A Day in the Life of the Standard American Diet (SAD)

Our Health is Declining.

The statistics are alarming. In 1960, one person in a hundred had diabetes, today it’s one in eight. It is now predicted that by 2050, one person in three will suffer from the condition if the trend continues. Even worse, 70 percent of people who get diabetes will develop heart disease.

So much of the time we hear about our Standard American Diet or SAD Diet. And a sad diet it is. I have borrowed a description of a fictional victim of our food culture from an interesting book titled: The End of Alzheimer”s: the First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline by Dale E Bredesen, MD, MSL, Professor and Founding President, Buck Institute, Professor, UCLA. Quotes cited by Dr. Bredesen.

 Our fictional consumer begins early in the morning as “ he grabs a typical America breakfast – a sweet roll or doughnut, a large glass of orange juice, a big slug of low-fat  milk in his coffee.” His high refined carbohydrate diet sets him up immediately toward insulin resistance with an increased stress level brought about by the “stress hormone, cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of each kidney. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help:

  • the body respond to stress or danger
  • increase the body’s metabolism of glucose
  • control blood pressure
  • reduce inflammation

Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response, which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct.

In order to prevent gastric reflux, he takes his daily proton pump supplement after he swallows his statin his doctor prescribes to prevent a rise in his  cholesterol and heart disease risk.

“When his blood sugar crashes around mid-day, he visits the office pantry, where a colleague has left a thoughtful box of chocolate chip muffins.” But he realizes that it’s almost time for lunch, so he proudly skips the muffins, declaring he’s starting to eat “healthy.”

“There’s no time for much of anything except a sandwich from the deli on refined white bread and spongy saline-injected turkey with hormones and full of antibiotics or how about a mercury-laden tuna sandwich. Either way he can wash it all down with a diet soda.”

“Sugar from the candy machine has helped to fuel his  “exercise today ( and every day) – who has time to get up and move around frequently? Finally, it’s time to hit the freeway, so he grabs a bag of Doritos to snack on to get him home. “He is soon heading home while screaming at the idiot riding his brakes in front of us, keeping his blood pressure up and making his blood-brain barrier as porous as the colander we plan to use for tonight’s gluten -filled pasta dinner.” Bredesen, M.D 2017.

“On second thought, he thinks he prefers something from the drive-thru. Start with large fries loaded with trans fats, oxidized reheated oils with little vitamin E .” Add the burger from corn and not grass-fed beef, high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3s, slathered in high-fructose corn syrup ketchup, on a bun packed with gluten.” Now he has had a perfect inflammatory day. No wonder so many of the conditions that increase our risk of chronic disease (cardio, brain health, diabetes, and obesity) are becoming so prevalent even at younger ages). Are they the result of what we eat and exercise.” Research is beginning to say “yes”. Bredesen, 2017.

Dr. Robert H. Lustig MD writes in his current book, Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine, “Are Americans healthier? Do we enjoy better healthcare? Do we live longer? The answer is an unequivocal and emphatic no. Americans have the worst health outcomes of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the thirty – seven richest countries.  Americans have the worst rating of the developed countries of the world: #1 in diabetes, #2 in Alzheimer’s disease, #5 in cancer, and #6 in cardiovascular disease (CVD)”

“No doubt, of all the OECD countries, the U.S. is the sickest along with expensive drugs and expensive doctors. Lustig says: “America spends the most but gets the least.”

“The holy grail of Modern Medicine is you can’t fix healthcare until you fix health; and you can’t fix health until you fix the food. Everyone is talking about healthcare, few people are talking about health, and nobody is talking about food.” Lustig, Metabolical, 2021., p 25.   

Isn’t that a novel idea?  “What can you do today? You have the vote in the form of not only a ballot box but with your fork.”

The next wave of the food revolution is long overdue. We have to make food a voting issue” Robert H. Lustig, MD 2021, page 375. Food, Facts and Fads agrees. (SJF)

THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET (SAD)

“Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie”

It’s Pumpkin time!! By the 1800’s, pumpkin pie was a necessity at most Thanksgiving celebrations. If you have ever heard the famous poem about Thanksgiving by Lydia Maria Child in 1842:

“Over the river and through the wood, to grandfather’s house we go” ends with “Hurrah for the pumpkin pie”.

Northeastern Indians used squash more than other Indians in early America and did favor pumpkin the most. They baked them by putting them in the embers of a fire, then moistened them with maple syrup or honey or some type of fat and then turned it into a soup. In 1705, the town of Colchester, Connecticut postponed the holiday for a week due to a molasses shortage to make the pies.

The first known American cookbook was American Cookery by Amelia Simmons in 1796 that included a recipe for “pompkin” pie. Later in 1805, a recipe for pumpkin pie appeared in the Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple by Mrs. Hannah Glasse.

