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I sent in my DNA to get a personalized diet plan. What I discovered disturbs me.

August 18 is National Ice Cream Pie Day. (It’s also the third week of National Crayon Collection Month, but who’s counting?) You know whose arteries ice cream pie is good for? No one. Plain and simple. But Habit, one of the latest disrupters in the food tech sector, suggests we rethink the very notion of foods that are good for everyone or bad for everyone. It’s part of a movement toward what is called personalized nutrition.

Habit, based in the San Francisco Bay area, tests for biomarkers and genetic variants using samples you provide, then generates a personalized report about how your body responds to food. It’s your unique “nutrition blueprint.” Then the company pairs you with a nutrition coach and offers you custom-made meals, containing your ideal ratio of carbs, fats and protein, delivered to your home. All in the name of sending you on the path to a “new you.”

I had to see for myself. So I endured the home test and shipped off my blood and DNA samples. (Gulp.) Then the company’s chief executive walked me through the results of my newfound eater identity, and I observed how the diagnosis began to affect my relationship with food. Here’s what happened — and what it could mean for the future of eating in America.

Program lets you exercise and try healthy food

Looking for an exercise program in Muncie? Want to try something where you can bring family and friends? Want to discuss and sample healthy food?

Cardinal Zumba is an integrative, long-term, and cost-free physical fitness and nutrition education program for the entire family. The program begins Aug. 28 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and every Monday and Thursday thereafter at Harvest Christian Church, 1010 E. Centennial Ave., Muncie.

After Zumba, a three-minute nutrition demonstration and food sample will be offered. Exercise programs for children and adolescents will be offered as well as free child care. Participants will be monitored every three months on blood pressure, body mass index, and other low-risk tests to inform and identify potential health risks. Ball Memorial hospital physicians will be on the premises for consultation once a month. Other unique events will be announced via the Cardinal Zumba Facebook page.

Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of dying prematurely than being a healthier weight – and the risk increases with additional pounds, according to researchers at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Worse, “early and middle adulthood is the time of life most people gain weight, as their metabolism slows, recurring knee and back injuries become more common; many people are less active in their 30s and 40s when they work longer hours and have more responsibilities, than their laid back early 20s. Cardinal Zumba erases the excuses and provides an environment for everyone to exercise, socialize, and be well.

Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones Solution,” states that the average American now consumes 46 slices of pizza, 200 pounds of meat, and 607 pounds of milk and other dairy products, and washes it down with 57 gallons of soda pop a year. We consume 8,000 teaspoons of added sugar and 79 pounds of fat annually. This doesn’t mean that we’re terrible people. The traditional answer has always had something to do with personal responsibility: Get on a diet and figure out how to exercise all on your own! The problem with that plan it that it requires money, child care, and planning.

Most people stick with diets for less than seven months, and often only weeks. Of 100 people that start a diet today, only five will still be on that diet’s maintenance plan two years later. As a strategy to lose weight – much less to avoid heart disease or live longer – diets are largely useless.

Deploying discipline is like using a muscle. At a certain point, muscles fatigue, and we breakdown and eventually eat a bag of chips. Cardinal Zumba is providing an alternative option. The more frequently you attend the more you’ll learn about wellness in our community. Food ideas, eating practices, plus ways to change your environment that make it more likely that you will live a healthier and happier life. All ages can adapt the exercise intensity to fit their own unique physical fitness levels.

A wide array of students from the new Ball State University College of Health will teach Zumba classes, conduct the exercise assessments, facilitate the food demonstration and cook the food, and offer child care. Students and faculty members Christina Jones from Health Science and Shannon Powers in Kinesiology are committed to making big changes in our community, along with Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation, MITS, Purdue Extension, and the Whitely Community Council.

Shannon Powers is assistant professor, School of Kinesiology, at Ball State University.

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Nutrisystem’s Stock Is Increasing While Customers Shrink

When I looked at Nutrisystem’s (NTRI) analysis section on Seeking Alpha, I was surprised to see many articles with a negative view for the stock. I see this as strange because the company is growing revenue and earnings at a strong double-digit pace. The valuation looks reasonable considering Nutrisystem’s strong growth.

With that said, I decided to do my own research on the company to determine if Nutrisystem was an investment-worthy stock. The research led me to believe that the stock is investment worthy. Nutrisystem is a great example of a company with strong above average growth with a reasonable valuation. This is a classic example of the ‘momentum at a reasonable price’ stocks that I typically write about.

Key Drivers for Nutrisystem

Nutrisystem’s recent success is a result of its multi-brand strategy. The company began marketing and offering two separate programs in 2017: Nutrisystem Lean13 and the South Beach Diet.

The Lean13 program is designed for customers to lose up to 13 pounds in the first month with a menu of over 150 items (think brides/grooms who want to get into shape before weddings). The South Beach Diet is based off of the best-selling book and steers customers towards heart-healthy fats that nourish and satisfy as opposed to high-protein diets that don’t decipher between good and bad fats.

Nutrisystem demonstrated its success even before implementing the separate 2 brands. The second quarter of 2017 marked the company’s 16th consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue growth. The success of the 2-brand strategy is evident in the 30% increase in revenue and 50% increase in earnings that the company achieved in Q2 2017 over the same quarter last year.

