Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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The Facts about Diabetes

We may be approaching one of  the greatest healthcare crises ever. The numbers keep rising and no one really seems  to earnestly do much about it. That is where the Diabetes Prevention programs may offer some help in the future. Prevention always is the best medical advice but it’s difficult to find help due to a lack of interest or funding.  In my opinion, many cases of diabetes type 2 can be prevented if enough attention is paid to understanding the dietary and exercise aspects of the disease. Studies of previous prevention programs have shown to make a difference. One particular study compared lifestyle  modifications with the anti-diabetes drug, metformin and found that the lifestyle modifications were just as effective as taking the drug.





You can find the complete study HERE.

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The Diary of a Dieter

How does the Human Body Regulate Food intake and Body Weight?

Body weight remains fairly constant for long periods of time. To regulate weight and fatness at a constant level, the body must be able to respond both to changes in food intake over the short term and to changes in the amount of stored body fat that occur in the long term. We have hunger and satiety signals that act over the short-term time frame (meal to meal) whereas signals from the fat tissue trigger the brain to adjust both food intake and energy expenditure for long term regulation. Sounds simple, right? That’s what some weight loss plans keep telling us (especially if we are following their claims).  Here is partly the reason why it is NOT easy.

For example, there are two major hormones that participate in this process. The first one is called ghrelin which is a hormone produced by the stomach that stimulates food intake (often called the “hunger hormone”).

The second one is called leptin which is a hormone produced by fat cells that signals information about the amount of body fat.  I will spare the details, but it is important to keep in mind that weight regulation is determined by the body in conjunction with the brain and is It is actually not simple but very complex. And keeping the lost weight off is a special challenge that requires a great deal of mindfulness and vigilance. The body tends to not want us to starve for obvious reasons.

The following article presents us with a realistic experience that many people are forced to take on when they finally address their repeated weight gains and suggests ways that must be followed to make this time a success (for health, not vanity).  There is a lot of wisdom in her article.  In my opinion, she finally gets it. I wish her success!

Hope she doesn’t mind if I borrow her viewpoint for a while.  To find more about her, click on the author, Cheney Meaghan below for a link to her work. (S. Feltner, PhD at Food, Facts, and Fads).

It’s Time To Diet Again, Dangit

For health, not hopes of hotness.

Cheney Meaghan

Jul 19, 2018 · 3 min read

I’ve lost count of how many times in my life I’ve been on a diet, and now it’s time to do it again.

I hate dieting.

Dieting consumes my entire life.

To track what I eat, to count calories, to more thoughtful food shopping, to prepping food, meal planning, tracking weight — all of it — I hate it.

But today I went to the doctor because I have been having more knee pain than usual and my right foot has been swelling every day for a week, and even before lab work returns, the news is not good.

I’ve gained thirty pounds in the last six months, my blood pressure is a steady 140/100ish (I’ve been checking it at home for two weeks), the doctor is worried that the swelling is due to hypertension, she’s testing me for diabetes, and she’s sure that the crunching and squishing and pain I am feeling in my right knee is bone on bone arthritis.

Basically, I’m turning into my mother, and quickly falling apart as I spread across the couch one pound at a time.

I guess this time, the dieting really matters.

All the extra weight isn’t good for my knee, and, well, all the extra weight just isn’t good, period.

But did I mention I hate dieting?

When you weigh as much as I do (over 250 pounds now, and holy s… I can’t believe I just admitted that on the internet) losing weight isn’t just a small shift in eating healthier and getting more exercise.

It means scrutinizing every morsel you put into your mouth and weighing (ha!) in your mind whether that bite is worth it compared to all the other bites left you have that day.

It means weighing and measuring your food to make sure you stay under your calorie goal, it means fewer meals out with friends, it means less ice cream.

I hate dieting.

But, like, I’m kind of dying.

My doctor looks like she weighs around the same amount as I do and joked with me during the appointment about how hard it is to get healthy.

When she mentioned that I should give up coffee with cream and sugar, which happens to be one of my only remaining addictions, I wanted to cry, but she said it was her favorite thing in the world and the thing she had the hardest time giving up, too.

