Dining Through the Decades: 1940

American Factory Workers

After a brief recovery from the Great Depression (some wondered what was so great about it), and no jobs, American was again forced to endure other hardships due to the horrors of World War II. The men marched off to Europe and later the South Pacific and the women marched out of the kitchen and into factories.

Food Rationing and Victory Gardens

The government restricted each American to 28 ounces of meat per week plus limited the amounts of sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and coffee permitted. As a result, sales of convenience and prepared foods increased. Margarine replaced butter. In fact, margarine was a relatively new product to many and to make it look like butter, coloring was artificially added. Rationing, substitutions, and making do with less dominated most of this decade. Home cooks made sugarless cookies, eggless cakes, and meatless meals. Food was prioritized to the troops and farmers and manufacturers were obligated to supply military needs that created food shortages for consumers. Posters proclaimed: “Do with less, so they’ll have enough”. Food rationing using ration cards was introduced in 1942 and ended in 1947 The government restricted each American to 28 ounces of meat a week plus limited amounts of sugar, gasoline, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and coffee. The production and sales of convenience foods soared while the use of margarine replaced the restricted butter. The Victory Gardens provided vegetables helped to fill out dinner menus since canned goods, frozen fruits and vegetables were also rationed. Ground beef became popular; hamburger was only seven rationing points as compared with 12 for a T-bone steak.

The government encouraged Americans to plant Victory Gardens similar to what they had done in World War I.  Reflecting the times, women’s magazines of the day featured recipes for fresh vegetables, while the vegetable sections of popular cookbooks grew larger. Home canning became a necessity to not waste the precious harvests of fresh produce from garden cooperatives.

On the Home Front

After the war, many new products were introduced to the American public. These “convenience foods” (dehydrated juice, instant coffee, cake mixes, etc.) came about because of the military interest and research in using these products for the troops. Many people could not afford to “eat out”; thus, many restaurants closed for good. People entertained differently with pot luck suppers and progressive dinners becoming popular. Neighbors pooled their rationing points to help the cause. Vitamins were recommended to help with the nation’s nutritional needs. This more than likely helped fuel a burgeoning supplement industry that we experience today.

Uncle Spam

Even though Spam had been introduced to the American palate a decade before, it played a major role in a convenient form of meat to the American table. The troops soon tired of their main course of rations – Spam. During the war, the U.S. government bought 98% of Hormel’s products – Chile Con Carne, Dinty Moore Beef Stew and canned hams and of course, Spam. Soldiers called Uncle Sam, “Uncle Spam”. Americans did not go on vacations due a rubber shortage for tires. But they did go to the movies, so popcorn consumption soared.

Starvation Overseas

World War II was extremely hard on those living in Europe. In July, 1943, a great tank battle occurred in the Ukraine between the Germans and the Russians with the Russians emerging as the victor. Some historians consider this a turning point for the war. In Leningrad, starving people ate anything they could find – leather shoes, briefcases; they stripped wallpaper off and ate the paste. In India, the British took rice to feed their troops and almost six million Indians starved or died from malnutrition. In the Netherlands, Anne Frank wrote in her diary about the bland diet that included slimy, very old cabbage. In Leningrad, people resorted to cannibilism. The siege ended in 1944 with the death toll from starvation at about 1 million people.

Ancel Keys, K Rations and a Starvation Experiment

Ancel Benjamin Keys (January 26, 1904 – November 20, 2004) was an American scientist who studied the influence of diet on health. When it appeared that the U.S. would be in World War II, Keys went to the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute in Chicago to inquire about emergency rations. After some frustration and lack of interest from the Institute, he eventually worked on the development of the K ration for military troops in the field.  The initial ingredients of the K-ration were procured at a local Minneapolis grocery store—hard biscuits, dry sausage, hard candy, and chocolate. The final product was different from Keys’ original ingredients, but most of Keys initial suggestions did make it to the final product. The small container weighed only 28 oz. but provided 3200 calories a day.

