Is Dieting Dead?

A Diet History Timeline

The picture above is an ad from the early 1900’s attempting to promote the effectiveness of a tonic “that not only cures everything, but adds heft to the figure.” Ironically, a full figure in those times represented wealth and prosperity.

I love timelines – they tell us where we have been and how we evolved to where we are now.   This is a fun timeline on the History of Dieting.  Where can we go from here?

According to the latest issue of Eating Well magazine, October 2020, it is predicting in the future that dieting will be done for good. “We will finally wake up to the fact that following a regimen of temporary deprivation to achieve health or aesthetic goals is an exercise in futility – and that healthy eating is for life and  building ongoing habits, not quick fixes.”

AMEN!!! But first, what is our dieting history?

1850

In England, William Banting consulted Dr. William Harvey for weight loss who recommended he cut most sugar and starch from his diet since foods containing those substances tend to create body fat.  He lost 50 pounds and wrote the first diet book, “Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public” in 1862. It was a best seller!

1898

Horace Fletcher loses 42 pounds by advocating that we need to chew food about 32 to 80 times before being swallowed and it should be in liquid form. He later became known as “The Great  Masticator”.

1918

Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters writes the first best selling diet book, “Diet and Health with a Key to the Calorie”.   She promoted calorie counting over our entire life.

1919

The Continental Scale Company produces the first bathroom scale called the “Health O Meter”.

1929

A cigarette advertisement tells women to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”.  Another slogan says:  “Light a Lucky and you’ll never miss sweets that make you fat”.

1930

The “grapefruit diet” also known as “The Hollywood Diet” is promoted which involves eating only 585 calories a day for 18 days with boiled eggs, green vegetables and Melba toast.

1936

Self-proclaimed diet guru Victor Lindlahr reaches thousands via the radio to produce his regular broadcasts entitled “reducing party”. He wrote the book You Are What You Eat, one of the earliest texts of the health food movement in the United States, which sold over half a million copies.

1942

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company published standard weight tables for “ideal weight”.  The charts used weight, height, frame size, and gender but only used data from life insurance policyholders which biased the conclusions.

1948

Amphetamines were first prescribed for some obese patients but later research determined that these were dangerous.  Amphetamine –like drugs are still used today in a limited fashion.

1958

Saccharin, the first manufactured artificial sweetener is produced and becomes a popular sugar substitute.  It is still used today after years of research that absolved critical reports of its cancer connection. Some doubts still linger.

1961

Weight Watchers was born as a result of Jean Nidetch and several friends who met in her apartment to offer each other support about dieting. Weight Watchers and other diet programs like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig has turned weight loss into a multi-billion dollar industry. However, the results are dismal. In 1993, the Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight loss programs (including the above) made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products. To settle the charges, the companies were required to add dislaimers, like “For many dieters, weight loss is temporary.” By 2002, the FTC released a report suggesting that little had changed.

1967

Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing about 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and icon for the slender female.

1972

Dr. Atkins introduced his first “Diet Revolution”, a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet.

Richard Simmons opens Ruffage and the Anatomy Asylum, a Beverly Hills restaurant and exercise studio.  He quickly becomes known as a fitness and diet guru.

1978

Dr. Herman Tarnover introduces the “Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet”, another version of the high protein, low-carb diet.

1979

The Pritikin Diet answers the trend of the high protein, low – carb diets with a high fiber, very low fat diet.  The system was originally designed for heart patients but became popular for those who followed the newer trend of the low –fat diet approach.

1981

The Beverly Hills Diet is introduced – it recommends eating nothing but fruit for the first 10 days.

1982

Aspartame is introduced as another alternative sugar substitute. It was marketed as NutraSweet and is still used today in many products.

Liposuction is performed in the U.S. for the first time and now becomes a popular cosmetic procedure for the obese.

1983 

Jenny Craig is formed which sells their own line of diet foods and offers diet counseling.   Nutrisystem soon followed.

1988

Oprah Winfrey loses 67 pounds on the liquid diet Optifast.

1993

The Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight loss programs, including Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig) made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products. To settle the charges, the companies were required to add disclaimers, like “For many dieters, weight loss is temporary.” By 2002, the FTC released a report suggesting that little had changed.

