Is DNA Your Destiny?

Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits?  Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.

A new outlook on genetics is called epigenetics  and involves the concept of environmental factors (including diet) affecting how genes are expressed or inhibited. Thanks to this relatively new science, we now know that experiences of previous generations may show up in your health and well-being. Many of the risks for chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia can be traced back to your biological roots and the experiences your parent and even grandpaents had. Similarly, the food you eat may affect your children and grandchildren.

Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein

Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence itself

DNA Methylation: A chemical reaction that occurs in a cell when a methyl group attaches to DNA, changing the expression of the gene to which it is attached.

Methyl Group: A type of molecular structure that occurs in many compounds, CH3, for example.

Methyl Donor: Nutrients, like folate and vitamin B12 that when metabolized can donate methyl groups during the process.

To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.

The Result of Methylation

Methylation Effects in the DNA

Both these mice have the gene called the agouti gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups, so we want to silence the expression of the gene if possible. There is a way.  The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.

Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diseases. Even more surprising, when the offspring become mothers themselves, their babies can also be healthy, even without further vitamin supplementation. The yellow variant had been silenced, and that muted effect was inherited by the offspring. 

How did this occur?  Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. It’s like throwing a wrench into the DNA to stop the expression of a gene or removing the wrench to allow the expression of the gene. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression. (See the black dots in the diagram above).   Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.

In any case, your lifestyle choices may play a role in your future health status.

It must be remembered that with any new concept, doubts and skepticism will occur. It must be recognized that we are not mice or lab rats, but the same effect has been shown by studying human interactions and is needed for more research to examine this interesting hypothesis. The   implications are enormous in that we may be able to improve our health status by choosing healthy habits and lifestyles such as diet, exercise, stopping smoking, for example.

“The packaging of the gene may be as important as, or even more important than, the gene itself, and these epigenetic changes are predominantly influenced by environmental factors.” The Cancer Code, A Revolutionary New Understanding of a Medical Mystery Dr. Jason Fung, 2020.

Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?

 

A typical beef feedlot

January 22, 2013 by foodworksblog 3 Comments

Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.

Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter.    They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing.  Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.

Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared.  Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics.  Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.

Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland.  Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry.  Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.

The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed.  Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”.  Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”.  By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.

The Northeast became more partial to beef.  New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry.  Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.

In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians.  Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds.  Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter.  In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation;  the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.

Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.

In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.

Why is beef king in the U.S?

  • Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles.  Meat had been rationed during WWII.
  • Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
  • Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
  • There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
  • Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
  • The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
  • Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.

American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining.  It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012.  This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.

 But Why?

  • Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
  • Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect.  People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
  • Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
  • All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel.  Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
  • Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.

How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video. 

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
  • We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
  • The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
  • The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals.  The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.

Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead.  The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).

The Sickness In Our Food Supply?

A very long article by Michael Pollan but is worth reading if you want to understand the complexities of our food system. It involves the “elephant in the room” consisting of  Covid -19 that  exposes the interrelated factors associated with our our current food system and health care costs. Based on this essay, our “diets may be killing us” as a few recent articles have suggested. Click the link below or find it on the Website of Michael Pollan of (“eat food, not too much, mostly plants” fame).

A quote from Forbes, May 12, 2000 in an article from Nav Athwal sums it up:

“One thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us is the level of control we have over our lives is not as great as we think.  Whether it be our ability to be mobile, our ability to meet with friends or the food we eat and how we eat it, the conveniences we took for granted not long ago are luxuries in a post-coronavirus world.”

Any suggestions for a solution?

CLICK HERE.

Ultra Processed Foods to Avoid

Ultra-processed foods are often thought as the nemesis of healthy eating. However, they are so ubiquitous in our food supply, it is so difficult to avoid them in the supermarket (they are displayed for our convenience and capture our cravings for sugar, salt, and fat as well.)  The problem: If we tried to avoid all processed foods, there would be few choices in the supermarket. The best way for starters is to try to cut down on snack foods — they are highly processed and offer few nutrients.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

What Else is in Your Food?

Twenty five years ago, It was largely assumed that health benefits came from the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables. That conclusion turned out to be incorrect because supplementation with specific vitamins and minerals failed to yield the same health benefits as did diets rich in fruits and vegetables. In addition, use of individual vitamin and mineral supplements was found to increase health risks in some studies, but not all. So, what else is in our foods?