Keys was not finished yet. Interest was building about how to treat mass starvation and how-to bring people back to normal nourishment afterwards in the best possible way to avoid metabolic complications. 1944 Keys carried out a starvation study with 36 conscientious objectors. The participants were eventually placed on a reduced 1800 calories/day for 6 months.

After and during the starvation period, the Keyes subjects exhibited a psychiatric syndrome, called semi-starvation neurosis. They dreamed and fantasized about food; they were anxious and depressed; they hid their food in their rooms; they often binged. Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation. Is this what happens in a less serious way to people who become chronic dieters?

TIDBITS AND TRIVIA

1941 McDonald’s opened their first hamburger drive-in near Pasadena, California.

1941 Cheerios breakfast food was introduced by General Mills contained 2.2 percent sugar.

1942 Americans struggled to find wartime food easy to prepare and at the same time lose household help. A new cookbook, entitled How to Cook A Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher was published to help these shortages. The Chapter headings told the story: “How to Be Sage without Hemlock: How Not to Boil an Egg”; “How to Keep Alive”; How to Be Cheerful Though Starving”; “How to Practice True Economy”.

1942 H.B. Resse decides to concentrate his marketing of his peanut butter cup which he sells primarily to the military. He charges a nickel for one cup which then led to a larger one in an orange, yellow and brown wrapper as we can recognize today.

1943 Spam is still with us after its introduction 6 years ago and again becomes all too familiar to GIs. In Britain civilians and troops consider it a luxury and vast shipments are also made to Russian troops.

1945 U.S. food rationing on all items except sugar ends but food remains scarce in most of the world. Black markets exist throughout Europe.

1947 The first commercial microwave oven is introduced by the Ratheon Co. of Waltham, Mass. Ratheon’s $3,000 Radarrange used an electronic tube called a magneton that cooks quickly, but the reults are unappetizing.

1948 V-8 Cocktail Vegetable Juice introduced by Campbell Soup Co. is a mixture of tomato, carrot, celery, beet, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach juices.

1949 The average American steel worker has $3,000 per year to spend after taxes, the average social worker $3,500, a high-school teacher $4700, s car salesman $8,000, a dentist $10.000.  Typical food prices: pork 57 cents/lb,, lamb chops, $1.15/lb; Coca-Cola 5 cents/7 oz bottle; milk 21 cents/qt; bread 15 cents/lb.; eggs 80 cents/dozen.

1949 General Mills and Pillsbury introduce prepared cake mixes, initially in chocolate, gold and white varieties.

1949 Sara Lee Cheesecakes are introduced by Chicago baker, Charles Lubin whose refrigerated cream cheese product will make his Kitchens of Sara Lee (named after his 9-year old daughter) one of the world’s largest bakeries.

Source: 

Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, Second Edition, Linda Civitello.

The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Andrew F. Smith, Editor

Is Fish Brain Food? The Omega Fats Explained

The major food sources for LA are sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils. LA can also be converted to another fatty acid called omega 6 arachidonic acid (AA) found in meats and animal products. LNA is found in walnuts, dark, leafy green vegetables, flaxseed, canola and soybean oils.

LNA can be converted at various rates to other omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You may have seen these on fish oil supplement labels. We can get EPA and DHA directly by eating fish and fish oils or by taking supplements.

So far the major lipid players consist of LA and AA that are omega-6 fats and LNA, EPA and DHA that are omega-3 fats. For those of you who are still with me, that’s the hard part. For keeping this simple, this post will mainly concentrate on the functions of the three and six families, with little to none of the nine family.

Is Fish a Brain Food?

The fact remains that nutrition science is becoming more aware of the impact of lifestyle factors in the prevention of chronic diseases. The overall number of Americans afflicted with dementia is expected to triple by the year 2050. Whether you become a victim has a lot to do with your health behavior patterns.

Recently there was a major study in 2019 that looked at the effects of certain foods and food components on cognitive function. A group of 116 elderly Americans with an average age of 69 underwent cognitive testing, MRI scans to assess brain function and structure, and blood tests to assess nutrient status.

