FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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The Nordic Diet? Is it Healthy?

The traditional diets rich in butter, meat, potatoes and cream of the Nordic countries are changing and so is the health profiles of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Fruit and vegetable intake was low due the lack of availability and short growing seasons.

  • In Finland, a national public health program resulted in heart disease mortality that plummeted 55 percent among men and nearly 70 percent among women.
  • In Norway, deaths from heart disease have declined sharply by 40 percent in the 40 to 49 years old age group  since the late 1970’s.
  • Life expectancy has increased in Sweden continues to rise. Cancer rates remain significantly less of a threat in this geographical area according to World Health Organization statistics.

Could their diet changes be one of the factors responsible? Take a look at the Nordic Diet.

CLICK HERE.

Check out a previous post on this diet HERE.


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Does the Mediterranean Diet Work? An Update

A previous post described the general results from the PREDIMED Study, a study that reported on the healthy benefits of a Mediterranean-type diet. See the previous post HERE. Now new results from a subset of volunteers from the same study gives us further insight into the way the Mediterranean diet may be heart healthy.

Researchers randomly chose 296 volunteers with a high risk of heart disease who had previously participated the PREDIMED STUDY. Each was assigned to one of the following three diets for one year:

  • A traditional Mediterranean diet with added 4 tablespoons of virgin olive oil per day
  • A traditional Mediterranean diet with an added handful of nuts per day
  • A healthy control that basically was a low fat diet (decreased red meat, sweets, processed food and high-fat dairy products)

Blood tests to measure high density lipoproteins (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) were conducted at the beginning and end of the study. For a more detailed discussion of the role of HDL and LDL as heart disease risks, see the information at the end of this post.

High levels of LDL or “bad” are linked to an increased risk of plaque formation in coronary arteries while high levels of HDL are linked to a decreased risk. LDL promotes atherosclerosis in arteries and HDL absorbs cholesterol and returns it to the liver for removal from the body. Therefore, its role helps to keep the blood vessels open.

Researchers think that it is not just the number of HDL particles that allegedly reduces the risk of heart disease, but its functional ability to do so, i e., how well does HDL work?

The results of this study showed only the control diet lowered total and LDL cholesterol as found in other studies. None of the diets improved HDL levels significantly; however, the Mediterranean diets both improved the functionality of the HDL significantly. Additionally, this benefit was much larger among those who given the diet with the extra amount of olive oil.

The Med Diets enhanced the functional ability of HDL by:

  • HDL removal of cholesterol from plaque in the arteries
  • Protected the process from LDL action on plaque development
  • Increased blood vessel relaxation to open blood flow.

One author concluded: “Following a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil could protect our cardiovascular health in several ways, including making our “good” cholesterol work in a more complete way.” The study was published in Circulation 135:633-643, 2017, a journal of the American Heart Association

Risk Factors for Heart Disease include:  High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and abnormal blood lipid levels as well as genetics, smoking activity, gender and age.  Some of these risk factors are modifiable by diet.

How are Lipids Transported in the Body?

The liver is the major lipid-producing organ. The liver uses excess protein and carbohydrate to make triglycerides or cholesterol. Triglycerides and cholesterol are carried to the cells by low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the primary cholesterol delivery system for cells.

LDL’a must be taken up by cells by binding to an LDL receptor on the cell membrane surface or membrane. This binding allows LDLs to be removed from the blood and enter cells where they are broken apart to releases fats and cholesterol for the cell to use. If the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood exceeds the amount that can be taken up by cells due to either too much LDL or too few receptors, the result is a high level of LDL cholesterol and high levels  are associated with an increased risk of heart disease

How is Cholesterol Eliminated?

Cholesterol cannot be broken down by the body so it must be returned to the liver to be eliminated.  This is accomplished by lipoproteins called high-density lipoproteins (HDLs.) HDLs are particles that originate in the intestinal tract and liver and pick up cholesterol and takes it to the liver for disposal if not needed. A high level of HDL decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So the bottom line:

When you have blood work, the doctor may order blood tests that measures your total cholesterol, your LDL and HDL cholesterol to determine your individual risks of having heart disease in the future.

  • Total Cholesterol: Low risk <200; High risk >240
  • LDL Cholesterol: Low risk <100; High risk   >160
  • HDL Cholesterol: Low risk: > 60; High risk <40
  • Triglycerides: Low risk; <150; High risk >200

So you ideally want your LDL-C to be low and your HDL-C values to be as high as possible (more than likely dependent on diet and genetics. So think L means “lousy” and H means “healthy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Can Food Be Medicine?

