What is Wrong with Refined Carbs?

Healthy Carbs
  • A new study found consuming a number of refined grains, such as croissants and white bread, is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular disease, stroke, and early death. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

The study called the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study examined populations around the world involving 137, 130 participants in 21 countries and involved a diversity of low-, middle-, and high-income populations.

The results found that having more than seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with a 27% greater risk for early death, 33% greater risk for heart disease, and 47% greater risk for stroke. Those groups eating whole grains or white rice showed no significant adverse health effects.

Source: Simon Fraser University. “Eating more refined grains risk of heart attack, early death.” ScienceDaily, 19 February 2021. http://www.sciencedaily, com/releases/2021/02


Born to Be Fat? An Update.

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Is It In Your Genes?

Have you ever wondered why some people gain weight very easily and others can eat all they want and not gain an ounce?   Please read a previous post entitled “Born to Be Fat?” Click here.

Ethan Sims of the University of Vermont studied prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight.  They succeeded with great difficulty to increase their weights on average by 20-25% and it took 4-6 months.

Some consumed 10,000 calories/day and once fat, their metabolisms increased by 50% When the study ended, the prisoners had no trouble losing weight. Within months, they were back to normal and kept their weights stable.

These results suggest that there is a reason that overweight people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when forced to gain weight. The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range.

Recently, some new research adds more insights about how our DNA is involved. Here are some highlights:

Researchers deleted a gene called MRAP2 in mice that acts in the brain and controls how quickly calories are burned.  It turned out that this gene helped another gene known to control appetite. These animals ate the same amount of calories as lean mice, but gained weight.

They also found a mutation in the same gene in a severely obese child and are now searching for other mutations that have the same or similar effects. If the gene that was helped to control appetite was not controlled by the helper gene (MRAP2), then the animals developed tremendous appetites, gained the weight without eating more calories and the weight resulted in fat accumulation.

People are often blamed for their own lack of self-control over eating or that they do not exercise, but in some people this is just not the case.

Researchers based at University College London reported that a specific form of a gene previously linked to obesity, FTO, could increase craving for high-fat foods. This gene makes an appetite hormone named ghrelin that works on the brain’s pleasure center to make high calorie foods more appetizing and desirable.

In this study, the researchers divided a group of 359 healthy men of normal weight by their FTO gene makeup. The majority of the men had low-risk versions of the gene, while 45 of the participants had mutations that have been linked to greater appetite and caloric consumption. They then measured levels of ghrelin both before and after meals that the participants ate. The men with the low-risk form of FTO showed a significant drop in ghrelin levels after the meals that signified that they were full while the men with the mutated form did not show this effect.    

It is thought that about 70% of obesity causes are genetically controlled but that environmental influence on the genes can certainly occur.

The results did not mean that people are completely helpless to control their weight, but it does appear that people who tend to be overweight have a greater battle with their genes if they want to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.

As stated before, body weight is so highly regulated by so many physiological and psychological factors with many body systems involved, especially the brain.  Maybe in the next few years or so, we can begin to figure out what actually causes weight gain and that it’s not just gluttony and lack of self-control. All these studies are valuable pieces of the puzzle.

Is Aging Affected by How We Live?

In order to understand how aging or longevity  can be influenced by our lifestyles one has to have a basic understanding of epigenetics  – still considered a controversial factor in disease and our overall health (morbidity and morality). Even though it is still to be determined, epigenetics is an interesting topic and thought-provoking hypothesis. Simply it is how we treat our bodies and how the resultant “wear and tear” on our health can lead to chronic diseases as well as how long we may live as determined by its affects on our genes. Here is how it works:



“Op-Ed: Why Diet Matters in Covid-19”

The following article by Arnold R. Eiser, MD, presents some interesting points about diet as a lifestyle. Nutrition is just one lifestyle factor that may play a role in the prevention and treatment of other inflammatory diseases as such as rheumatoid arthritic, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. Obesity itself is a proposed risk factor for Covid-19. Could lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, among others, play a part in the susceptibility of contracting and dealing with severity of the infection? If so, prevention along with vaccines could be a key intervention in the disease process.