It’s hard, I know it’s hard, I have a hard time doing it myself, obviously, she told me as we laughed and groaned over the benefits of dieting to prevent diabetes and the pain of cutting back on sugary treats.

She also shook her head and talked about how crazy it is that America is such a fat country in general. She said it was because we’d become such a busy society focused on getting stuff done, we’ve stopped focusing on taking the time to rest, eat healthy, and do good things for our bodies and lives like so many Europeans do.

It’s harder in America to be healthy than it is in a lot of other places in the world, and “they say” that over half of Americans are overweight now, and yet I can’t take any comfort in being on the side of the majority here.

Now I wait for results to see how things are — my thyroid, my sugar levels, my cholesterol and all that fun stuff — oh, and my creaky, decrepit knee.

Meanwhile, I’ll be updating my new weight and goals on the MyFitnessPal app and start logging everything I put into my body — my own personal science experiment as I try to shrink and not disappear.



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Diet and Doctors?

Medical schools are notorious for not teaching future physicians much if anything about diet and nutrition. This problem has been a frequent topic for decades and change comes slowly if at all.  It has long been known that patients will listen to their doctor’s advice more than conventional nutritionists (registered dietitians, for example) and insurance coverage for their services has been limited. In my opinion and experience, many doctors would feel more comfortable referring their patients to qualified diet programs if they were covered by insurance.

If we are ever to curb the effects of poor nutrition in our food  environment that includes obesity, doctors and other health care practitioners (with legitimate nutrition education) must become more involved in helping to solve the problem. More innovative ideas and diet programs that are medically supervised are greatly needed.


For an interesting idea:


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Which Cut of Meat? It May Not Matter Much

Calling all Carnivores! Here is some useful information (I never knew this).

Have you ever wondered how a London Broil or a flat iron steak differ? Here’s an interesting answer.

See a previous post on “Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?



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Diet Supplements: Beliefs and Reality


Consumers tend to believe that dietary supplements:

  • Are not drugs.
  • Have fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
  • Are approved by the FDA.
  • Will improve and maintain health.
  • Are safe, high quality, and effective.
  • May replace conventional medicines .


  • FDA does not approve, test, or regulate the manufacture or sale of dietary supplements.
  • The FDA has limited power to keep potentially harmful diet supplements off the market.
  • Dietary supplements may not have been tested for safety or effectiveness before they are sold.
  • Dietary supplements often do not list side effects, warnings, or drug or food interactions on product labels.
  • Ingredients listed on supplement labels may not include all active ingredients.
  •  Dietary supplements may not relieve problems or promote health and performance as advertised.

One of the most serious consequences of supplements results when they are used as a remedy for health problems that can be treated, but not by vitamins or minerals. Vitamin and mineral supplements have NOT been found to prevent or treat heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, premature death, behavioral problems, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cataracts or stress. Some such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene may be harmful to certain groups of people. If taken, dosages should not be excessive.

Source: Judith Brown, Nutrition Now, 2013.

For a case study that clearly illustrates how unscrupulous a company will be to promote an adulterated product, it makes one be aware of dietary supplements that sound innocuous, but in actuality can be harmful and in certain instances, lethal. Note the cases in the article concerning supplement use and acute liver failure,  for example.



FYI: If the link does not appear to work, try refreshing the page.

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Listeriosis: An Update

Inside a bacterium

The food industry appears to be having more food safety issues with the food-borne illness called Listeriosis. This may be due in part to more and more consumers using highly processed foods and ready-to-eat meals with long shelf lives. This bacteria can also live at refrigerator temperatures. It also is found often on the surfaces of food processing equipment and can be the reason for many food recalls.  CDC estimates: 2,500 cases in the U.S. annually with 20 percent resulting in death. Delicatessen cold cuts and soft cheeses (Brie,  Camembert, blue cheeses) have been associated with a significant number of cases.

Listeriosis primarily affects newborns, pregnant women, the elderly and other people with weak immune systems. The symptoms can include fever, malaise, arthritis and jaundice. Healthy people may experience occasional digestive and neurological symptoms.

Read about its increased prevalence with the food industry HERE.



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Plant-Based Burgers: Are They “Healthier”?

