Snacking has become a popular habit among children and teenagers At the same time, overweight and obesity have reached huge proportions, affecting young individuals. Snacking has been considered one of the main contributors to overweight because of the increased consumption of energy-dense, high-sugar, high-fat foods.
Snacking is promoted by food ads to children and adolescents and one look at our supermarket foods completes the picture. When I taught nutrition courses at the college level, most of my students would come to class with their favorite bag of snacks in hand. Ironically, the class objectives were hopefully to learn about healthy diets. It was hard to compete against the influences of the “big food” industry ubiquitous in our food environment.
No wonder we have an obesity problem. Don’t count on the latest Dietary Guidelines 2020 for help. Enough said?
Greater Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Associated with less Aortic Calcification
“Aortic calcification, also known as aortic valve calcification (or sclerosis) is a condition where large calcium deposits get accumulated in the aorta of the heart. These calcium deposits can cause the opening of the aortic valve to become narrow and reduce the flow of blood to the heart resulting in chest pain and heart attack.”
“Aorta – the main artery of the body, supplying oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. In humans. “
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed an association between an increased intake of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables and less extensive abdominal aortic calcification (AAC defined above) in older women. The study population included 684 women with a mean age of 75 who previously had enrolled in the Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study (1998) conducted at the University of Western Australia. Diet intake questionnaires were given to participants and calcification detected as extensive or not extensive was determined by imaging techniques.
A correlation was observed between greater cruciferous vegetable intake and a reduction of AAC. Women whose intake of the vegetables was more than 44.6 grams a day (equivalent of 1/4 cup of steamed broccoli or 1/2 cup of raw cabbage had a 46% lowered adjusted risk of extensive AAC, compared to those whose intake was less than 15 grams a day. Total vegetable intake, including other types of vegetables, was not related with risk.
Interestingly, cruciferous vegetables have had positive results with lessening disease risk not only in heart calcification but in cancer prevention. Vegetables in this family not only include broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, but bok choy, kale, kolrabi, and Swiss chard. These vegetables are excellent sources of a family of anticancer phytochemicals called isothocynates that fight cancer by neutralizing carcinogens.
Broccoli also contains high levels of a phytochemical called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane increases the activation of enzymes known as phase-2 enzymes, which help fight carcinogens. According to the Department of Urology at Stanford University published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, sulforaphane is the most potent inducer of phase-2 enzymes of any phytochemical known to date.
SOURCE: Life Extension, February, 2021
Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D., C.N.S. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, 2007
“Artificial preservatives used in many processed foods could increase the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic disorders, according to research published on 25 February in Nature1. In a study done in mice, chemicals known as emulsifiers were found to alter the make-up of bacteria in the colon — the first time that these additives have been shown to affect health directly.”
The search continues for what factors in the Standard American diet (SAD) can be implicated beyond the amount alone that people consume, that are causative of the current obesity/diabesity epidemic.
Researchers continue to look at the lengthy ingredient lists on ultra-processed foods. As Western-type diet are utilized more and more globally, their obesity rates continue to rise. Is there a connection?
The last I checked, the U.S. is still facing an epidemic other than Covid -19 – one that has been in some degree affecting a large percentage of the population (40%) for quite some time – obesity. Obesity has even been named as a risk factor for the Covid pandemic. About 70% of us are overweight with about 40% classified as obese. One in 10 have diabetes type 2. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it.
Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 88 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 84% don’t know they have it.
A feature of this month’s issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter titled Why We Overeat by Bonnie Liebman should be important for all of us who eat food found in the Standard American Diet (SAD). It will ultimately affect all of us with increased health care costs.
As a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, Kevin Hall explains: “We’re trying to understand the properties of our food environment that regulate appetite and cause people to overeat and gain body fat”. Based on several well designed studies, his group found “only one diet led people to gain weight and gain body fat, Hall says, and that diet is the ultra-processed-food diet.”. Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces.
“Companies are all about maximizing the allure of their products” says Michael Moss, a prize winning former New York Times reporter whose recent book is titled: Hooked,Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions. It all begins with three major ingredients: Salt, Sugar, and Fat, also by Moss.
