Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Is Alzheimer’s Disease Caused by a Virus?

Experts suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, i.e., Alzheimer’s’ disease may affect about 1 in 9 people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning that can interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. AD is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

The causes of dementia can vary depending on the type that also includes not only AD, but Lewy body dementia or vascular dementia and it is common for people to have a combination of two types.

AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906 after he noted symptoms of memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behaviors in a female mental illness patient. After her death and autopsy of her brain, he reported he found abnormal clumps that are now referred to as amyloid plaques and tangled  bundles of fibers now called neurofibrillary or tau tangles. It is thought that these abnormalities stop the function of healthy neurons that ultimately lose their connections and die.

The causes of AD are unknown, but can be combinations of genetics, environmental and lifestyle factors. An improper diet has been suggested as a possible contributor by inflicting free radical or inflammatory damages. Positive dietary adjustments may also play a role in preventing the disease. Recently animal research has investigated other prevention treatments that may help to allay the effects of lifestyle factors on Alzheimer’s disease.

“The brain of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease is a harsh place filled with buildups of harmful nerve cell junk—amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles—and dramatic loss of nerve cells and connections that occur with severe cognitive decline, such as memory loss. Targeting and disrupting this harmful junk, specifically amyloid plaques, to restore brain function has been the basis of many failed clinical trials. This futility has led to a re-evaluation of the amyloid hypothesis—the central dogma for Alzheimer’s disease pathology based on the toxic accumulation of amyloid plaques.”

“At the same time, there have been traces of evidence for exercise playing a preventative role in Alzheimer’s disease, but exactly how this occurs and how to take advantage of it therapeutically has remained elusive. Exercise has been shown to create biochemical changes that fertilize the brain’s environment to mend nerve cell health.”  Excerpt from “How Exercise Might ‘clean” the Alzheimer’s Brain.” by Jonathan D. Grinstein in Scientific American, October 16, 2018.

A recent hypothesis presented in this post involves the possible role of an infectious cause. At the heart of current thinking is the association of the herpes virus as a possible suspect and several research studies have provided some support to this proposal. However, the offending agent has yet to be identified.  It took nearly 300 years for science to finally recognize that spontaneous generation did not cause disease; thus, the germ theory began to be recognized.

Bottom Line: Prevention may be the key to alleviating the devastating effects of whatever causes AD. Until the scientific community knows more, it may be prudent to practice healthy lifestyle habits (diet and exercise) to delay the damage AD causes. For more details,



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Diet and Cancer Prevention: A Common Sense Guide

In the past, diet and cancer associations primarily concentrated on the individual effects of nutrients on tumor growth.  I personally conducted research with rats on the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids on breast cancer incidence and we found no differences in tumor formation between omega-6 and omega-3 fats.

We have now gotten past this narrow approach and find that the study of overall diet patterns are a better way to  convey the best way to counteract tumor initiation, promotion and progression.

The following article is long but contains excellent common sense information on diet and cancer prevention. It also explains why the scientific community has made these recommendations based on what we think we know from current research studies. It is one thing to know what to eat but the best is to know why recommendations are established.





























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Food Safety: Cancer Causing Food Additives?


What were these additives doing in our food supply in the first place? According to the article, they have been approved and used since 1964.

Nutrition textbooks offer this information:

Delaney Clause: A clause added to the 1958 Food Additives Amendment of the Pure Food and Drug Act that prohibits the intentional addition to any food of any compound that has been shown to induce cancer in animals or humans, at any dose.

Guess they missed these seven. Now we know what “artificial flavor” means on an ingredient list?

Despite the criticism of the term “clean eating” by some,  perhaps our food has become a little less “dirty”.


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FYI: Which Juice is For You?

