FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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Diet and Doctors?

Medical schools are notorious for not teaching future physicians much if anything about diet and nutrition. This problem has been a frequent topic for decades and change comes slowly if at all.  It has long been known that patients will listen to their doctor’s advice more than conventional nutritionists (registered dietitians, for example) and insurance coverage for their services has been limited. In my opinion and experience, many doctors would feel more comfortable referring their patients to qualified diet programs if they were covered by insurance.

If we are ever to curb the effects of poor nutrition in our food  environment that includes obesity, doctors and other health care practitioners (with legitimate nutrition education) must become more involved in helping to solve the problem. More innovative ideas and diet programs that are medically supervised are greatly needed.

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For an interesting idea:

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Which Cut of Meat? It May Not Matter Much

Calling all Carnivores! Here is some useful information (I never knew this).

Have you ever wondered how a London Broil or a flat iron steak differ? Here’s an interesting answer.

See a previous post on “Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?

 

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Plant-Based Burgers: Are They “Healthier”?

A Veggie Burger

Meatless burgers have now become mainstream with their recent presence at Burger King, McDonald’s and supermarkets.  Subsequently a new debate on their health benefits and consumer acceptance will ensue. How do they compare to a regular meat burger and/or other so-called veggie burgers derived from plants (black bean, mushroom etc, etc.) Have you tried the Impossible Burger or a Beyond Beef Burger yet?

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Personalized Nutrition: Is It a Waste of Time and Money?

Can we rely on the newest field in nutrition science to lead us to better health? The field of nutrigenomics (how our diet choices affect our health) promises us these benefits. So, are these claims valid?

The following article discusses this possibility. Research has suggested that genetic testing may provide slight benefits, but this evidence is weak. Another thought is that in our current food environment, the biggest beneficiaries  may be the food and supplement industry and will take this opportunity to  create and sell, for example, breakfast cereals and diet supplements touted to prevent certain diseases. But we still need the science to back up these claims.  Another aspect is that food is not just about health but also about pleasure, culture, sociability, identify, and beliefs.

Some day we may be able to have our genes analyzed and have specific foods and dietary supplements prescribed to prevent diseases.  By then our knowledge of the gene/diet interaction may be accurate enough to predict our chance of chronic disease.  But until then, save your money or don’t take the results too seriously (my opinion).

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Obesity on the Rise – Some Solutions?

The Obesity/Diabesity Pandemic

Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of  type 2 diabetes mellitus, so much so that the epidemic is often called diabesity. It has been described as one of the most important crises that has invaded our public health system.

Global Statistics,  Source: Lancet

  • Since 1980, the number of adults with diabetes worldwide has quadrupled from 108 million to 422 million in 2014.
  • Diabetes is fast becoming a major problem in low and middle-income countries.
  • From 1980 to 2014, the prevalence of diabetes more than doubles for men in India and China.
  • Half of adults worldwide with diabetes in 2014 lived in five countries: China, India, USA, Brazil and Indonesia.

So what are some solutions?  

The standard American diet is in much need of an overhaul and our national food systems need to change if we wish to reverse or at least slow down this trend. Many say that it would take the same determination as the campaigns to change behaviors that were utilized during the campaigns against smoking. .

Prevention awareness should be first on the front lines of treating the people with prediabetes that can often be reversible using lifestyle modifications. There are already some prevention models in the community; however, these should be expanded so that they become more easily accessible to more people. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) uses intensive behavioral therapy to help people lose a little bit of weight (typically 5-10%). When this program is followed, the number of people progressing to have diabetes comes down by more than half. In people over 60, the reduction was 70%.

Nutrition education should be incorporated into the school system in the early years to help young children understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from and why nutritious foods are the best choice. They can be taught about balanced eating, calories, reading labels and grocery shopping. Nutrition education can also be offered at the middle and high schools levels by returning to a revamped and modernized home economics course in the curriculum. 

