Friday, December 30, 2005

The Year in Review: Diet, Health, Lifestyle

Since starting this blog back in May 2005, I've tackled a number of subjects related to health, nutrition and lifestyle. With the vast majority of subjects, I've sought to bring my readers the scientific evidence in an easy to understand format. Occassionally I've offered my own opinions and thoughts on some things with the hope that such opinions make sense and are also based on my evaluation of the data available.

I thought I'd use today's column as a review of the year's top ten important headlines. Let's count down to number one...

10 - The Role of Inflammation in Disease

Throughout 2005 research data continued to reveal how insidious inflammation is to our health. I'm not talking about the type of inflammation from a sports injury or when you bump your arm, but the low-level chronic type of inflammation that you don't feel and don't know is there until it's too late. Since May I've included information about the damaging effects of inflammation in ten articles, with the two most important being: Death by Inflammation and Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome.

9 - Debate about Metabolic Syndrome - Does it Exist?

Two of the leading health organizations in the United States are battling over whether Metabolic Syndrome is real or not. The American Diabetes Association issued a position paper stating that Metabolic Syndrome should not be a diagnosis unto itself and clinicians should treat the features considered part of the disorder rather than treat a cluster of symptoms. The American Heart Association took little time to issue their own position paper stating that Metabolic Sydrome is indeed a disorder to be diagnoised and treated - to ignore the clustering of features is a mistake for clinicians.

A good article about the two sides of the debate is found in the October 10, 2005 Business Week.

8 - 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Guideance Pyramids

The government issued revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans and a series of Food Guideance Pyramids this year. While those who believe such guidelines are useful were quick to praise and promote them, I have written extensively about the flaws within them - namely the risk of failing to consume adequate intake of essential micronutrients, amino acids and fatty acids. In the article, Examining Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets: Part 2, I compare, side-by-side, a low-fat menu and a low-carb menu to highlight the nutrient deficiency in the low-fat menu.

7 - Protein and Satiety

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the importance of protein in the diet came to the forefront of our understanding of satiety this year. A number of studies published continued to show the power protein has on feeling full and that when protein is increased in the diet, it is easier to stick with a weight loss program. In the article, Study Finds Controlling Carbohydrate Better, you'll find more information about the role of protein in the diet and satiety.

6 - DASH Diet better with fewer carbohydrates

Quite frankly, the DASH Diet is no longer the DASH Diet if you increase protein and reduce carbohydrate, but that didn't stop the headlines from proclaiming this "tweak" showed the diet was more effective with less carbohydrate! You can read more about this finding in DASH Diet Better with Less Carbohydrate.

5 - Fructose and Obesity

A large number of studies were published in 2005 that implicated fructose as a culprit in our obesity epidemic. In the article, Fructose and Obesity, I detail the results of a study that showed mice fed a steady diet of fructose had 90% more body fat than mice fed water, even though the mice consuming water ate more calories!

4 - Childhood Obesity and Adult Disease

Our children are not only growing more overweight each year, they're now starting to suffer the same diseases as their overweight and obese adult counterparts. Researchers are now cautioning that if we do not reverse this trend, our children will have a shorter life expectacy than we do. In The Future is Now, I detailed the findings of a survey investigating the incidence of overweight in children. The findings were scary!

3 - The Importance of Vitamin D in health

Many take for granted they'll consume foods that provide for their essential micronutrients in their diets each day. The research however continues to show that a number of vitamins, minerals and other essentials are critically low in our diets and some of the things we do in our daily life contributes to our inability to meet our nutrient requirements. Vitamin D is one of those critical nutrients that is tricky to consume in food and we can make with exposure to sunlight. My most recent article, Vitamin D is Critical for Health, discusses the finding that vitmain D can reduce risk of cancer and provides a list of foods that have vitamin D.

2 - Longer Term Data - 22-month study - shows Low-Carb Effective for Diabetics

We hear a lot about the need for long-term data before we start considering different dietary approaches than those already recommended. This is especially true when it comes to low carbohydrate diets being recommended to those with metabolic disorders like Diabetes. This month, the first such "long-term" data was found in a poster published at the Nutrition & Metabolism Society website. You can find more about the research findings in Diabetics, Take Notice! Researchers conclude Low-Carb Diet is an Effective Treatment with 22-Month Data.

1 - Features of Metabolic Syndrome the very ones Low Carb Diets reverse

In Connecting the Dots, I detail the review published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism that found the features of Metabolic Syndrome are the very same list of things that reverse with a low-carbohydrate diet - high triglycerides, low HDL (good cholesterol), high blood sugar, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and obesity. Without a doubt, to me, this is the number one item for the year. With an estimated 25% of all adults in the US showing features of Metabolic Syndrome, these findings should be setting off alarm bells that there is something wrong with our diet and that there is something that reverses the problem - reducing carbohydrate!

While the above represents those items I believe were the top ten for 2005, many more items could also be included - diabetics are not controlling their blood sugars as well as they should, tight control does make a difference for diabetics, the food industry seeks and gets protection for lawsuits in a number of states, etc.

What the above highlights is that the research continues to show that our current recommendations for population-wide consumption of a low-fat diet are flawed. While such a dietary approach may be beneficial for some, it certainly is not for everyone. I believe in 2006 we are going to witness a strong campaign to discredit and dismiss any dietary approach outside the current low-fat paradigm more strongly than ever before.

Keep your eyes on the evidence, not the headlines. Keep your mind active and seek out the information to build your understanding of how your metabolism works and how what you eat does have an effect on your health. Eat well, eat nutrient-dense and most of all, eat to live well!

Have a joyous and prosperous New Year! Here's to your health!

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