The Results: The results identified six categories of  nutrients found in the blood associated with enhanced cognitive performance that measured general intelligence, executive function, and memory. The nutrients associated with improved cognitive performance included carotenoids (antioxidants), folate, B6, B12, Vitamin D, and a healthy balance  or ratio  of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

MRI imaging revealed enhanced brain network connectivity in those with healthy balances of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids which will be the  focus of this post. For  those who had more vascular risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity) the MRI imaging showed greater brain shrinkage and less gray and white matter in brain tissues.

What is a  balanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats in the diet?

Most modern diets contain excessive amounts of omega-6s and insufficient amounts of omega-3s. Americans regularly eat processed food and vegetable oils but eat fish infrequently so we end up with many more omega-6s and fewer omega-3s.

The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less, ideally 1:1.  On average in the U.S., the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is a disastrous 16:1.

Therefore, although omega-6 fats are essential in the right quantities, most people in the developed world should aim to reduce their omega-6 intake. Refined vegetable fats such as soybean oil  are used in cookies, crackers, sweets, salad dressings and most fried foods.  For example, a meal from a fast food restaurant  consisting of a fried chicken sandwich and salad can result in over 17000 mg of omega-6 fats being eaten. And it gets worse. One serving of crunchy onion rings contain 30, 989 mg. of omega-6 (from Applebee’s). If you have a salad with soybean or safflower oil dressing, you’d consume about 7,200 mg of additional omega-6 fats. In contrast, a typical serving of wild salmon may provide 2,000 mg of omega-3.

Top 9 Foods with the Highest Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio (Try to get close to a 4:1 ratio)

Food Ratio of Three to Six 
Snow crab (3 oz) 61:1
Atlantic cod (6 oz) 29:1
Tuna (6 oz) 25 :1 
Mussels (3 oz) 25:1
Broccoli Rabe (1 cup) 7:1
Spinach (1 cup) 5:1 
Flax seeds (1 oz)  4:1
Mangos (1 cup) 3;1
Lettuce (1 cup) 2:1

The authors of this 2019 study advocate for drastic reductions in ingested omega 6 and increases in omega 3. They advise that for each milligram of omega 6 that you eat, consume about an equal amount of omega-3 fats. That may prove difficult in our current U.S. food environment. This is especially true if you are not a fish lover. Although not a fan of dietary supplements, in this case, a good quality supplement of fish oils (EPA and DHA) may be prudent.  Look for brands with the USP label or the Consumer Lab (CL) label for purity, safety and efficacy. A major supplement provider recommends 2400 mg a day of fish oils (EPA/DHA. (Life Extension)

But wait, there’s more!  What in the Heck are Eicosanoids and How Do they Function in the Body?

Omega-6 fatty acids produce compounds called eicosanoids from arachidonic acid (AA) that tend to favor higher blood pressure, more blood clotting, and inflammatory compounds in the body. These events are associated with a higher risk for heart disease. They are often referred to as “bad” eicosanoids.

Omega-3 fatty acids produce eicosanoids from EPA with opposing effects, i.e., lower blood pressure, less blood clotting, and anti-inflammatory effects.  They are often referred to a “good” eicosanoids.

effects-of-eicosanoids-derived-from-omega-3-and-omega-6-fatty-acids

How do you help block excess arachidonic acid formation? By making sure your body has an adequate amount of EPA and LNA that compete with AA  for an enzyme that acts as an inhibitor of the “bad” eicosanoids.   The higher the EPA and LNA in the diet, the more the enzyme is inhibited and the less “bad” eicosanoids are produced

The Bottom Line:

What to do? Using olive oil in salad dressings and coconut oil for cooking is recommended. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and coconut oil is more stable since it has more saturated fat content. Neither of these participate in the production of eicosanoids as well as olive oil contains neutral fats from the nine family of fatty acids.

Eating less processed foods and/or fast foods goes a long way to bring that ratio from 16:1 closer to a healthier 4:1. Your heart and your brain may thank you.

Sources:

Judith E. Brown. Nutrition Now Seventh Edition, 2013.

Life Extension, October 2019

Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University

Zwilling, CE, Talukdar T., Zamroziewicz, MK, et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain. Neuroimage. 2019, Mar;188:239-51.

