Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Is Tea Good for the Heart and Brain?

The research on tea and heart disease is often conflicting and inconsistent. However, as we learn more, some answers emerge.  The following article appears to deal with epidemiological aspects of tea drinking and health benifits. As in previous studies, green tea may win out compared to black tea. Also, adding milk or sugar to tea may destroy some of its beneficial  phytonutrients.


What may be good for the heart may be also good for the brain. For a previous post CLICK HERE.



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Vegetables and Heart Disease?

A good study that went beyond the usual of a typical observational study – they separated vegetables into categories of intake and also measured the thickness by ultrasonography of carotid arteries and plaque in a large sample size of older women. Since it has been shown that not all vegetables have the same effects (more than likely due to their varied content of phytochemicals) – here is where the cruciferous vegetables came out ahead of the pack.


For the actual study,  CLICK HERE.


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Can Foods Affect Chronic Inflammation in the Body?

The following article explains why foods are considered pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. This is important since current theories link chronic inflammation to the two top killers, namely heart disease and cancer. But just labeling foods pro- or anti- is too simplistic due to the complexities of nutrient and phytochemical interactions involved in the inflammatory process.

These claims are often made about certain foods that may or may not be accurate and misleading. The claims may also be a product of  industry-funding in order to promote the particular food or brand. So learning about what is known about these nutrient associations is necessary for the consumer to make wise dietary decisions.


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Why Don’t the Japanese Get Fat?

The Japanese are one of the longest living cultures in the world. For centuries the Japanese diet has been loaded with carbohydrates, low in protein and very low fat. The Japanese report death rates from heart disease that are half the of the U.S., as well as one of the lowest incidences of breast cancer in the world. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is also less frequent than in Western countries and death rates from breast, prostate, and uterine cancers are comparatively low.

Why didn’t obesity and accompanying diabetes cripple their society as it does in the U.S. and/or parts of Europe, namely the UK?  Why did Americans gain so much weight and develop type 2 diabetes since the 1980’s after adapting a high carbohydrate, lower fat diet?   What happened? You cannot blame carbohydrates solely for the obesity problem.  This epidemic is more than likely multi factorial with conditions present in the food supply and/or the environment.

What are the Japanese guidelines compared to ours? Interesting!


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Another Supplement Disappointment?

Based on two articles that looked at multiple studies, fish oil supplements do not appear to have any previously claimed benefit in the prevention of heart disease.  However, omega-3 fats have other benefits so if you choose to take supplements, they have no known side effects. One precaution: it is not advised that you take fish oil supplements with other blood thinners like aspirin that may interfere with normal blood clotting. Check with your doctor.

Choose salmon, tuna, trout or sardines for the most omega 3 content. Once again, supplements do not offer the healthy benefits of eating whole foods. Save your money and spend it on the fish.


For a previous study CLICK HERE.

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FDA Health Claims: Are They Carved in Stone?

Food and supplement labels are permitted by the FDA to include a number of health claims if they are relevant to the product. They are designed to help consumers choose products that that may have a relationship to reducing a risk for a particular disease or health related condition. These statements or claims must meet one of the following requirements:

  1. The first is the most stringent. These are called Authorized Health Claims: Based on Significant Scientific Agreement. An example: Calcium intake and calcium and vitamin D and the risk of osteoporosis.
  2. The claim should be based on a statement of support from an appropriate scientific body, e.g. the National Academy  of Sciences, and called Authorized Health Claims: Based on Authoritative Statement  Example: Whole grain foods and the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
  3. When there is emerging but not well-established evidence for a reduced risk of a disease, they are called Qualified Health Claims. These must be accompanied by a statement explaining this so they do not mislead the consumer.

Source: Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Application, Third Edition

However, these claims are not carved in stone. Recently the FDA is re-examining the once established claim about soy protein.

FDA may revoke soy protein/heart disease health claim

The FDA is proposing to revoke the currently authorized claim that consuming soy protein reduces the risk of heart disease. FDA-authorized health claims are intended to reflect well-established relationships based on the most robust level of scientific evidence. To date, 12 such claims have been authorized. The soy-protein claim has been permitted on packaged foods since 1999. In 2000, the American Heart Association Nutrition Advisory Committee concluded that is was prudent to include soy protein in a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, subsequent AHA reviews concluded that although very large amounts of soy protein (more than half the daily protein intake) may lower LDL cholesterol, (a) the experimental data were from individuals with very high cholesterol levels, (b) the reduction is small, (c) there was no improvement in other blood lipid levels or blood pressure, and (d) any direct benefit on cardiovascular health is minimal at best. [Jones DW. Letter to FDA Division of Dockets Management, Feb 19, 2008] A statement released with FDA’s recent announcement appears to agree with the AHA position. [Statement from Susan Mayne, Ph.D., on proposal to revoke health claim that soy protein reduces risk of heart disease. FDA news release, Oct 30, 2017] This is the first time the FDA has proposed to revoke an authorized claim.

Source: Stephen Barrett, M.D. Consumer Health Digest, Nov. 12, 2027

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Does the SAD Diet Encourage Heart Disease?

A new study concludes with some interesting and compelling reasons to avoid a typical Western diet (aka the SAD) early in life and attempt to practice healthy lifestyles including diet for a lifetime.

It also suggests the fact that future doctors should be taught more meaningful  nutrition education in medical schools, a goal that has not yet been accomplished.


Check out a previous post with several links on this topic HERE.