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Tuesday
Jul162019

Sisters read live on Facebook so kids have a bedtime story to listen to

@ZariaxHailey/Instagram(NEW YORK) -- Got books? These girls sure do.

Sisters Zaria, 13, and Hailey Willard, 8, from Dover, Delaware, are sharing their love for books with kids across the globe by hosting a live bedtime story session every night on social media.

The two share on their Facebook page, "We are already reading each night but we thought it may be beneficial for children who won't get that luxury."

"Sunday we go to the library and pick out books for the week," 13-year-old Zaria told ABC News' Good Morning America.

"We pick books with characters who look like us, because not a lot of kids see books with characters who look like us," she added. "We read at 8 p.m. and split it up."

"We like reading because sometimes people can't read themselves or they're young or their parents don't have time," Zaria said.

Hailey is a big fan of Dr. Seuss, whom she calls "funny and creative," and Green Eggs & Ham, Go Dog, Go and Are You My Mother? are her all-time favorites.

"Reading is good for you!" Haley told GMA.

An increasing success since February, mom Victoria Willard said that it took some convincing before she let the girls take to social media with their idea.

"Every night we just talked to each other until we fell asleep," Hailey said. "We begged our mom to let us read on Facebook to help other kids fall asleep."

"People are mean online," Willard admitted to GMA.

While she wanted to keep her precious bookworms safe, she started to think about the fact that her girls wanted to make a difference in the world.

"I couldn't hold them back from that," she said.

Willard finally said yes, but that the girls only do it on "mom's terms."

The Terms:

    •    No responding to messages or comments before mom sees them first.
    •    Certain people you can't follow back on social media.
    •    Abide by the household cellphone laws: No phones at the dinner table and no phones after 9 p.m.
    •    Don't let fame get to your head.

"I've been reading to them since they were in the womb," Willard told GMA. "My house is full of books."

Willard adds that it's been an incredible way for the girls to stay busy and occupied. Not only are they on summer break from school, but their father, who's in the Navy, can be gone for weeks at a time throughout the year.

The two sisters are soon-to-be authors as well as they are working on their own children's series.

"One is the writer and one is the illustrator ... it's about blended military families," Willard told GMA.

"Just be responsible" is Willard's charge for her bright young daughters, and when it comes to helping the girls understand how to handle their new-found fame, Willard wants them to keep up the work but also remind themselves to always be doing the right thing.

"Whatever happens," she said, "you still have chores to do."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul152019

USWNT used innovative period tracking to help player performance at World Cup

(NEW YORK) -- Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) delivered a history-making performance at this year's World Cup, and now we know more about a new training tool that helped the soccer stars dominate.

USWNT coaches for the first time in the team's World Cup history tracked players' menstrual cycles and symptoms and instituted practices to help players perform their best.

"I feel like it's one of many strategies that we deployed that helped us win," Dawn Scott, high performance coach for both the USWNT and the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), told "Good Morning America." "I feel like [the U.S. is] leading the way on this."

Scott, who joined the USWNT in 2010, had long tracked the start of players' cycles, but it wasn't until a few months before the World Cup kicked off in France that she implemented a more advanced approach.

"For a few players, I always noticed that just before they started their cycle, their recovery fatigue was increased and their sleep was less," Scott said. "I was noticing it for three or four players and thought, 'We're six months out from the World Cup, how we can help that?'"

Part of Scott's hesitance to do more with period tracking in previous years was that she did not know how to individualize it for each of the team's 23 players.

That obstacle was overcome when she met Dr. Georgie Bruinvels, a research scientist who focuses on menstruation and female athletes. Bruinvels is the creator of Fitr Woman, an app that provides women with daily training and nutrition suggestions tailored to their menstrual cycle.

Scott and Bruinvels had the players fill out comprehensive surveys about their periods, from when they started to how long they lasted, what type of symptoms they felt and whether or not the symptoms impacted their play.

Bruinvels took that data and sent Scott back a profile of each player, allowing her, and the USWNT medical team, to see the exact menstruation cycles for each player over the nearly 50 days the team was together in France for the World Cup.