1994

The FDA mandates that food labels must include detailed information about calories, fat, and fiber. We must thank Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters for this.

1995

“The Zone Diet” is introduced by Dr. Barry Sears. He promotes eating lots of fruits and vegetables and protein, while cutting back on breads and pastas.

1996

It is reported that 40% of nine and ten-year-olds are dieting and trying to lose weight.

2000

Experts are stating that there is now a global epidemic of obesity and that for the first time in history, this number of overweight people equals the number of underfed and undernourished.

2002

Dr. Atkins introduces his second diet book, the “New Diet Revolution” to a new generation of dieters. The Low-carb diet is back after multitudes of diet books promoting low fat diets.

2013

It appears we may have come full circle – we are now promoting cutting sugars and counting calories (again).  We have progressed from low carbohydrate, low fat, and low carbohydrate diets again along with some pretty scary schemes, e.g. the Tapeworm Diet.  Many weight loss books, gimmicks and pills have come and gone over and over again and many still exist, but with no real breakthroughs.

2020 “if dieting makes us fat, what should we do instead to stay healthy and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related conditions?,” asks Dr. Sandra Aamodt, PhD?  She is the author of  Why Diets Make us Fat” and coauthor of “Welcome to Your Brain”and earned her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester.

New concepts in weight loss and management are beginning to emerge like mindful eating, weight acceptance, and a different mindset about healthy weights. A new field of genetics called epigenetics may provide some answers that includes how the environment can influence gene expression. A new field of lifestyle medicine focuses not on weight alone but eating for health during a lifetime.

More effort and focus should be made on weight gain prevention and weight loss maintenance if we are finally going to declare dieting “dead”.

 

 

Nutrition News!!

Nutrition News: What You Need to Know

A Rise in Metabolic Syndrome

Half of U.S. adults age 60 or older now have what is called metabolic syndrome – a cluster of symptoms that raise the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Talk to your doctor if you have three or more of the following:

  • A large waist circumference
  • Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • A high fasting blood sugar leveL

A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CAN CUT the  RISK!!

DO YOU NEED VITAMIN D? 

The Facts:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in two forms, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). The RDA for women and men is 15 mcg or 600 UL and the UL is 100 mcg (4,000 IU  The primary functions are: needed for absorption of calcium and phosphorus and their utilization in bone formation, and nerve and muscle activity. It also inhibits inflammation and is involved in insulin secretion and blood glucose level maintenance. You may have seen lately the claim that it is needed especially in older adults for the prevention and/or treatment for COVID-19; however, so far there is no solid evidence to support that.

There is some preliminary evidence that it may offer some antiviral responses against the risk of respiratory infections in general and boost the ability of lung cells to fight bacteria and viruses. A large meta analysis)  published in 2017 in BMJ (British Medical Journal) concluded that taking a D supplement with anywhere from less than 800 IU to more than 2000 IU reduced the risk of having at least one respiratory tract infection. Those most deficient saw the most benefits, and there is “no trial that has shown any benefit for giving vitamin D in any population that is getting enough vitamin D,” says F. Michael Gloth, III, M.D., an associate professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

About 50 percent of people aged 60 and older take a D supplement and for some, it may useful. About 80% of older adults don’t get enough D in their diet as well as there are few food sources of vitamin D, since we make our own D in the skin.  Because of this, The National Academy of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D a day up to age 70; 800 IU daily after that. Ultimately, whether to get tested or take a supplement comes down having this discussion with your doctor.

Lifestyle habits can make a difference:

  • Don’t smoke – smoking depletes many vitamins and limit your ability to make vitamin D.
  • People carrying extra weight often have low D levels. Losing that extra weight may boost D levels.
  • Physical activity may increase vitamin D levels.
  • Getting enough sun – just 15 to 20 minutes a day on face, arms, legs, back without sunscreen can give a healthy dose. This can be harder in the winter or if you have darker skin.
  • Diet can help a little – cow’s milk and plant milks are usually fortified as well as some juices and cereals. Fatty fish and egg yolks help.
  • People with bowel disease or metabolic problems can affect D absorption. A simple blood test is often recommended by your doctor. Consult with your doctor who can help you with testing your individual levels, no matter what your age or health status.

