FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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A low fat or low carbohydrate diet: Which is it? The DIETFITS study

 

Will this debate ever end ?- there is hope after reading this study. The results were not so new – other studies have shown similar results.

This study showed that it made little difference whether a dieter chooses a low fat or low carbohydrate diet, but it was the quality of the foods in both groups that resulted in a meaningful weight loss instead of dwelling on calorie restriction. The low carbohydrate group had a larger loss, but the differences were not significant.

The weight loss range was substantial -some losing a lot of weight while a few even gained weight on both of the diets. The distribution curve was startlingly similar between the groups.

This study scored a win for whole foods rather than consuming highly processed foods. Refined carbohydrates are still defined as “junk” so sugar and flour more than likely are not very good food choices for health and/or weight control.

“Before worrying about the details, one should ensure their diet is more whole foods (with ample vegetables) than processed foods. If your chosen diet leaves you feeling hungry, you will likely revert back to old eating habits.” was a quote from the lead author of the study. All weight loss programs/plans should include a weight loss maintenance phase since it makes no sense to lose weight and not be able to keep the weight off permanently. If you plan to lose some weight, this study should be a “must read.” You can find the whole study HERE.

CLICK HERE for a brief summary.

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The Best Diet? The Debate Continues

 

The debate about the best diet for health (not weight loss) continues with the latest report from U S. News and World Report. Winning top awards are three diets: the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet and coming in third, the Flexitarian Diet. These diets are basically saturated fat restricted and recommend the conventional wisdom of a more plant-based approach of whole grains and fruits and vegetables in order to prevent heart disease and diabetes.

On the other hand, there are critics of the report that include the proponents of the low carbohydrate, high fat ketogenic (LCHF-keto) diet that is lately gaining some attention at least for weight loss and claims to reverse diabetes. Many of these claims appear to be anecdotal on the Internet. By the way, the LCHF-keto diet came in last in the report by the nutrition experts. See my previous post HERE.

It still remains to be seen conclusively if  any of these diets can be protective against heart disease.  There is a great deal of research on the Mediterranean Diet and the lower risks of many chronic diseases.  To be fair, research on low carb diets is increasing due to interest on the LCHF diet claims for weight loss, diabetes prevention and lowering some risk factors of heart disease.  At the heart of the conflict is whether saturated fat is an unhealthy or healthy fat. The LCHF diet recommends using saturated fat liberally.

Partisans of both sides may be right or wrong. One fact is that  both are very restrictive and are very hard to follow for long periods of time, especially in our current food environment. There is fat and /or sugar (carbs) in almost every brand and type of processed food products. Often the food industry intentionally puts them there to increase the palatability of the product and to increase profits.

In the meantime,  the best diet remains to be the food choices you make and can incorporate into your lifestyle whether it is vegan, low fat or low carb.  One diet is not for everyone. It is important to consider your genetic background and health history. If you change your diet please consult with your physician for his/her opinions.

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Are There Pro and Anti Inflammatory Foods?

Are There Pro and Anti Inflammatory Foods?

Inflammation occurs as a normal reaction when there is any injury to the body. Acute inflammation is a nonspecific response to any kind of injury and is usually characterized by swelling, heat, and redness, and pain.

All of us have experienced these obvious symptoms at some time. Most of the time, inflammation is a lifesaver that enables our bodies to fend off various disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Then just as quickly, the process subsides and healing begins.

Every once in a while, however, the whole process does not shut down on cue, as it should. In any event, inflammation becomes chronic rather than temporary. When that occurs, the body turns on itself with inflammatory effects that seem to underlie a wide variety of diseases, ranging from heart disease and cancer to arthritis. Other diseases where chronic inflammation may be implicated are Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease to name a few.

Lately, there has been growing interest in the role of diet in this inflammatory response and articles and books decry the assumed hazards of pro-inflammatory and promote the claimed benefits of anti-inflammatory foods. How can compounds in foods help fight inflammation or themselves be considered inflammatory?

  1. Providing antioxidants to reduce the damage caused by free radicals that are produced in normal metabolism or due to external environmental stresses. The accumulated damage to cells or DNA known as oxidative stress can trigger diseases, for example tumor initiation or the formation of atherosclerotic plaques
  2. Certain foods called prebiotics support protective gut bacteria that can tame inflammation in the colon. Some examples are beans, onions, garlic and chickpeas.
  3. Obesity is associated with increasing inflammation in the body. Fat cells secrete interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor that can increase inflammation. In addition, weight gain decrease an anti-inflammatory hormone called adiponectin. When weight loss (even 5-10% loss) occurs, the inflammation factors decrease.
  4. Certain foods contain phytochemicals called polyphenols that fight inflammation.
  5. Check out the list of foods high in polyphenols HERE.
  6. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-6, omega-3) can influence the production of eisosanoids that produce anti and pro inflammatory hormones. Check out a previous post HERE.