"We could see what [menstrual cycle] phase a player was in and what some of their symptoms were," Scott said. "I would just text or say to a player, 'Hey you're in phase three and we know you get disrupted sleep, so make sure you do x, y and z.'"

"We could dial in on players with the most symptoms," she added.

The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of a woman's period up to the first day of her next period. Changing hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) throughout the cycle can cause symptoms like depression and anxiety, asthma, cramping, bloating and gas, in addition to bleeding, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health.

The main phases of the menstruation cycle can be broken down to pre-ovulation and post-ovulation, explained Dr. Richard Beckerman, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Research into how much a women's menstrual cycle affects their athletic performance and may expose them to injury is still in its early stages and somewhat controversial, according to Beckerman.

"We do know that there are parts of the cycle where women may have less ability to sleep and may have different eating habits," he said. "But just as we find people are affected differently by different things, it can be very variable."

Beckerman though said that for athletes like those on the USWNT, menstruation cycles should be taken into consideration.

"Whether it will truly pan out in terms of training women [based on] their cycles, I don't know," he said. "But it's something we should definitely look at."

The USWNT focused on making sure sleep, hydration, nutrition and recovery were optimal to help counter the players' period symptoms.

In addition to personal texts and in-person reminders, the USWNT players also saw a visual reminder of the menstrual cycle every time they went to the elevator or to pick up mail, as Scott and her performance coaches posted signs in the team's housing that showed the phases of the menstrual cycle, the symptoms and what players needed to do.

"I think for the players, some of them were tracking their cycle anyways, but the education and the reminders were so important," Scott said.

Scott has already held education sessions on menstruation for players in the NWSL and hopes to expand it to youth programs as well.

She is speaking out about the USWNT's training tactic now, after the World Cup, to help break the taboo around periods around the world. The team's period tracking strategy was first reported in the U.K.'s The Guardian.

"For the 15-year-old girl who doesn't have the support of a national team, I want to make it so she can talk about it with a female coach and a male coach," Scott said. "We need to make people aware of it and not embarrassed by it."

"This is physiologically what female athletes deal with," she said.

Perhaps the most high-profile example of the success of USWNT's period tracking efforts came during the team's final win against the Netherlands.

Midfielder Rose Lavelle scored a breakaway goal in the team's 2-0 win on July 7. The next day, she started her period.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul152019

Ed Sheeran on his social anxiety: 'I don't like large groups of people'

Mike Marsland/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Four-time Grammy-winning artist Ed Sheeran is opening up about his struggle with social anxiety.

"I don't like large groups of people, which is ironic given I play to thousands," Sheeran said in an interview with Charlamagne Tha God for Sheeran's YouTube channel.

Sheeran also said that he believes his anxiety has come along with his success.

Sheeran has sold over 150 million albums but has closed himself off from many of his old friends, he shared.

What has brought some stability to his life is marrying his childhood sweetheart, Cherry Seaborn.

The couple tied the knot in December and live out in the country where Sheeran can get away from the crowds.

As much as he struggles with large groups, Sheeran said he loves working with fellow artists. His new studio album No.6 Collaborations Project dropped last week, featuring some of the world's biggest pop and rap stars including Justin Bieber, Cardi B. and Bruno Mars.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul152019

Granger Smith's wife reveals late son River's organs saved two lives

Rick Kern/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Granger Smith and his wife Amber continue to give back to others in the wake of losing their 3-year-old son River to a drowning accident earlier this year.

In an Instagram post Sunday, Amber Smith revealed the family donated River's organs after his death, resulting in saving the lives of two people.

"When 3 different neuro specialists told us that River had 0% chance of brain recovery (yes 0, not 10 or 1%, 0) after shock and reality set in, I thought, how can we bury our sweet baby and not try to help others?" she wrote, after explaining that she always knew she would donate her organs to help others after her own death.

She continued, "His body is perfect, his organs are perfect, we had to do something. There are so many people waiting for an organ to save their lives. The doctors said donation was quite a process. We would have to search for viable recipients and it could take days."

But the family knew they had to continue his legacy somehow, and doctor's tried to "expedite the process" of donation so they didn't have to grieve any longer than possible.

"I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood," she wrote. "The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the 'walk of honor'. We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried."

Next, she announced that "our tiny, red-headed hero gave life to 2 adults."