Now nutrition and other scientists are investigating the effects of thousands of other substances in food on health.  The subjects of many current studies are plant chemicals known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients.   Phytochemicals are not considered essential nutrients because deficiency diseases do not develop when we fail to consume them. They are considered to be nutrients however because they are biologically active and perform health promoting functions in the body. Most bioactive food constituents are derived from plants.

Phytochemicals play a variety of roles for plants as they provide protection for the plant against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; ward off insects; and prevent tissue damage due to oxidation. Some operate as plant hormones or participate in the regulation of gene function, while others provide plants with flavor and color.

More than 2000 types of phytochemicals, that act as pigments, have been identified and give plants a wide variety of colors. Some of these phytochemicals have been identified: beta-carotene (orange), lycopene (red), anthocyanins (blue to purple), allicin (white), and lutein (yellow-green). Many of them function as antioxidants in the human body as well as help us to fight against many chronic diseases in other ways.

The following are examples of vegetables you can buy or plant in the garden (organic not necessary) that provide some specific human health benefits that are thought to be due to either established nutrients or phytochemicals. Keep in mind that some have more research behind their claims; however, many do not and simply rely on presumed health benefits.

  1. Kale is a member of the cabbage family and is known to contain vitamins A, K, and C, as well as essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also rich in fiber and acts as a prebiotic that increases nutrient absorption in the gut. Kale also contains antioxidants that protect against oxidative damage and other aspects of chronic disease. Its nutrient density exceeds that of other vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, or those of the onion family.
  2. Onions have been known for their healing properties for centuries. One study compared wound healing results after the daily application of onion gel and found that scars were significantly less noticeable after just four weeks of use. Recent research has suggested that onions also contain compounds useful for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and inflammatory diseases. Most of these benefits can be traced to onion’s high concentration of sulfur amino acids, phytochemicals such as flavonoids, phytosterols, and saponins – compounds that have anticancer, antibiotic, and antithrombotic activity.
  3. Potatoes are a rich source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C. Little attention is paid to potatoes recently due to their high calorie density and their relationship with obesity and diabetes. If they are eaten in whole form and not as French fries or chips, they can be healthy due to their high potassium content. Often, they are the only source of potassium for many people including children. Adequate potassium can protect us from hypertension.
  4. Tomatoes contain the phytochemical, lycopene, the carotenoid responsible for its red color and acts as an strong antioxidant. An increased intake has been associated with a decreased risk of prostate and breast cancers.
  5. Cauliflower in both forms, white or purple are high in phenolic compounds (a phytochemical) and antioxidants. Purple cauliflower is especially high in anthocyanins that is a potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral compound.
  6. Bell Peppers contain antioxidants that may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Green, yellow, and red peppers are all high in phenolic compounds and vitamin C.

Bottom Line: As you can see, antioxidant activity can collectively have a powerful effect against free radical damage. This is enhanced by the many phytochemicals associated with a variety of vegetables and fruits, not just reliance on one or two of them in the diet.

 

The Best Advice on Eating Red Meat

The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

 

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Two NYT articles are presented here to that addresses this issue and helps to clarify how to deal with this ongoing issue.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.

CLICK HERE.

November 5, 2015

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases. Hint: Life is a risk.

CLICK HERE.

Living Longer

The Blue Zones: A Book Review

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, Ph.D.

Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.

In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hotspots in the world that included:

  • Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
  • Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.

Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.

One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Additionally, Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full.

In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan “de vida” or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.

The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”

  • Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
  • Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
  • Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
  • Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her garden.
  • The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
  • From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”

The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity a and how they can be applied to the American food culture.

However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”

I’ve enjoyed these books immensely and have often referred to them in various tweets and posts. The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books such as “the Blue]Zones Solution” give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.

From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.” David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

The Blue Zones are lessons in how lifestyles can affect our health and longevity. Prevention of chronic disease as we age is the primary goal.  More attention needs to be paid to improve the American diet in order to “add years to your life and life to your years.”

 

 

The Pros and Cons of the Paleolithic Diet

The Paleolithic diet has been around for a few years and in my opinion is a pretty good diet, but alas as with every restrictive diet, there are caveats.

The following article comprehensively covers the pros and cons of this eating pattern. It is based on the facts (as we know them) that our ancestors only had access to certain foods and that our genetic development is presumed to have evolved from inclusion and exclusion of these foods into our current dietary pattern. Evidence for this is presumed to be accurate – however, we truly do not know what our Paleo ancestors really ate.  Our ancestors lived in diverse environments; therefore, their diets were dependent on the foods found there. There is a great deal of controversy about the possibility that some ate a diverse plant-based diet, e.g. hunting was not so reliable.

