Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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How to Have a Very, Very Happy Thanksgiving

I wish everyone a Happy Thankful Thanksgiving to enjoy the wonderful food we all know and have loved for decades. However, the holiday can be so much better  when we know the foods we are eating are as safe as possible. As a microbiology person, I can’t help but remind everyone to follow some simple rules for not only a Happy Holiday but also be aware of  food safety from purchase to leftovers. Providing a Thanksgiving dinner for family or friends can be hectic and it is easy to make mistakes, for  example, forgetting about cross-contamination of foods in the kitchen. And with more helpers and distractions in the kitchen,  the risks can become even  unintentionally more common. Nevertheless, if you practice common sense food safety rules from purchase to leftovers,  you will have a very, very Happy Holiday.

Bon appétit and enjoy.



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Diabetes Awareness Month

The global statistics speak for themselves.  “This year 10 million more people are living with diabetes than in 2015, meaning that 1 in 11 adults now has diabetes, for a total of 425 million people.” Many people don’t know they even have a condition called pre-diabetes. Prevention is often effective and there are many prevention programs in the U.S; however, they do not seem to be utilized as well as they should be.

In my opinion, people can lose 10% of their body weight on any diet in time if they stick to the program.  The problem: Keeping the weight off. An effective prevention program for obesity/diabetes should contain weight maintenance training in terms of realizing what is necessary to prevent weight regain. Our bodies have developed many mechanisms for putting weight back on, not taking it off. A Forbes article found HERE discusses some pitfalls on weight reduction.


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Are Probiotics Ready for Prime Time?


A Bacterial Superbug

The microbiome is all over the nutrition news with studies pouring in on how just about every aspect of our physiology or pathophysiology is dependent on some degree on the kinds of bacteria that make up our collective species found there. As with any supplement, there are pros and cons.

A lot of these studies are done with animals or small samples in human studies.Even though this research shows promise, there are always precautions when taking any supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA. The following article was updated in 2014 and after checking more recent research, I found the same problems exist – inconsistent results, small sample sizes, study flaws, etc. etc. common in nutrition research.

The most common species of bacteria used in probiotics (among a potential 3,000 or more) are species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.  You’ll want a product that explicitly states a “sell-by” date. Once you have identified the right strain or strains (which at this point seems next to impossible), it’s important to find a product that is labeled correctly in terms of the number of bacteria in each dose. Tests from found that some probiotic supplements did not contain the amount of organisms claimed on the label. The organisms must survive stomach acid and therefore should contain an enteric coating to enhance their survival.

The best advice is to talk to your  doctor before taking probiotics as well as any supplement. People who have an immune deficiency or cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s okay.



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Pesticide Residue Free? About 50%

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the FDA and the USDA share the responsibility for limiting exposure to pesticides in the food supply. The EPA sets tolerances while the FDA and USDA monitor pesticide residues in both domestic and imported foods. In general, the amounts of pesticides we are exposed to through foods are very small. The USDA’ s Pesticide Data Program has found no more than 1% of samples with residues above established EPA tolerances. Since the dose matters, repeated consumption of any one pesticide could be harmful; this is unlikely since most people consume a variety of foods produced using many different pesticides. Newer pesticides are less toxic and more effective in smaller doses than many of the older  ones. New methods of controlling pests involve the use more natural occurring substances like microorganisms that control pests.  Smoler and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.


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Does the SAD Diet Encourage Heart Disease?

A new study concludes with some interesting and compelling reasons to avoid a typical Western diet (aka the SAD) early in life and attempt to practice healthy lifestyles including diet for a lifetime.

It also suggests the fact that future doctors should be taught more meaningful  nutrition education in medical schools, a goal that has not yet been accomplished.


Check out a previous post with several links on this topic HERE.


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Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?


It is too bad that prevention is not emphasized more often to the younger population in order to possibly prevent the ravages of chronic diseases later in life. Research suggest that cognitive decline can at least be delayed by “healthy” lifestyle choices earlier in life rather than after the offending damage has occurred.


The younger population appears to be less healthy than previous generations of the same age group affecting retirement age and health care costs. For more, CLICK HERE.

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Are High Protein Diets Harmful?

Americans are crazy about protein. I once had a student whose food record indicated  he had consumed 280 grams of protein on an average day. He had added a couple of high protein shakes to his daily intake. If we look at a typical American diet in terms of the government’s MY PLATE, our animal protein foods often fill half of the plate instead of the recommended amount (1/4 of the plate).

The recommendations can be thought of in this way:

The Acceptable Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is 10-35% of total calories for adults. This range is not associated with any known health risks.

A diet that provides only 10% of calories from protein meets the RDA but is on the low side since the average of energy from protein in the  typical U.S. diet is 16%.

The RDA for protein in adults is 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. For an adult weighing 70 kg (154 pounds) the recommended intake would be 56 g a day (70 x 0.8 g/kg/d = 56 g); for an adult weighing 59 kg (130 pounds) it would be 47 grams a day. On average, protein intake in the U.S. is about 90 g/day. (To convert pounds to kilograms, divide the pounds by 2.2). For example, 170 pounds /2.2 = 77 kilograms)

A quick and easy way to estimate your protein intake is to know the following :

Starch (1/3 c. pasta, 1/2 potato, 1 sl. bread)= 3 g. protein

Milk (1 cup) = 8 g. protein

Vegetables (1/2 c. cooked, 1 c.. raw) = 2 g. protein

Meats or Meat Substitute (4oz. beef, poultry, fish or cheese,  2 c. legumes) = 28 g. (4 oz is about the size of your palm.)

Fruits and any foods in the fat group have zero grams of protein.

Note: Protein needs are increased for growth, lactation, or when the body is injured.