Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Making Sense of School Lunch


"Every child Needs a Good School Lunch&qu...

“Every child Needs a Good School Lunch” – NARA – 514223 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



This is a great article on how we can introduce healthier food for school lunches.  The key here is to get the kids involved.  The article showcases a lot of great ideas from one person named Shelly who really knows what she is doing – we need more of them.  Kudos to her.





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Antioxidants – Good or Bad?

High rates of lung cancer (indicated in this m...

High rates of lung cancer (indicated in this map by brown colors) are highly correlated with the Stroke Belt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Back in 1994, a study called ATBC with 29,000 male smokers tested whether beta-carotene (an antioxidant) and vitamin A as a supplement could prevent lung cancer. In 1996, another study called CARET gave 18,000 male and female smokers and male asbestos workers beta-carotene supplements for four years to test the same theory. Nearly everyone thought it would work, bu at they were wrong. The studies were halted because lung cancer, heart disease, and death from all causes increased in those who took high doses of beta -carotene. When looking at follow-up data, it was found that in smokers, the higher risk of lung cancer and death continued even after a person stopped taking beta-carotene, suggesting long-term effects from the supplementation.

Perhaps research has found a possible answer to these surprising results that shocked the nutrition world at that time. There are other theories however.

The same effect has not been shown from getting of beta-carotene in your diet from fruits and vegetables, even if you are a smoker. The bottom line: A lifetime of healthy eating is far better than a few years of high-dose vitamins found in supplements during middle age.


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Probiotics and Prebiotics

diagram of a human digestive system

diagram of a human digestive system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics. The primary benefit of probiotics and prebiotics appears to be helping you maintain a healthy digestive system. There is no food that contains both but it is advisable to provide both together in the diet or take a supplement containing both.

One of the best sources of probiotics is yogurt. It has good bacteria like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria,  shown to be able to moderately withstand stomach acid.  Look for “live or active cultures” on the label to be sure your favorite brand of yogurt is a rich source of probiotics.  Other good food sources are sauerkraut, miso soup, fermented, soft cheeses (like Gouda), and even sourdough bread. The common feature of all these foods is fermentation, a process that produces probiotics.  Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes.

Taking probiotics with food or with dairy products may help to lessen the destructive effects of stomach acid  before they reach the small and large intestines. Food and dairy products help to buffer the stomach acid to a reasonable pH so that the highest  possible  number of probiotic organisms can survive.



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The Wizard of “Oz”?

English: American currency (bills and coins in...

English: American currency (bills and coins in multiple denominations) and dietary supplement pills in three colors, on a black background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This video is very funny but  so true.  It covers most of the problems with people’s gullibility when it comes to believing the claims made by the dietary supplement industry.  Most are harmless; others can be dangerous!  Nevertheless, the drain on the pocketbook of consumers is appalling enough.  One of the fastest growing industries in the world is the nutritional supplement group, or more broadly known as Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements, or VMS. Producing about $32 billion in revenue for just nutritional supplements alone in 2012, it is projected to double that by topping $60 billion in 2021. For some guidelines on supplements, click here.


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It’s Still All Fast Food

Fast Food

Fast Food (Photo credit: Awais JIBRAN)

The fast food industry seems to be trending toward more quality and healthier choices when it comes to consumer acceptance.  This sounds like good news but we must go further and demand menu choices with less sodium, fat, and sugar and still taste good.  Quite an order, but there is hope?



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The Diet Mentality


What scientists call "Overweight" ch...

What scientists call “Overweight” changes with our knowledge of human health (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French have had one of the lowest obesity rates in the world and when their eating habits are studied, one of the major ones that stands out is that the French don’t traditionally diet, at least with the vengeance that Americans do when attacking weight gain. However, this is changing unfortunately due to a lack of adherence to their traditional diets. Currently about 1 in 10 French people are obese and almost 40% are overweight (including the obese)

According to Will Clower, PhD and author of The French Don’t Diet Plan:10 Simple Steps to Stay Thin for Life, “the French love their food, but not the way Americans do. In America, we confuse enjoyment of food with over-consumption.” The result: only 39% of Americans claim to greatly enjoy eating, compared to 90% in France.

The current diet mentality of Americans is:

It is impossible to be fit and fat at the same time.
All large people must lose weight in order to be healthy and fit.
All large people are in poor health.
Everyone can lose weight if they just follow the proper diet and regular exercise program.
The main reason people regain weight is their failure to comply with prescribed diets or make long-term commitments to weight loss.

All of the above are false.

Dieting makes you fat”. This was a title of a book written in the UK in 1983. It was dedicated to “the scores of millions of people in the West who are fatter than they want to be, who have tried dieting, who have found that dieting does not work, and who want to know why”. This was among the first books written on non-dieting weight control.

The legacy of the book is not its content; it presented a new way of looking at body weight and its accompanying paradox by suggesting that a behavior (diet) intended to facilitate weight loss actually has the opposite effect. Subsequent research has shown that dieting is associated with negative outcomes such as increases in anxiety and depression, cognitive performance deficits, increased risk of eating disorders, and even increased morbidity and mortality,

The size of the diet industry has grown commensurate with the rise in obesity. Most of the products produced by this industry are viewed as being ineffective and to be truthful, a company that marketed products that are safe and effective would commit financial suicide eventually from a business standpoint – no more customers. The diet industry is one of the several major and global concerns, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and the food industry itself, that make a profit out of obesity, according to Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics”.

There is such as thing as a “diet mentality paradox” in that in a recent study in the Journal of Obesity, normal weight teenagers were more likely to be overweight 10 years later if they thought of themselves as overweight to begin with. Another earlier study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that kids who feel fat are more likely to be fat years later. Dieting creates a perfect storm of restrictive eating patterns that cannot be maintained, along with feelings of shame and guilt. This leads eventually to “fall off the wagon” leading to weight gain.

There may be several reasons why this occurs. Often stress hormones are blamed. These hormones can wreak havoc when we are stressed or anxious with “feeling fat”. Another culprit is dieting itself in that the act is basically a self-destructive pattern of thinking and behaving.

More recently, “Health At Every Size” (HAES) is a non-diet program to managing weight using a mindful-based eating approach. It promotes self-esteem and body acceptance and supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being, rather than weight control. Using some common sense, maybe we ought to try to break this dieting pattern that has become so prevalent in our society or maybe we ought to decide to re-think this whole diet mentality thing and substitute a healthy mentality instead

This topic is further discussed in a previous post. 


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