“At present, the most effective measure in halting the transmission of COVID-19 and preventing associated chronic complications is unarguably the avoidance of exposure to the virus through physical distancing, face masks and eye protection. In addition, changes in lifestyle factors, including nutrition, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, screen time and sleep, may be able to contribute to shifting the risk distribution for COVID-19.These factors also appear to play a role in the management of mental disorders,which are commonly observed in pandemics such as the current one. The present overview will discuss the potential role of lifestyle factors in regard to immune functioning and prevention of severe outcomes of COVID-19.” Eiser, MD, MEDPAGE Today, January 30, 2021


Working for an extension of a Healthy Lifespan

The Power of Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals in addition to vitamins, minerals, and fibers are thought to be the bioactive compounds responsible for contributing to the health benefits of a plant based diet.

How to Choose Phytochemicals

  • Choose three different colors of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable each week.
  • Use new spices – not just salt and pepper.
  • Add vegetables to sauces and casseroles.
  • Double your typical serving of vegetables.
  • Add asparagus, pesto, artichokes to pizza.
  • Buy jars of chopped garlic and basil.
  • Snack on whole grain crackers.
  • Switch to whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
  • Add fruit to cereals or vegetables to eggs.
  • Try High Fiber V-8 juice instead of sugary orange juice.
  • Include nuts in stir frys and baked goods.
  • Sprinkle flaxseed on your oatmeal.

CLICK HERE. for more.

Century of Food 1960 – 1969

A Century of Food 1960 – 1969

In 1945, an American woman went to Paris with her husband. While there, she attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and became very fascinated with French cooking. She was eager to share her fascination with others back in America, so when she returned she ended up writing a cookbook. In 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child was heralded by critics and housewives alike. But her TV show, The French Chef, which aired from 1963 to 1967, made her America’s first true celebrity chef. She inspired a generation to see the act of cooking as a joy and an art
In the United States. She alone is credited with restoring our culinary culture after a decade in the 50’s of processed food and a trend away from home cooking. She introduced us to the luxuries of butter, cream and cognac. The newly affluent were eager to try to attain culture and she made it very approachable. We were introduced to Cog au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Mousse au Chocolate and Duck a l’Orange.  The 1960s decade was  stormy  shaped by the clash of conforming tradition and radical change. WWII rationing was a distant memory; 50s casseroles were old & boring. The late 60’s brought social unrest with growing frustration over the Vietnam War, assassinations of a President (JFK), a civil rights leader (Martin Luther King), and a political candidate (Robert Kennedy).

Asian Invasion

The 60s encouraged showy, complicated food with French influence (Julia Child, Jacqueline Kennedy), suburban devotion (backyard barbecues), vegetarian curiosity and ethnic cuisine (soul food, Japanese Steak houses). This was also the decade of flaming things (fondue & Steak Diane) and lots and lots of junk food (aimed at the baby boom children). “Average” suburban families patronized family-style restaurant chains like Howard Johnson’s. The first Wendy’s restaurant opened in 1969.

Immigrant dishes changed from the traditional Chinese, Italian dominance to that of Vietnam and Laos after the Vietnam War. The Asian food invasion began in California Gold Rush days, but this Asian food provided more variety than before. Asian immigration more than quadrupled by 1970. Some dishes brought new flavors like a Vietnamese beef soup called pho, deep-fried spiced potato-stuffed samosas from India, and preserved Korean vegetables called kimchi.  Japanese food prepared at the table became “trendy”.

Interestingly, immigrant food was class conscious. Mexican food was considered low class, but Indian cuisine with fewer immigrants is admired. That is more likely due to the Indian immigrants are nearly 60% professionals, says Krishnendu Ray, a professor and author of The Migrants Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households.