"A 49 year old woman and a 53 year old man. I cried when we opened it. Cried out of sadness & cried out of love," she added. "I'm so proud to be River's mama and I'm so grateful to God that he gave him to us for those incredible 3 years. I pray these 2 recipients live healthy, joy filled, full throttle lives just like Riv. It was one of the hardest, yet easiest, decisions we've ever made. There are over 113,000 people waiting for transplants & 20 people die each day waiting."

This act follows work the family has done to raise money for the hospital that treated River. Last month, Smith donated more than $218,000 he raised to Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Texas.

"You guys gave us a feeling that we were very special," Smith told the hospital, handing them a check late last month. "The feeling that our son was very special, all the while knowing there are many kids here [in need of help] ... We felt like we were the only ones in the world, the only ones that mattered."

Granger Smith also took to social media and YouTube in mid-June with his wife to tell fans how his family is holding up amid the unspeakable tragedy that happened on June 6.

"We've been on quite the journey these past few weeks," Smith wrote. "I've been dark on social media, but I still have a full understanding of the responsibility placed upon me as a public figure. I believe I'm obligated on certain levels to include you guys in my current journey, as I've been involved either personally or musically in yours."

Smith added that the loss of a son "makes life feel fragile," but "it can remind us never to take a moment with those we love for granted."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul152019

How these Native American women found the strength to heal through running

Courtesy Alicia Kozlowski(DULUTH, Minn.) -- At 29, Sarah Agaton Howes weighed over 200 pounds and was told by doctors that she could be at risk for diabetes if she didn't adopt a healthier lifestyle.

She had also just lost her daughter.

"Part of you dies when you lose a child," Agaton Howes told Good Morning America.

"I grew up watching sickness around me all the time, and that was where I was headed," she said.

But she found a way to save herself -- and others: running.

Never seeing and learning to believe

"I remember being at a 5K [run] at the [Fond du Lac] reservation [nine years ago] and, for me, it was probably the first 5K I ever ran," Howes told GMA. "I walked up to the starting line and there was a woman standing there, a Native woman, and she had running clothes on, and I [had] never seen a Native woman with running clothes."

The woman, Chally Topping, said Howes should run the upcoming half marathon with her. Howes didn’t believe she could do it, until she saw her son and Topping at the finish line cheering for her when she completed the race.

"To me, that’s the seed ... of imagining what we can be doing as Native women," Howes said.

The KwePack


Later, Agaton Howes, now 43 and a mother of two, created KwePack, a running group for women at Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota and the surrounding area, including the city of Duluth.

Nine other women from the reservation joined the group and now run together once a week.

They've all faced some form of personal challenge, be it grief, depression or addiction.

"[Running helped] us to see ourselves as strong, resilient people," member Alicia Kozlowski told GMA.

"My mom got diagnosed with heart disease at a very young age, in her 40s, and I’m gonna be 37 years old this year, and it’s a really scary thought to think that could be my future," Nashay Howes explained to GMA. "I work really hard to maintain a healthy life and running allows me to do that."

"When you’re running, you’re forced to feel everything," Nichole Diver told GMA. "Every twinge of physical pain, every discomfort -- and through that I’ve learned how to process all of the really uncomfortable emotions that I feel and deal with."

The motivation behind this running group became "much bigger than ourselves, Agaton Howes said.

Running to honor Native women


About 80 runners typically join the KwePack at various marathons and community events, but the group recently drew 125 people for an event devoted to the missing women in their communities for the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

More than 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women were reported missing in 2016, according to the National Crime Information Center. The same report showed that 96 of those cases were tied to broader issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault.

The women said they had a tendency to feel unsafe running by themselves, but they said they feel safe with the KwePack.

"Part of running [in] a group is being safe," Diver told GMA.

"When we are together and we are checking in with each other, then we’re protecting each other," Amelia LeGarte said. "That’s what we have to do as a community is protect each other."

"If some person wants to rumble with us, they must really have a problem," Agaton Howes said.

Claiming space for Native American women


Through fundraising at its events, the KwePack has raised money to help other women afford running shoes, athletic attire and marathon fees.

