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Nutrition News: No Nonsense

Are those eggs OK to eat? 

Too many of us end up throwing out food that is still perfectly safe to eat. Eggs are often on the top of the list of things people think go bad quickly. But eggs are safe to eat up to five weeks after the sell by date. If you’re curious about when those eggs were packed just look at the number under the sell by date, the three-digit number in the middle.

The problem with potassium.

Many people load up on bananas and potatoes because they are high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. But more isn’t always better. Too much potassium can cause irregular heartbeat and other side effects. While the National Institutes of Health has not released an upper limit for potassium, the supplements in the US do not contain more than 99 milligrams. Taking more potent forms can have serious adverse side effects including confusion, temporal paralysis, low blood pressure, weakness, and coma.

Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

What is the biggest benefit of getting enough protein? If you said building muscles, you’d be close, but it might not be the biggest benefit. Recent studies show people who ate the most protein had higher levels of HDL ( good cholesterol) and those who eat the most protein (not including red meat ) were 20% less likely to suffer a stroke than those with the lowest intake. What’s more, people who ate more protein and fewer carbohydrates had better numbers for blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Bacon as Bad as Smoking?

Is that slice (or two or three) of bacon on your BLT as dangerous as smoking a cigarette? Processed meats like bacon and cold cuts are listed as a Group One carcinogen, the same as smoking or asbestos. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally as dangerous. The classification reflects the strength of evidence linking processed meats – think: bacon, sausages, hot dogs, jerky, and cold cuts to cancer risk. Basically, any meat that’s been tweaked to enhance the flavor or improved preservation by salting, curing, fermentation or smoking is considered processed. Just one 0.75 ounces of bacon (about two slices a day) is linked to an 18% greater risk of colorectal cancer. That’s the equivalent of 1 hot dog or a couple slices of cold cuts. While it isn’t a good idea to load up on these foods, they’re often high in saturated fat and salt too, let’s put the risk in perspective. The lifetime risk of an average American of developing colorectal cancer is 5%. An 18% increase raises that number to about 6%, so an occasional ballpark dog or B LT should be fine.  Important note: simply choosing nitrate-free meats may not reduce your risk of cancer. High temperature cooking methods like pan frying and grilling may produce more carcinogens in meat. Choosing lower temperature cooking methods like braising or roasting may reduce your risk. Ever tried cooking bacon in the oven? Works well!

Zinc can help boost your immunity as you age.

A new study showed that 30% of nursing home residents have low blood levels of zinc, and those with low levels were at significantly higher risk of pneumonia. Ensuring adequate zinc consumption could reduce chances of deadly infections. Zinc helps to improve the function of T-cells, a special type of white blood cell that targets and destroys invading bacteria and viruses. Zinc supplementation not only increased the number of T- cells, but it improved effectiveness, too. Get more zinc in your diet with shellfish, pork, cashews, peanuts, and chickpeas.

SOURCE:

19 Health and Nutrition Secrets that Can Change Your Life: Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter

Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?

 

A typical beef feedlot

January 22, 2013 by foodworksblog 3 Comments

Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.

Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter.    They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing.  Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.

Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared.  Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics.  Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.

Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland.  Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry.  Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.

The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed.  Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”.  Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”.  By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.

The Northeast became more partial to beef.  New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry.  Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.

In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians.  Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds.  Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter.  In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation;  the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.

Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.

In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.

Why is beef king in the U.S?

  • Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles.  Meat had been rationed during WWII.
  • Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
  • Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
  • There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
  • Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
  • The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
  • Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.

American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining.  It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012.  This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.

 But Why?

  • Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
  • Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect.  People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
  • Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
  • All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel.  Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
  • Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.

How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video. 

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
  • We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
  • The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
  • The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals.  The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.

Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead.  The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).

Some Good News for a Vaccine?

Coronavirus Spikes

In  case you wonder why a food blogger like me is posting this article, I taught an infectious disease course for a number of years, worked in academia in Microbiology and Immunology, and antibody production in the body was part of my doctoral dissertation.

I love this article for the fact that it is often hard to find facts that you can trust – so I hope that this brings us some hope for a successful vaccine ASAP against Covid-19.

CLICK HERE.

Do we need to take obesity more seriously?

 

By now, most people understand that the elderly are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. But studies of COVID-19 patients in France, Italy, China and the United States have also identified chronic conditions that place even younger patients at risk. Near the top of the list: obesity.

The resulting diseases of obesity such as hypertension and diabetes type 2 are often found in the most serious cases of COVID-19 and are thought to contribute to the death rates from the infection.  Childhood overweight and obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States. Overweight children tend to be overweight adults. Prevention is the key. The earlier the intervention – the better.

CLICK HERE.

The Sickness In Our Food Supply?

A very long article by Michael Pollan but is worth reading if you want to understand the complexities of our food system. It involves the “elephant in the room” consisting of  Covid -19 that  exposes the interrelated factors associated with our our current food system and health care costs. Based on this essay, our “diets may be killing us” as a few recent articles have suggested. Click the link below or find it on the Website of Michael Pollan of (“eat food, not too much, mostly plants” fame).