 

 

Is Vitamin C a Valid Treatment for COVID19?

Just read an extensive article concerning the claims that intravenous vitamin C  therapy could be a valid treatment for COVID19. This therapy has been around for decades or at least since the 1970’s when the Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling promoted its oral use for curing or preventing the common cold and even as a cancer treatment. Proponents have once again emerged with the same claims concerning COVID19 virus treatment and/or cure with Intravenous vitamin C.

Bottom Line: There is no evidence that this occurs. According to one physician of Orthomolecular Medicine: “if you test people with pneumonia, Influenza or COVID19, you can measure and see that their vitamin C levels are low”; this tells us little if nothing.

Orthomolecular medicine promotes the premise that extremely high doses of natural substances help the body to address illness. For example, the Daily Value for vitamin C is only 90 mg/day (more than enough to prevent scurvy).  In orthomolecular medicine, at least 1500 mg/day would be required and more is better. Fortunately, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is commonly excreted from the body in urine. However, there are side effects at high doses that include diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.

A clinical trial in China is investigating the claim of intravenous vitamin C therapy and COVID19;  and it will be interesting if we hear any positive results when the study concludes next year.

Here are the facts as we know them.

CLICK HERE.

What the Heck is the Microbiome?

 

What the Heck is the Microbiome?

Much attention has been spent lately describing the health contributions of the microbiome defined as “non-human cells that outnumber human cells and consists of our microbe residents in the human gut, skin, eyes and nasal passages.” These bacterial cells collectively can weigh as much as six pounds.

Another term for the microbiome is the microbiota.  The composition of the microbiota plays an important role during pregnancy and in early life and may affect our metabolic and immune functions later in life. The gut microbiota helps our digestive system efficiency, improves nutrient availability and absorption, and limits the presence of pathogens through competition for nutrients and space.

From the moment of birth, the newborn is exposed to microorganisms obtained from the birth canal of the mother or by exposure to the mother’s skin during a C-section delivery. This colonization is influenced by many factors such as genetics, breast-feeding or formula feeding and weaning to solid food as well as the presence of antibiotic therapy. It is thought that by 2 years of age, the young infant will have established its own stable microbiota. Recently stress and the mother’s diet during late pregnancy may play a role in this initial colonization of the young child.

From studies, it was shown that differences in the gut microbiome during the first year of life may later lead to the onset of obesity. In one study, the numbers of Bifidobacterium species (considered beneficial) were higher and the numbers of Staphylococcus aureus (potentially pathogenic) were lower in children who maintained a normal weight than in children who became overweight at 4 years of age suggesting this pattern may be protective against obesity. In other studies, it was observed that there is a link between the composition of the microbiome during pregnancy and body weight. More specifically, the presence of Staphylococcus and E. coli numbers were higher in women with excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Fecal transplant of an obese microbiome to germ-free mice resulted in a greater increase in total body fat than did colonization with a “lean microbiome” suggesting that the change in the intestinal microbiome environment can promote obesity and other metabolic diseases later in life.

How can we control the content of the microbiome? Guess what – eating more fruits and vegetables have a prebiotic effect on the microbiome.  Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that reach the colon intact and are known to help the growth and activity of healthy (friendly) bacteria in the gut like Bifidobacterium species.

Increase your intake of unpasteurized fermented foods like fermented dairy products such as yogurt or kefir that contain probiotics. Probiotics are defined as live microbes that offer a health benefit to humans. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species are the most common bacteria groups used.

Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichoke. In addition, probiotics and prebiotics are added to some foods and available as dietary supplements. So simply, the prebiotic foods help feed the probiotics.

Use more herbs such as garlic and leeks which contain the prebiotic inulin. Inulin is  a fermentable carbohydrate that is found in some fiber or protein bars. Inulin can cause digestive trouble or aggravate irritable bowel syndrome for some people as there is a threshold of tolerance for their intake. Look on ingredient labels for inulin or chickory root extract.