“The industry came up with the term “bliss point” to describe the perfect amount of sugar in a drink or food that would please most Americans. Not too little, not too much”
“In snack foods like potato chips, 50% of the calories typically come from fat which gives them that melt in your mouth phenomenon, which so much ultra processed food has. You hardly even have to chew it.”
“Salt is the flavor burst because it’s often on the surface of the food and the first thing that touches the tongue”.
But wait! There are other factors.
“Fat plus carb foods with high concentrations of both fat and refined carbohydrates like chocolate, ice cream French fries, pizza, cookies and chips are the foods that most people find most irresistible”, says Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
Other factors that aid in making the consumer choose ultra-processed foods can include:
Variety, speed (unprocessed food often takes more chewing), advertising (especially TV ads),
Cost. The food industry goal is to make their products as inexpensive as possible for the consumer.
Snacking: “The food industry has developed more and more products that can act as the fourth meal of the day.” Just look at the abundance in the snack aisles.
What To Do
One way is to concentrate more on nutrient dense foods then on calorie dense foods — of course this increase requires adding fruits and vegetables.
Another good source on how to curb your ultra processed food intake is presented by Barbara Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State, who wrote the Ultimate Volumetrics Diet.
A study in 2017 by Rolls randomly assigned women with obesity to either eat less fat or eat less fat and eat more fruits and vegetables for a year. After a year, the fruit and vegetable eaters had lost more weight (17 pounds) than the other group (14 pounds), and they reported being less hungry.
“We eat with our eyes and our brain, If we see a big portion, that sets us up to feel more satisfied. If a plate looks half empty, that sets us up to feel hungry”, says Rolls.
All in all, be aware and mindful of what you eat. Mindless eating can be habit forming as usually we pay little attention to what and how much food we are eating. Studies show that we eat more macaroni and cheese while watching TV than while listening to music.
Lays potato chips dares us with the challenge: “bet you
can’t eat just one”.
“Stay away from the gigantic calorie counts in most restaurant food, whether it’s sit down or fast food. Cook your own food whenever possible. Stick with water, coffee, tea, or other calorie free drinks.”
“Don’t let multinational corporations dictate your diet and your health.” It’s up to you to make those choices.
Bonnie Liebman. Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest, April, 2021.
Michael Moss. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House, 2014.
Over the past 20 years, many observational studies have found that people who regularly eat red or processed meats have higher rates of several cancers, notably of the colon and rectum. And lab studies have shown that compounds formed when meat is processed (that is, smoked, salted, or cured) or cooked at high temperatures can cause cancer in animals or cells. One of these compounds is called Advanced Glycation Endproducts or simply AGE’s. They may be a piece of the puzzle as to why meats are often associated with certain cancers.
That said, there are plenty of other reasons to moderate your intake of red and/or processed meats. There’s strong evidence linking them to cardiovascular disease. Also eating more plant-based foods and less meat is better for the environment resulting in less greenhouse gas production.
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
ARC Journal of Addiction, Vol. 4, Issue 2, 2019, pp. 1-11
“Unprocessed or minimally processed foods are whole foods in which the vitamins and nutrients are still intact. The food is in its natural (or nearly natural) state. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods would include carrots, apples, raw chicken, melon, and raw, unsalted nuts.
Processing changes a food from its natural state. Processed foods are essentially made by adding salt, oil, sugar, or other substances. Examples include canned fish or canned vegetables, fruits in syrup, and freshly made breads.
Some foods are highly processed or ultra-processed. They most likely have many added ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors or preservatives. They may also contain additives like emulsifiers or stabilizers. Examples of these foods are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs and cold cuts, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks.” Source: Harvard Health Letter
The growing widespread use of fast food among Americans is of concern due to the high fat and energy intake, which may cause obesity and subsequently obesity related chronic diseases. Added fat sugar and salt create a taste that makes people crave these foods, a sensation that many described as an addiction. US fast food sales increased exponentially between 1970 and 2000, from $6 billion to $10 billion. During this time, obesity rates among US adults doubled and it is expected that 85% of US citizens will be affected by obesity by 2030.
