Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Should Industry Give Dietary Advice?

Today a press release from Unilever claims that ice cream can be part of a healthy diet by using the discretionary calories allowed in the new Food Guidance Pyramid along with "portion control" to allow one to eat the decadent dessert they crave.

"...there's still confusion as to where "fun foods," those special treats everyone craves, can fit into a "better-for-you" diet" the press release stated before it continued with the advice that ice cream can be included in a healthy diet.

Amy Fischl, MS, RD, CDE, stated, "I encourage them to go ahead and have that scoop of ice cream they've been craving. Just make sure that it is a regular-sized serving -- a half-cup, which is about the size of a tennis ball."

Since when are cravings a good measure of what one should eat?

For decades we've been repeatedly told the contradictory message that if you gain weight it's your own fault but also that you have to include the foods you crave if you want to successfully lose weight.

It's a trap that many fall prey to each day as they commit to losing weight and taking control of their health.

Let me be clear - we do not need to eat sugar or foods loaded with added sugar to be satisfied. It's an illusion that's been created by an industry that is profitable only if you buy the very foods you should avoid if you're trying to lose weight and then limit when you are maintaining your weight.

Initially avoiding sugar and foods with added sugars may seem like it would require sheer willpower, however, the evidence clearly shows that after just a few days of avoiding sugary foods, the body adjusts and cravings are significantly diminished and can even disappear.

When you need to lose weight it is critical that you abandon the eating habits that caused the weight gain and take the time to learn new habits as you lose weight.

Think about this - if you include the very foods that made you gain weight while you're trying to lose weight how will you ever learn a new, healthier, eating pattern?

When you include the foods, even in small portions, that made you gain weight, you're setting yourself up to return to your old eating habits from day one...setting yourself up to regain the weight if you do lose the weight.

The only proven way to keep the weight off is a long-term permanent change in your eating habits and activity level.

To make that permanent change, you have to stop the cycle that caused the weight gain - stop eating junk food and start eating real, whole foods as your dietary base. It requires only one commitment - a commitment to yourself and your health in the long-term.

You need only seven basics to get yourself started:
  • Eat, as the largest volume of food each day, lots of non-starchy vegetables
  • Choose carefully from legumes, starches, nuts, seeds and whole grains and consider limiting these initially as you start your weight-loss program
  • Eat adequate protein from high-quality selections - lean beef, fish, poultry and game
  • Include only quality fats and oils: extra virgin olive oil, fish oils, nut oils and even small amounts of butter
  • Eliminate processed, refined, packaged foods as much as you can
  • Eliminate added sugars and trans-fats
  • Get to know the importance of not only calories, but the critical importance of nutrients in your diet

You control what you eat and what you don't eat. Make wise choices and in the long-term your body will thank you with better health!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Organic Chicken Healthier

The NIH's Environmental Health Perspectives (Volume 113, Number 5, May 2005) reported that there exists a "persistent problem" with poultry in the US.

Poultry's Persistence Problem: Drug-Resistant Campylobacter in Chicken
Mounting evidence suggests that the poultry industry's use of antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistance among the foodborne bacteria that infect humans. One such bacterium is Campylobacter, a pathogen common to chicken products. Every year more than 1 million Americans develop Campylobacter-induced food poisoning from eating undercooked contaminated chicken. Resistant strains of Campylobacter are a growing public health threat, particularly among elderly and immunocompromised patients. This month, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health provide evidence suggesting that chickens raised without antibiotics are less likely to carry antibiotic-resistant strains of Campylobacter.

The link I provided above will take you to the research abstract available online.

The question raised is "Would you consider eating chicken laden with antibiotics and pesticides if you knew how sick it may make you?"

In the above study, researchers tested chicken products from conventional manufacturers (Tyson and Perdue) and antibiotic-free producers (Bell & Evans and Eberly) all of whom claim to have stopped using fluoroquinolones (FQs), a class of antimicrobials used to control the bacterium Escherichia coli in broiler chickens.

The results showed: Producers that abstained from using FQs decreased the likelihood of Campylobacter contamination in their products. Conventionally-grown chicken products were up to 460 times more likely to carry resistant strains than their antibiotic-free counterparts. FQ resistance in conventional chicken products persisted for one year after its industrial use was stopped.

This information gives you one more reason to choose organic chicken and poultry products for you and your family!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Main Source of Calories

Is it any wonder 1 in 3 adults are obese in the United States when preliminary data from a Tufts University study suggests that soda and sweet drinks are the main source of calories in the American diet?

Tufts researchers recently reported that while the leading source of calories in the average American diet used to be from white bread, that may have changed. Now, according to preliminary research conducted by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Americans are drinking these calories instead.

The research was presented in abstract form at the Experimental Biology Conference in April of this year and a more comprehensive paper is being developed.

Odilia Bermudez, PhD, MPH, studied the reported diets of a large nationwide sample of American adults. Among respondents to the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than two thirds reported drinking enough soda and/or sweet drinks to provide them with a greater proportion of daily calories than any other food.