A lingering problem has existed for many primary care physicians for many years in that they say they were never adequately prepared in nutrition principles in medical schools. In a survey of family physicians (2009), two thirds said that dealing with extremely obese patients is “frustrating “and one-half said treatments are often ineffective. This is reflected by a lack off obesity training.

Shockingly, another survey in 2010 of 140 doctors revealed that nearly one-third were not even familiar with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) prediabetes guidelines. Only 6 percent were able to identify all 11 risk factors and on average, the doctors could only identify just eight of the warning signs. Only 17 percent knew the correct laboratory values for blood glucose and only 11 percent said they would refer a patient to a behavioral weight loss program..

There should be an increased access to professional treatments. Medical professionals not trained in obesity management should refer their patients to outside providers such as dietitians, exercise trainers, behavior therapists, psychologists, or a new concept of health coaches. These providers should be trained, certified, and credentialed to protect the public from unscrupulous treatments and to provide quality care. Reimbursement of qualified health professionals needs to be enhanced to keep. Otherwise patient volume high and they lessen out-of-pocket expenses.

We have become a nation of non-cooks and prefer to have our meals prepared by someone else. Encourage home cooking and home kit meals to help to counter using fast foods and packaged highly processed meals loaded with calories, fat, sugar and salt.

Educate the public on food labeling including ingredient lists. Beware of food companies that promote products with a “health halo” meaning exaggerated claims are made that appear to make unhealthy foods seem healthy because of an added nutrient or ingredient. Corporations also mislead consumers with their labeling so they include four different types of sugar to keep sugar from being listed as the first ingredient. This is misleading to the consumer when attempting to make wise food choices.

Stop corporate-government partnerships and diminish lobbying.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is funded by myriad food companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kellogg’s. The dairy industry has a long history of influencing the food pyramid and Dietary Guidelines. A good example is the placing of a glass of milk on the MyPlate Logo.

Another health organization guilty of taking in millions from food companies is the American Heart Association. They offer a “Heart – Check logo for a price: $5, 490 to $7,500 that is renewable for another fee annually. The product has to be low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to gain this “honor.” However, some products such as Boar’s Head processed meats have the logo and still may still contain high levels of sodium. If the AHA were sincere in their efforts to help consumers choose healthier foods to rein in obesity/diabetes, they would realize that research has shown that a 1.8 oz. daily serving of processed meat raised the risk of diabetes by 19 percent and heart disease by 42 percent. Most current dietary recommendations emphasize a reduction in processed meats (my emphasis).

There is bad news on rising obesity rates – read about them HERE.

It will take a concerted effort from government, politics, industry, communities, and consumers and the perpetrators of our obesigenic culture to begin to change this trend.

 

 


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Cows, Burgers and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The following post stresses the importance of knowing the facts that surround the topic of climate change and management of agricultural green house gas emissions. Everyone should become aware of this debate that threatens to change our food culture forever (especially the beef industry).

It will be interesting to see if the new Dietary Guidelines scheduled for 2020 release  will be affected and how they may be influenced by the lobbyists (food industry) and the polarized political viewpoints of the New Green Deal (my opinion).

The  following are a couple of excerpts from The New Food Economy on September 5th, 2019 entitled “The Eat less meat” movement is growing. Does it distort science? by Lynne Curry, author of The Grassfed Beef Cookbook.

“As if the beef industry didn’t already have a bad rap, Brazil’s farmers have reportedly set the Amazon on fire to create more grazing land for the country’s booming beef industry. They are part of a global stampede to meet demand in developing markets—even as ruminant livestock, with cattle at the top of the list, take the heat for agriculture’s nearly 25 percent share of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide.”

“The simplified public health message is dangerous,” says Andrew Gunther, executive director of A Greener World, a sustainable livestock farming organization. “If we thought the soil, air and water could be fixed by a single solution, we’d advocate for that.”

“We need far more intelligent conversations about climate change’s connection to food, agriculture and health.”

“It’s not as simple as stop eating meat and being a vegetarian,” Gunther says. “It’s a system, not a product. It’s education, not a solution.”

