FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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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.


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Blue Zones

blue-zonesA lecture (19 minutes) about The Blue Zones from the author, Dan Buettner  Forget the hype and headlines, the real truth lies somewhere in these cultures that exhibit health and the greatest longevity in the world. There is an excellent summary, so click on nine commonalities attributed to longevity at the end of the article.

CLICK HERE


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Epigenetics and the Microbiome?

Methylation of DNA in Epigenetics

Methylation of DNA in Epigenetics

Epigenetics is a relatively new approach on how the our environment affects our DNA, mainly  the expression of our genes.  The way diet affects our health may be through the many species of bacteria that live in our intestines or microbiome. See a previous post on epigenetics HERE. and the microbiome HERE.

For new research on the association between the two:

CLICK HERE


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The Blue Zone Solution

Strawberries provide lots of good nutrition and can be cancer fighters.

Strawberries provide lots of good nutrition and can be cancer fighters.

This is a great book. It is so much more than just a diet book. The people of these five global areas generally are some of the longest-living and healthiest seniors on the planet. The book, The Blue Zone Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner has four parts:

 

  1. Discovering the Blue Zones
  2. Making an American Blue Zone
  3. Building Your Own Blue Zone
  4. Blue Zone Recipes

CLICK HERE.


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Does Exercise Increase Weight Loss?

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This study tells us that there is a limit on the amount of exercise that will increase energy expenditure. However, it offers some good information on what else exercise can do for us physiologically.  Therefore, eat less and move more may not be the whole solution for  weight loss, but it is still good advice for a healthy lifestyle.

CLICK HERE.


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Why We Get Fat?

The reasons for why we have an obesity crisis have 011abeen stated many times. However, this article shows it with some simple graphs. Why should we wonder why we have gained weight?  The answers are obvious when you look at the comparisons about our food intake now compared to back in 1950.

CLICK HERE.