Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Leave a comment

The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

October 1, 2019:

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Two NYT articles are presented here to that addresses this issue and helps to clarify how to deal with this ongoing issue.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.


November 5, 2015

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases. Hint: Life is a risk.


Leave a comment

Our National Eating Disorder: Facing the Facts

Preventing obesity in childhood and adults is the primary goal. Many adults gain weight at a slow pace as they age (about a pound a year); however, others gain a substantial amount in a shorter period of time primarily between the ages of 25 and 34 years. Perhaps we are taking the wrong approach in helping people restrict that “natural” weight gain by using very restrictive fad diets (less calories) that often fail to result in maintaining weight after weight loss.

Since our food environment does not seem to change, more emphasis on mindful eating should be taught early in life by paying more attention to the “I’m hungry” and “I’m full” signals of our bodies.  Because appetite is triggered by external cues such as the sight and smell of food, it is usually appetite, and not hunger that makes us stop for ice cream or chocolate chip cookies while at the mall.

Getting eight hours of sleep at night may also be somewhat effective. Lack of sleep is linked to obesity, new evidence shows. Inadequate sleep impacts secretion of the signal hormones ghrelin, which increases appetite, and leptin, which indicates when the body is satiated. This can lead to increased food intake without the compensating energy expenditure. Paying attention to the kinds and amounts of food we consume can also help.  Studies have also indicated that eating fast may lead to eating more. It takes about 15 minutes for your brain to decode that your stomach is full.


Leave a comment

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines : What Can You Believe?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide science-based recommendations to promote health and to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. Due to the focus on heath promotion and disease prevention for the public, they form the basis of federal food and nutrition programs and policies. The first edition was published in 1980 and are updated every five years. But there are always debates and controversies associated with their content and the next edition will more than likely fulfill that promise.

Is it not almost impossible to solve a problem when we continually bury our heads in the sand and not look at the reality of the problem? Of course, and that appears to be what may happen again when the advisory committees for the new 2020 Dietary Guidelines are concluded and the guidelines established early next year (hopefully).

Most developed countries have some form of Dietary Guidelines.

Country Example of Dietary Guidelines
Japan Eat 30 or more different kinds of food a day.
China Eat clean and safe food.
United Kingdom Encourage and support the production of lower saturated fat foods.
Mexico Eat more dried beans and less food of animal origin.
South Africa Enjoy a variety of foods. Be active.
Cuba Fish and chicken are the healthiest meats.

The following article contains a link to the list of 80 questions facing the committees.

Another link of interest from the Washington Post is entitled “How the Trump administration limited the scope of the 2020 dietary guidelines.”

Putting politics aside, it will be an interesting process to watch in the coming months. It goes without saying that the food industry will be having their lobbyists in full swing as it is reported that the 2020 committee consists of 20 people with 12 of them having worked closely with the food industry. Some members have ties with the industry that include the National Potato Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the trade association of the snack food industry. Nine were nominated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which has in the past received funding from McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Mars. I think that Coca-Cola recently broke some ties with this organization, however.

The article follows with all the links mentioned. For more on this timely topic and for future knowledge, CLICK HERE.




Leave a comment

Saturated Fat or Not?

Studies will support or refute almost any position about “what is the healthiest diet?” We have defamed almost any food or diet  at times including saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, salt, and total fat. The latest advice on the saturated fat debate has risen again from the American Heart Association.  Recently, the American Heart Association renewed its previous stand that saturated fats are not heart healthy and that switching to polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, soybean, safflower, etc) will be a better choice. This debate will continue until there is new information based on clinical trials involving thousands of people and that is unlikely to happen in the near future. It would also take years of follow-up for results to surface and the same flawed aspects of these studies of the past would probably still exist.

This debate is troublesome in several ways.  People are told to limit saturated fat, then it’s OK to  eat butter and bacon, and now it’s back to the vilification of saturated fat in the diet. This undermines any chance that the average consumer would believe anything they hear about nutrition, diet and health.  CLICK HERE.

Why is the AHA advice promoting polyunsaturated vegetable oils for heart health?  Research shows that these oils lower LDL cholesterol while saturated fats raise LDL. However has the hypothesis that these vegetable oils are heart healthy (lower coronary events or deaths) ever been thoroughly tested in a reliable randomized clinical trial? Critics claim methodology flaws in previous studies;  therefore, the evidence is weak.

At the same time many doctors are recommending following the ketogenic diet which promotes a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet often saturated fat as coconut oil.

No wonder the consumer seeking a healthy fat is confused. Stay tuned. In the meantime, the old advice is the best – everything in moderation. The upcoming Dietary Guidelines for 2020 should be interesting.




Leave a comment

Diet and Cancer: What We Know?


The association between diet and cancer has a long history. Back in the 1980’s, it was a “hot” topic but at that time it mostly involved the role of single nutrients, namely dietary fat and cancer risks.  In fact, my PhD dissertation investigated the difference in tumor incidence in the intake of two polyunsaturated fats on breast cancer in animals.

The results of this study and a subsequent follow-up study, showed that there were no significant differences in tumor formation in rats fed either corn oil (an omega-6 fat) or fish oil (menhaden oil), an omega-3 fat). Since then, further research has supported these findings.

Recently the research has centered more on the effects of dietary patterns (e.g. more fruits and vegetables and/or plant-based) on cancer incidence in human and animal studies. Some specific foods and factors have emerged as having an association (not causative) with cancer incidence.

The following article brings us up to date on what we actually know about the complex issues of diet and cancer at the present time.


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

Eating “Sealess” Seafood ?

You may have heard of the “impossible burger”, but now what about the “impossible fish”?

In the future, will we be eating “seafood” that never had a fin or tail or ever swam in the sea?

Maybe if some start-up food producers can pull it off. we will.  Here is an Interesting article on what to do about our over-fishing problem and providing enough protein to feed the world.