Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Diet and Cancer: What We Know?


The association between diet and cancer has a long history. Back in the 1980’s, it was a “hot” topic but at that time it mostly involved the role of single nutrients, namely dietary fat and cancer risks.  In fact, my PhD dissertation investigated the difference in tumor incidence in the intake of two polyunsaturated fats on breast cancer in animals.

The results of this study and a subsequent follow-up study, showed that there were no significant differences in tumor formation in rats fed either corn oil (an omega-6 fat) or fish oil (menhaden oil), an omega-3 fat). Since then, further research has supported these findings.

Recently the research has centered more on the effects of dietary patterns (e.g. more fruits and vegetables and/or plant-based) on cancer incidence in human and animal studies. Some specific foods and factors have emerged as having an association (not causative) with cancer incidence.

The following article brings us up to date on what we actually know about the complex issues of diet and cancer at the present time.


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The Spread of Global Obesity

There is so much speculation about the causes of obesity?  The following article makes it pretty simple. Consider affordability, convenience, palatability and prosperity. It all adds up to increased consumption of fast foods and/or processed foods.


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Vitamin and Mineral Absorption: Good Advice

Taking a vitamin/mineral supplement often does not seem to meet the claims of their intended heath benefits. (See previous post on calcium/vitamin D and bone health.)

Could taking a supplement with food or as part of a fortified food make a difference in the absorption of that specific nutrient rather than merely taking it in pill form alone? That remains to be determined by more research.

The following article covers some important points about nutrient absorption and how combining food sources or even preparation (cooking, e.g.) may make a difference in their combined outcome on health?


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News About Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

As with so many diet supplements, again food sources may win out over pills.  Check with your doctor for this one and determine whether these supplements are needed based on your risk.  Meanwhile, it may be helpful to know some factors affecting the risk of osteoporosis to share with your doctor.

Gender: Fractures from osteoporosis are about twice as common in women as in men.

Age: Bone loss is a normal part of aging and the  risk increases with age.

Race: African Americans have denser bones than do Caucasians and Southeast Asians, so their risk is lower.

Family History: Having a genetic tendency obviously increases risk.

Body Size: Individuals who are thin have increased risk because they have less bone matrix.

Smoking: Tobacco use weakens bones.

Exercise: Weight-bearing exercise (walking and jogging) strengthens bones.

Alcohol Abuse: Long term abuse reduces bone formation and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Diet: Low calcium intake during the early years (when bones are forming) results in a lower peak bone mass.

FYI: Major food sources include dairy products, fish consumed with bones, leafy green vegetables, fortified foods.

The recommended intake for adults is 1000 – 1200 mg/day. The Upper Tolerance Level is 2000-2500 mg day from food and supplements.

Bottom Line: Again, supplements may not be the answer for correcting dietary deficiencies of calcium and/or vitamin D.  Food sources as well as fortified foods and getting some sunshine each day may be prudent. However, if you have  been diagnosed with osteoporosis, please check with your doctor before you change your diet or supplement use.


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The Realities of Calorie Restriction


Calorie restriction is not an easy thing to do in our obesigenic society. However, based on the the following study, even small changes seems to be able to result in not only weight loss but the beneficial effects on our overall health.

The debate about calories has continued for quite some time.

In 1918, Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters wrote the first diet book, “Diet and Health, With Key to the Calories.” The book was a best seller. She explained the new concept of calorie reduction for weight loss.

In 1958 Dr. Richard MacKarness published “Eat Fat and Grow Slim”. The title speaks for itself.

In 1971, Dr. Herman Taller wrote another best seller, “Calories Don’t Count”.

More recently, author Gary Taubes wrote a provocative book entitled “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and Nina Teicholz espoused the health benefits of calorie dense butter, meat and cheese, in her book called “The Big Fat Surprise.”

No wonder people are struggling with obesity and will continue to do so until we figure out the physiological, psychological, sociological and environmental complexities of weight gain, weight loss, and weight maintenance.

The following article emphasizes the health benefits of calorie restriction whether due to weight loss or the calorie deficit itself.



To take a look at Dr. Hunt’s book by clicking on the pages:


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The Ovo-Vegetarian Diet?


Thinking of a diet makeover to eat less meat but don’t want to take the big step to a vegan lifestyle? One change could be rather simple – try an ovo-vegetarian approach. Eggs are nutrient dense and provide a complete protein source. They are also versatile and provide more variety to the menu. One thing- check with your doctor about your blood cholesterol level – eggs may be restricted if you are genetically predisposed to hypercholesterolemia.

You can eat them fried, poached, or scrambled or add them hard -cooked to salads.



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Ultra Processed Food?


Ultra processed foods have been suspect for quite some time in contributing to our obesity/diabetes epidemics? Recent studies support this hypothesis. This is not good news for the food industry that keeps on providing these foods for the U.S. food supply.