Nutrients Tomato Juice V-8 Juice Orange Juice
Calories 70 50 110
Sodium 980 mg 640 mg 0 mg
Potassium 657 mg 460 mg 450 mg
Carbohydrate 14 g 10 g 26 g
Fiber 3 g 2 g 0 g
Sugars 9 g 6 g 22 g
Protein 3 g 2 g <2 g
Vitamin A 8% 40 % 0 %
Vitamin C 110 % 150 % 120 %
 Calcium 4% 4% 2%
Iron 8% 4% 0 %

What is your go to juice for breakfast? In my house, it is either tomato, V-8, or orange juice. Which is healthier? Here is what I found:

  • All three provide a very decent amount of nutrients but a few things stand out for consideration: sugar, salt, vitamin A and C, and potassium.
  • It all depends on taste preference in the long run, or possibly whether you want to avoid sugar or salt.
  • To be fair, orange juice provides additional nutrients in small to modest amounts of vitamin B6, magnesium, niacin, folate, riboflavin and thiamine.
  • BTW, I am not associated with the Campbell company in any way.

For more on V-8, CLICK HERE.

Bon appétit






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Sugar Addiction: Another Opinion


Fat and Sugar

Sugar is one of the most controversial food items in recent years since the nutrition “experts” seem to have divided themselves into two camps  – one is strongly anti-sugar saying it may be partly responsible for most chronic diseases and may be addictive, and the other is less anti-sugar, and generally report only the risks of tooth decay to health and say that it does not meet the criteria of a true addiction. See my previous post: Sugar Addiction: An Opinion.

Of course, the sugar and processed food industry is seriously involved and takes the side of the anti-tooth decay groups.

NOTE: When researchers gave human subjects sugar or fat solutions (they used canola oil.) alone and compared those to a saliva control,  they concluded:  “fat and sugar both produced strong reward effects in the brain.” as shown by a MRI brain scan.  They reported  “It has already been established that sugar ingestion would light up the areas of the brain that are collectively known as reward centers that generate pleasure, indicating possible addictive or narcotic properties.” So it was a surprise to find that fat could also produce the same results. Araujo and Rolls, “Representation in the Human Brain of Food Texture and Oral Fat”, Journal of Neuroscience 24 (2004): 3086-3093.

The following article presents the case for sugar addiction. It also begins to discuss the complexities of addiction and how the sugar industry gears its marketing to sell for profit with very little consideration for health.  An interesting and informative book that should be read by all consumers is Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2010.


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Sugar Addiction: An Opinion



Carbohydrates are among the most abundant nutrients in grains, fruits and vegetables. Types of carbohydrates in these foods include starches, sugars, and fiber.  The two primary classifications are SIMPLE and COMPLEX.

STARCHES – Complex

Complex carbohydrates called starches are found as large chains of glucose and  provide 4 calories per gram.  They are found in grains and some vegetables. Our body breaks down starches into units of glucose, which is a simple carbohydrate, and releases glucose into your bloodstream to be used for energy. Your body stores excess carbohydrate as fat. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, are naturally richer in nutrients and fiber than refined grains, such as white bread and pasta. Whole grains retain the bran and germ of the grain, while refined grains have been stripped of these components. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and beets, have more starch than so-called non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli.

SUGARS – Simple

Fruits and vegetables contain simple carbohydrates, called fructose, or fruit sugar, and glucose. Fruits are higher in fructose and glucose than most vegetables that contribute to their sweetness.  Added sugars are usually refined sugars found in baked goods and soft drinks and tend to be lower in essential nutrients than fruits and vegetables. All sugars provide 4 calories per gram. Your body converts dietary fructose to glucose and uses it for energy. so in essence, all digested carbohydrates eventually end up as glucose in the body to be used for energy production.


Dietary fiber refers to indigestible complex carbohydrates in plant-based foods. Most fruits and vegetables are high-fiber, and whole grains are higher in fiber than refined choices.  Because you do not digest it fiber does not contribute calories to your diet. Most high-fiber foods are rich in additional essential nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin A in fruits and vegetables, potassium; niacin and B vitamins are found in whole grains.

