Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Is There Really a Paleo Diet?

Fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, potas...

Fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, potassium and fiber, represent an important feature of hunter-gatherer diets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good article from Marion Nestle – respected nutritionist and author on her opinion of the Paleo Diet.  It appears from the Comments that people love their Paleo diet and defend it wholeheartedly.  My opinion – the Paleo benefits more than likely come from the avoidance of refined sugars, fats, and grains and thus processed foods.  It does allow for more animal foods, e.g., meats which for many, adds to its acceptance as a diet that does not foster hunger as much as the more restrictive diets.

We really don’t know what our Paleo ancestors ate.  More than likely, we  can surmise:

  • They hunted and ate leaner meat than our over-fattened factory farm animals.
  • They did not have access to butter, processed meats, cream or bacon.
  • They ate more “real” foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • They did not have a microwave oven.

Please read a previous post HERE entitled Do You Paleo?


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The Melting Pot of Nutrition

Today there are so many opinions as to what is the best diet, what are superfoods, how should we eat, how can I lose weight and keep it off – it makes your head spin.  The following article by Dr. David Katz discusses this dilemma.  And it is problem – who is right or wrong?  It seems that almost everyone that eats food has their own, often strong, opinions about diet and nutrition and due  to the internet the plethora of information and misinformation is available  to us like never before.



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Fear of Food?

The following article is a witty and healthy reminder that we should keep in mind when reading about the latest food scare.  It is no wonder that we have individuals who are predisposed to take healthy eating to extremes – now a new eating disorder called orthorexia.  Let us be reminded that the most healthy cultures like the French and those longest-living populations found in the book, The Blue Zones embrace foods and the art of eating with pleasure and enjoyment.  Maybe we should all relax a little and try to do the same.


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Food and Diet Myths Busted

Busted in rust

Busted in rust (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good article from Eating Well that breaks up some long-standing nutrition and diet myths.  There is also a lot of good information here and it provides the sources. Enjoy!



Who is Your Nutritionist?

Adelle Davis

Adelle Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Sally J. Feltner, PhD, RDN

What is a Nutritionist? 

The term “nutritionist” is loosely defined. The story of Adelle Davis best describes how far this definition can lead to the spread of diet advice gone wrong. Ms. Davis, although formally trained in the 1930’s in biochemistry became America’s most celebrated “nutritionist.” By 1969, the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, the panel on deception and misinformation agreed that she was probably the most damaging single source of false nutrition information in the country. She believed that most diseases could be prevented by regular drinking of her “Pep-up” concoction of egg yolks, oil, lecithin, calcium salts, magnesium oxide, yogurt, granular kelp, milk, yeast, wheat germ and soy flour, blended without cooking. She wrote in her book Let’s Get Well, “I have yet to know of a single adult to develop cancer who has habitually consumed a quart of milk a day”. She died of cancer (multiple myeloma) in 1974. So much for the milk theory!

While we have come far since those days of nutrition quackery, we still have some individuals that use bogus credentials to feign expertise. Many use invalid methods of health or nutritional assessment practices. Many of these people sell supplements that promise the hope of health in a bottle. Nutrition advice is all over the Internet. These days, almost anyone is a self-prescribed “nutritionist” of some kind and it is difficult to sort out the advice that is based on science.

It starts with Accreditation

Every school, college, or university claims some kind of accreditation. In other words, does the nutrition education of the “nutritionist” come from a legitimate college or university? There are diploma mills defined as organizations that sell degrees that declare recipients to be “nutritionists” or “nutritional consultants” without requiring them to meet educational standards established by reputable institutions. Many have created their own accrediting agency and proclaim themselves as “accredited.” Some of these institutions offer credentials or a certificate if you attend only a weekend seminar.

To find out whether a college or university is accredited, you may consult the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a private agency that accredits the accreditation agencies (

What are the credentials of Nutrition Professionals?