A quote from Forbes, May 12, 2000 in an article from Nav Athwal sums it up:

“One thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us is the level of control we have over our lives is not as great as we think.  Whether it be our ability to be mobile, our ability to meet with friends or the food we eat and how we eat it, the conveniences we took for granted not long ago are luxuries in a post-coronavirus world.”

Any suggestions for a solution?

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The Blue Zone: A Book Review

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By Sally J. Feltner, M.S., Ph.D.

Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.

In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hot spots in the world that included:

  • Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
  • Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.

Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.

One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full

In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan de vida or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.

The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”

  • Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
  • Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
  • Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
  • Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her
  • The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
  • From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”

The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity. Buettner provides credible information available for “adding years to your life and life to your years.”

However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”

The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.

From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.”

David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

 

 

Are Our Diets Killing Us?

The Corona Virus

The importance of lifestyle enters into the debate about the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. Many reports of viral deaths are attributed loosely to underlying conditions exemplified  by the presence of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes/prediabetes, and obesity which is surmised to increase  the mortality risks of the virus. These are the leading causes of death in the U.S. and are collectively referred to as chronic diseases.

“Poor diet, a lifestyle factor among others, is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, causing more than half a million deaths per year. Just 10 dietary factors are estimated to cause nearly 1,000 deaths every day from heart disease, stroke and diabetes alone. These conditions are dizzyingly expensive. Cardiovascular disease costs $351 billion annually in health care spending and lost productivity, while diabetes costs $327 billion annually. The total economic cost of obesity is estimated at $1.72 trillion per year, or 9.3 percent of gross domestic product.” NYT.

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Ancel Keys – Big Fat Confusion ?

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An early picture of Ancel Keys, This image is ...

An early picture of Ancel Keys, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time Magazine 1961. Ancel Keys appears on the cover to claim that saturated fat in the diet clogged arteries and caused heart disease.

Time Magazine, 2014. Eat Butter. Scientists were wrong about saturated fat. They don’t cause heart disease.

How did the low saturated fat message begin?  How, when and why did this confusion begin?

Ancel Benjamin Keys was born in 1904 in Colorado Springs, Colorado to teenage parents. In his younger years he had various jobs including a clerk in a Woolworth store. He finished college in 3 years with Honors at Berkeley and earned a MS in Biology followed by a PhD from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. In 1930 he traveled to Copenhagen to work with Nobel laureate, August Krogh where he studied the ability of eels to survive in both fresh and salt-water environments. He then went to Cambridge and obtained a second PhD in animal physiology from King’s College.

What made Keys famous was his Seven Countries Study, a study that remains controversial to this day. He initially observed that heart disease rates dropped in countries forced to alter their high fat diets because of the war rationing and reversed to higher rates when these diets returned.

He suspected dietary factors, particularly saturated fat, that might play a key role in atherosclerosis. After conducting some well-designed studies to support his theory, “he formulated an equation that simply showed a 2.7% mg/dl rise in cholesterol for every 1% of calories derived from saturated fat. The equation also suggested that polyunsaturated fat lowered serum cholesterol and dietary cholesterol raised serum cholesterol but to a lesser extent than saturated fat. “ Journal of Clinical Lipidology, page 435

Keys had based his theory on when he had previously visited Italy and Spain. He observed in Naples, Italy that only heart disease patients in hospitals were wealthy men. In Madrid, Spain he took blood samples from some men in one of the poorer districts where heart disease was rare and compared them to samples of more well-off patients with heart disease. What he found were differences in their serum cholesterol values with the higher levels in the wealthy and lower values in the poorer population. The diets of the two groups also differed with the poorer diets lower in fat than those of the wealthy. These observations were central to his theory that saturated fat or animal fat and dietary cholesterol contributed to heart disease.  Levenstein, Harvey, Junk Science Week: Lipophobia and the Bad Science Diet, Financial Post, June 11,2012.

The theory gained some steam when in 1955, President Dwight David Eisenhower had a heart attack at age 64, “ Over the next six weeks, twice-daily press conferences were held on his condition. After his attack, he dieted religiously with a low-fat diet and had his cholesterol measured ten times a year (it had been 165 mg initially)”. Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories, page 1-4.   The low-fat diet had little effect and his cholesterol continued to rise as well as his weight.

Between 1955 and 1958, Keys began to study the male population aged 40 to 59 in rural areas in certain countries. He used electrocardiograph data to detect heart abnormalities and cardiovascular disease. The countries included Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, Finland, the Netherlands, the U.S. and Japan. The countries he had chosen represented varied intakes of saturated or animal fat; lower levels were found in some populations in Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, and Japan. Finland, the Netherlands, and the U.S. represented higher levels of animal fat in their diets. Five and ten years later, the researchers returned to identify those who had experienced heart attacks. The lowest rates were found in Crete and Japan with the lowest levels of animal fat; the highest was found in East Finland and the U. S. with the highest levels of animal fat. All in all, Keys studied nearly 13,000 men.  From this study, he concluded that “saturated fats as a percentage of calories was the most powerful lifestyle predictor of heart disease. “Blood cholesterol was the important physiological variable. “ Journal of Clinical Lipidology, page 437.

