1. Snacking can lead to fatty liver

    Junky snacks are as bad as lousy meals

    Eat a healthy, balanced meal and it's tempting to "reward" yourself with a junky snack after.

    You deserve it, right?

    Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. Junky snacks can hurt you as much as unhealthy meals, with new research showing how treats high in sugar or fat (or both) can lead to extra fat where you want it least.

    That's not on your hips or butt so much as around your organs -- especially your liver.

    Fat around the liver leads to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, which ultimately leads to diabetes, heart disease and an early death.

    The new study finds that men who eat bigger meals see a gain in BMI, just as you'd expect, but not necessarily an increase in this dangerous form of organ fat.

    Men who eat the same number of extra calories but get the extras from junk-food snacks, on the other hand, see an increase in both abdominal fat and fat around the liver, as well as a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the liver.

    What's especially stunning about the study is not just that junk food caused that boost in dangerous fat and drop in insulin sensitivity.

    That's just what I'd expect to see.

    No, the real stunner is how quickly that fat formed -- because the study lasted just six weeks.

    So if you really want to reward yourself for eating a healthy meal, don't turn to a junky dessert or snacks.

    Turn to something healthy instead, such as fresh fruit or vegetables.

    Basic advice, yes. But here's a case where getting back to basics is truly what's best for your health and your body.

  2. Snack bars make lousy snacks

    Most of us have done it at some point. Looking for a quick snack, we bypass the candy bars and grab something that's supposedly healthier -- like a cereal, granola, or energy bar.

    We know they're not perfect, of course. But they've got to be better than that tempting candy bar, right?


    I'm not actually going to recommend candy bars, but it turns out that many of the "healthier" snack and energy bars actually pack as much sugar as candy -- and in some cases, they have even more.

    The "healthy" Clif's Crunchy Peanut Butter bar, for example, has 21 grams of sugar -- the same amount of sugar you'll find in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. The Clif bar has less fat, but it also has more calories.

    Some of the other Clif bars have 25 grams of sugar --even more than the 24 grams you'll find in a Hershey's bar.

    I don't want to just pick on Clif bar here, because it's not the only offender in the snack bar section. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything worth eating at all.

    Balance Bars have up to 18 grams of sugar, while some of the Odwalla bars have 17 grams. Luna bars have up to 13 grams of sugar, and that old standby -- the Power Bar -- can have a whopping 30 grams of sugar.

    That's actually 25 percent more sugar than that Hershey bar I mentioned earlier!

    Cereal bars aren't much better, and that includes the ones that trade on supposedly healthy brand names.

    Special K, for example, is marketed as a healthy cereal that can even help you to lose weight. In reality, it's just another bowl of empty carbs -- and with 4 grams of sugar per cup, it's not exactly low in sugar either.

    But that's nothing next to Special K bars, which can have up to double the sugar of the cereal.

    You're better off making your own snacks at home. Sure, they're a little more work, but they will be a lot healthier and a whole lot cheaper, too.

  3. Fake fat, real pounds

    Olestra isn't as widely used as it once was, but it's still a key ingredient in "low-fat" and "light" versions of popular potato chips. And it turns out eating those "light" version could have very heavy consequences.
  4. TV linked to death

    A new study finds that those of us who spend the most time tuned in are most likely to check out early: Two or more hours of TV a day can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and an early death.

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