Source: CRConsumer Reports On Health, October, 2020

What is the difference betwwen ALA, EPA, and DHA  Omega 3 fatty acids?

Both nuts and fish contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They help fight inflammation, boost brain and heart health and ensure healthy fetal development.   However there are three omega-3 fats (ALA, EPA and DHA) that differ in how we acquire them in our diets. The omega-3 from nuts is primarily ALA, while EPA and DHA are found preformed in fish. and algae. Here are the facts:

  • Omega-3 ALA cannot be created in our bodies and must, therefore be acquired from diet or supplements.
  • ALA is good but EPA and DHA are better (EPA for inflammation and DHA for brain/heart health. Your brain is made up of 58% DHA by dry weight.
  • Although we are technically able to synthesize our own EPA and DHA from ALA, we don’t do so very efficiently (in fact, the rates of conversion are quite low at 3% and 19%, respectively).
  • So if you’re vegetarian or simply don’t like fish, you may need to supplement your diet with EPA/DHA from fish or look for vegetarian omega-3 supplements that derive EPA and DHA from algae. Simply, that is where the fish get it.

Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter

Diet Supplements: Beliefs and Reality

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Consumers tend to believe that dietary supplements:

  • Have fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
  • Are approved by the FDA.
  • Will improve and maintain health.
  • Are safe, high quality, and effective.
  • May replace conventional medicines.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENT REALITIES

  • FDA does not approve, test, or regulate the manufacture or sale of dietary supplements.
  • The FDA has limited power to keep potentially harmful diet supplements off the market.
  • Dietary supplements may not have been tested for safety or effectiveness before they are sold.
  • Dietary supplements often do not list side effects, warnings, or drug or food interactions on product labels.
  • Ingredients listed on supplement labels may not include all active ingredients.
  •  Dietary supplements may not relieve problems or promote health and performance as advertised.
  • One of the most serious consequences of supplements results when they are used as a remedy for health problems that can be treated, but not by vitamins or minerals. Vitamin and mineral supplements have NOT been found as yet to prevent or treat heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, premature death, behavioral problems, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cataracts or stress. Some such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene may be harmful to certain groups of people. If taken, dosages should not be excessive.

Judith Brown, Nutrition Now, 2013.

The recent pandemic brings with it its schemes, misinformation, and claims for combating the virus. The supermarket tabloid covers feature various foods to eat to avoid viral infections.  Always consult with your doctor about these claims. And thanks to Quackwatch,  you can find  a very comprehensive guide about COVID-19 claims HERE.

The Glycemic Response: Sugar and Your Body

Blood sugar control is the goal of people who are either prediabetic or diabetic (type 1 or 2).

Why are high blood sugar levels bad for you? Glucose is precious fuel for all the cells in your body when it’s present at normal levels. But it can behave like a slow-acting poison and become a “silent killer.” when the normal rises.

  • High sugar levels slowly erode the ability of cells in your pancreas to make insulin. The organ overcompensates and insulin levels stay too high. Over time, the pancreas is permanently damaged. Insulin resistance may ensue.
  • High levels of blood sugar can cause changes that lead to a hardening of the blood vessels, what doctors call atherosclerosis.

Almost any part of your body can be harmed by too much sugar. Damaged blood vessels cause problems such as:

  • Kidney disease or kidney failure, requiring dialysis
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Vision loss or blindness
  • Weakened immune system, with a greater risk of infections
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Nerve damage, also called neuropathy, that causes tingling, pain, or less sensation in your feet, legs, and hands
  • Poor circulation to the legs and feet
  • Slow wound-healing and the potential for amputation in rare cases

Keep your blood sugar levels close to normal to avoid many of these complications.

What is the Glycemic Response?

The glycemic response is the rate, magnitude, and duration of the rise in blood glucose that occurs after a particular food or meal is consumed. It is affected by both amount and type of carbohydrate eaten and the amount of fat and protein in that food or meal.