The Q2 2017 revenue results doubled the 15% revenue increase that Nutrisystem achieved in Q2 2016. The Q2 2017 EPS growth was 67% higher than the 30% increase achieved in Q2 2016. This demonstrates that Nutrisystem’s 2-brand strategy is highly effective and successful.

The strategy’s success led the company to increase revenue guidance for the South Beach program from an original estimate of $20 million-$25 million up to the revised $26 million for 2017. Nutrisystem also increased guidance for overall revenue and earnings.

Revenue guidance for 2017 was increased by $31.5 million to a new range of $684 million to $694 million. EPS estimates were increased from $1.65-$1.75 up to $1.84-$1.94. The increased guidance shows that the company is confident that it will achieve strong results for the full year. This increased guidance is likely to give the stock a boost until the next earnings report (if we don’t experience a market correction during that time).

The key behind Nutrisystem’s success has been 40 years of experience in the field of weight loss. This experience provided the company with the knowledge of what is effective for weight loss. Nutrisystem has a science advisory board and the company’s programs are backed by scientific clinical studies.

Another key factor is that the company’s systems are easy to follow and fit into consumers’ busy lifestyles. The systems are designed for customers to create new habits for weight loss. In addition to that, Nutrisystem supports customers with counselors that provide support 7 days a week. The company strives to foster positive relationships with customers, which is likely to lock them in as repeat customers.

Valuation is Reasonable

Sometimes analysts can be too quick to say that Nutrisystem is overvalued. This happens when they look at the trailing PE of 41 and say the stock is too expensive. However, there is more to the story than looking backward.

The forward PE of 24.6 is much more attractive and based on expected 2018 EPS of $2.23 (consensus). Since the company is growing at such a strong double-digit pace, I like to use the PEG ratio as a better valuation metric. Nutrisystem’s PEG of 1.4 takes the company’s future earnings growth for the next 5 years into consideration. Competitor Weight Watchers (WTW) is trading with a higher valuation with a forward PE of 26.5 and a PEG of 2.1.

Nutrisystem is expected to grow earnings at an average of 20% annually over the next five years. With the growth rate less than 2X the forward PE, the stock is reasonably priced. Many of the growth stocks that I cover tend to have PEG ratios between 1 and 2. They also tend to have above average earnings growth. The stocks of these companies tend to increase at an above average pace. I think that is also likely to happen with Nutrisystem’s stock.

The Risks

Weight loss programs can be trendy and there are many ways to lose weight. So, other new programs may arise and become the more popular way to lose weight. This could take market share away from Nutrisystem and cause sales growth to slow.

Conclusion

The addition of the South Beach program has proven to give the company a boost to its already strong sales and earnings growth. The valuation is reasonable and in line with many of the growth stocks that have been outperforming the SP 500.

The company’s convenient and easy-to-follow programs are likely to continue to sell well. This will translate into strong double-digit earnings growth for 2017 and 2018. I give the stock a one-year price target of $70 for about 28% to 30% upside. This is based on the reasonable valuation plus the earnings growth between the 60% expected for 2017 and the 18% expected for 2018.

That’s what I think. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: If you like my analysis, click on FOLLOW at the top of the article near my name. That will allow my articles to display on your homepage as they are published. The article is for informational purposes only (not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks). I am not a registered investment advisor. Investors should do their own research or consult a financial advisor to determine what investments are appropriate for their individual situation. This article expresses my opinions and I cannot guarantee that the information/results will be accurate.

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A “Sleep Diet” Is the Number One Way to Your Healthiest Body Yet

This is the diet that has absolutely nothing to do with eating — but that’s proven to be way more effective in getting you healthy than any other regimen.

According to a study published in The Lancet, sleep is crucial for metabolic function and hormone stability. Hormones and metabolism play a pivotal role in health, affecting everything from diabetes prevention to heart disease risk.

When participants’ sleep was restricted, they experienced an increase in stress hormones and a decrease in the speed of their metabolism.

Another study found that a lack of sleep contributed to a sharp decrease in leptin — the hormone responsible for regulating fat storage. They also witnessed an increase in ghrelin — a hormone that increases appetite.

If you’re not sleeping enough, you’re obviously going to be tired. Your body is going to get stressed and start sending signals to your body to put on weight. The weight, from your body’s perspective, is there as a reservoir of energy. When you feel tired, it’s suspicious that it might need it.

You don’t have to cut the carbs off your hamburger, start drinking “wellness shots” that taste more like grass than juice, or choke down harsh sips of apple cider vinegar to foster a better relationship with your body.

All you have to do is simple: Sleep.

Not before you eat, not excessively, not five times a day, or whatever other wild ideas are ricocheting through your mind.

Just sleep enough. And sleep well.

Of course, this is easier said than done. That’s where the concept of the diet comes in. Diets are often seen as temporary — a short-term set of rules to carry you through a healthy change or two that hopefully sticks after it’s over, when the clock strikes midnight and boom you can eat pasta again.