Fast foods in particular are known to cause many of the chronic diseases that have become the leading causes of death in the United States. What are some of the effects of fast food on the body? Most of the fast foods contain a large amount of sugar, fats and carbs and less minerals and vitamins. This means that people are taking in large amounts of unhealthy calories in the shape of fast food which leads to weight gain and ultimately obesity. Obesity is linked to several long-term health conditions that include premature death, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, fatty liver, arthritis and joint disorders and some cancers. One study showed that consumption of fast foods greater than two times a week increased the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Frequent consumption of fast foods was accompanied with overweight and abdominal fat, impaired insulin and glucose homeostasis, lipid and lipoprotein disorders, induction of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress.
Supersize Me was a 2004 American documentary film directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock, an American independent filmmaker. Spurlock’s film follows a 30-day period from February 1 to March 2, 2003, during which he ate only McDonald’s food. The results showed that his physician became concerned when his liver enzymes became alarmingly high and he had gained considerable weight in that short period of time.
A new study in PLOS Medicine finds eating unhealthy food is associated with a higher risk of developing cancer. People who ate the most junk food showed a higher risk of stomach, colorectal, and surprisingly lung cancers. Separately, men showed a higher risk of lung cancer and women showed a higher risk of liver and post-menopausal breast cancers. Nitrate and nitrite, which are abundant in processed meats are potential carcinogens found in breast, prostate, pancreas, and colorectal cancers along with non alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance.
Sugar overload – what happens in your body?
“20 minutes after drinking a soda, your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar into fat. 40 minutes later, caffeine absorption from the soda is complete. Your pupils dilate; your blood pressure rises, and as a response your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. 45 minutes later, your body ups your dopamine (a neurotransmitter) production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain; this is physically the same way heroin works by the way.“
Fast food in particular was first popularized in the 1970s in the United States, which is today the largest fast food industry in the world. Fast food restaurants serve as popular sites for their meals eaten outside the home. Current approaches suggest that fast food restaurants should be required to clarify nutrition information such as calorie and fat content on their menu boards and on product packaging. Studies have shown mixed results as to whether consumers’ choices are affected by this information on packaged and fast foods.
In the not-too-distant past it was assumed that a carbohydrate is a carbohydrate is the carbohydrate and it was thought that all types of carbohydrates has the same effect on blood glucose levels and health, so it didn’t matter what type is consumed. As in a case with many untested assumptions this one fell by the wayside. It is now known that some types of simple and complex carbohydrates in foods elevate blood glucose levels more than do others. This is called the glycemic response. Such differences are particularly important to people with disorders such as insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
What affects the glycemic response?
How quickly and how high blood glucose rises after carbohydrate is consumed is called the glycemic response. It is affected by both the amount and type of carbohydrate eaten and the amount of fat and protein in that food or meal. Because carbohydrate must be digested and absorbed to enter the blood, how quickly a food leaves the stomach and how fast it is digested and absorbed in the small intestine all affect how long it takes glucose to get into the blood.
A shortcoming of the glycemic index is that they are determined for individual foods, but we typically eat meals containing mixtures of foods. Knowing the glycemic index of a specific food does not tell us much about what the true glucose levels will be after eating this food as part of a mixed meal. For example, a bowl of white rice has a high glycemic index, but if the rice is part of a meal that contains chicken and broccoli, the rise in blood glucose is much less.
Refined sugars and starches generally cause a greater glycemic response then refined carbohydrates that contain fiber. The presence of fat and protein also slows stomach emptying, and therefore foods high in these macronutrients generally cause the smaller glycemic response than foods containing sugar or starch alone. For example ice cream is high in sugar but also contains fat and sugar, but it also contains fat and some protein, so causes a smaller rise in blood sugar or lower glycemic response than sorbet, which contains sugar but no fat or protein.
Source: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition
Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, 3rd Edition
The effects of sugar in the body is currently being investigated particularly as to its effects on the brain. Therefore, it becomes important to understand how we handle sugar and what factors determine its effects on the glycemic response in order to more fully understand how it affects our health. The following article presents an interesting relationship of sugar on the brain and begins to elucidate influence in terms of a possible addiction process. This benefits not us, but more the food industry that often uses this alleged addiction to sell more sugary products.
From Marion Nestle, a Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University and author of books about Food Politics, most recently Unsavory Truth.