Refined sugars and starches generally cause a greater glycemic response than refined carbohydrates that contain fiber. This is because sugar and starches alone leave the stomach quickly and are rapidly digested and absorbed, causing a sharp, swift rise in blood sugar. For example, when you drink a can of soda or eat a slice of white bread on an empty stomach your blood sugar increases within minutes. Eating a high fiber food causes a slower, lower increase in blood sugar. The presence of fat and protein also slows stomach emptying, and therefore foods high in these macro- nutrients generally causes smaller glycemic response than foods containing sugar or starch alone. For example , ice cream is high in sugar but also contains fat and some protein , so it causes a smaller rise in blood glucose than sorbet which contains sugar but no fat or protein. In fact, the GI for a baked potato is higher than for a serving of ice cream (due to the fat and sugar).

What is the Glycemic Index? (GI) 

Glycemic index is its ranking of how a certain food effects blood glucose compared to the response of an equivalent amount of carbohydrate from a reference food such as, white bread or pure glucose. The reference food is assigned a value of 100 and the values for other foods are expressed relative to this. Foods that have a glycemic index of 70 or more compared to glucose are considered high glycemic index foods those with an index of less than 55 are considered a low glycemic index food.

What is the Glycemic Load? (GL)

Glycemic load (GL) is a method of assessing glycemic response that takes into account both the glycemic index of the food and the amount of carbohydrate in a typical portion. To calculate glycemic load, the grams of carbohydrate in a serving of food are multiplied by that foods glycemic index expressed as a percentage.  A glycemic load of 20 or more is considered high, where a value of less than 11 is considered low.

For example: A raw carrot provides about 7 grams of carbohydrate and has a glycemic index of 47. It’s glycemic load (GL) is calculated as:

7 X 47 = 329.

329 / 100 = 3.29

Glycemic load = 3.29 

Bottom Line: Some high-GI foods, such as baked potatoes and French bread, are good sources of a number of nutrients. Just because a food has a high glycemic index doesn’t mean it should not be used as part of a balanced diet. Adjusting food choices toward selection of mainly  low GI foods is most helpful for people attempting to prevent or control type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed using the: Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test indicates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Normal levels are below 5.7 percent, and a result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes. It is important to see your physician who then may refer you to a certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian. Weight and carbohydrate control appears to be the best approach to deal with or even prevent diabetes type 2.  

The following links can further discuss the glycemic response as well as provide a table of the glycemic index and glycemic load of 100 foods tested.

CLICK HERE. and HERE

Source:

The American Diabetes Association

Nutrition. Smolin and Grosvenor, Wiley, 3rd Edition

Nutrition Now. Judith E. Brown, Wadsworth Centage Learning, 7th Edition

 

Chronic Inflammation: Understanding the “Cytokine Storm”

The leading causes of death among Americans are slow developing, lifestyle-related chronic diseases. This includes diabetes, heart disease,  stroke, cancer, hypertension or high cholesterol levels. Diet can often be (but not always) the underlying condition reflected as obesity.  Obesity is now considered to be a major risk factor for complications of COVID-19 infections.

A previous post  explains the role of diet in this occurrence. The post was written before the  co-morbidities   (underlying conditions) were associated with inflammation and severe COVID infections. The following well written article was initially published in The Conversation and succinctly explains how the role of inflammation can contribute to severe COVID and death often described as the “cytokine storm”.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Additives and the Metabolic Syndrome

 

What is the metabolic syndrome?

The metabolic syndrome is cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The syndrome increases a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Weight loss, exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation can help. Medications may also be prescribed.

In the current study presented, the results support the emerging concept that perturbed host–microbiome interactions resulting in low-grade inflammation can promote obesity and its associated metabolic effects. Moreover, they suggest that the broad use of emulsifying agents might be contributing to an increased societal incidence of obesity/metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Emulsifiers as a food additive act as detergents to  reduce stickiness, control crystallization and prevent separation. They are commonly used in many processed foods such as mayonnaise, ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate, salad dressings to create a smooth texture, prevent separation and extend shelf life.

Commonly used emulsifiers in modern food production include mustard, soy and egg lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, polysorbates, carrageenan, guar gum and canola oil. Lecithin in egg yolks is one of the most powerful and oldest forms of an animal-derived emulsifier used to stabilize oil in water. These ingredients are required by law to be included on a food’s ingredient label. Emulsifiers can disrupt the tight seal called tight junctions formed by the intestinal tract lining, enabling gut bacteria to cross and gain access to nearby immune cells, promoting metabolic toxemia.

