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Fit Links: Which diet is the best? Is salt really bad for you?
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Scientists interviewed in the article posit a healthy person can consume up to 6,000 mg of salt a day and question the current guidelines. - photo by Tracie Knabe Snowder
Which diet is the best? Is salt really as bad for you as the government says it is? Which type of exercise will help you live longer? These questions and more are answered in this weeks round up of health studies you might have missed.

Which commercial diet program is the best?

Want to start a diet that will last longer than a week? Your best bet is Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, according to a new research review.

Dieters who went on these programs were more likely to keep the weight off after a year, study authors said. The review, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at 39 studies involving 11 popular diet programs. People on Weight Watchers lost an average of 8 pounds after 12 months and people who used Jenny Craig lost an average of 12 pounds, according to the Associated Press. Participants on the Atkins diet lost and kept off the least amount of weight.

Primary care doctors need to know what programs have rigorous trials showing that they work, but they havent had much evidence to rely on, Dr. Kimberly Gudzune said in a news release on hopkinsmedicine.org. Our review should give clinicians a better idea of what programs they might consider for their patients.

Salt might not be as bad as the government says it is, scientists say

A recent article in the Washington Post calls into doubt the salt guidelines set by the government.

There is no longer any valid basis for the current salt guidelines, Andrew Mente, a professor and a researcher involved in a major study published last year by the New England Journal of Medicine, told washingtonpost.com. So why are we still scaring people about salt?

The current dietary guidelines recommend Americans age 2 and up consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says too much sodium puts people at risk for heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

Scientists interviewed in the article posit a healthy person can consume up to 6,000 mg of salt a day and question the current guidelines.

However, the current president of the American Heart Association disagrees, saying everyone should lower their sodium intake.

Vigorous exercise helps people live longer: study

When it comes to exercise, harder and faster may help you live longer. Thats according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers studied 204,000 adults between the ages of 45 and 75 in Australia over the course of six years. Those who performed vigorous exercise like jogging, aerobics or competitive tennis for at least 30 percent of their weekly workouts lowered their mortality rate by nine to 13 percent, compared to those who did lower impact exercise like swimming or housework.

"The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages, and were independent of the total amount of time spent being active," said lead author Klaus Gebel from James Cook University's Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention, according to yahoo.com.

Currently, the U.S. government recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day (or 150 minutes a week) for adults ages 18-64 and 60 minutes for children ages 6-17.

Can exercise kill your heart?

On th heels of the vigorous exercise study comes another study that says its rare for middle-aged people to die from heart attacks during sports activities.

"One thing we have learned is its not the exercise thats killing people, Dr. Sumeet Chugh, associate director of the Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told washingtonpost.com. "Its the heart's condition."

The study reviewed 1,247 cases of sudden cardiac arrests in men and women between the ages of 35 and 65 and found that only five percent were associated with sports activities (jogging, basketball and cycling).

When researchers applied their findings to the overall population of the United States, they estimated 2,269 sports-associated sudden cardiac arrest events would occur among men and 136 among women per year in the 35-65-year-old group, according to a press release.

"Our study findings reinforce the idea of the high-benefit, low-risk nature of exercise in middle age and emphasize the importance of education to maximize safety, particularly as the population ages and more baby boomers increasingly take part in sports activities to prolong their lives," Chugh said in the press release.