In 1961 Keys appeared on the cover of Time magaine with the Seven Countries Study’s alleged link between fat, cholesterol and heart disease that fueled the fear of dietary fat in America. Two weeks later the American Heart Association (AHA) endorsed the theory.  With this announcement, the vegetable oil producers could not get their advertisements out fast enough. Wesson Oil said: “polyunsaturated Wesson is unsurpassed by any leading oil in its ability to reduce blood cholesterol.” Nutrition scientists jumped on the bandwagon. For example, Harvard nutritionist, Frederick Stare advised swallowing three tablespoons of polyunsaturated oil each day. Lipophobia had begun in earnest. Levenstein, Harvey, Lipophobia and the bad science.

Consumption of margarine doubled from 1950 to 1972 and that of vegetable oil rose by over 50% in the 10 years from 1966 to 1976. Ironically, based on the thesis of Keys that saturated fat was the culprit, the AHA and other agencies had urged food processors to use trans fats to replace the alleged deadly saturated fat. Ironically, the most common source of trans fats turned out to be the very margarine they had promoted as heart healthy. From 1956 to 1976, per-capita butter consumption fell by over half.

Key’s hypothesis strengthened in 1977 with Senator George McGovern’s publication of the First Dietary Goals for the U.S., which was the first time that any government group had told Americans to eat less fat and cholesterol to improve health. The document became gospel and had a tremendous impact on consumers and the food industry. In 1980, Hegsted and McGinnis produced the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans that concurred with “avoiding too much fat and cholesterol and eating more foods with adequate starch and fiber.”

However, three major studies failed in their support for Key’s hypothesis and without going into the details, each one raised doubts about the  hypothesis.

The Key’s Seven Countries Study, so pivotal in lipophobia has been debunked by many, particularly those who favor the idea of eating meat.. On the other hand, vegans favor the thesis. Here is what the critics of the study say: First, Keys did not randomly choose countries but is accused of picking those countries most likely to support his theory. He excluded France whose diet has been notoriously rich in saturated fat along with a low heart disease rate (The French Paradox). He also excluded Switzerland, Sweden, and West Germany with the similar higher saturated fat intakes but with lower rates of heart disease. He originally gathered data from 22 countries.   However, some point out that even when all 22 countries are analyzed, the trend that fat intake is associated with heart disease still weakly exists.

Ancel Keys died in November of 2004 at the age of 100 years old.

Key’s thesis is still hotly debated to this day because of its limitations and lack of  conclusive support from the research community. There are still adherents of the efficacy of the low fat diet, particularly in its effects on atherosclerosis regression or prevention.  The debate has now switched to which diet is heart healthy – a low-fat or a low-carbohydrate diet. However, that is another story.

I truly don’t know if Keys was right or wrong. The purpose of this post is to point out that his legacy remains as one of the leading food crusaders that changed the American plate.  Is the low fat craze finally coming to an end?  Has this national experiment failed?  Will the low carbohydrate diet help curb the obesity epidemic or prevent heart disease?  Sounds like a “soap opera, doesn’t it?  One thing is certain – atherosclerosis is a complicated disorder and until its origin and pathology is conclusively determined, no one will know who was right.

 

The Pandemic and the Mind

The pandemic is making us depressed and anxious – can healthy food provide relief?

To the average person, it may seem eminently reasonable to assume that food affects our brains along with the rest of our bodies. But only within the past decade or so have researchers begun to establish the crucial link between diet and the mind.

The U.K. Mental Health Foundation reports that food plays an important role not only in depression but in schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including our eating habits. Comfort food was made for times like these, and it seems the healthy food trend that took root in recent years is reversing, at least for the time being. Shopping habits have shifted in favor of old processed favorites like frozen pizza, toaster waffles and canned spaghetti. These are convenience foods with long shelf lives that are designed to deliver pleasure. The typical American diet is often loaded with processed foods, pizza, fast food, white flour and sugary sodas.

Money is tight in many households, and busy parents are putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table instead of home cooking and using whole food. Open a box and there is dinner.  Besides, convenience foods are engineered  by the food industry to taste good and make us feel good at least in the short term.

But wait – there’s more. That’s because a growing body of research is showing that our food choices don’t just affect our waistlines. What we eat also may affect our mood and behavior. In other words, there may be something in the food we’re eating (or not eating) that’s influencing our state of mind.

The emerging field of nutritional psychology contends that modern western diets have contributed to increased rates of mental illness, particularly depression. Diets that follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and olive oil, have been linked to lower rates of depression. A diet change of just a few weeks has been found to lift moods. In a 2010 study, women who ate diets high in vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains were less likely to suffer from depression.

As a third of all Americans are reporting that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health, we might now need nutritious foods more than ever. One way to start is to simply cut down on “junk” foods and look for simple ways to prepare whole nutritious foods.

Source: Discover Magazine, September/October, 2020