Foods that can cause inflammation:

There are no surprises here. The list:

  • Refined carbohydrates, i.e. the white foods like white bread and baked goods.
  • Fried foods
  • Sugar sweetened beverages
  • Red and processed meats
  • Margarines, shortening and lard

Foods that fight inflammation:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and sardines)
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, cherries) and oranges

Dietary patterns may he anti-inflammatory. When compared to a low fat diet, a Mediterranean Diet decreased inflammatory factors (IL-6 and C-reactive protein) and appeared to favor those factors that decrease our risk of cardiovascular disease.

Anti-inflammtory effects of the Mediterranean Diet: the experience of the PREDIMED Study.

Estruch, R.

Proc. Nutr. Soc. 2010, Aug.69:333-40

From the Abstract: “Compared to a low-fat diet, the Med-Diet produced favorable changes in all risk factors. Thus, participants in both Med-Diet groups reduced blood pressure, improved lipid profile and diminished insulin resistance compared to those allocated a low-fat diet. In addition, the Med-Diet supplemented with virgin olive oil or nuts showed an anti-inflammatory effect reducing serum C-reactive protein, IL-6 and endothelial and monocytary adhesion molecules and chemokines, whereas these parameters increased after the low-fat diet intervention.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Best Diets?

It is time for the U.S. News and World Report diet issue again. Rated by nutrition “experts,” this year the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet hold honors as most popular.  There are couple of “new” diets on the list this year. Conventional wisdom? The best diet is one that can become part of your lifestyle rather than following some gimmicky or faddish approach.

Bon appétit

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Omnivores: A Sensible Approach?

Eating a plant-based diet is now perceived as an improvement in our U.S. food culture for better health and longevity.

A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science seems to put eating meat into a common sense and realistic perspective. Some important points emerge:

  • The feasibility of the current U.S diet conversion to a plant-based diet would have some complex considerations.
  • Would a plant-based diet provide the nutrients we need and now obtain from our current meat-centered diet?
  • Would the reduction of the amount of green house gas emissions be enough to make a decided difference?

The U.S. diet has its roots in people eating both plant and animal foods and has more recently become animal food centered. In an ideal world, in my opinion, animals would all be free-range roaming and not dosed with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or experience the cruelties of the huge feedlot operations. But, realistically, current practices have a long way to go before this would ever be possible.

In the book, The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner, writes: “In most Blue Zones people ate small amounts of pork, chicken, or lamb. Families traditionally slaughtered a pig or goat for festival celebrations, ate heartily, and preserved the leftovers for frying or as a condiment for flavor . Neither beef nor turkey figures significantly into the average Blue Zones.”  in some “healthy” cultures, meat is used as more of an accompaniment rather than the “main attraction.”

How would a conversion of the U.S. diet to a more plant-based diet affect our current environmental and nutrition status?

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Why Dieting Can Make Us Fat

Since we are a nation obsessed by weight loss, it is so important to realize that chronic dieting itself can make some people overweight or obese as a result. There are many reasons why our bodies resist weight loss and more than likely it is due to a fear of starvation. This involves the neuro-endocrine system and we have many mechanisms to prevent this threat to our existence.

This is more than likely involving our set -points defined as “a level at which body fat or body weight seems to resist change despite changes in energy intake or output.” The set point for each of us is largely determined by genes. Signals related to food intake affect hunger and satiety (feeling of fullness) over short time periods while signals from the adipose tissue trigger the brain to adjust to both food intake and energy expenditure for long-term regulation. The  two primary hormones involved are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone produced  by the stomach that stimulates food intake and leptin is a peptide hormone produced by fat cells that signals information about the amount of body fat. The interactions are complex and better left to more academic discussions than in this blog post.

If you diet frequently, you should understand some of the implications of these interactions. The following article is a long read but it is important to know the facts – the best action is to prevent weight gain if possible so that we do not have to deal with its effects later on.

Weight management is possible by putting into practice the following simple suggestions.

Balance your intake and output, for example, weight yourself once a week; if the number goes up, cut down your calories.

Cut down on calories, e.g. bring your own lunch rather than eating out.

Don’t get too hungry – fill up on high fiber foods.

Increase activity – Take a walk during lunch break or after dinner.

Avoid fad diets – they only lead to the problem.

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Vegans vs. Meat? Some myths exposed.

Interesting discussion about vegan versus meat diets. Some good points were made and references support most of them as far as I can tell. Try to find some common sense on both sides of the debate. When the “facts” are known it becomes easier to decide your own personal diet choices and what is best for you. There is no one diet that fits all.

CLICK HERE.