Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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What is the Nordic Diet?



Tired of trying to eat like a Greek? – wait maybe you should try to eat the Nordic way, or is this just another fad??  Looks like a major difference is olive oil (Med) versus canola oil (Nordic) and more emphasis on fish. Otherwise, both seem healthy enough; however, the Med diet has more research behind it. The article offers some helpful links with more information on the diet.


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What are the dangers of “added sugar”?



The new food labels using the Nutrition Facts panel will be required to list the amount of “added sugars” in the food serving. Some companies are already complying but the FDA extended the dates last summer.

Our total carbohydrate intake decreased between 1909 and 1963 due to a decrease in the whole grain consumption and its accompanying  fiber. Since 1960, total carbohydrate intake has increased, but fiber intake did not rise with it, suggesting an increase in refined carbohydrates. Much of the carbohydrate added back to our diets between 1963 and 2000 came from sugars; over this time period per capita sugar consumption rose by 33%. Whole-grain breads and cereals were replaced by white bread, snack foods, and sugared soft drinks.

The types of sweeteners also changed. In the 1960’s we sweetened food with cane and beet sugar, but today most of the foods we buy are sweetened with corn sweeteners, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This appears to be changing as more food companies are removing the HFCS  from their products.

However, we are now advised to eat fewer foods with added sugars (now defined as sugars and syrups that have been added to foods during processing or preparation.)  Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.

The following paper discusses the possibility (although not conclusive) that fructose may be involved in the rise of what is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is debatable whether the culprit alone is fructose and some research indicates that over consumption of all refined sugars could be to blame, not just fructose. Since sucrose is approximately 1/2 fructose and 1/2 glucose, it is also a source of fructose in the diet.


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The Mind Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia and recently has been reported amenable to some degree of prevention when caught early in its progression. A recent book, The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, by Dale E. Bredesen, MD. makes this claim. In any case, it does provide another choice of diet patterns that may help cognition problems and provide us with a healthy eating plan.

Although this diet is similar in many ways to the DASH diet and Mediterranean Diet, research has found that people who stuck to a diet that included foods like berries, leafy greens, and fish had a major drop in their risk for AD which affects more than 5 million Americans over age 65. The diet is based on an observational study that does not strongly support cause and effect conclusions. However, it is a simple way of eating and easy to follow and meets the recent guidelines of what constitutes a healthy way of eating. CLICK HERE.

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What the Heck are AGEs?


Over the past 20 years, many observational studies have found that people who regu­larly eat red or processed meats have higher rates of several cancers, notably of the colon and rectum. And lab studies have shown that com­pounds formed when meat is processed (that is, smoked, salted, or cured) or cooked at high temperatures can cause cancer in animals or cells. One of these compounds is called Advanced Glycation Endproducts or simply AGE’s. They may  be a piece of the puzzle as to why meats are often associated with certain cancers.

That said, there are plenty of other reasons to moderate your intake of red and/or processed meats. There’s strong evidence linking them to cardiovascular disease.  Also eating more plant-based foods and less meat is better for the environment resulting in less greenhouse gas production.

For more information on foods and AGEs, CLICK HERE.


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The Semi-Vegetarian Diet?

It’s been said before (on this blog) that using a little common sense when it comes to what we eat can be effective when it pertains to health benefits. The trend is eating less meat and emphasizing more plant-foods. The scientific evidence that should not be ignored is stacking up to support this recommendation.  But perhaps you just can’t make the switch to being a strict vegan or vegetarian for various reasons but would like to include more plant foods and less meat in your diet.  There is hope.

One way is to practice semi-vegetarianism or flexitarianism which means you don’t need to give up meat entirely – just use it in ways that automatically reduces its intake in the overall diet. One way is to think of meat as a condiment for flavor and be aware of the portion size of meat on a plate. Just reducing the portion size can make a big difference. Another way is to include a Meatless Monday into your week and if you choose add a Meatless Wednesday.  You can also choose to become a lacto-ovo vegetarian (dairy and eggs) or include fish and/or seafood once a week to reduce meat consumption.


For more information on how to become a semi-vegetarian, CLICK HERE.

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Epigenetics: Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits?  Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your  future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.

Is Your DNA Your Destiny? 

The Short Version

Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein

Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence

To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.


Both these mice have the gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups. The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced  brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.

Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diabetes.

How did this occur?  Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression.  Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.


The Longer Version: 

Is Genomics the Future?

The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003 that identified all of the genes in the human body.

The new field of Nutritional Genomics suggest that lifestyle factors influence how nutrients influence gene activity and expression.

Although genetics can play a sizable effect on our future, lifestyle factors and the environment can often play a role in the outcome (expression). As you can see, epigenetics may  show us that genes alone are not necessarily our destiny.
















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Bone Broth?

Bone broth popularity appears to have lost some of its luster; however, a new study reports some preliminary evidence suggesting it can lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. However, there are some concerns. Will future research support the concerns and will bone broth just fade away as just another food fad?