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The Scoop on Industry Funded Research

The science of nutrition has been recently corrupted by research funded by the food and/or supplement industries. False claims of health benefits by specific foods or brands and dietary supplements are primarily to blame. Marion Nestle has studied this phenomenon in depth and found that study results present a positive advantage to the companies when funded by the industry compared to independent research studies that are not funded in this manner.

Marion Nestle is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is also a professor of Sociology at NYU and a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Her recent book is Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

This practice is meant to influence the consumer to buy their product in the guise of better health benefits; therefore, the “science” is used as a marketing tool for the brand itself. This practice also promotes more nutrition misinformation to the consumer.

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The Future of Food?

From the Impossible Burger to Ramen Noodles, what is next? The latest offering appears to be the ramen noodle that has been bioengineered to contain certain characteristics that are supposed to make it a “superfood”. Here is the latest creation.

Check out the potassium – even though the U.S. diet may be sadly lacking – do we need that much in one serving of ramen noodles? (over 3,000 mg or 107% of the Daily Value according to the Nutrition Facts Label.)  Over-the-counter supplements and multivitamins cannot contain more than 100 milligrams of potassium because the mineral can cause serious side effects in people with kidney disease and may also interact with certain high blood pressure medications and over-the-counter painkillers, as well as laxatives.

How much potassium should you take?

There is no set upper limit for potassium. So it’s not clear exactly how much potassium you can take safely. However, very high doses of potassium can be deadly.

The Institute of Medicine has set an adequate intake for potassium. Getting this amount of potassium from diet, with or without supplements, should be enough to keep you healthy. The FDA has determined that foods that contain at least 350 milligrams of potassium can bear the following label: “Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”

Category

Adequate Intake (AI)

CHILDREN

0-6 months

400 mg/day

7-12 months

700 mg/day

1-3 years

3,000 mg/day

4-8 years

3,800 mg/day

9-13 years

4,500 mg/day

14 years and up

4,700 mg/day

ADULTS

18 years and up

4,700 mg/day

Pregnant women

4,700 mg/day

Breastfeeding women

5,100 mg/day

Always take potassium supplements with a full glass of water or juice.

There is no set upper limit for potassium. So it’s not clear exactly how much potassium you can take safely. However, very high doses of potassium can be deadly. This does not apply to consuming foods that are high in potassium:  Potatoes, winter squash, white beans, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, avocados, meats, milk and milk products, raisins, spinach.

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Following a Plant-Based Diet? Simplified

The recommendation to follow a plant-based diet has been applauded as a  way to cut your risks of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, hypertension, obesity and diabetes). The truth is that following this type of diet is healthy for our environment as well and many maintain that if we do not, we may not be able to sustain a high meat diet for the entire planet.

What does a plant-based diet really mean? Obviously eating more plants, but this important message needs more clarification. The following article simply tells us about some studies where a more vegetarian approach has resulted in some healthy outcomes. It even has some recipes (although I have not tried any).

There are some indications that even just cutting back on meat-based meals and increase healthier foods (less processed) can have benefits, even weight loss and maintenance. Many of the cultures studied around the world with the best health and longevity statistics occasionally eat some meat.

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New Food Safety Issues

Practice food safety carefully if you have signed up for any meal delivery services. The problem is not with the companies but more likely the delivery times and you as the customer can control this by being aware of some simple food safety facts.

Once purchased from any source, cold foods need to be kept cold, at 40 degrees F. or less and hot foods should be kept hot at more than 135 degrees F.  If they are not, they are considered to be in the “danger zone.” Temperatures in this zone allow rapid bacterial growth and production of bacterial toxins.  Food should only be allowed to remain in this temperature range for minimal amounts of time, preferably not at all.  In the case of meal deliveries, the food should be packaged to meet these requirements and to remain out of the danger zone. If your schedule does not allow you to promptly put the delivery into the refrigerator, you may want to think twice about using these services. A new study raises some concerns.

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