The group spoke about the contrast of growing up wearing big shorts and T-shirts, and seeing other women wearing leggings and sports bras at gyms and within other running communities.

"You have a sense of you’ve been told your whole life you need to cover yourself up," Nashay Howes said. "I think you gotta find it in yourself to be able to put yourself in those clothes and it just becomes acceptable."

For these women, the most important thing is not that they have the right attire, but that they have a place in the running community at large.

"Something that has been so powerful for us about this group is we wait for each other at the finish lines," Agaton Howes said. "And when we come across, we see each other and [that is not only important] for us and our children, but also for other people to see."

The women of KwePack also say that the reason they run is for their children, especially for their daughters.

"[It means a lot] to have my daughters asking me to go for a run and showing them just how strong females are. [It] has just created a space for me to be in and provide in," Katie Danielson said.

Eight years later, the group has grown from one woman’s idea into one of the more well-known running groups in the Midwest.

"Now, if you ask people in the running community -- the Native community or this region -- they know that Native women run," Agaton Howes said.

She said that she found her purpose through the KwePack.

"It’s changed my life because what I’ve done with them," she added. "I would never have done [it] without them."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Jul142019

Ada Valley raw beef recalled due to possible contamination with broken metal bits 

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Ada Valley Gourmet Foods Inc. has recalled nearly 3,500 pounds of frozen raw ground beef that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically broken metal bits, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Saturday.

The premixed raw beef was produced on May 20 and shipped to hospitals.

The problem was discovered on July 11 when a customer notified the plant of the problem, according to the USDA. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jul132019

After losing husband to rare neurological disease, a widow tries to raise awareness

Debbie Feldman(AVON, Conn.) -- Debbie Feldman lived the American dream for most of her adult years -- she married her best friend (a prominent attorney), succeeded in her career working as an accountant and raised their two sons in the highly desirable suburban town of Avon, Connecticut.

For nearly two decades, the happy family-of-four thrived in their loving home. But in 2004, things unfortunately took a drastic turn when Sam, Feldman's husband, was unexpectedly diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP): an uncommon, degenerative brain disease that has similar symptoms to Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Over the course of three years, Sam was quickly afflicted by the crippling symptoms of the disease. PSP affected his gait, often causing him to take painful tumbles in various locations. Sam's vision also declined and swallowing became a challenge, among other paralyzing symptoms.

His body began to succumb to the neurological disease, though ironically, his thoughts remained sharp as a tack, even up until his final days. Sam's wit was fierce and his laughter became infectious -- a memory the family cherishes dearly to this day.

He passed away at the young age of 52 in June 2007.

“At the end of my husband’s life, while he was in hospice, I realized that life became simple,” Feldman told ABC News. “It wasn’t about our possessions, but rather, our connections. I love and miss him dearly and cannot quantify my love for him.”

In wake of her husband's passing, Feldman yearned for a creative outlet to memorialize his legacy as well as her father, who died after a battle with multiple sclerosis (MS). After much consideration, she channeled her entrepreneurial prowess and developed a keepsake jewelry collection, called Linked, in an effort to bring comfort to customers who could empathize with Sam's story. She began planning for the business in 2012 and started selling wholesale in 2015.

Each charm in the collection is coined with a phrase -- such as "Be Brave," "Can't Measure Love" and "Let the Light Shine Through" -- that reflects on a memory Feldman shared with her husband.

“I created this line of jewelry to give words to the person who has trouble expressing themselves,” Feldman said. “Each piece of jewelry is linked to a personal sentiment. I want the jewelry to connect people with heartfelt emotions.”

In an effort to help raise funding for research, 10% of the proceeds from Linked's pendants and bracelets can be earmarked either for the fight against PSP or MS. Funds are given to psp.org or nationalmssociety.org.

Feldman continues to devote her life to raising awareness about the disease.

What is PSP?

PSP, also called Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome, is a neurological disease that results from deterioration of cells in areas of your brain that control body movement and thinking. The disease, which worsens over time, affects the majority of one's senses and overall well-being.

Statistics show about three to six in every 100,000 people worldwide have the disease, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

At this time, there is no effective treatment for PSP. The most common cause of death is pneumonia.