The study of the microbiome continues to fascinate scientists and its presence may be more involved in our health than previously thought.  But the research is still in its infancy and caution should be stressed so that people do not rush to buy probiotics or attempt self-treatment.  The transplants are experimental and should only be performed by professionals.  A limited number of studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for patients suffering from Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). CDI is a serious and difficult to treat infection causing inflammation of the lining of the abdomen; it is mostly found in  hospitalized elderly patients after excessive use of antibiotics but can affect an estimated 3% of healthy people.

 

Tea Time – Green or Black?

Tea Time – Green or Black?

First, a little background.  Tea is currently the most consumed beverage in the world besides water.  Americans consume an average of 153 cups a year. Most Americans drink black tea while green tea is becoming more popular as claims are made about its health benefits.  more than likely from phytochemicals called polyphenols, specifically catechins and flavonoids. Phytochemicals are substances that have been proposed to have health benefits over and above what the vitamins or minerals provide.  Phyto is the Greek word for plants. Phytochemicals often have strange names (hard to pronounce, so bear with me.)

The active phytochemical in teas is called epigallocatechin -3 galate (EGCG) found in green tea.   Green tea is produced from the withered leaves and buds of Cameillia sinensis by heating or steaming before drying.

Bottled tea is not equivalent to brewed tea in terms of polyphenol content.  While all teas (not herbal) contain between 100-300 mg of flavonoids per serving, bottled teas (16 oz.) contain fewer than one cup of brewed tea.

CANCER

From anecdotal evidence, epidemiological and experimental models, tea is thought to have cancer preventive effects.   A prospective study of a group of Japanese people younger than 79 years old after a 13-year follow-up indicated a delay of cancer onset and cancer-related death, as well as all-cause mortality with an increased consumption of green tea.  Another cohort of 8,552 general residents of Japan presented evidence for preventive effects of drinking green tea on both cancer and heart disease.  In one animal study, researchers showed that green tea as a main beverage in the diet of mice could suppress colon cancer.  Another study suggested a reduction of chronic inflammation by green tea which may be associated with cancer and heart disease.

There are few human studies on green tea.  Generally cancer risk is reduced more in those people who consume green tea than black tea since the polyphenols in black tea are not absorbed as well.  Studies show that the amount of tea consumed effects cancer prevention effects – i.e. the range has been from two to three cups of green tea per day to 10 cups per day.

HEART DISEASE

Black and green tea consumption and the risk of coronary artery disease: a meta-analysis
Conclusions: Our data do not support a protective role of black tea against CAD. The limited data available on green tea support a tentative association of green tea consumption with a reduced risk of CAD. However, additional studies are needed to make a convincing case for this association.

It appears from a meta-analysis (see abstract above through the link provided) of studies on black and green tea that there was no association with black tea and coronary artery disease; however, green tea did show a tentative association.  There are few studies on green tea; more are needed.

However, another meta-analysis reported that either green or black tea (3 or more cups) reduced ischemic stroke risk by 21%.  (Stroke, 2009; 40:1786-1792.)

WEIGHT LOSS

Green tea extracts are often found in the weight loss sections of health food stores and supermarkets. I could only find one or two studies on humans from reputable journals. Most of the studies were animal studies. The studies are inconclusive and inconsistent.  Don’t believe the hype that green tea will burn fat.

What is the Bottom Line?

If you’re looking for dramatic health benefits from tea – the evidence is not yet there.  As with most nutrition studies, there are mixed results.  The problem may be that tea consumption is variable as far as amounts of cups consumed.  Some bottled teas have added sugar; some people add sugar to brewed tea; some add milk.  Most epidemiological studies are based on recall or observation, which is always a problem in these types of studies.  One drawback of overconsumption is that the polyphenols in tea interfere with nonheme iron absorption that can lead to anemia.

Tea has been around for the last 2,000 years and is the beverage of choice of many Asian countries.  There is no reason to not enjoy it.  If you have not tried green tea, do so.  It may take a while to get used to it; however, it may be the best bet for health.  Everyone can benefit from any tea. It has the potential to offer powerful antioxidant protection, reduce blood sugar, is anti-inflammatory, and lowers cholesterol. For a common little beverage that costs next to nothing – that’s a pretty powerful resume.