“Take the pumpkin and peel the rind off, then stew it till is quite soft and put thereto one pint of pumpkin, one pint of milk, one glass of malaga wine one glass of rose-water, if you like, seven eggs, half a pound of fresh butter, one small nutmeg, and sugar and salt to your taste:”

In 1929, Libby’s meat-canning industry made pumpkin preparation easier by offering its famous canned pumpkin with its traditional recipe on the label. My mother would have appreciated the Libby’s version. I remember her talking about making her first pumpkin pie and neglecting to strain the stringy pulp from the pumpkin itself. Next time you open a can, please think kindly of her and in her day, there may not have been canned pumpkin. Her first pie was probably around 1924.

The only problem is the sugar content found in pies – as for my pumpkin disaster, I forgot the sugar one year and it was awful. But who is counting sugar grams on Thanksgiving?  For the few that are – 1 serving has 253 cals, 3 grams of fiber, 32 grams of carbohydrate and about 19.7 grams of sugar (5 tsp). Pumpkin is also loaded with vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (a powerful antioxidant). Happy Holiday!!!

Sally Feltner, www.foodfactsandfads.com

What is the Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome

A collection of health risks, including high blood pressure, altered blood lipids, high blood glucose and a large waist circumference, that increases the chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The condition is also called insulin resistance.

CLICK HERE.

Smolin, Grosvenor. Nutrition, Science and Applications, Third Edition

Diet and Aging

“Most of us have more control over how long we live than we think. In fact, experts say that if we adopted the right lifestyle, we could add a good 10 years and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely.”

In his book, the Blue Zones, 9 Lessons for Living Longer, Dan Buettner and his team from the National Institute of Health set out to visit 5 regions on our globe that had a long record of longevity. From those lessons, a balanced diet became paramount in life extension. Here is what Robert Kane, MD, director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis said:

“One of the goals to a healthy lifestyle is moderation in all things. The best diet is basically one of moderation. You hear about all these people that live on legumes and plant foods and that’s probably okay, but I don’t think it’s necessary… as far as meat, it’s a question of eating meat a couple of times a week or are you eating it every day for two meals a day (typical of the Standard American Diet).  Are you eating processed meats that are filled with fat? Or are you eating good cuts of fairly lean meat?”

In Okinawa (one of the Blue Zones) “while centenarian Okinawans do eat some pork, it is traditionally reserved only for infrequent occasions and taken only in small amounts.”
 

Reference: The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. Dan Buettner, 2012.

CLICK HERE. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/is-your-diet-aging-you#1

Diet and Inflammation

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, PhD

A lot of recent attention has been paid to the role of lifestyle in many chronic diseases (lately referred to as underlying causes of mortality in the Covid-19 viral pandemic).  Deaths due to this virus have been strongly associated with age, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes to name a few. Many people with the viral infection have reported to have had at least one or two of these chronic conditions. Obesity alone has been known to be associated with low-grade inflammation.  

Recently, we have changed our ideas about diet and heart disease.  Many doctors still think the high fat, high cholesterol diet of the last decade was to blame.  However, this is a simplified view that dismisses the research that now supports the possibility that heart disease is mediated by other biological events other than cholesterol, including oxidative stress (free radicals), insulin sensitivity, endothelial dysfunction and blood clotting mechanisms and most importantly low-grade inflammation.

(FYI – endothelium is the tissue which forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels.)

We should be aware that inflammation is a double-edged sword. Inflammation in the body is necessary to protect us from infections and cancer and when appropriate from diseases. In its acute state as when you cut your finger, its reactions are self-limiting and resolve rapidly; the process is meant to heal and repair tissue damage.  However, when inflammation is inappropriate it can get out of hand and contribute to disease especially chronic diseases. That is when inflammation can become your enemy.  We call this low-grade inflammation. In this type, the inflammatory response needs be controlled or managed or at least short lived. Should it continue, persisting cytokines of the immune system can produce excessive damage, leading to a number of diseases.

(FYI cytokines are small protein chemical messengers used by immune defensive cells that affect other cells and the immune response to an infectious agent.

It is thought that accumulating degrees of oxidative stress, and low-grade inflammation can result in what is now commonly called the “cytokine storm.” Septic shock can result from a cytokine abundance, leading to death.

Recently, it is thought that positive dietary choices you can make can help to reduce low grade inflammation and prevent this process. Your inflammatory biomarker status can be measured by a simple blood test. The most used is one called high sensitivity C-Reactive protein (hsCRP).

The goal of this blog post is to guide us to the right anti-inflammatory foods to reduce our risk of illness. Consistently, pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that allegedly promote inflammation – try to limit these foods as much as possible:

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pastries; choose whole grains instead.

French fries and other fried foods

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hog dogs, sausage)

Margarine, shortening, lard (high levels of trans fatty acids)

Foods that allegedly reduce inflammation –   include in the diet as much as possible

Tomatoes rich in lycopene and carotenoids – healthy phytochemicals

Olive oil – rich in monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard and other greens – a randomized German study showed that 8 servings of fruits and vegetables for 4 weeks in men had lower levels of hsCRP.

Nuts like almonds and walnuts – high in monounsaturated fats

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines – Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation.

Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Fiber consumption was associated with less inflammation in seven studies, using hsCRP as a biomarker.