Researchers, however, are continuing to investigate why brain cells degenerate in those who suffer from the disease, according to Dr. Jeff Bronstein.

"I think it's really encouraging that we are getting more and more of an understanding of PSP," Bronstein told ABC News. "It really makes the studies a lot easier to do. They're more readily available and are multi-center studies. We are getting closer."

What are the symptoms of PSP?

Symptoms can vary between patients who are diagnosed with PSP.

Typically, a person suffers from loss of balance, blurred vision, uncontrolled eye movements, unexplained falls, stiffness, slurred speech and has difficulty swallowing solid foods and liquids, according to Bronstein. Changes in mood and behavior -- such as irritability, forgetfulness and outbursts -- may also appear. Additional symptoms include depression, urinary problems and constipation.

PSP can often times be misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease because it shares many of the same symptoms. Problems with eye movement, behavior changes and memory loss are all key identifiers that help a physician or neurologist diagnose the disease, according to Bronstein.

"It can be very hard to make the diagnosis very early on for that reason," Bronstein said. "There is no blood test. We treat the symptoms specifically. Since the disease is very variable, you need to kind of customize therapy for each person having the problems."

Medication usually helps to mask symptoms, but it does not actually change the disease progression, according to Bronstein. Patients are predisposed to head injuries, fractures, choking and pneumonia.

Non-pharmacologic methods can also help remedy discomfort. Walking aids and devices such as chair lifts, can help to reduce the chance of patients falling backwards, according to Bronstein. Bifocals or prescribed glasses, called prisms, can help fix problems with looking down. Physical therapy may help with stiffness by keeping joints limber and occupational therapists have utensils that can help people feed themselves as swallowing becomes more difficult.

How long can you live with PSP?

PSP is a progressive, degenerative disease, so prognosis varies for each patient.

It is possible for a person diagnosed with PSP to live six to eight years after the first symptoms of the disease appear, according to Bronstein.

Onset of PSP is usually seen around the age of 60, but could occur earlier in one's lifespan, according to NINDS. The disease typically effects men more than women.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Migrant children in detention facilities could face long-term health struggles: Pediatrician

Saul Schwarz/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Migrant children living in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities will likely face long-term physical and mental health challenges, a top pediatrician told ABC News.

Sally Goza, the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said detained children face unique stress levels.

“That kind of stress makes children be on high alert, red alert, where their brain can’t do the things that are really the work of childhood, which is learning and playing,” Goza said on ABC News’ “The Debrief.”

These children could face prolonged “toxic stress,” which can cause life-long depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, developmental issues and behavioral problems, Goza said.

Goza, like delegations of Congressional lawmakers and groups of lawyers and doctors, recently visited children at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas and the Donna Temporary Holding Facility in Donna, Texas.

The CBP facilities smelled like “a mixture of sweat, urine and feces” and were mostly silent, besides the sound of rustling mylar blankets.

“The children’s eyes were just bloodshot," Goza said. "They obviously were not getting much rest. And they were bug-eyed. That fear of what’s going to happen next, what’s happening to me?”

Goza does not advocate for children being held in border detention centers, but said they “need to be able to be taken care of by a pediatrician or a pediatric-trained provider.”


Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Teen shark attack victim opens up about 'healing' after losing a leg 

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The North Carolina teen who was bit by a shark earlier this summer is now out of the hospital after losing her leg and two fingers, but maintaining a positive attitude, saying "I'm not forgetting my other responsibilities and hopes and dreams and all that."

Paige Winter, 17, was attacked while swimming in waist-deep waters off the coast of North Carolina on June 2. She lost two fingers and her left leg was amputated.

She has been undergoing several types of aggressive physical therapy every day, including mirror therapy, which she told ABC News' Good Morning America is to help "reduce phantom pain in my leg."

Her physical therapists have told GMA that she is doing phenomenally well, though Winter says she's "a little nervous about my hands and the therapy I have to do with them."

"It's going to be pretty rigorous," she added, saying that she has been told she should have 95% function in her right one, but "I don't know how much" in her left.

Despite the injuries she sustained during the harrowing shark attack, Winter's positive attitude has inspired many.

"When I was in the water, I did not see my life pass before my eyes," she said. "I saw my future flash before my eyes, and all the things I wanted to do, and that’s why I got out of there."

