FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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Websites: How reliable are they?


 

The article provides good advice for any website, but especially medical or nutrition websites.  They often seem to promote misinformation that sometimes borders on the absurd or at the least,  unsubstantiated by sound research.

Who can you believe? The term “nutritionist” is not legally defined and is used by a wide variety of people from those who seek a PhD from a non-accredited school to health food store representatives with no formal training. Registered Dietitians (RD) are nutritional professionals who have completed a a four year college degree and additionally  have met established criteria to certify them to provide nutrition counseling. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Medical Association and the American Institute for Cancer Research are non -profit organizations that provide reliable sources of nutrition information.

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What is a Healthy Diet? An Update

The following post is an excellent source for links to the discussion of healthy diets.  It is a brief summary of what nutrition science “knows” at the present time.

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For the complete discussion found in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (March, 2017), click HERE. It is a long article; however, it provides a lot of details on the latest recommendations about “healthy” diets and the research behind them. It can be read as a PDF.


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Politics and Pesticides?

The politics of pesticides has been a controversial topic for decades. It is not only the bee population at risk, but now it looks like our children may be at risk, too.

This is one reason for sticking to organic as suggested by the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”. However, not all people can choose organic due to increased costs. Consequently, they may avoid choosing those fruits and vegetables entirely.

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The Brain and Sweeteners?

The headlines screamed “diet soda” but the studies also included some disturbing results from sugary drinks, too. There is an inexpensive, widely available, low calorie alternative – it is called water. In other words, the advice often given is “don’t drink your calories”.

There is no doubt that these studies require further research to establish reproducible results  and to further elucidate on what is happening to the brain in the presence of natural and/or artificial sweeteners.

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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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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.

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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.

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