Many Cuban people, namely the educated upper classes moved to America after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and brought their cuisine with them. Like other Caribbean countries, staples were black beans and rice, and plantains. They also like pork marinated in vinegar and orange juice and stewed with onions; chicken roasted with garlic; and tropical fruit drinks, especially with rum. The Bacardi family also migrated to America after the rum industry was nationalized in Cuba.

The Revolutions

Millions of people in the world were starving. Technology’s answer was food that was genetically engineered like soy and dwarf rice that had a short growing time, a phenomenal yield and would grow anywhere in Asia. It could produce two crops a year and yielded more rice per plant. This was the beginning of the Green Revolution. People began to eat more consciously after the book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring was published. Her book spoke of the consequences of using pesticides which led people to be more aware about where food comes,

The Blue Revolution involved aquaculture or fish farming. Both these revolutions have pros and cons, critics and proponents. Aquaculture nevertheless is probably the world’s fastest growing form of food prodution and some believe that by 2030, aquaculture will supply most the fish people eat.

Counterculture Cuisine

Some people took it a few steps further by growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs, milked farm animals and revolted against white foods – Minute Rice, Cool Whip, instant potatoes, white sugar, white bread. Hippies dominated the culture and brought with them a return to unprocessed foods. They baked their own bread, made peanut butter tahini and hummus, ate brown rice and brown eggs. They brought to our attention cooperatives, vegetarianism, and fresh food markets and health food stores. Food quickly evolved from French cooking to “back to the earth” attitude. Earth Day was first celebrated to raise environmental issues on April 22, 1970.

Thin Is In


In the 1960’s overabundance, fast foods and processed foods led to the beginnings of the obesity problem in America. On the diet front, Jean Nidetch and several friends met in her apartment in 1961 to counsel each other about dieting. Her support group eventually became Weight Watchers. The sugar free soft drink Tab is introduced in 1963. In 1967, Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing just 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and influenced thousands of young women to rethink their body image to try to meet her standards. The slogan “thin is in” quite possibly led to a resurgence of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia that saw its roots in the Victorian days of the 19th century.


Linda Civitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, 2nd Edition.

Carolyn Wyman, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat, 2004

Susan Yager, The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight , 2010

What’s Better Than Sliced Bread?

The earliest barley bread appeared in about 10,000 BCE;  it was a flatbread less than one inch thick and required no slicing. Later, wheat, and leavening agents were introduced, making much larger loaves  that needed to be torn in half by hand or sliced with a knife.

But it took until the 20th century for things to change:

Otto Rohwedder had an idea; however,  nobody wanted his machine. The Davenport , Iowa salesman had worked on a device for slicing loaves of bread for more than a decade, but bakers were dubious. They protested that the bread would go stale, that consumers only wanted their loaves whole, or that it just wouldn’t work.

Then in 1928, Frank Bench, who owned a small bakery in Chillicothe, Missouri., decided to give it a try. Richard, Otto’s  son who was 13 years old at the time fed the bread through the very peculiar looking machine.  It quickly became popular. The ladies liked and wanted it, he recalls, and the sales at Bench’s bakery increased by 2000% in just a few weeks. But there was a problem with the bread drying out. Otto had first tried hatpins which joined several slices to each other. He soon discovered that this method was not practical.

An idea gathered more steam when a St.  Louis Baker named Gustav Papendik created a machine that not only sliced the bread but wrapped it, too, keeping the slices from drying out.

The beginning of the 20th century marked a turning point for home kitchens. More than 2/3 of American homes had electricity by the end of the 1920s, and as hired help left for factories or other jobs, home makers looked to electrical appliances like the toaster (invented at least a decade earlier) to ease their kitchen workload.

The bread symbolic of this period was Wonder Bread. This originally unsliced bread was first baked by the Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis about 1920. Taggart was later acquired by Continental Baking Company in 1925. Wonder Bread was produced at a full-scale bakery at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and was the sponsor of popular radio programs. In 1941  Wonder Bread was advertised as “enriched” with vitamins and minerals and advertised on children’s radio programs with the tag line in the 50’s – “Wonder Bread Builds Strong Bodies 8 Ways”, In the 1960’s, when backlash arose against overly refined food products, Wonder Bread became a prime target for criticism.