A Veggie Burger

Meatless burgers have now become mainstream with their recent presence at Burger King, McDonald’s and supermarkets.  Subsequently a new debate on their health benefits and consumer acceptance will ensue. How do they compare to a regular meat burger and/or other so-called veggie burgers derived from plants (black bean, mushroom etc, etc.) Have you tried the Impossible Burger or a Beyond Beef Burger yet?


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Personalized Nutrition: Is It a Waste of Time and Money?

Can we rely on the newest field in nutrition science to lead us to better health? The field of nutrigenomics (how our diet choices affect our health) promises us these benefits. So, are these claims valid?

The following article discusses this possibility. Research has suggested that genetic testing may provide slight benefits, but this evidence is weak. Another thought is that in our current food environment, the biggest beneficiaries  may be the food and supplement industry and will take this opportunity to  create and sell, for example, breakfast cereals and diet supplements touted to prevent certain diseases. But we still need the science to back up these claims.  Another aspect is that food is not just about health but also about pleasure, culture, sociability, identify, and beliefs.

Some day we may be able to have our genes analyzed and have specific foods and dietary supplements prescribed to prevent diseases.  By then our knowledge of the gene/diet interaction may be accurate enough to predict our chance of chronic disease.  But until then, save your money or don’t take the results too seriously (my opinion).


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What Can We Do to Stem the obesity epidemic tide?

“The rising rates of obesity were first observed in the United States in the late 1980s  and the problem is now observed in more than 30 countries, making this a global epidemic  Despite the best intentions to reduce this burden, no country has been successful in reversing the increasing rates of obesity prevalence  In the United States, an estimated 70.7% of adults age ≥ 20 years have overweight or obesity. Perhaps more alarming are the increasing prevalence rates in US children and in children around the globe  According to statistical forecasts, by 2030, 51% of the US population will have obesity.” (Source: Three New Perspectives o the Perfect Storm: What’s Behind the obesity Epidemic? Rasmussin, Eric and Ryan, Donna H. Vol 26, Issue 1, Jan. 2018; 9-10.)

Whose responsibility is it? Is it the food industry or the individual? At first, we blamed fat, so the food industry responded by removing some fat and replacing it with more sugar. Now it appears to be the fault of sugar, so what will the food industry respond with  this time? It is now apparent that it is not just that simple.

In my opinion, the problem seems to be a disturbance of our “natural” way of living healthy (it’s not just diet) and an attempt to get back on track for optimum health and longevity is needed desperately. How can we fix this dilemma? We cannot rely solely on the food industry since that would be like asking Congress to vote Yes on term limits or a new pay raise (excuse the politics). However, in attempts to teach the consumer healthier food choices, which have consistently failed, they are faced with few alternatives at the supermarket or fast food establishments.

Until we address the complexity at the community level, this problem will continue to exist. One excellent resource at the present time is found in the approach of Dan Buettner whose book. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living like the World’s Healthiest People has attempted to deal with solutions in the real world even if we cannot fully emulate the lifestyles of the world’s longest -living cultures. From the book – “Buettner’s groundbreaking approach is already transforming America’s cities and towns though his ambitious makeover project.” In his book, he includes the stories and strategies for applying Blue Zone lessons to American cities.”

There are no clinical trials here, but we may be missing that fact that people must learn to live in their own food environment in order to successfully mange their own health and well being. Public health professionals, dietitians and medical professionals should be involved and as it’s said “It takes a village”.

Here is a quote from Walter Willett, M.D.


Double digit drops in obesity, smoking, and BMI (body mass index)

Millions of dollars of savings in healthcare costs

Measurable drops in employee absenteeism

“…the results are stunning.”

– Dr Walter C. Willett, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

FYI: Another helpful book is an enjoyable read entitled 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cultures: Global Eating Tips and Recipes from China, France, Japan, and the Mediterranean, Africa and Scandinavia by Steven Jones, M.D. and Sandra Gordon.




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The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

October 1, 2019:

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Two NYT articles are presented here to that addresses this issue and helps to clarify how to deal with this ongoing issue.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.


November 5, 2015

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases. Hint: Life is a risk.