes who’ve previously benefited from “gluten free,” Shepherd said. For one, by adopting a low-FODMAP diet athletes can decrease any gastrointestinal symptoms on training and competition days, which affect nearly one in seven people and up to 80 percent of athletes. For two, it can help decrease fatigue and lethargy and improve concentration. FODMAPs cause tiredness and lethargy in up to 73 percent of people.
“Achieving one and two has the potential to have a very significant positive impact on sports performance,” Shepherd said.
That’s certainly a provocative stance, but it’s gaining credibility—and attention. Dr. Peter Gibson and Jessica Biesiekierski of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, who are often credited with starting the whole gluten-free craze are now saying FODMAPs are the more likely cause of symptoms in those who have self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
In 2011, it was their study that provided evidence for the 1980s-proposed existence of NCGS. Another pilot study from Dr. Alessio Fasano, founder of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Celiac Research, corroborated their findings. Then, the word spread rapidly that “gluten free” could improve the health of others beyond those diagnosed with celiac, a notion further popularized by low-carb and “paleo diet” followers and the publication of a few diet books. Soon enough, food marketers took notice. Mintel, a global marketing research firm, reports that the U.S. market for “gluten free” foods had 44 percent growth between 2011 and 2013 with no signs of slowing down despite only 1 percent of the population having celiac disease.
But as journalist Ross Pomeroy recently reported, Dr. Gibson and Biesiekierski performed more research that appears to have overturned initial findings. In 2013, their double-blind crossover trial evaluated gluten versus other potential dietary triggers like FODMAPs in NCGS and IBS patients that all but obliterated the conclusions of the first study. In another study published just last month, they found that one in four people who claimed they had gluten sensitivity actually had symptoms that were more likely related to FODMAPS.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that NCGS doesn’t exist at all, but that many people have misattributed their symptoms to the syndrome. There’s a major difference between the food intolerance symptoms of FODMAPs (gas and bloating) and gluten sensitivity, according to Dr. Fasano. “Comparing a reaction to FODMAPS and gluten sensitivity is like comparing apples to oranges,” he said.
Food intolerances (think: lactose or FODMAP), he explains, is caused when the body lacks the proper digestive enzymes or when they are too abundant to be fully absorbed. In contrast, a food insensitivity (think: gluten) is an immune reaction to a component in food, typically proteins, which cause both symptoms in the gut and elsewhere in the body.
“With gluten sensitivity, we are at the same point where we were with celiac disease 20 years ago. That is, we have many more questions than answers and, as our colleagues from Australia state, much more research is needed,” he said.
But for athletes and others who’ve noticed an improvement while going “gluten free,” the Australian research clearly points to what’s affecting their guts on a broader scale: FODMAPs.
Monash University has produced an app to help with avoiding high-FODMAP foods. Shepherd is also behind a new certification logo “FODMAP Friendly," which is registered internationally, including in the U.S.
This June, half a million futebol fans and 32 national teams will descend on Brazil for the FIFA World Cup. Among that crowd will be Danielle Lafata, the performance dietitian for the U.S. men’s national team. For the past two and a half years, Lafata, who has a master’s degree in nutrition and food science from Michigan’s Wayne State University, has been preparing meals for the 23-member team, carting a cooler full of recovery shakes to training camps and traveling to every international game.
When the Americans head to São Paulo, they’ll be feasting on homegrown staples from a menu painstakingly crafted by Lafata for peak performance: chicken fingers with sweet potatoes, flank steak with roasted vegetables, and buffalo burgers, among other entrées. One of the more popular pregame rituals is a classic breakfast with a simple nutritional upgrade: eggs Benedict with quinoa. “Instead of carbo-loading,” Lafata says, “what our athletes really need is a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and good fat.” Her quinoa-laden version of eggs Benedict checks all those boxes—with half the fat of the hollandaise-drenched original. Most important, it adds variety to the usually oatmeal-heavy morning fare. “The players love how it changes up the monotony of breakfast,” says Lafata.
Eggs and Quinoa Benedict
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup chopped and roasted asparagus
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
3/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 dash hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
Salt and pepper
Bring the quinoa and the stock to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until water is absorbed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the asparagus and the tomatoes. Set aside.
Crack three of the eggs and separate the whites into a bowl and the yolks into the top of a double boiler.
For the hollandaise sauce, add the yogurt, mustard, and hot sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper to the double boiler. Whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir until thickened, about two minutes.
Crack the remaining three eggs into the bowl with the whites. Heat a sauté pan to medium-high, add eggs, and scramble until set.
Transfer eggs to the bowl with the quinoa. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper, and stir.
Add one cup hollandaise sauce to the mix and stir until combined.