Her attitude after the shark bite and efforts to bring awareness to marine conservation even caught the eye of Ironman actor Robert Downey Jr., who sent her a special message inviting her to be a part of his new sustainability initiative.

Winter says they are in regular contact now.

"He said we are going to check in every so often and talk about what we're going to do because I can tell he’s all for this," she said. "He is all for helping the ocean."

Winter says she has received hundreds of cards and a gifts and bowls of candy from well-wishers.

When she left Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, last week, there was even a small party celebrating her recovery.

Her father, Charlie Winter, admits that there are still some tough times as she works towards her recovery.

"It's not so much a bad day she has ... bad moments," he said. "She has moments when she's overwhelmed ... but she's got a really amazing uncanny ability to pick herself up."

The teen said she is also working to not forget her goals as she works towards a physical recovery.

"The main focus right now is my therapy and my healing," she said. "I'm not forgetting my other responsibilities and hopes and dreams and all that."

"I cannot change that I don’t have a leg, I can’t change that I cannot use my hands right now," she said. "I can control what happens in the future, I can do that and that’s what I want to do."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Study: Cutting only 300 calories a day can cut your risk of diabetes, heart disease

AndreyPopov/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It’s no secret -- watching what you eat can help keep your heart healthy.

But new research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology has reached a surprising conclusion: even those of us with a healthy weight might benefit from cutting out a relatively small number calories from our daily diet.

“We wanted to investigate the effect of calorie restriction on disease markers in healthy, young humans,” Dr. William Kraus, preventative cardiologist and lead author of the study, told ABC News. “We found that a small calorie reduction -- around 300 -- appears to be beneficial to the heart.”

Researchers studied two groups of healthy people, all under 50 years old, over a period of two years. One group of 71 people continued a normal, unrestricted diet. The other group of 188 people underwent calorie restriction. In the beginning, the second group was asked to cut 25% of their daily calories.

“We didn’t alter the proportion of carbohydrate, fat or protein -- we just reduced the calorie content,” Kraus told ABC News. This was done by teaching study participants the essentials of calorie restriction, such as calorie counting and portion size.

People were asked to maintain the diet over two years, but the average person in the calorie restricted group managed to cut down only 12% of their calories, equivalent to roughly 300 calories per day.

That’s a modest decrease -- just a fraction of the 1,600 to 2,400 recommended daily calories for women, and 2,000 to 3,000 recommended calories for men.

Three hundred calories is equivalent to a slice of apple pie, 30 potato chips or “cutting out a snack after dinner,” Kraus told ABC News.

Even with this limited reduction, there were striking benefits: people lost over 11 pounds of fat and had reduced levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower blood pressure. They were also more sensitive to insulin, a key blood sugar hormone, potentially reducing the risk of diabetes.

“Clearly what surprised us was the magnitude of response in people that already have normal parameters, are young and have a normal weight,” Kraus told ABC News.

Researchers found that even in young, healthy adults, a moderate calorie restriction can improve cardiovascular risk factors with a potential long-term benefit for heart health.

The next step is exploring why the benefit is so big.

“We expected some improvement in their biological parameters because they were losing weight,” Kraus said to ABC News, “but the weight loss only explained 25% of the improvement.”

Dr. Kraus has some theories about where the remaining 75% comes from.

“The effects of calorie restriction on DNA methylation is something we want to study in the future,” Kraus said. Methylation is a type of chemical modification made to DNA in response to environmental changes -- including nutrition -- which alters how genes are expressed.

Dr. Frank Hu a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, called the study “groundbreaking in several respects,” but remained cautious.

“One practical challenge of translating calorie restriction is reliably counting daily calories and establishing optimal levels of calorie restriction,” said Hu.

He added that calorie counting alone is “unlikely to curb the global obesity epidemic.”

“Creating a healthy food environment and changing social norms…can make it easier for individuals to achieve and maintain a healthy weight,” Hu said.

Nevertheless, inexpensive and effective methods like calorie restriction could be invaluable in addressing some of issues surrounding the obesity epidemic.

The bottom line according to Kraus: when it comes to cutting down on calories, “anything is better than nothing.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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