FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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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.

CLICK HERE.

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

 


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The Nordic Diet? Is it Healthy?

The traditional diets rich in butter, meat, potatoes and cream of the Nordic countries are changing and so is the health profiles of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Fruit and vegetable intake was low due the lack of availability and short growing seasons.

  • In Finland, a national public health program resulted in heart disease mortality that plummeted 55 percent among men and nearly 70 percent among women.
  • In Norway, deaths from heart disease have declined sharply by 40 percent in the 40 to 49 years old age group  since the late 1970’s.
  • Life expectancy has increased in Sweden continues to rise. Cancer rates remain significantly less of a threat in this geographical area according to World Health Organization statistics.

Could their diet changes be one of the factors responsible? Take a look at the Nordic Diet.

CLICK HERE.

Check out a previous post on this diet HERE.


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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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Eggs: Yes or No?

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Since the1960’s we have been advised to limit our egg consumption for the simple reason that one egg has over 200 mg. of cholesterol. However, the latest official advice on cholesterol states that the cholesterol coming from the diet does not play a major role in blood cholesterol. In other words, even if you don’t eat any cholesterol, your liver will make all you need. When some people eat cholesterol, their liver production slows and blood levels do not rise; for others that do not regulate cholesterol as well, dietary cholesterol may increase blood cholesterol. However, the increase is typically due to increases in both HDL (“healthy”) and “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol.

Bottom Line: Currently, the vast majority of epidemiological studies do not find a relationship between dietary cholesterol or egg consumption and cardiovascular disease. Many factors affect blood cholesterol more than dietary cholesterol, such as physical activity, body weight, intake of saturated and trans fat, heredity, age, and sex.

Eggs are part of the Mediterranean diet associated with good cardiovascular health. One large egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein and are low in cholesterol-raising saturated fat. They are a good source of zinc, B vitamins, vitamin A and iron.

The yolk is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that help protect against macular degeneration and cataracts. There is research to suggest eggs may help to weight maintenance. A recent study reports that people who eat an egg-based breakfast ate less calories during the day than people eating a bagel-based breakfast.

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A Meat Link to Heart Disease?

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Two studies that address the links between meat consumption and heart disease.  Again, a plant-based diet comes out ahead of an animal – based diet which also agrees with the epidemiological evidence presented in “The Blue Zones.” However, correlation does not mean causation.

CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE.