Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Organic Foods: A Continuing Debate

Conventional food producers often declare that organic farmers use more pesticides than most people think and that some are relatively toxic. Organic farmers deny this claim; as a result, there are obvious biases on both sides of the debate.

Organic foods do not appear to be healthier than their conventional counterparts; however they are gaining in popularity with consumers primarily due to food safety and environmental issues. In my opinion, choosing organic food is a personal choice.

Here is what we know. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, antibiotics, or growth hormones. The USDA’s National Organic Program has developed standards such as what or what not the food product contains. For  example, an organic food may not include ingredients that are treated with irradiation,  produced by genetic modification, or grown using sewage sludge. Certain natural pesticides and some manufactured agents are permitted. Farming and processing operations that produce and handle foods labeled as organic must be certified by the USDA.  Three definitions have been established:

  • 100 % organic = 100% organically produced  raw or processed ingredients
  • Organic = contains at least 95% organically produced raw or processed ingredients
  • Made with organic ingredients = contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients

The following article attempts to further clarify how pesticide use in the organic food industry is regulated.



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The Impossible Burger-Still Going Strong?


The sales of meatless burgers continues to rise. The Impossible Burger appears to be popular with those who have tried them. The taste of any  type of these meat substitutes will be the key to their acceptance.  Still, food industry continues  to invest in their production.  For a previous post, CLICK HERE.


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Coconut Oil: Is It Healthy or Not?

The benefits of coconut oil have been debated for quite some time. A new study came with some surprises! Read about the study HERE. For a fair assessment from Harvard Medical School about some benefits of coconut oil click HERE.

Bottom Line:

As with most nutrition news, premature conclusions can be reached and headlines can be misleading. For coconut oil adherents, the most recent study is good news; however, coconut oil is a highly saturated fat oil unlike most vegetable oils, and in my opinion should be used sparingly until further research sorts out this debate and reaches some kind of consensus. In the meantime, it’s great for moisturizing your skin and smells good, too.


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Fighting Back the Food Industry

It’s about time there are serious attempts to prevent the food industry from its persistent tactics to try to influence the Dietary Guidelines, the consumer and our children’s health. Read what Chile did to try to combat the advertising tactics that often are directed at children by company brands.

The article has many important implications on changing the toxic food environment – which in my opinion is at the heart of the obesity/diabetes crisis. If consumers do not demand positive changes,  we may never begin  to turn around this crisis  that decidedly affects our health and the resulting health care costs. It’s a long read but carries an important message. The Comments are also very supportive of these kinds of initiatives. Kudos to Chile.


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Diabetes Reversal? The DiRECT Study

Several of my friends are asking me as well they should, what I think of the latest nutrition buzz – reversing type 2 diabetes by calorie restriction. A new study titled “Primary care-led  weight management for remission of type 2 diabetes (DiRECT): an open-label cluster randomised trial”attempts to study lifestyle interventions for this important end point: the remission of diabetes type 2 and address long-term weight maintenance.

  • The intervention included:   A total meal replacement diet of shakes and soups consisting of 825 – 853 cal/day for 3-5 months. The macro nutrient distribution was 59% CHO, 13% fat and 26% protein. That combination provided about 122-126 grams of carbohydrate a day.
  • A reintroduction phase of solid food for 2-8 weeks with a macro-nutrient composition of 50% CHO, 35% fat and 15% protein.
  • A structured support for long-term weight loss maintenance  for two years (few details are given in the study)

Half of the participants were given a control diet was described as the “best-practice care by guidelines” (few details provided). The other half was given the intervention.

It has been known for quite some time that calorie restriction could reverse type 2 diabetes. There are three major ways:

  • Bariatric surgery (usually as a last resort)
  • A very low calorie diet (usually less than 1,000 cal/day
  • A low carbohydrate or low fat diet (low carbohydrate defined as less than 130 g/day)

If this finding continues to provide some successes in weight loss or diabetic reversal, the good news is that many diabetes patients may be helped with a dietary treatment rather than with more medication or surgery. The key to success is keeping  the weight loss off.  If weight is regained,  the diabetes can return.

More good news is that the current trend of the claims of  the low carb, high fat diet (keto) may not be totally necessary for weight loss or diabetes remission. More moderate carbohydrate restriction may work just as well.

CLICK HERE for the stories of two Lancet Study participants, Isobel and Tony.