Even though these ingredients are on the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list , many have not been thoroughly tested. Testing can occur if an ingredient is found to causes a health problem.

Conclusions:
The mice study presented below was concluded by the co-author, Andrew Gewirtz, PhD, as saying, “We suspect some emulsifiers act like detergents, upsetting the friendly bacteria in the microbiota, which triggers low-grade inflammation and causes excess  eating and weight gain”. A follow-up study suggested the changes in gut bacteria from emulsifiers could trigger bowel cancer;  however, more recent findings confirmed that emulsifiers remained safe at the estimated exposure levels. However, based on the study, the use of these emulsifiers may need some revision.

Bottom Line:  The current use of emulsifiers in the food production system may affect the health of the microbiome and parameters of the metabolic syndrome. This in turn can contribute to a higher risk of several chronic diseases, namely obesity and/or diabetes type 2. Consumers are encouraged to read labels and consume less highly processed foods and substitute more minimally processed foods to prevent these occurrences.

UPDATE: Source: Medical News Today, August, 2020

A new study has found that people with metabolic syndrome, which refers to a cluster of conditions that increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular issues, are more likely to have worse COVID-19 outcomes — including requiring ventilation and death.

The research, which appears in the journal Diabetes Care, August, 2020, provides further information on the underlying risk factors that affect the severity of COVID-19.

CLICK HERE.

Plastics in our Food?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Some sensible, reasonable advice to help to avoid a growing problem of  food contamination from the packaging of mainly processed foods. The main article below particularly points to the ever-growing problem of micro-plastics in our oceans.

6 Ways to Use Less Plastic

Source: Consumer Reports

While it’s practically impossible to eliminate plastic from modern life, there are a number of steps you can take right now to cut back.

Do: Drink tap water.
Don’t: Rely on bottled water.

Water from plastic bottles has about double the microplastic level of tap water on average, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry. So unless your tap water is contaminated with unsafe elements, such as lead, it’s probably best to drink tap. Fill up a metal reusable bottle for when you go out. You can always filter your tap water. Depending on the filter, that may further reduce microplastic levels. (Check CR’s ratings of water filters.)

Do: Heat food in or on the stove, or by microwaving in glass.
Don’t: Microwave in plastic.

Some heated plastics have long been known to leach chemicals into food. So if you’re warming up food, use a pan in the oven or on the stove, or if you’re microwaving, use a glass container. Also, avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher because of the high heat involved in cleaning.

Do: Buy and store food in glass, silicone, or foil.
Don’t: Store food in plastic, especially plastic that may contain harmful chemicals.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that plastic food containers with the recycling codes 3, 6, and 7 may contain potentially harmful chemicals, unless they’re labeled “biobased” or “greenware.” Don’t store food in these types of containers. Instead, use containers made of glass or silicone, or wrap your food in aluminum foil. If you’re storing food in or eating food out of plastic containers, know that plastics with recycling codes 1 and 2 are more likely to be recyclable—though they are usually recycled into lower-quality plastics. And there still may be harmful or unknown chemicals in any type of plastic.

Do: Eat fresh food as much as possible.
Don’t: Rely on processed food wrapped in plastic.

The more processed or packaged a food is, the higher the risk that it contains worrisome chemicals. Food cans are often lined with bisphenol A (or similar compounds). Buy fresh food from the supermarket, and—as much as possible—try to use refillable containers if your market allows. (Of course, with shopping made difficult by the coronavirus pandemic, prioritize your health and shop however is most feasible and safest.) Certain markets let you fill up cardboard or reusable containers with bulk items and weigh them, or you can use your own mesh bags for produce. Raw meat and fish need to be kept separate for safety reasons, but ask the store fishmonger or butcher to wrap these foods in wax paper instead of plastic. Take cloth—not plastic—reusable bags to the store to take your groceries home.

Do: Vacuum regularly.
Don’t: Allow household surfaces to get dusty.