Most evidence is based on our contemporary hunter-gatherer societies which exhibit less chronic disease than those populations that follow the current American diet. For example, there are no Hadza adults diagnosed with diabetes in Tanzania, while the Tsimané people in Bolivia have an 80 percent lower rate of atherosclerosis compared to people in the U.S. The Maasai community in Kenya that relies on red meat, blood and milk is also known for little to none cardiovascular diseases.

The Pros and Cons

Our ancestors and modern-day hunter-gatherers ate more animal-based foods, which contain good amounts of high-quality protein, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B12 and K2. Such nutrients are commonly found in seafood, red meat, pastured eggs and liver.

An ancestral diet removes refined sugar, grains and seed oils from one’s daily meals. Avoiding these modern products helps reduce markers of inflammation, leading to improvements in blood pressure, waist circumference and lipid profiles, components of the metabolic syndrome.

One study showed that people who consumed less added sugar, refined grains and processed foods could significantly reduce weight in 12 months. The ancestral diets provide foods that are more satiating, which help people consume fewer calories.

The Paleo diet excludes extremely calorie dense foods (starchy foods) as well as many processed and snack foods.

However the diet eliminates two major food groups (dairy and grains (enriched or whole).  This puts at risk adequate vitamin D and calcium levels as well as the other nutrients found within these foods.

The Paleo diet provides some essential nutrients and may appeal to some people that are not interested in a total plant based eating pattern, i.e., dedicated carnivores.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

FAD DIETS: A TIMELINE

Fad diets have in the distant past have embraced some of the most bizarre activitir with most built on gimmicks. Included in an entertaining book titled Calories & Corsets, our ancestors relied on recommendations that included “suspending themselves in weighing chairs or lukewarm baths, drinking vinegar and eating carbolic soup in the hopes of shedding unwanted pounds.”

A rice diet was designed in the 1940s to lower blood pressure; now it has resurfaced as a Weight Loss Diet. The first phase consists of eating only rice and fruit until you can’t stand them any longer. Another novelty diet is the egg diet, on which you eat all the eggs you want. On the Beverly Hills diet, you eat mostly fruit.

The most bizarre of the novelty diets proposes that food gets stuck in your body. A common supposition from the 1800’s is that food gets stuck in the intestine, putrefies, and creates toxins, which invade the blood and cause disease. This leads to the headlines proclaiming the latest detox formula of strange concoctions of foods that if consumed promise to “cleanse” the blood.  This is utter nonsense.

How to recognize a fad diet.

  • They promote quick weight loss. This primarily results from glycogen, sodium, and lean muscle mass depletion. All lead to a loss of body water.
  • They limit food selection and dictate specific rituals, such as eating only fruit for breakfast or cabbage soup every day.
  • They use testimonials from famous people and bill themselves as cure-alls. They often recommend expensive supplements.
  • Probably the cruelest characteristic of fad diets is that they essentially guarantee failure for the dieter since these diets are not designed for permanent weight loss. Habits are not changed, and the food selection is so limited that the person cannot follow the diet in the long run.
  • The dieter appears to have failed, when actually the diet has failed. This whole scenario can add more blame and guilt, challenging the self-worth of the dieter.  If someone needs help losing weight, professional help is advised.
  • It should be noted that some “fad” diets can work for weight loss due to their highly restrictive nature but should not be considered a healthy diet since their long term effects are not usually known.  A good example is the current ketogenic (keto) diet.

FAD DIET TIMELINE

Slimming down through the ages through fad diets has been around for centuries from President Taft to Victoria Beckham. Here’s a look at some of the most famous and infamous moments in diet fad history.

1820 Lord Byron brings people the once popular vinegar and water diet which entails drinking water mixed with apple cider vinegar.

1903 President William Howard Taft pledges to slim down after getting allegedly getting stuck in the White House bathtub.

1925 Lucky Strike cigarette brand launches the “reach for a Lucky” instead of a sweet” campaign capitalizing on its nicotine content.

1930s The Grapefruit Diet also known as the Hollywood diet is born. The popular plan calls for eating grapefruit with every meal. Grapefruit is claimed to have fat burning capabilities.

