The truth about taking 10,000 steps a day, the real risks of vitamin D deficiency, those dangerous snacks we need to ditch and how increased fitness levels reduce cancer risk. We cover it all in this latest roundup of health and fitness research.

Science shows the snacks to step away from

Ultra-processed foods are additive-laden with low nutritional quality and high energy density – things like savory snacks, reconstituted meat products and soft drinks. Despite being linked to increased risk of cancer, greater cardiovascular risk factors, obesity and metabolic syndrome, the popularity of these foods is on the rise. One study shows that in the two decades to 2010 the consumption of ultra-processed foods has almost tripled, to the point where they make up 32 percent of daily energy intake. Now a 15-year study of 19,899 Spanish university graduates has highlighted how more than four daily servings of ultra-processed food is independently associated with a 62 percent increased hazard for all-cause mortality. And if you add another serving to your daily intake the risk increases by 18 percent! Learn more about how eating ultra-processed foods may influence death.

How increased fitness can cut bowel and lung cancer risk

This year a whopping 228,150 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and the disease will cause about 142,670 deaths. At the same time, we can expect 51,020 people to die from colorectal cancer. According to new research these numbers could be dramatically cut if more people focused on improving their fitness. In what’s believed to be the largest study of its type, researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, studied 43,143 American males and females (from a range of ethnicities) conducting exercise stress tests over 18 years. They found that those who had developed the highest levels of fitness cut their lung cancer risk by up to 73 percent. These people also reduced their chances of developing colorectal cancer by up to 68 percent. Find out more about the link between levels of fitness and lung and bowel cancer risk.

The great vitamin D mistake

Experts say we’re not getting enough vitamin D, a powerful nuclear receptor-activating hormone that is critical to the immune system and linked to the reduction in Type 1 diabetes. Some even believe the lack of adequate vitamin D supplementation has reached epidemic proportions, and that it may be the biggest medical mistake of the past century! It seems that a statistical error is part of the problem, and to reduce the risk of vitamin D-related disease we actually need 10 times more vitamin D than the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation. To date, there has been no evidence that higher blood levels of vitamin D are “unsafe”, and findings from Finland have made the value of vitamin D supplementation clear. Between 1964 and 1992 Finnish authorities continually and significantly reduced the daily vitamin D recommendation and at the same time the incidence of Type 1 diabetes increased remarkably (most notably, by 350 percent in children under the age of four). When authorities started fortifying all dietary milk products with vitamin D in 2006, all of a sudden the incidence of Type 1 diabetes plummeted. Learn more about the issues associated with vitamin D deficiency.

How many steps should you really be aiming for?

New Scientist has revealed that the 10,000 steps a day benchmark is not the gospel we’ve assumed it was. It seems there is plenty of evidence suggesting that you need at least 50 percent more than that for optimal health benefits. When calculating the ideal tally, it’s important to note that not all steps are equal, cadence and intensity makes a difference – while any movement is good movement, it’s the steps we take during moderate to vigorous activity that provide the most value. An Australian study of 150,000 adults calculated that it takes at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise each day to offset the health risks that come from sitting during work hours. An 8-year-long US study of 4840 adults shows that those who were active for 100 minutes or more each day had 80 percent lower mortality rates than those who were inactive. Discover more about how many steps a day you really need.

Find a workout work out on demand