“It’s too bad for us that the principal sources of salt, sugar, and fat in the American diets are salty snack foods, sugary soft drinks, and fatty fried foods, respectively, all of them ultraprocessed junk foods deliberately formulated to make it hard for us to stop eating them.”
Source: Marion Nestle in Conversation with Kerry Trueman. Let’s Ask Marion: What You Need to Know about the Politics of Food, Nutrition, and Health. University of California Press, Oakland, California, 2020.
English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“ The turkey is certainly one of the most delightful presents which the New World has made to the Old.” Brillat Savarin.
Most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods we now eat on this holiday are foods that originated or were Native to the Americas. The word for turkey in French is dinde, short for poulet d’inde since they thought that the turkey came from the West Indies of Columbus days. The turkey was popular in England before the Pilgrims came in 1620.
Turkeys don’t migrate so they were some of the first Native Americans and were available all year. Turkeys are easy to hunt – when one is shot, the others freeze in place. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t encourage shooting turkeys – we have lots of wild turkeys here in Western North Carolina. Many times I’ve had to stop and wait until they cross the road. I once encountered a few hens walking in the woods, followed by a male who wanted to impress them by making a racket and spreading his tail feathers – of course, the “girls” totally ignored him and went on without a nod – I kind of felt sorry for him
Potatoes had reached Europe early in the Columbian Exchange (thanks to Christopher Columbus). Potatoes had an interesting history – they were native to Peru, a Spanish colony and enemy of England, and went from Peru to Europe and then returned to New Hampshire with Scottish-Irish settlers in 1723. It is thought that the idea of mashing them with butter and milk also came form Scottish-Irish influence.
Cranberries were native to New England. Cranberries and blueberries were mashed with sour milk and used as paint as well as for food. To this day, these colors or variations of these colors are used in New England colonial homes.
Many types of squash had reached Europe, but pumpkin was unknown at that time. Pumpkin was used in the early colonies, but did not appear in cookbooks until Amelia Simmons in 1796 wrote the first printed American cookbook. She referred to it as “pomkin”. You may prefer pecan pie – and these are also of American origin. Originating in central and eastern North America and the river valleys of Mexico, pecans were widely used by pre-colonial residents.
Cornbread and sweet potatoes (both being native to the Americas) round out our traditional Thanksgiving fare. Archaeological studies indicate that corn was cultivated in the Americas at least 5600 years ago and American Indians were growing corn long before Europeans landed here. The probable center off origin is the Central American and Mexico region but since the plant is found only under cultivation, no one can be sure.
The sweet potato has a rich history and interesting origin. It is one of the oldest vegetables known to mankind. Scientists believe that the sweet potato was domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America. Christopher Columbus took sweet potatoes back home to Europe after his first 1492 voyage. Sweet potatoes spread through Asia and Africa after being introduced in China in the late 16th century.
So as you enjoy your Thanksgiving this year, give thanks to the Americas for our traditional foods that are truly “made in America”.
BTW –Many of the foods we find on our Thanksgiving table today, weren’t available back when the colonists celebrated the First Thanksgiving in Plymouth. The first historical descriptions of the first Thanksgiving do not mention turkey – only “wild fowl” (not identified) and five deer. The party was in 1621 with fifty-one Pilgrim men, women, and children hosting ninety men of the Wampanoag tribe and their chief, Massasoit. It was in the fall to celebrate the good harvest of corn (wheat and barley weren’t as successful) and lasted three days.
Have a great Thanksgiving Day from Food, Facts & Fads and STAY SAFE. SJF
Soon, The Dietary Guidelines for 2020 are due to be released. As usual, there will be a flurry of discussions, debates, praise and criticisms somewhat dependent on what sections of the food industry are happy and those who are not. The Dietary Guidelines, in my opinion, reflect who won the battle for the food industry’s interests this time around, to make sure their profit margins are kept intact. Little else new is gained from them and little attention is paid to them after their endlessly repeated advice based on lobbyists and politics. Who will win out this time? In the past few decades, the advice has lacked conviction, e.g. what is moderation, and has been so diluted, it plays little role in how our food supply affects our health. Enjoy a little history of past advice and forgive me for the cynicism.