1950s the Cabbage Soup Diet promises you can lose 10 to 15 pounds a week by eating a limited diet including cabbage soup every day.

Mid-1950 Urban legend has it that opera singer Maria Callas dropped 65 pounds on the Tapeworm Diet by swallowing a the tapeworm parasite in a pill.

1963 Weight Watchers is founded by Jean Nidetch “a self-described overweight housewife obsessed with cookies.”

1969 Jazzercise founded by professional dancer Judi Sheppard Missett, is a combination of aerobics exercise and dance.

1970 Sleeping Beauty Diet which involves drug sedation is rumored to have been tried by Elvis Presley.

1975 A Florida doctor. creates the Cookie Diet, a plan where you eat cookies made with a blend of amino acids Hollywood eats it up.

1977 A Slim Fast shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner becomes a diet staple.

1978 Dr. Herman Tarnower, a cardiologist publishes the Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. Two years later he is shot by his girlfriend, a headmistress of a girl’s school, Jean Harris. (not related to a diet).

1979 Dexatrim, a pill  containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA), appears on drugstore shelves. It’s formula changes after PPA is linked to an increased risk of stroke in 2000.

1980s A popular appetite suppressant candy called Ayds is taken off the market after the AIDS crisis hits.

1982 The aerobics craze sweeps into high gear when Jane Fonda launches her first exercise video work- out starring herself.  Her catchphrase “no pain no gain.”

1985 Harvey and Marilyn Diamond publish Fit for Life, which prohibits complex carbs and proteins from being eaten during the same meal.

1987 in her memoir/self-help book Elizabeth Takes Off, actress Elizabeth Taylor advises dieters to eat veggies and dip each day at 3 PM.

1988 Wearing a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans, Oprah walks onto the stage pulling a wagon full of fat to represent the 67 pounds she lost on a liquid diet.

1991 Americans are still obsessed with  low fat food like McDonald’s Mclean Deluxe burger. The recipe called for seaweed extract called carrageenan. Beef made up only 90 percent of the patty, and water and carrageenan made up the remaining 10 percent.  Despite the addition of “natural” beef flavor additives, the result was a dry failure of a burger that was later called “the McFlopper”. Johnnie Carson made many jokes about it.

1994 The guide to nutrition labeling and education act requires food companies to include nutritional info on nearly all packing packaging.

1995 The Zone Diet called for a specific ratio of carbs, fat and protein in each meal and begins to attract celeb fans.

1996  Could your blood type determine how much weight you could lose? That’s the idea behind the Blood Type Diet, created by naturopath Peter J. D’Adamo.  He claims that the foods you eat react chemically with your blood type. If you follow a properly designed diet for your type,  your body will digest food more efficiently and you will lose weight and be healthier.

1997 Robert C. Atkins, MD publishes Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, A high protein low carb plan. A previous book was published as Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution in 1972. It took the diet world by storm, since its primary goal was to eat fat, not avoid it. Fat-starved people loved it.

2000 Gwyneth Paltrow lends her support for the macrobiotic diet, a very restrictive Japanese plan based on whole grains and veggies.

2001 Renee Zellweger packs on nearly 30 pounds to play Bridget Jones.

2003 Miami Dr. Arthur Agatston adds fuel to the low carb craze by publishing the South Beach diet, seen as a more moderate version of Atkins.

Early 2000 The FDA bans the sale of diet drugs containing ephedrine after it’s linked to heart attacks.

Late 2000 The Biggest Loser makes its debut on TV, turning weight loss into a reality show. All but one contestant regained all their weight loss back after the show ended.

2006 Beyoncé admits to using the Master Cleanse, a concoction of hot water lemon juice maple syrup and Cayenne pepper to shed 20 pounds for “Dream Girls.”

2007 Alli hits the market. The non-prescription drug is taken with meals to keep your body from absorbing some of the fat a you eat. The drug was not popular due to unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.

2010 Jennifer Hudson loses a jaw-dropping 80 pounds on Weight Watchers.

2011 The hCG diet combines a fertility drug with a strict 500 to 800 calorie a day regimen that invites interest and criticism. The FDA has called this diet dangerous, illegal and fraudulent.

2012 Jessica Simpson loses 60 pounds of baby weight on Weight Watchers.

NOTE: In our current virus centered world, hope these fad diets bring a few smiles to your face.