Lately there’s been a movement back toward the old way; artisanal unsliced. The way we try to make bread now gives it a much “wheatier”  flavor. Now we are more concerned about the content of our bread as “whole grains” as part of a healthy diet rather than what form it is.   White bread has now become a diet “villain.” And no one was ever quite sure how Wonder Bread built bodies 8 ways.

 Source: The Greatest Thing, Period. Betsy Querna, U.S. News and World Report, August 15 – 22, 2005

Source: Sliced Bread: The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Edited by Andrew F. Smith, 2007.

Does Snacking Cause Obesity?

The obesity epidemic continues to roar on with the latest stats reporting that Americans have never been heavier than they are now. One culprit that is often cited is our incessant habit of snacking – with some people eating two mini-meals (snacks) a day in addition to three traditional meals. Due to our unhealthy food supply (e.g. processed foods), these foods will tend to contain the three villains for weight gain: salt, fat, and sugar.

Two studies from the American Dietetic Association suggest that people who snack are leaner than those who don’t. It’s important to realize that in reality, these people were more health conscious and actually ate fewer calories overall. So is is quality or quantity? I vote for quality here. So if you snack, choose wisely. Also, the American Dietetic Association now called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) tends to favor research that supports the food industry (my opinion). “During the fiscal year 2015, the organization received $1.1 million in corporate sponsorships from companies like General Mills and PepsiCO via donations, joint initiatives, and programs. ” Source Wikipedia.



A Century of Food – the 1950’s

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Author: Sally J. Feltner, MS, PhD

An Attack on Gastronomy

The 1950’s brought a renewed hope for the country after two decades of Depression and War. However, food historians deplore the state of the cuisine during this period – it mainly consisted of processed foods which many blame for this anti-gastronomic desert. In addition, the rise of the fast food industry, i.e. hamburger chains that sprouted up along side the newly build national highway system did not offer any better fare. Freeing Mom from the kitchen seemed to be the dominant theme as appliances and prepared foods became the ‘norm”.

TV Dinners

After WWII, America’s economy boomed, women entered the workforce as never before and food got a little strange. Housewives spent less time in the kitchen, so food companies came to the rescue with a buffet of processed foods. Foods were purchased in a can, package or pouch. Soups were available as liquids or in dry form. Tang landed on supermarket shelves and frozen dinners laid on trays in front of TV sets. TV dinners were introduced in 1953 by Swanson and with a flick of a wrist you could turn back the foil to display turkey in gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes and peas ready in about 30 minutes – all with no dishes to wash.


Better Living Through Chemistry

“Better Living through Chemistry” was the slogan of the times along with “I like Ike” referring to the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 5-star general from WWII winning the U.S presidency from 1953 to 1961.
This change in processing came from the demand of the Army during WWII to provide needed ready-to-eat meals. The food industry responded by ramping up new technologies in canning and freeze-drying to feed the troops. The marketing of these foods presented a challenge, however. At first, many of them were less than palatable, so food companies hired home economists to develop fancy recipes and flooded magazines, newspapers and TV with ads to broadcast their virtues. Actually the first cake mix was available in 1931, but was met with disdain due to the use of
dehydrated eggs, e.g. Women later would respond more favorably if they could crack their own eggs into the batter so they would feel like they were doing something positive in the kitchen.

June Cleaver

People rushed to buy appliances, houses, cars, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and backyard barbecue grills and new home freezers.  They also bought television sets in record numbers and watched shows that represented their new idealized lives like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Beaver’s mother, June Cleaver was depicted as a housewife freed from household chores and often was serene and perfectly dressed with pearls and high heels pushing a vacuum cleaner and putting meals on the family table.