RD or RDN – Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist

  • They need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; many have graduate degrees.
  • Complete an internship (typically 6-12 months in length)
  • Pass a national exam
  • Complete continuing education hours as required by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)

DTR – Dietetic technicians, registered

  • Minimum of an associate’s degree
  • Complete an approved program, including 450 hours of supervised practice experience
  • Pass a national exam
  • Complete continuing education hours, as required by CDR

CDM, CFPP – Certified dietary manager, certified food production professional

  • Take the certification exam of the Certifying Board for Dietary Managers, part of the Association of Food and Nutrition Professionals (AFNP
  • Completion of continuing education hours, as required by AFNP

CNSD, CNSC – Certified nutrition support dietitian, certified nutrition support clinician

  • RD/RDN status with CDR
  • Minimum 2 years experience in specialized nutrition support
  • Pass a national exam every 5 years

CDE – Certified diabetes educator

  • RD/RDN status
  • 2 years of RD working experience
  • Minimum of 1000 hours of diabetes self-management experience
  • Minimum of 15 clock hours of continuing education activities
  • Pass a national exam


  • Board certified specialist in gerontology nutrition, sports dietetics, pediatric nutrition, renal nutrition, oncology nutrition, respectively
  • RD/RDN status
  • Documentation of 2000 hours in area of concentration with the past 5 years.
  • Pass a national exam

LD, LN, CD – Licensed dietitian, licensed nutritionist, certified dietitian, respectively

State issued.  Currently 46 states have licensing laws that regulate the use of the term dietitian or nutritionist, practicing medical nutrition therapy or nutrition counseling to the public. Some of these laws, however, are weak and fail to enforce the laws they have enacted. The states differ in who is eligible for licensing – e.g. those with an an RD/RDN status, have  an advanced degree or a legitimate medical or nutrition credential such as a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) from a fully accredited institution can apply.

What Can Happen when Licensing Laws Are Ignored?

Some people often purchase degrees or credentials for their pets for fun to prove the illegitimacy of a selected diploma mill, licensing board or “academic” institution for a court case or other reasons.

Here are some of the “graduates”:

Henrietta Goldacre, a cat, became a “certified nutritionist” (CN) when her owner, Dr. Ben Goldacre, a British psychiatrist, was researching the credentials of Gillian McKeith, a British nutrition author. He found that she had obtained her doctorate from an unaccredited American school and had purchased a nutrition diploma from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. In testing this practice, he obtained the same degrees for his cat, Henrietta.

Sassafrass Herbert, a female poodle and Charlie Herbert, a cat, both owned by a New York physician, Dr. Victor Herbert. He purchased their diploma certifications as a CN for $ 50.00 from the same organization as Goldacre; each received stunning documents suitable for framing

Other animals have received degrees from diploma mills in other fields of study:

  • A bird with an aviation doctorate
  • A bulldog named Maxwell Sniffingwell who was awarded a medical degree (MD)
  • Several cats with high school diplomas
  • A cat as a Certified Real Estate Agent
  • A dog with a MBA
  • A dog with a BS in Criminal Justice

Bottom Line

Use Your Common Sense! If you cannot get adequate information about the educational background of your nutritionist, stay clear of them. They may only be interested in your money and may give you false information or flood you with supplements you really do not need. And worse case scenario – “Adelle Davis” may still be living out there somewhere. It is also important to realize the many “nutritionists” have good intentions even though they have been scammed by the various organizations that promised them legitimacy. All buyers beware!







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What is a Reasonable Weight Loss Goal?

There are more than 3,000 diet books on the market, written by everyone from celebrity advisers to self-proclaimed experts with credible credentials.  Many if not most of these plans promise quick, dramatic results, but the reality is that few are based on legitimate science.  Old rules are out, e.g., 1 pound of fat equals 3500 calories so a deficit of 500 calories a day will result in one pound of  fat lost in a week. This simple graph provides a more realistic way to think about weight loss.


For more detail CLICK HERE.

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Diets, Weight Loss and Health

English: A display of high fat foods such as c...