In addition, obesity rates were higher among these sweet drink consumers.

"These results are startling," Bermudez said, "and indicate that we need a much better understanding of how the American diet has changed."

Startling is an understatement in my opinion! The findings should be sounding alarm bells across the country! Sodas and sweetened beverages offer absolutely no nutritional value in the diet. They are pure "calories" and are actually counter-productive nutritionally as they deplete the body of nutrients (B-vitamins, calcium, potassium) as they're metabolized.

Just how much soda does the average American drink each year? An estimated 60-gallons! That works out to an average of almost two cans a day - or about 300 calories without any nutrients for the body.

To be healthy, the body requires nutrients and drinking soda is not nourishing our bodies - skip the soda and drink water instead.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

What is GPR40?

GRP40 is a cell receptor on the surface of pancreatic beta cells that is attuned to changes in blood glucose levels. Basically, it has been found that GRP40 alerts the beta cells about their presence in the bloodstream.

What the heck does this mean?

Well, researchers have been trying to understand how excess fat in the bloodstream accelerates the appearance of full-blown diabetes. It is known that it is a progression from the body's normal function to its inability to respond properly to insulin (the hormone responsible for moving sugar from the blood into the cells), progressing to a stepped up effort by the body to produce more insulin, which results in beta-cell exhaustion, leading to less insulin being produced, onto full-blown diabetes.

A group of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the University of Umea, Sweden, recently identified GPR40 - and unraveled a mechanism by which fat contributes to the onset of the disease. They found that when one eats both fat and sugar, the GPR40 receptor stimulates greater insulin production which hastens the onset of diabetes.

The findings were tested on two sets of mice whose GPR40 production had been modified: One with inhibited production and the other with overactive GPR40 genes that sensed high fatty acid levels even on a normal diet. Not surprising, the mice with overactive gene receptors quickly began to exhibit symptoms of full-blown diabetes, while those with reduced production were healthy, even after the fat content of their diets was increased.

We know that some sugars bypass the normal "krebs cycle" and are automatically kelated primarily to triglycerides in the blood stream. Knowing this means you can take control of what you eat and avoid foods that contain the offending added sugars responsible - high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose and hydrolyzed high fructose Inulin Syrup (also labeled as "agave").

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Diabtetics Not Controlling Blood Sugars

About a year ago, new guidelines lowered the threshold for pre-diabetes to below 100 milligrams per deciliter.

Based on that revised baseline, more than 40 million Americans with readings in the 100-125 deliciter range are considered pre-diabetic and at a significant risk of developing full-blown diabetes. Despite the warnings in the media few Americans actually did something positive about it.

In fact, according to a new study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, about two-thirds of the Americans diagnosed with type-2 diabetes don't even have their condition under control.

Moreover, one expert believes diabetes management has worsened over the past decade, fueled by the obesity epidemic, our sedentary lifestyles and high-fat, high-sugar junk food.

By the numbers from the study:
  • 67% of some 157,000 patients didn't have an adequate A1C blood sugar reading.
  • A separate Harris poll found 60% of the respondents didn't even know what A1C meant!
  • In a state-by-state comparison, no more than half of the patients in any state managed to control their blood sugar at all.

Anyone who is significantly overweight or obese needs to know if they are pre-diabetic or already diabetic. Get yourself tested and if you're pre-diabetic or diabetic, make the changes to your diet, lifestyle and activity level now to control your health in the long-term.

The easiest changes to make are in your control...

  • your diet should be rich with non-starchy vegetables, low-glycemic load fruits, legumes, quality fats/oils and high quality proteins.
  • Non-starchy vegetables should make up the highest volume food that you eat each day.
  • If you do include grains, make sure they are only 100% whole grain without added sugars!
  • Eliminate added sugars, trans-fats (if you see "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" on the ingredients list, put it back on the shelf), high-fructose corn syrup and refined grain foods (flour, cookies, cake, white enriched pasta, etc.) from your menu
  • Get moving - exercise not only helps control your body weight, it also is great for your cardiovascular system and controlling your insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • And, lastly, don't forget to relax - stress is counter-productive to long-term health.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Back in 2000, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (Vol. 71, No. 3, 682-692, March 2000) published a review by Loren Cordain et al about the macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets.

Their findings included
  • Most (73%) of the worldwide hunter-gatherer societies derived >50% (56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from animal foods, whereas only 14% of these societies derived >50% (56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods.
  • This high reliance on animal-based foods coupled with the relatively low carbohydrate content of wild plant foods produces universally characteristic macronutrient consumption ratios in which protein is elevated (19–35% of energy) at the expense of carbohydrates (22–40% of energy).

So, most of the hunter-gathers are eating 56-65% of their energy from animal foods, providing 19-35% of their calories as protein and just 22-40% of their calories from carbohydrate.

In a "real world" 2000-calorie a day diet, what does such a macronutrient mix look like?