The dust in your house could be loaded with microplastics and chemicals that are found in plastic, such as phthalates. Cleaning up dust may help reduce the amount of plastics you inhale, especially if you are stuck inside for long periods of time during a period of social distancing. CR recommends vacuuming regularly with a HEPA filter, which is best for trapping dust. (Check CR’s ratings of vacuums.)

Do: Work with your community.
Don’t: Assume your impact is limited to what you do in your personal life.

Legislation to limit the use of single-use plastics and plastic production may pull the biggest levers, but joining forces with community-level recycling groups can truly make a difference. Look for so-called zero-waste groups, which can offer guidelines for how to recycle or compost all your garbage—and which lobby for local rules that can restrict throwaway items. When possible, shop at markets that source goods locally, so they don’t require as much packaging and shipping. Seek out groups such as Upstream, a nonprofit working to create reusable takeout packaging for restaurants. And when possible, educate yourself about and support any city, county, and state legislation limiting single-use plastic

CLICK HERE for the main article.

 

Getting your protein from plants: A recipe for longevity?

Question: Does plant or animal protein affect mortality and/or longevity?

A study found that for every 3% of a persons daily energy intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduces a person’s risk of premature death by 10%.

For this study the researchers analyzed dietary data from more than 237, 000 men and 179, 000 women gathered between 1995 and 2011 as part of a long-term study on eating patterns and health. During 16 years of follow-up, a pattern emerged where plant protein intake appeared to reduce risk of early death. Every 10 grams of plant for animal protein swapping per 1000 calories resulted in a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women, the finding showed.

Bottom Line: The findings provide evidence that dietary modification in choice of protein sources may influence cardiovascular health and longevity.

Taking red meat out of your diet can be beneficial, but only if you swap for a healthy substitute, said a lead researcher from the US National Cancer Institute. For example, replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red made protein with plant protein such as whole grains or cereals resulted in a protective Association for overall mortality, the researcher said on the other hand replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red meat protein with other foods such as sugar sweetened beverages may or may not result in a reduction in mortality.

There are many reasons why choosing plant protein over animal protein could help extend your life; meat protein tends to come with higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that aren’t very good for your health. For example, one ounce of red meat mixed with whole wheat pasta and veggies would provide much less saturated fat than a 9 ounce steak

On the other hand, plant proteins come with loads of fiber , antioxidants, and other compounds like vitamins and minerals that add to the nutrient density along with lesser calories as fat than in some meat products (processed meat in particular).

The researchers also added that there might be something specific about the products formed from the breakdown of animal-based protein that could cause arteries to grow harder or inflammation to occur. In 2011, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic demonstrated that meat eaters produced a metabolite that promotes heart disease called Trimethylamine-N-Oxide or TMAO. Of great interest, TMAO was not elevated in vegans who were asked to meet eat a meat meal for the purposes of the study. .

Huang, Jiaqu, et al. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 13, 2020.

 

Is DNA Your Destiny?

Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits?  Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.

A new outlook on genetics is called epigenetics  and involves the concept of environmental factors (including diet) affecting how genes are expressed or inhibited. Thanks to this relatively new science, we now know that experiences of previous generations may show up in your health and well-being. Many of the risks for chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia can be traced back to your biological roots and the experiences your parent and even grandpaents had. Similarly, the food you eat may affect your children and grandchildren.

Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein

Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence itself

DNA Methylation: A chemical reaction that occurs in a cell when a methyl group attaches to DNA, changing the expression of the gene to which it is attached.

Methyl Group: A type of molecular structure that occurs in many compounds, CH3, for example.

Methyl Donor: Nutrients, like folate and vitamin B12 that when metabolized can donate methyl groups during the process.

To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.

The Result of Methylation

Methylation Effects in the DNA

Both these mice have the gene called the agouti gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups, so we want to silence the expression of the gene if possible. There is a way.  The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.

Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diseases.

How did this occur?  Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. It’s like throwing a wrench into the DNA to stop the expression of a gene or removing the wrench to allow the expression of the gene. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression.  Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.

In any case, your lifestyle choices may play a role in your future health status.

It must be remembered that with any new concept, doubts and skepticism will occur. Time for more research to examine this interesting hypothesis. The   implications are enormous in that we may be able to improve our health status by choosing healthy habits and lifestyles such as diet, exercise, stopping smoking, for example.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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