Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Leave a comment

Vitamin and Mineral Absorption: Good Advice

Taking a vitamin/mineral supplement often does not seem to meet the claims of their intended heath benefits. (See previous post on calcium/vitamin D and bone health.)

Could taking a supplement with food or as part of a fortified food make a difference in the absorption of that specific nutrient rather than merely taking it in pill form alone? That remains to be determined by more research.

The following article covers some important points about nutrient absorption and how combining food sources or even preparation (cooking, e.g.) may make a difference in their combined outcome on health?


Leave a comment

News About Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

As with so many diet supplements, again food sources may win out over pills.  Check with your doctor for this one and determine whether these supplements are needed based on your risk.  Meanwhile, it may be helpful to know some factors affecting the risk of osteoporosis to share with your doctor.

Gender: Fractures from osteoporosis are about twice as common in women as in men.

Age: Bone loss is a normal part of aging and the  risk increases with age.

Race: African Americans have denser bones than do Caucasians and Southeast Asians, so their risk is lower.

Family History: Having a genetic tendency obviously increases risk.

Body Size: Individuals who are thin have increased risk because they have less bone matrix.

Smoking: Tobacco use weakens bones.

Exercise: Weight-bearing exercise (walking and jogging) strengthens bones.

Alcohol Abuse: Long term abuse reduces bone formation and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Diet: Low calcium intake during the early years (when bones are forming) results in a lower peak bone mass.

FYI: Major food sources include dairy products, fish consumed with bones, leafy green vegetables, fortified foods.

The recommended intake for adults is 1000 – 1200 mg/day. The Upper Tolerance Level is 2000-2500 mg day from food and supplements.

Bottom Line: Again, supplements may not be the answer for correcting dietary deficiencies of calcium and/or vitamin D.  Food sources as well as fortified foods and getting some sunshine each day may be prudent. However, if you have  been diagnosed with osteoporosis, please check with your doctor before you change your diet or supplement use.


Leave a comment

The Ovo-Vegetarian Diet?


Thinking of a diet makeover to eat less meat but don’t want to take the big step to a vegan lifestyle? One change could be rather simple – try an ovo-vegetarian approach. Eggs are nutrient dense and provide a complete protein source. They are also versatile and provide more variety to the menu. One thing- check with your doctor about your blood cholesterol level – eggs may be restricted if you are genetically predisposed to hypercholesterolemia.

You can eat them fried, poached, or scrambled or add them hard -cooked to salads.



Leave a comment

The Clean Protein Revolution?

It is very hard to imagine a world where meat is not the center of most American plates.  Recently, plant-based diets have become more of a focus in terms of our overall health and the health of our planet. Now there is a new book, Clean Protein: The Revolution that Will Reshape Your Body, Your Energy, and Save Our Planet by Bruce Friedman and Kathy Freston. For a summary, CLICK HERE.

Food Facts and Fads has previously posted some real time news about some recent ventures into the interesting process of making “meat’ in  the laboratory. Would you try the “Impossible Burger”? For more on this provocative new product, CLICK HERE.

Bottom Line: The American consumer will ultimately decide on the acceptance of these new protein sources or will this  become mainstream or just a new fad?



Leave a comment

What are Eicosanoids?


aiey8dli4Why Do We Need Essential Fatty Acids?

There are two major categories of fatty acids, primarily the omega-6 and the omega 3 fats. Most fatty acids can be made in the body except for two essential ones (has to come from the diet): Omega 6 linoleic acid (18 carbons) and omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (18 carbons).

If adequate amounts of linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acid are not present in the diet, an essential fatty acids deficit can cause symptoms such as dry skin, liver abnormalities, poor healing of wounds, growth failure in infants, impaired vision and hearing.

The ratio of the omega-6 and 3 fatty acids is also important for health. This is because they are made into hormone-like molecules called eicosanoids. From omega-6 linoleic acid we make arachidonic acid. (AA). From omega-3 alpha linolenic acid we make eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). AA and EPA compete for the enzymes needed for eicosanoid synthesis, so the ratio becomes very important.

Food sources for AA are meat and eggs; we get EPA and DHA from fish oils.

What do the Eicosanoids Do for Health?

Eicosanoids help regulate blood clotting, blood pressure, immune function, and other body processes and can have opposite effects on health. For example, the eicosanoids derived from the omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid increases blood clotting whereas those derived from the omega-3 alpha linolenic acid decreases blood clotting. Omega-3 EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties suggesting they are protective against heart disease while the omega-6 fatty acids tend to be more inflammatory that may increase the risks of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.


It is recommended that we have a balance of omega-6 to omeg 3- fatty acids in the diet. A healthy balance is a dietary ratio of linoleic acid to alpha-linolenic acid of 5:1 to 10:1. To provide this ratio, a diet that contains 20 grams of linoleic acid should also include 2-4 grams of alpha-linolenic acid.

The American diet contains plenty of linoleic acid, so to get a healthier mix of both, the diet should also contain an adequate intake from omega-3 foods such as fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and leafy green vegetables.


Leave a comment

Making the Case for a Flexitarian Diet

Lately there have been a lot of articles on the vegan/vegetarian/plant-based diets as more people become aware of their healthy benefits. Changing your diet after years and years is not easy, so reading to help any transition  is imperative to reaching a successful change.

The following article describes some of the pitfalls the author had when trying this transition. Therefore, it may be helpful to those who earnestly want to try to make some positive dietary food changes. Being flexible and using common sense may be the key as suggested by the Flexitarian approach.


For more on the Flexitarian Diet CLICK HERE.

Leave a comment

Is a Vegan Diet Really Healthy?

Lately vegan and vegetarian diets have been hot topics as people begin to adopt them for a number of reasons: animal rights, religion, environmental and last but maybe most importantly, health.

We also hear the warnings that eating meat is just as deadly as smoking or eggs are “bad” again, and that red meats (mainly processed) are carcinogenic. (In my opinion, none of the above are true unless reliable research supports these claims and to my knowledge it has not).

The new buzz word in the diet world is “plant-based”.  However, there are some foods out there that technically can be from a plant that may not be all that healthy. Think of all the grain-filled snacks we have that are also loaded with sugar, fat, and salt. The article gives us Pop -Tarts as an example.

Also another important point from the article is that meat, dairy and eggs, give us essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, omega-3 fats as EPA and DHA, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.. Plants contain an essential omega-3 fat, alpha linolenic acid which can be converted to EPA AND DHA in the body, but not very efficiently. Unless you eat a lot of algae and fatty fish which contains preformed omega-3s, you are likely to need supplements and the same goes for vitamin B12 found primarily in animal-based foods.

Vegetarian diets appear to be healthier in the long run and we all could probably benefit from a Meatless, Monday or Meatless Wednesday, but being a total vegan takes some knowledge and extra effort to make sure your diet is not just “plant-based”, but also nutrient dense. And speaking of vitamin 12 – As the author of the article, Patrick Clinton warns, “Take your B12, it’s important!!”