Fast Food Nation

The birth rate soared and created what is known as the Baby Boomer Generation. Fifty million babies were born from 1945 to 1960. Food marketing shifted to kids with Tony the Tiger and fish sticks leading the campaign. Fast food had its beginnings strengthened in 1955 when Ray Kroc bought a hamburger stand from the McDonald’s brothers in San Bernadino, California. Disneyland opened in 1955 and was so popular they ran out of food on the first day.


The Seven Countries Study

In 1958, the American scientist, Ancel Keys started a study called the Seven Countries Study, which attempted to establish the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in different countries. The study results indicated that in the countries where fat consumption was the highest also had the most heart disease. This suggested the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease. He initially studied 22 countries, but only reported on seven: Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, United States, and Yugoslavia.

The problem was that he left out:

  • Countries where people eat a lot of fat but have little heart disease, such as Holland and Norway and France.
  • Countries where fat consumption is low but the rate of heart disease is high, such as Chile.

Basically, he only used data from the countries that supported his theory.
This flawed observational study gained massive media attention and had a major influence on the dietary guidelines of the next few decades, i.e. cut the fat out of our diets.


The First Artificial Sweetener

In the diet world, Saccharin was manufactured in granules and became a popular sugar substitute for dieters. It was first produced in 1878 by a chemist at Johns Hopkins University, but became popular after sugar shortages in WWI and WWII. In the United States, saccharin is often found in restaurants in pink packets as “Sweet’n Low”. It was banned later but it remains on the market today. The basis for the proposed ban was a study that documented an increase in cancer in rats being fed saccharin. The “Delaney clause” of the Food Additive Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act states that no substance can be deemed safe if it causes cancer in humans or animals. In suspending the proposed saccharin ban, Congress ordered that products containing the popular sweetener must carry a warning about its potential to cause cancer. The FDA formally lifted its proposal to ban the sweetener in 1991 based on new studies, and the requirement for a label warning was eliminated by the Saccharin Notice Repeal Act in 1996.

Timeline: The 1950’s

1950 In Quincy, Mass., Bill Rosenberg changes the name of his doughnut shop to Dunkin’ Donuts. In 1955 he sells his first franchise.

1951 former Marine Glen Bell, 28, introduces the first fast food taco at his hamburger and hot dog stand in San Bernardino California. Bell, looking for unique product spots tacos at an area restaurant. He comes up with a contraption that will hold tortillas in hot oil to form the now classic U-shaped taco shell, enabling him to fried tortillas and offer fast Mexican fare.

1951 The defense industry needs aluminum for the Korean war effort, so Reynolds curtails production of it for home use. By 1953, it back in production and Saran Wrap is introduced.

1952 Col. Sanders sells its 1st first Kentucky fried chicken franchise.

1952 Lipton food company Rolls out a dehydrated onion soup mix that will earn its fame as a base for onion dip: two envelopes of the mix +1 cup sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.

1953 Fritos introduces the Frito kid, a mascot the company uses until 1967.

1954 the C. A. Swanson Company has a problem: the holidays are over but they still have railroad cars full of frozen turkeys. Employee Gerry Thomas has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha plant): package the turkey along with some dressing, gravy, corn bread, peas, and sweet potatoes into partitioned metal trays. Sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner: his name for the leftover meal: TV dinner. Swanson made 6000 of the $.98 meals. Within a year, they had shipped 10 million more.

1954 The first Burger King opens in Miami. A burger is $.18, as is a milkshake. The whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for $.37.

1954 Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine it Is proven safe an effective, And the first successful kidney transplant is performed.

1955 Milk shake- machine salesman Ray Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owners of the original McDonald’s in California to franchise their concept. They aren’t interested, but they tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois and eventually buys out the McDonald’s.

1956 More than 80% of US households have refrigerators. By contrast, only eight percent of British households have refrigerators.

1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave cooking article.

1957 Margarine and sales take the lead over butter.

1958 Eighteen – year- old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita Kansas.

1959 Hagen – Dazs ice cream is introduced.