 

Vitamin D: An Anti Inflammatory Vitamin?

Vitamin D Foods

Study: Patients Low In Vitamin D Twice As Likely To Develop Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

Here are some facts about vitamin D.  It is important to remember that just one study is only an observation but can be used to form a hypothesis for further research.  Actually vitamin D is now thought of as a hormone that is involved with helping to build strong bones. Also as a hormone, it plays key  roles in combating chronic inflammation. It does this by entering cells and turning genes that produce Inflammatory substances “off” and those that produce substances that reduce inflammation “on.” In our days of living with the pandemic, we need to pay attention to the dietary factors that may help curtail the effects of the coronovirus or COVID-19.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common.

How to Improve your vitamin D status:

  • Substitute a cup of skim milk for a sweetened beverage at one meal or snack a day.
  • Eat salmon once a week at dinner.
  • Select a vitamin D-fortified orange juice.
  • Buy or select and consume vitamin D-fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Exercise or walk in sunshine for 10 minutes three times a week. Best to wear shorts or short sleeves for better exposure (weather dependent, of course). Vitamin D is manufactured from a form of cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultra-violet rays from the sun. You cannot get too much vitamin D from sun exposure.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement (400-600 IU) daily until you are able to get enough vitamin D through dietary means. NOTE: Please get your doctor’s permission to take vitamin D supplements since it is classified as a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic at high doses (4,000 IU/ is the upper Tolerable Level) or 100 ug/day.  Check labels carefully. Source: Nutrition Now, 7th Edition, Judith E. Brown

CLICK HERE.

Looking for a Good Plant-based Diet?

Healthy Plant Protein

Plant -based diets are the newest trend in lifestyle medicine, although vegan diets have been with us for decades. Now there is some competition along with their gimmicks and do’s and don’ts that we have heard for years.

Nevertheless, these diets have a nutrition seal of approval as we attempt to give up the unhealthy Standard American Diet and good riddance to that. My favorite is the Mediterranean Diet as it is more balanced as far as flavor and taste is considered. It adds some meat as well as allows some wine in moderation.  All of these diets are beneficial and plant-based diets have shown to have health benefits in research studies. Any diet must be able to be sustained and those diets that are highly restrictive don’t seem to be followed for long periods of time. You ideally should consider one of these diets as a plan you can follow as part of your new healthy lifestyle.

CLICK HERE.

 

The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil has gained its fame with the advent of the Mediterranean Diet and the prevalence of its use in Mediterranean countries, especially Greece and Italy. Olive oil plays a major role in the diets of the majority of the Blue Zone cultures that boast of their longevity and as a part of a group of the longest living cultures on the planet. Tons of research supports the statement that olive oil has some serious health benefits.

So what is in olive oil? And what in the heck does it do for us? The primary fatty acid found in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid and from research is found  to be a heart healthy oil. Olive oil is very high in phytonutrients called polyphenols which are potent antioxidants.

Refined vs extra virgin olive oil

The problem is that olive oil is not all alike. Commercial producers have often promoted inferior or even imitation products that on the label says olive oil but has questionable benefits. So what is the extra virgin hype?  First of all, it is not refined and processed as the regular refined oil that is harvested by machine and processed with heat – this damages the polyphenols responsible for its health benefits and washes them away since they are water-soluble.

The extra virgin olive oil is often harvested by hand and separated without the use of heat, hot water, or solvents and is primarily left unfiltered, which preserves the delicate polyphenols. The first pressing produces the “best stuff,” known as “extra virgin” olive oil. Seek out the best – it’s worth it and your heart will thank you.

Recent Research

One study compared two groups of people with high blood pressure. One group was given sunflower oil and one group received extra virgin olive oil. In the olive oil group, blood pressure was decreased by a significant amount; it also decreased the need for blood pressure medicines in this group by a whopping 48 percent.

Results of a large clinical trial published in two prestigious medical journals, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate that a diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil provides other health benefits.The PREDIMED study enrolled adults age 55 to 80 who were considered at high risk for cardiovascular disease based on various factors.