Nutrition Timeline: How the U.S. Diet Evolved

Nutrition Timeline:

Obviously, a lot has happened in nutrition since the first Thanksgiving in America. Many scientific discoveries have given us a better idea how foods can contribute to health and disease. At first, little was known about nutrition science and there is still a lot to know. Knowing our progression helps us to know how we got from there to here.  The bottom Line: After all the science, we often still ponder on “what’s for dinner?”and “how do we lose weight”?

Note: Those events in Bold type tell the story of how our current food patterns evolved and have affected our present health status.

1621 First Thanksgiving Feast at Plymouth Colony

1702 First coffeehouse in America opens in Philadelphia

1734 Scurvy recognized

1744 First record of ice cream in America

Lind publishes “Treatise on Scurvy”and citrus is identified as cure.

Sandwich invented by the Earl of Sandwich

Potato heralded as famine food

Americans drink more coffee in protest over Britain’s tea tax

1775 Lavoisier (“the father of nutrition science) discovers the energy property of food (calories)

1816 Protein and amino acids identified followed by carbohydrates and fats

1833 Beaumont’s experiment on a wounded man’s stomach greatly expand knowledge about digestion

1862 U.S. Department of Agriculture founded by authorization of President Lincoln

1871 Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats determined to be insufficient alone to support life, there are other “essential” compounds in foods

First milk station providing children with un-contaminated milk opens in New York City

Pure Food and Drug Act passed by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect consumers against contaminated foods

Pasteurized milk introduced

Funk suggests scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra caused by deficiency of “vitamines” in the diet

1913 First vitamin discovered (vitamin A)

1914 Goldberger identifies the cause of pellagra (niacin deficiency) in poor children to be a missing component of the diet rather than a germ as others believed

1916 First dietary guidance material produced for the public released: Title is Food for Young Children

1917 First food groups published for the Five Food Groups: Milk and Meat, Vegetables and Fruits, Cereals, Fats and Fat Foods, Sugars and Sugary Foods. (Imagine: Sugar is a food group).

1921 First fortified food produced: iodized salt needed to prevent widespread iodine deficiency goiter in many parts of the U.S.

1929 Essential fatty acids identified

1930’s Vitamin C identified in 1932, followed by pantothenic acid and riboflavin in 1933 and vitamin K in 1934

1937 Pellagra found to be due to the deficiency of niacin.

1938 Health Canada issues nutrient intake standards

1941 First refined grain enrichment standards developed (Niacin, riboflavin,  and iron added)

First Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) announced by President Franklin Roosevelt on the radio

1946 National School Lunch Act passed

1947 Vitamin B12 identified

1953 Double helix structure of DNA discovered

1956 Basic Four Food Groups released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

1958 The Seven Countries Study was conceived by Ancel Keys, a Minnesota physiologist, who brought together researchers from all over the world. It became a collective effort to study questions about heart and vascular diseases among countries having varied traditional eating patterns and lifestyles. This alone changed the U.S. food supply dramatically to emphasize low fat diets high carbohydrate foods that continued to dominate until around 1983.

1965 Food Stamp Act passed. Food Stamp program established

1966 Child Nutrition Act adds school breakfast to the National School Lunch Program

1968 First National nutrition survey in U.S. launched. (The Ten State Nutrition Survey)

1970 First Canadian national nutrition survey launched (Nutrition Canada National Survey)

1972 The “Atkins Diet” by Dr. Robert Atkins started as a fad, but quickly became a counter-conventional movement that reset people’s thinking of nutrition and weight loss, and its link to health. It promoted a low carbohydrate, high fat diet to replace and challenge  the current conventional thinking that a low fat, high carbohydrate diet promoted by Keys was heart healthy.

1977 Dietary Goals for the U.S. issued  

1978 First Health Objectives for the Nation released

1989 First national scientific consensus report on diet and chronic disease published

1992 The Food Guide Pyramid is released by the USDA that contained a food group recommending 6-11 servings a day from the Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta Group (High carbohydrate foods).

1994 The nutritional food label was put into effect by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.

1997 RDAs expanded to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s)

1998 Folic acid fortification of refined grain products begins

2003 Sequencing of DNA in the human genome completed; marks beginning of new era of research in nutrient-gene interactions

2015 – 2020 The current  U.S.Dietary Guidelines include the following:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.
  • Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all.

2020  Obesity and diabetes have become global epidemics/pandemics with the highest rates in the U.S. The custom is for them to be revised every five years.  The latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines are due to be published sometime in 2020 or early 2021.