What a great program!!  It is interesting that feeding a person may cut health care costs in the long run. After some searching, it appears to be only in the Boston and Massachusetts area.  It may become a trend if the research indicates its benefits are cost effective. Another interesting fact is that the average age is stated at 49 “with a slew of chronic diseases” and they supposedly have a long waiting list.  Could the Standard American Diet (SAD) be a factor? Just a thought.

CLICK HERE.


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Diet Recommendations Update?

 

A good infograph at a glance tells us the latest information on the effects of these nutrition debates about diet and heart health. Click on the graphic in the article to enlarge the text of the infograph. As usual, these debates will continue; however, nutrition news constantly is subject to change based on additional knowledge from reputable research that will help clarify the sense from the nonsense. Bottom line: Diet decisions should be based on your own health records after consulting a reputable health care practitioner. Be aware and don’t fall for false health claims.

CLICK HERE.


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The Mediterranean Diet: Lower Health Care Costs?


The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

The Mediterranean Diet is one of  the most “researched” diets of all time and has shown to have positive benefits  in respect to heart disease, cognitive health and cancer prevention. The following article is very interesting and presents an additional benefit  of changing the food culture in any country seeking to improve health care costs.

One promising change is to encourage healthy eating habits in  younger populations –  in this case, teenagers. Early nutrition education is of paramount importance for cultural change. This is where prevention of chronic diseases can make a startling difference. FYI: The Global Health Index of 163 countries ranked the U.S. #34. (Bloomberg, March 2017).

CLICK HERE.


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How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition Research

Industry funded studies are becoming a major influence on nutrition research that is already considered by some to have some important design limitations.

Headlines often proclaim that certain foods have healthy benefits not supported by science. These are used as marketing tools by the companies to describe their products in terms of what is described as a “health halo.” This practice contributes to false claims and the dissemination of nutrition misinformation which is already abundant.

One reason is that research in nutrition is not very well funded by very many sources; therefore, food companies often do provide the funds and at the same time gain their own benefits, i.e., increase their profits.

CLICK HERE.


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The Search for a “Healthy Diet”

By Sally Feltner, PhD, MS, RDN  March 18, 2017

Does your doctor often say, “Watch your diet” or have you noticed that most diet advice recommends that you eat “a healthy diet.” But honestly, why should we believe anything nutrition scientists have to say at this point? There’s been little consistency in the advice we’ve been given for decades. We have gone from hearing advice, to advice, that contradicts the first advice, and now we’re back in some cases to the original advice again. A lot of that advice has even turned out to be actually harmful. Remember the recommendation in the middle 1990’s to switch to trans-fat laden margarines

When I first began to study nutrition in the 1980’s, we knew little about the causes of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes as well as dementia, bone loss, you name it. I have been through the low fat, the low carb, the high fiber, the whole grain, the low fat dairy eras etc. . as well as just about any fad diet or gimmick you could think of. What have we learned? Not much. We are still searching for the perfect diet, the magic supplement, the best “superfood” to keep us healthy and increase our lifespan.

This is not to say that there have not been any important discoveries. Back in the early days of nutrition research, the discovery of vitamins and minerals saved thousands of lives. We have clearly eliminated the deficiency diseases, at least in developed countries, of scurvy, beriberi, pellagra as well as the prevention of goiter (iodine). More recently, we learned to prevent the devastating effects of neural tube defects with the fortification of folate in grain products.

Recently, the latest rankings of the U.S. News and World Report 2017 Best Diet Rankings were published. The three best diets overall as well as the three best diets for healthy Eating were:

These three diets are important because each one has been shown be associated with positive health benefits. The DASH diet benefits are associated with blood pressure control and thus an decreased heart disease risk. The Mediterranean diet has heart benefits and improved cognitive (Alzheimer’s) health, and the aim of the MIND diet is a combination of the other two diets – the DASH and Mediterranean that zeroes in on foods in each that specifically affect brain health. Both the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet won honors in easiest to follow, important with any diet attempt. There is no sense to attempt a diet you cannot feasibly follow. It  should not be a “diet”, but a lifestyle.

Nutrition professionals need to be careful about how we support what we say. Instead of “we know,” we have to just admit that “we think.” People often become resentful when we pretend to know more than we really do and tell them what to eat and then have to backtrack on that advice years later.

Fortunately, there are other says to assess diet quality. For now, we also can rely on the observational studies that look at the traditional diets of certain populations and cultures have shown us the many lifestyles factors including diet that confer health and longevity.