This post is intended to support the suggestion that sugar is a fairly benign component of our diets in terms of health issues. Many nutrition groups and those working in the sugar and processed food industries claim that sugar can be part of a healthy diet if used in moderation. The problem: Moderation is fine but how is it defined since sugar and added sugars are found in many processed foods. Many of these foods are often termed “empty calorie foods” or having few nutrients compared to non-processed whole foods which can contain some “natural” sugars. The concept of sugar addiction is discounted in this side of the debate, since not all agree on the definition of “addiction” and many say that not all people become addicted to sugar if at all. For the other side of the debate, see a subsequent post: Sugar Addiction: Another Opinion. CLICK HERE.

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Nutrition Science for Sale?

Food Marketing

By Sally Feltner, PhD, RDN

The Problem

Nutrition research has always had problems with study design and is in reality an infant science – there is so much we don’t know about diet and health interactions. That knowledge will hopefully be resolved with time. For now there are other issues that need to be addressed. “The business sector that comprises agribusiness, food manufacturers, and marketers collectively referred to as ‘Big Food’ has invaded nutrition science.” Their goal is to maximize its profit margins. (JAMA Forum, Lawrence Gostin, JD.

The very integrity and credibility of science and the scientific method is being challenged by these practices for profit. Dietitians and nutritionists that disseminate nutrition information to the public used to be able to reasonably count on scientific evidence to back our advice. But now that is clouded by the very food companies we are often forced to rely on for our nutrition health. When I read a particular study, I find that I often wonder if I can trust the conclusions before I post the results on my blog.

What tactics are used by industries to influence nutrition decisions?

  1. Right now government funding for nutrition science is not even a priority. That creates many opportunities for food companies and industry groups to sponsor more research studies and at the same time use them as marketing techniques or broadcast misleading headlines.
  2. When a food company makes a heath claim on their product label, they are required by the FDA to back up the claim with research. Therefore, they are eager to fund these studies even though the support can be weak and manipulated to their advantage.
  3. Other tactics they use involve paying academics to write favorable results of a study or lobbying government agencies to make decisions about dietary guidelines. Many dietitians are spokespersons for food brands or groups. I assume some of these alliances involve some form of payment for their services.

A few years ago  I was offered a relatively generous fee to write a promotional brochure on a mineral supplement called germanium. After looking at the research, I found the following:

“Germanium can break down your kidney tissue, causing kidney damage. In some cases, germanium can even cause chronic kidney failure and death.” Following this declaration was a long list of other undesirable side effects.

Needless to say, I told the supplement company owner that I couldn’t promote such a product ethically or honestly.  Of course he was not pleased since he planned to use the brochure for marketing purposes and did not appear to be terribly concerned about the facts. Obviously, I did not receive or take any payments.  Today when germanium is searched on the Internet, it still carries the warning about the kidney damage and its products are even banned in some countries. This experience taught me a valuable lesson about how these tactics in this case, a supplement company, can corrupt evidence-based scientific research findings.

It is troublesome that some studies may be legitimate and honestly express the conclusions of the authors. It is so difficult to find the conflicts of interest and/or funding sources of many of the studies, especially when one can only have access to the abstracts of the study.  This can lead us to miss some important positive information that consumers could use.

Evaluating Nutrition Information : Ask yourself the following questions when reading any nutrition information.

  • Does it make sense? Is it too good to be true? Does it pose a risk?
  • What’s the source? Is it selling something? Is it an opinion?
  • Is it based on sound scientific method principles?  Is the study well controlled? Were the participants and researchers blinded? (a double-blind study) How large was the sample size? Was it a human study or an animal study?
  • Were the results interpreted accurately? Sometimes the conclusions do not strongly support the results. It is unbelievable, but it It happens!
  • Has it stood the test of time? Was it the first study to report a particular finding? Has the study been repeated?

Being aware of the many problems associated with nutrition science and the food industry will ultimately allow you make informed decisions about your nutrition concerns and not be misguided by the marketing schemes and tactics that often will try to persuade us to buy their products.