With food, diets don’t work. They’re often extreme, restrictive, and leave you drooling desirously over a cupcake you never even blinked at before. That doesn’t happen on a sleep diet. You don’t crave consciousness when you start to get enough sleep. If you’re somehow taking it to the extreme (i.e., getting too much sleep) you’ll just wake up. It’s the equivalent of accidentally eating a doughnut if you’ve gone too far and prohibited dessert.

The sleep diet, if done effectively, works. It’s just not easy. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set a time frame for the diet. One week is a good place to start.

2. Set your own rules. How much sleep do you want to get each night? Figure out the bedtime you would need to follow to accomplish the desired number of hours. Write it down.

3. For the time frame of your diet, stick to your bedtime. That’s the only rule to which this diet adheres. It’s easy to remember, but surprisingly difficult to do.

But before you say, “No, I can’t do that,” think about it for a second. Is it any harder than a typical diet? With those, you often have to eliminate entire sectors of your life. Happy hour with your coworkers? No drinking. Birthday cake with the kids for their birthday? Not for you!

Why do we perceive sleep as more extreme than those other restrictions — restrictions that aren’t even all that good for you?

Sleep, on the other hand, is great for you. With a few extra hours of rest under your belt, you’re likely to gravitate naturally towards your healthiest weight — and feel much better, too.

If you’re having trouble actually falling asleep once you’ve turned the lights out, try one of these natural remedies to help you sleep well.

D&E College’s Stover receives grant – The Inter

Submitted photo
Davis Elkins College junior Mason Fox, left, and Professor of Biology Dr. Shawn Stover conduct a test run on the cardiopulmonary exercise testing system that will be used for a study on metabolic rate. Beginning this fall, test groups who volunteer to participate in the study will follow different diet plans.

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ELKINS — Does intermittent fasting help to burn more calories or does it slow the metabolic rate? That’s a question a Davis Elkins College professor and two biology students hope to answer through a two-year study funded by a $25,961 grant from the West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

Dr. Shawn Stover, professor of biology, will lead the study with assistance from rising seniors Alyssa Edwards of Fairmont and Kirsten Gateless of Flatwoods. The grant monies were used to purchase a cardiopulmonary exercise testing system the trio will use to monitor results.

Stover says the study will involve two primary groups of participants. One group will maintain a standard diet with meals taken throughout the day.

The other group will practice intermittent fasting, taking all meals within an eight-hour period, followed by a 16-hour fast.

“Some diets actually slow the body’s metabolic rate, resulting in fewer calories burned,” Stover said. “We want to determine if intermittent fasting has an impact, positive or negative, on resting metabolic rate.”

As Stover and his students check the effects on metabolism, they will also monitor markers of inflammation and oxidative stress.

“Preliminary data suggests that intermittent fasting may decrease both inflammation and oxidative stress,” Stover said.

The assessment of inflammation and oxidative stress is a continuation of another of Stover’s research projects that began last fall.

Funding for WV-INBRE is provided by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The Davis Elkins College biology program is designed to develop an understanding of the process of scientific inquiry as well as an appreciation of the unity and diversity of life. To serve the needs of students with differing career interests, two degree options are offered.

The Bachelor of Science in biology major is intended for preparing for professional or graduate schools, or employment in more technical careers in biology. The Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Environmental Science major is for those who want expertise in biological and environmental issues for less technical careers.

Iodized Salt Is No Longer a Required Part of a Healthy Diet—Here’s Why

krutar/shutterstockIt’s no secret by now that eating too much salt can wreak havoc on your body. But what the heck is iodized salt, and should you be buying it?

For starters, iodine is an element that regulates your thyroid glands, stimulates brain development, and naturally detoxes your body. Most adults need about 150 mcg of iodine per day in order to avoid a deficiency, according to experts. Thankfully, the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements say that Americans and Europeans are what’s called “iodine sufficient,” meaning their diet is varied enough to provide the necessary levels of iodine. That’s true even if they don’t use iodized salt, according to the Institutes’ research.

But don’t relax just yet. Iodine deficiencies can be pretty scary, and if you are pregnant, you need to be particularly cautious. The need for iodine increases during pregnancy, because low iodine levels can endanger your baby’s mental development. Doctors often advise pregnant women to eat dairy products and take vitamin supplements, but you should see your own doctor before making any radical changes to your diet. (Still, you can safely stick with these snacks to eat while pregnant.)

For everyone else, you need not worry too much about your iodine levels. And while it’s true that you can get your daily intake of iodine from iodized salt, that’s not always the healthiest solution. To reach the recommended level, you would need to eat more than half a teaspoon of iodized salt a day, which is two-thirds of the daily amount of sodium (1,500 milligrams) recommended by the American Heart Association. (These are the signs you’re eating too much sodium.)

Experts recommend getting your iodine from food, instead. Good sources of iodine—other than iodized salt, of course—include fish, dairy products, grains like bread, and fruits and vegetables. Multivitamin pills and seaweed are also rich in iodine. Make any or all of these foods a staple in your diet, and rest assured you’re well on your way to an iodine-sufficient life.

Now that your mind is in the kitchen, check out the real difference between baking power and baking soda.

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