English: A display of high fat foods such as cheeses, chocolates, lunch meat, french fries, pastries, doughnuts, etc. Reuse Restrictions: None – This image is in the public domain and can be freely reused. Please credit the source and/or author listed above. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there a heart healthy diet? Do people lose more weight with a low fat or low carbohydrate diet? In the past few decades, thanks to Nathan Pritikin and Ancel Keys, fat phobia and heart health dominated nutrition advice. Even now, most people still think that high fat is associated with heart attacks. More recently our thinking about fats has changed – we now accept that not all fats are created equal in terms of health. The term “healthy fats” have entered the nutrition vocabulary. But what do we really know about the role of diet in heart disease, health and weight loss?

The old paradigm emphasized restriction of saturated fat and cholesterol but presently, that worn-out concept is being questioned.  The requirement was that people eat less than 20% of calories as fat. The problem was exacerbated with low-fat products becoming loaded with sugar to compensate for this restriction and people were encouraged to eat carbohydrate with abandon whether it was healthy carbohydrate or not. For example, the old Food Guide Pyramid encouraged people to eat 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta a day. A controversial diet book called Calories Don’t Count even became a best seller. Although not the only factor, the obesity epidemic began during the decades of attempting to follow low-fat recommendations.

How does the latest trend of the low carbohydrate diet compare? Dr. Robert Atkins took the diet world by storm and people abandoned their egg white omelets for bacon and attempted to follow the Atkins Diet Revolution.A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates — such as those found in grains, starchy vegetables and fruit — and emphasizes foods higher in protein and fat.  There are  varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat, but 50-100 grams is commonly accepted as reasonable carbohydrate restriction; however, there is no consistent definition of  low carbohydrate.

The metabolic syndrome now gives us more of an idea of the factors that may contribute to heart disease. There are six parameters of this syndrome that have been identified that relate to heart disease: abdominal obesity, atherogenic dyslipidemia (low HDL, elevated LDL, high triglycerides) raised blood pressure, insulin resistance ± glucose intolerance, and a proinflammatory state. Along with age and lack of exercise, this syndrome risk increases even more.

In my opinion, the following statements reflect our current knowledge when we compare diets related to weight loss and/or our  health.

  • The jury is still out as to whether low fat or low carbohydrate diets play a role in heart disease directly. No one knows if sugar affects heart disease.
  • The American Heart Association recommends a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. It limits red meat and sugary foods and beverages.  This diet is very restrictive in that people cannot maintain it for very long due to restrictions on nutrient-dense foods like red meat and foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Low-fat diets high in polyunsaturated fats tend to lower LDL-cholesterol. Often HDL-cholesterol is decreased in the process.
  • Initial weight loss is usually more rapid in the low carbohydrate approach, but over time, both low-fat and low carbohydrate result in modest weight loss (an average of about 10 pounds in 1 year according to most studies).
  • Existing evidence suggests that carbohydrate restriction positively affects most of the components of the metabolic syndrome. Waistline is reduced, blood pressure is improved, triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol improve, there will be less insulin resistance, and glucose metabolism improves.
  • Most people regain their weight loss within one to five years.
  • A low carbohydrate diet is often a better choice for people with gastrointestinal problems since some carbohydrate foods contain components that aggravate some conditions like gluten sensitivity or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Whether it is a low fat or a low carbohydrate diet, both are restrictive. Overly restrictive diets don’t work since people find it difficult to maintain them since they take the pleasure out of eating. This can result in hunger, weight regain and the frustrating results of dieting failures.

What should you do either lose weight or improve your health? Commercial weight loss programs usually do not address the health aspects of diets; they only focus on weight loss. It is important to discuss your health profile with your doctor by looking at lipid and glucose lab results to decide which approach is best. People should choose their own diets based on their own personal metabolic profile, diet goals, and food preferences – think more of your health and less in terms of weight loss. Hopefully in the future, the diet wars will be resolved with more knowledge about the complexity of weight loss, weight maintenance as well as diet and health.

Perhaps, it may be best to not “diet” at all – more on this approach later.









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