19-35% of calories from protein = 380 to 700 calories or 95g to 175g of protein, with most coming from animal foods

22-40% of calories from carbohydrate = 440 to 800 calories or 110g to 200g of carbohydrate

The remaining calories, from fat = 500 to 1180 calories, or 25-59% or 55g to 131g of fat

These ratios are very much in line with controlled-carbohydrate nutrition ratios, which generally holds that carbohydrate is limited to 40% or less for daily calorie intake. The mix of fat and protein calories in a controlled-carb approach is highly individualized and the goal is to include quality protein in adequate amounts and only include quality fats and oils.

It can be understood, without a great stretch to the imagination, that the carbohydrate foods consumed by hunter-gatherers are nutrient-dense, whole foods and do not include refined, sugar-added packaged foods or highly processed foods.

While the average American isn't going to go forage and hunt for their meals today, they can use this information to choose wisely the food they will eat. Nutrient-dense non-starchy vegetables, low-glycemic load fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and quality proteins are all a good start to eating a healthy diet for the long-term.

These "hunter-gatherer" foods are readily available in any supermarket along the perimeter of the store.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Science Marches On

In March 2005, Dr. Guenther Boden and colleagues from Temple University and UMDNJ published an important paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Vol 142; Issue 6: 403-411, 15 March 2005). These clinicians assessed the effect of low carbohydrate diets in obese, type 2 diabetics. Although the findings were, in fact, a simple re-hash of what is widely known by in-the-know healthcare providers, it is significant because it is a well-done, well-documented piece of science; and because it was published in one of the most respected journals in the US.

In summary, they compared the effects of a truly low carb diet (i.e. approximately 20 grams per day) to the “usual” diet of these diabetic individuals. Each patient served as his own control. The study participants were kept in-house for the entire three week duration of the study, so food intake was precisely known (no cheating!) and high quality metabolic data was obtained.

The high points of their findings included:

  • Caloric content of the daily diets spontaneously dropped approximately 1000 Kcal;
    The average weight loss observed in the group over the two weeks of carbohydrate restriction (approximately 4 lbs) could be totally attributed to the spontaneous caloric deficit (i.e. it was not simply due to water loss);
  • Blood sugars normalized and insulin sensitivity improved by 75%;
  • Triglyceride, cholesterol, and HgbA1c levels all improved.

To reiterate, none of these findings are surprising when we look at the numerous studies available today.

What I find sadly amusing – to the point of absurdity – are the editors’ comments: “...we know little about how low-carbohydrate diets cause weight loss or how they affect glycemic control.” It goes to show you that even the editors of the prestigious Annals can live in a biased vacuum.

If I am not mistaken, the literature on controlled carbohydrate nutrition begins in the late 1800’s and is replete with case studies, prospective randomized trials, mechanisms of action, thermodynamic investigations, and metabolic pathway elucidation.

We, in fact, know quite a lot about this topic.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Do You Need Fat to Lose Fat?

An interesting study may explain why a low-fat diet may be counter-productive to weight loss, especially the old fat stored around your body's peripheral tissues - your belly, bottom and thighs.

It appears that the fat stored in those areas aren't burned efficiently unless new fat is eaten or generated in the liver.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis developed genetically engineered mice missing an important fat-synthesizing enzyme so they could not produce new fatty acids in the liver. Because liver fatty acids are vital for maintaining normal blood sugar, fat and cholesterol metabolism, these mice must take in dietary fat to remain healthy.

When these genetically-altered mice were placed on a no-fat diet, they developed fatty liver disease and suffered from low sugar levels. And, also noteworthy, because their livers were unable to burn the old fat, extra pounds accumulated.

Both conditions were reversed when researchers modified their diets to include fat.

In fact, on a normal diet, the modified mice were no different than normal ones in terms of body weight, body fat, metabolic rate and food intake.

Scientists also found the effect of added dietary fat could be duplicated when the mice were treated with a drug that activates the PPAR-alpha found in all mammals and central to metabolic processes that extract energy from dietary components like carbohydrates and fats.

Dieters who want to lose fat stored in peripheral tissues, according to the lead researcher, may find it useful to consume small amounts of dietary fats, such as fish oils, to effectively activate PPAR-alpha and the fat burning pathways through the liver.

The quality of fats and oils eaten is critical. The fat and oils you add to your food or part of the foods you eat are important. Nuts, seeds and quality proteins provide excellent fats, as do fish oils and nut oils.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Evidence for Health

These days it is common to hear and read about "evidence based" medicine and recommendations. What does it mean in your life? How do you use the evidence to improve your health and well-being?

I'll sort through the evidence available to provide a comprehensive look at how your lifestyle, eating habits, stress and activity level all impact your health and well-being and how you can control your weight and health in the long-term!

Let me clearly state my bias....I believe that a controlled-carbohydrate approach offers your best option for dietary nutrient-density, weight management and energy level. This is not to say it is right for everyone, but it is an option that is supported by the scientific evidence and can be used by many people quite successfully. My objective here is to provide my readers with timely evidence from scientific studies that supports healthy habits.