FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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The Truth about the Body Mass Index?

 

The Body Mass Index (BMI) has many limitations.  Even though it correlates with the amount of body fat, it is not a very good indicator for evaluating the health affects of being overweight or obese as the current study below indicates.  It is not applicable to athletes who have highly developed muscles which contributes a high degree of lean body mass. In these people, their BMI may be high but their disease risks may be low. It is also not accurate in the elderly population who may have lost muscle mass referred to as sarcopenia.

It may be more important to access the location of body fat stores. There are two major body fat locations: subcutaneous fat which is located under the skin. This type does not appear to increase health risks. The second  type of adipose tissue is visceral fat which is located around the organs in the abdomen. Generally, fat in the hips and thighs is primarily subcutaneous and abdominal fat is visceral.  An increase in visceral fat is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and breast cancer.

Many health experts  promote the use of the waist circumference which can roughly estimate the risk of visceral fat and should be used with the BMI. Visceral fat storage is more common in white men than in women.  However, after menopause, visceral fat increases in women. For men in the greater or equal to a 25 BMI range,  a waist circumference greater than 40 inches is associated with an increased disease risk; for women in that BMI range, a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches increases risk. If a person is under five feet in height or has a BMI greater than 35, these cutoffs are not helpful in predicting health risks.

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Food Safety Issues with Shrimp?

Shrimp by-catch (Location: East Coast of Florida)

Shrimp by-catch (Location: East Coast of Florida) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shrimp are very popular on U.S. menus.  But there is concern about how it is produced, mainly in Southeast Asia and some concerns about bycatch in wild-caught shrimp.   Here is a very comprehensive report about shrimp safety from Consumer Reports.  Fortunately I live in North Carolina and only buy wild-caught North Carolina shrimp.  I buy them frozen after asking about how long they keep the thawed shrimp in the case and was told anywhere from 2 -5 days.

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Campbell and GMO Labeling?

Wow!  Never thought we would see this happening.  Campbell has decided to disclose whether its ingredient are genetically modified!  Will more companies follow?  We shall see. This appears to be a great victory for those who support GMO labeling.  And kudos to Vermont with its labeling law passage.  This will be interesting to watch as it evolves.

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The Problem with Diet Advice?

Let’s face it. The results of nutrition research is often frustrating to sort out and this article tells us why.  What to do?  I look at the big picture by studying epidemiological evidence such as diet patterns.  An example might be studying  the countries of the Mediterranean region and those of the Blue Zones which investigates the lifestyles of long-living healthy populations.

Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease in human populations. Because epidemiological studies look directly at humans rather than infer results from animal studies, they provide the best tool for measuring environmental risks to humans.

Epidemiological studies provide evidence, not proof. A limitation is the uncertainty which is inherent in these types of studies.

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