Nutrition News in Brief

 

Drinking Tea and Healthy Brains

Tea has been a popular beverage since antiquity dating back to the dynasty of Shen Nong (2700 BC). Drinking tea has become increasingly popular in western countries today. It is assumed that the types of tea were both black and green teas; however, this was not designated in the abstract below.

A study from the journal Aging reported that drinking tea was associated with a healthy brain.

Method: The current study compared 15 tea drinkers aged 60 and older to 21 people in the same age group who did not regularly consume tea.

The researchers gave neuropsychological tests to the participants that evaluated cognitive function and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess brain connectivity.

Results and Conclusion

The tea-drinking group had better organized brain regions and cognitive functions compared to those in the group who were not tea drinkers.

The authors stated: “Our results offer the first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organization.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Blueberry Intake May Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among men and women with metabolic syndrome who consumed the equivalent of a cup of blueberries daily for six months. Metabolic syndrome is 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 type 2.

Method: A total of 138 individuals were randomized into groups that were given either 26 grams of powdered blueberries  (equivalent to a cup of fresh blueberries), 13 grams of powdered blueberries plus 1/2 cup of a mock blueberry placebo, or 26 grams of the placebo.

Insulin resistance, flow mediated dilatation (a measure of endothelial function), augmentation index (which measures artery stiffness), cholesterol and other factors were measured before and after the intervention. Endothelium refers to the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels in the body as well as the lymphatic vessels

Results: The researchers observed an improvement in endothelial function and arterial stiffness in the group that received 26 grams of blueberry powder.

Conclusion: The authors stated: “The simple and attainable message to consume one cup of blueberries daily to consume one cup of blueberries daily should be given to those aiming to improve their cardiovascular health.”

 

 

.

 

 

 

The Standard American Diet: SAD Realities

The American Plate

When the truth is addressed, we really do not know much about nutrition science,  especially its physiological influences on our health. This dilemma results in the ongoing debates about just what is a healthy diet. In reality, nutrition is an infant science that has been ignored by some who feel  it is relatively an unimportant  factor on our health issues.

Doctors do not help the situation – most will admit that they never received much education about how the diet can affect heath parameters. My own doctor never mentioned the fact that even though I had lost 20 pounds intentionally since my last visit, he never asked me any particulars about the diet that got me there. One would think that he might have inquired if  the weight loss was not intentional, therefore indicating a health problem. He also never mentioned the resulting  lab value changes, primarily total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglyceride, blood glucose, blood pressure values that had improved with the dietary changes I had made on my own.

But most people are not aware of how diet can affect our heath (the emphasis has been only on weight loss).  When doctors don’t  mention it, patients do not receive the        proper information on diet interventions. For example, if their total cholesterol is too high, they are told to eat a low cholesterol, low fat diet (outdated advice) and/or placed on a statin drug.  Nutrition science has come a long way since those days from a couple of decades ago. The prudent way would be to give diet a chance. Diet advice is abundant on the internet. However, you should be careful about some of it – look for help from certified nutritionists (Registered dietitians or others with certification from a health coach program, for example.)

The following article written by Reinoud Schuijers explains quite well the problems with the Standard American Diet (SAD)  as the three “assassins” – refined vegetable oils, sugar and grains. He seems to follow a keto-type diet; however, research has not yet fully investigated the long-term effects of this highly restrictive plan.

Take charge of your own heath and encourage your doctor to help you take the path to healthy lifestyles. The internet is teeming with diet advice, but use it wisely. In my opinion (contrary to the following article) it may help to consult with a certified dietitian or certified health coach). But you don’t need to follow complicated meal plans – the best diet is one you form based on your lifestyle and food preferences. Say away from highly restrictive plans, fads and detoxification schemes as well as diet pills.

CLICK HERE.

In the Beginning: Origins

The Standard American Diet has its beginnings in our early history.  Many food historians refer to the traditional diets of many cultures; however the  traditional American food culture remains elusive and difficult to define.  One thinks of hot dogs,  hamburgers, meat, potatoes that have more recently evolved into fast foods, packaged, processed foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat along with a list of ingredients that often take up most of the food label.

The following article gives us insights on how it all began especially with gender issues about foods. It’s a fascinating look at the early origins of “feminine” or “masculine” foods and their effects on how we still operate to a degree from these stereotypes.

One important contribution to our food culture has also been the food of the diverse immigration movement early in the 20th century. Thus, the traditional American diet has its  roots primarily from other cultures as well as our own beginnings  – thus, Mexican, Chinese, Italian food primarily.

CLICK HERE.

THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET (AKA SAD)

A 2010 report from the National Cancer Institute on the status of the American diet found that three out of four Americans don’t eat a single piece of fruit in a given day, and nearly nine out of ten don’t reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables. On a weekly basis, 96 percent of Americans don’t reach the minimum for greens or beans (three servings a week for adults), 98 percent don’t reach the minimum for orange vegetables (two servings a week), and 99 percent don’t reach the minimum for whole grains (about three to four ounces a day). “In conclusion,” the researchers wrote, “nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.”

A dietary quality index was developed reflecting the percentage of calories people derive from nutrient-rich, unprocessed plant foods on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher people score, the more body fat they tend to lose over time and the lower their risk appears to be of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. Sadly, it appears most Americans hardly make it past a score of ten. The standard American diet reportedly rates 11 out of 100. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, 32 percent of our calories comes from animal foods, 57 percent from processed plant foods, and only 11 percent from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. That means on a scale of one to ten, the American diet would rate about a one.

Adhering to just four simple healthy lifestyle factors may have a strong impact on chronic disease prevention: not smoking, not being obese, getting a daily half hour of exercise, and eating healthier—defined as consuming more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and less meat. Those four factors alone were found to account for 78 percent of chronic disease risk. If we ticked off all four, we may be able to wipe out more than 90 percent of our risk of developing diabetes, more than 80 percent of our heart attack risk, halve our risk of stroke, and reduce our overall cancer risk by more than one-third.

That is what this blog is about – how the SAD diet affects our food culture positively and negatively. There is much work to do about our lifestyles that can help change the course of the health of our bodies as well as the health of our environment – and the sooner the better. Let’s get started.