Bottom Line:

No one food can be the “magic bullet” for good health. A Mediterranean diet is a good example of a diet that reduces low-grade inflammation and at the same time appears to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is a diet pattern that has been studied extensively and without a doubt scores high in the healthy column.

Unhappy Meals

Food: there is plenty around and we all love to eat. But unfortunately, a lot of it we are consuming today is really not food. We eat it in the car after purchasing it at our favorite fast food establishment, or in front of the TV and often alone. We grab a bag of some kind of “healthy -sounding” food on the package and we call it lunch and sometimes even dinner.

Michael Pollan wrote a book a few years ago (2008) called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I highly recommend that every American who eats read this book. He refers to our current food choices as “not real” and describes them as “edible food like substances”. Many come with false health claims promising the same benefits as their “real” counterparts, but as Pollan says: “30 years of nutrition advice has only made us sicker and fatter. In the so-called American or Western diet, these foods are nowhere near being nutritious with their long lists of ingredients that are impossible to pronounce.

“Pollan’s manifesto shows us “how we can relearn which foods are healthy and to develop simple ways to return eating to its proper context -out of the car and back to the table.”

A portion of Pollan’s book In Defense of Food, first appeared in the New York Times Magazine under the title, “Unhappy Meals” and can be found online. The article requires a subscription but does allow a limited number of free articles.

If you want a book full of “straight talk” about our food culture, the book is a must read. The book should be available at reduced used book prices. Check Amazon.

What Did We Learn from Covid?

Have we learned anything from Covid-19? I would hope so and that some good will come of it – although it’s hard to believe that it will happen at times as we are still fighting its many battles.

In his latest book, Metabolical, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL, author of the best selling book, ‘Fat Chance, “insists that if we do not change the way we eat, we will continue to court chronic disease, bankrupt our health care, and threaten the planet. But there is hope.” Metabolical: The Lure and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine. 2021.

The Bottom Line: If (and it’s a big IF), we change our ways even in small steps that reflect a healthier body, we may be able to better withstand the consequences of an infectious disease like COVID. Make sense???

CLICK HERE. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/nutrition-after-age-50.html?intcmp=AE-FOD-DN-BB-ART

Low Carb Diets: A Brief History

“Conventional scientific opinion says that eating too many calories without doing enough exercise to burn them off again causes weight gain. But this prevailing energy balance model faces a fresh challenge from the carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM) following the publication of a new article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The CIM argues that it is the quality of the food a person eats — rather than the quantity — that determines whether a person will gain weight and eventually develop obesity. Consuming large quantities of processed and starchy carbohydrates in particular sustains a cascade of hormonal and metabolic changes that result in the storage of excess energy as fat.

Crucially, the CIM says that the urge to eat too many calories is a result of accumulating excess fat in the body, not its cause. This directly opposes the energy balance model.

So which model is correct? The answer has huge implications for the diets of billions of people, as well as the prospects of overcoming the obesity pandemic.

This week, Medical News Today spoke with several experts from both camps about the merits and shortcomings of each model. There is one thing that both models agree on: the sugars and refined grains that make up 42% of the calories in the U.S. diet should be drastically reduced.

To learn more about both models and the debate that rages around them, jump to “Obesity and weight loss: Why overall calorie intake may not be so important.”


Tim Snaith
Newsletter Editor, Medical News Today

What Does “Fattening” Mean?

Sally Feltner MS, PhDDiet and Health, The American Plate November 15, 2019 1 Minute

Spaghetti, Noodles, Tomatoes, Pasta

A term used for decades to describe foods that would make one gain weight was the expression of  “fattening”.

Moderate avoidance (though not totally responsible) of these foods became the conventional wisdom to help avoid weight gain and became a dieter’s mantra.  In fact, food history indicates that body-weight was relatively stable until about the late 1990’s in the United States. At that time, dietary advice had shifted to low-fat diets with the added disadvantage of food companies at the time replacing fat in their food products with more carbohydrate-containing foods.

Keep in mind- basic biochemistry tells us that all carbohydrates (except for dietary fiber) are eventually converted to glucose in the body to be used for energy.  We are further reminded that some carbs are referred to as “starchy” (bad) and others as “non starchy” (good ).

The following article further elucidates the term of what are now commonly referred to as “white foods” and refers to their state of processing – refined or unrefined and how they may participate in our current obesity epidemic.

CLICK HERE.

How’s Your Immune System?

Nutrition and Your Immune System 

The ability of the immune system to fight disease declines with age. As it does, the incidence of infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases increase and the effectiveness of immunizations decline. In turn, the presence of infections and chronic disease contributes to malnutrition.

Nutrient deficiencies are common in older adults, including deficiencies of zinc, iron, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E. Supplements of some of these individual nutrients have been shown to increase certain aspects of the immune response, but have not been shown to reduce mortality from infections. High doses of some nutrients, including zinc, copper, and iron, depressed immune function, so supplement should not contain more than 100% of the daily value. There is little evidence that “megadoses” (over the Daily Value) of any vitamin or mineral is necessary for optimum health.

CLICK HERE.