Participants were assigned to a Mediterranean diet, one with supplemental extra virgin olive oil (at least 4 tablespoons) and the other supplemented with mixed nuts. The third group was assigned to a control, low fat diet.

Over almost five years of follow-up, cardiovascular outcomes including heart attack, stroke, and death from any cardiovascular cause, were noted. The Mediterranean diet groups had a significantly lower rate of negative cardiovascular outcomes. This association was particularly strong for the supplemental extra virgin olive oil group, which had a 31 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease outcomes compared to the control diet group.

The researchers also observed data of breast cancer risk in the women enrolled. Here too, the diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil was most protective, reducing rates of breast cancer by nearly 70% compared to the control diet. Interestingly, the group that supplemented with mixed nuts did not show a significant benefit in terms of breast cancer risk.

The study’s authors report that this was the first human trial to find a beneficial effect of a dietary intervention on breast cancer risk. Together, these results suggest that a Mediterranean diet with supplemental extra virgin olive oil is protective against both cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in older adults with existing risk factors.

A 2013 study showed that olive oil contributes to satiety and so helps with weight loss. FYI: Satiety is a feeling of fullness of having enough to eat) In a German study, subjects who ate yogurt laced with olive oil had higher satiety compared to those eating yogurt containing other fats. They also had higher levels of serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter) and improved mood. The olive oil group lost weight, while the other groups actually gained weight over a three month study.

Use olive oil as your main fat for cooking (such as sauteing and roasting) and in salads. Store olive oil in a cool dark area, as it is susceptible to oxidation as many oils are.

 

Food for Thought?

Reliable nutrition research is hard to find – at least the kind of studies that have no obvious conflicts of interest or bias from the food industry. Here are two recent studies that I found that appeared to have some legitimacy and no conflicts of interest. Source: Life Extension

Weight Loss and Breast Cancer Risk

It has been known for some time that excess body weight raises the risk of breast cancer.

Study Method: A large study that included 180,000 female subjects over 50 years of age had their weight assessed three times in 10 years by researchers from the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and others. They found that women who lost about 4.4 lbs to 10 lbs. had a 13% lower risk, women who lost 10 lbs to 20 lbs had a 16% lower risk, and those who lost 20 lbs or more had a 25% lower risk.

Women who lost weight, and then regained some of it back, also had a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women whose weight remained stable.

Conclusions/Authors: “Our results suggest that even a modest sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50. These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of women who are overweight to lose some of that weight, one author said.

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2019 Dec.

Blueberries and Metabolic Syndrome

Researchers evaluated the effects of blueberry consumption on indicators of oxidative stress (free radicals) and inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome. Oxidative stress occurs when cells are exposed to more oxidizing molecules (free radicals) than to antioxidant molecules that neutralize them. Over time, it increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Blueberries have been found to have antioxidant functions as a result  of phytochemicals called polyphenols.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that includes some combination of high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, and abnormal lipid profiles (HDL, LDL, trigycerides, total cholesterol). The syndrome is associated with a highly pro-inflammatory environment in the body and a sharp increase of risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Method: For the study, one group of patients received a smoothie containing 22.5 grams of freeze-dried blueberries, (about 2 cups of fresh blueberries.) The other group received a placebo smoothie twice a day.

Results: After six weeks, blueberry supplementation markedly decreased oxidative stress in whole blood and monocytes (white blood cells as part of the immune system). Supplemented patients also had a reduced expression of inflammatory markers in the monocytes.

The researchers noted that to their knowledge, this was the first study to yield significant improvements in oxidative and inflammatory parameters in patients with metabolic syndrome just after six weeks of blueberry consumption.

Note: As with all research, one study is not sufficient to form conclusions – the study results need to be replicated.

Looking for more reasons to eat blueberries? A University of Illinois study tested different fruits for the presence of a particular polyphenol that inhibits a cancer-promoting enzyme. Of all the fruits tested, wild blueberries showed the greatest anticancer activity.

Throw them on a salad, in blender with a protein powder, eat them frozen with a dollop of yogurt. Put them on your morning cereal.

 

 

I