Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease?

A few days ago, I posted an article that  described a study that showed that the Mediterranean diet enhanced brain health. Now another study associated extra virgin olive oil with the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (at least in mice). Read about it HERE.



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What’s Better Than Butter?

Butter Is Back? Again?

Butter has been in the controversial column of nutrition advice for decades. When saturated fat and cholesterol were claimed to not be as strong a factor in heart disease a few years ago,  butter activists celebrated the headlines  – “Butter is Back.”  However, there are still some cautions when it comes to butter. Let’s face it – butter still contains saturated fat that raises the “bad” LDL – cholesterol in the blood. Sorry, butter lovers. The following article gives you more choices when deciding to stick with butter or choosing another alternative.

Another thing to remember. Extra virgin olive oil does not raise blood LDL cholesterol and may contain some healthy polyphenols as well.  Yogurt is the best dairy choice (if it is not loaded with sugar).


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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.



Mediterranean Diet Month

May is Mediterranean Diet Month!   Click on the special Calendar link to make it larger and easier  to read.  There is no one single Mediterranean Diet, but more of a collage of traditional healthy eating habits and foods from most countries in  this region. Enjoy!!

Also you may want to visit the Mediterrasian Blog.



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Mediterranean Diets and Cognition

English: Olives in olive oil.

English: Olives in olive oil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can your diet affect your brain health?  A recent  Spanish study suggests that a Mediterranean Diet can have positive benefits.

Dementia has been a concern for quite some time now as our population ages.  Dementia is caused by degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the brain such as in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s and diseases that affect blood vessels, such as stroke, often called vascular dementia.

Research from the University of Navarra reports that a Mediterranean diet consisting of extra virgin olive oil, moderate amounts of fish and seafood, a moderate intake or red wine as well as lots of  fruits, vegetables and nuts seemed to improve the brains of older people at risk for vascular dementia when compared to a low fat diet.

The trial consisted of 522 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 without cardiovascular disease but they were considered at higher risk for vascular disease because of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes type 2, being a smoker, having high blood pressure, and/or having a family history of cardiovascular disease early in life.

The participants were assigned to one of three diet groups.  In one group, they followed a Mediterranean diet with added olive oil; the second group followed a Mediterranean diet with added nuts; the third group (the controls) were only given advice on following a low fat diet.

The results?  After a followup period of 6 .5 years, the two groups following the Mediterranean diets had brain function scores significantly higher than the control group on the low fat diet. Brain function tests included assessment of memory, attention, language, spacial and abstract thinking.

The authors concluded:  “An intervention with Med Diets enhanced with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts appears to improve cognition compared with a low-fat diet.”  This study was published in the May issue (2013) of the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

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The Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes Prevention?

Large olive tree - Portugal

Large olive tree – Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does the Mediterranean Diet reduce the risk of developing diabetes type 2?
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that it might. The Mediterranean Diet has been extensively studied for its health benefits which include reducing heart disease, cancer, dementia,  hypertension and stroke risks.

Researchers studied 3,541 men and women without diabetes who ranged in age from 55 – 80 years old.  They were however, at a high risk for heart disease.  All participants were assigned to either a Mediterranean diet with 50 ml of extra – virgin olive oil (EVOO), a Mediterranean diet with 30 grams of mixed nuts, or a low-fat diet each day. Those consuming the Mediterranean diets were counseled by dietitians.  All participants were not told to reduce their calories or to increase exercise.

After 4 years of follow-up, it was determined that 273 of the patients had developed diabetes type 2.  Of these, 101 were  from the low-fat group; 80 were from the Mediterranean diet with extra EVOO and 92 were from the Mediterranean diet with extra nuts.  There were only slight changes in body weight, waist circumference, and physical activity between the groups.

The authors concluded: Following a Mediterranean diet is “palatable and sustainable”, therefore it could have public health implications for the prevention of diabetes.

There is no one particular Mediterranean diet, but can include diets that emphasize increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, beans and fish while decreasing consumption of red meats, processed meats, butter and sweets.  A previous post of mine graphically shows how to eat a more Mediterranean-type diet.  Enjoy!!

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What About Olive Oil?


Canola (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an interesting study on how dietary fats (namely vegetable oils) affect abdominal fat.  CLICK HERE.

After reading the results, I wondered who funded this study.  Sure enough, when checking further, the Canadian government, the Canola Council of Canada as well as Dow Agrosciences were listed in the Reference list.  There have been myths promoted by some on the safety of canola oil.  I found these myths mainly discredited by the Canola Council of Canada.  I was still concerned about the genetically modified aspect of canola oil.  Here is a quote from the Canola Council of Canada about this issue.

The question was “does Europe ban canola oil? The answer was NO.

The difference is that European farmers are prevented by law from growing genetically modified canola (or any GM crop). Europeans therefore consume canola oil from non-GM plants. Most of the canola oil from Canada can be exported to the EU and the EU has also approved some of the GM canola seed for processing.

Canola oil produced from GM plants is safe and healthy. And canola oil itself does not contain any GM ingredients. The GM modification is made to one canola gene and it is a protein. All proteins are removed from canola oil during processing so canola oil made from GM plants is no different from conventional canola oil.

By the way, canola oil contains 58% of these healthy monounsaturated fats.  Other good sources are olive oil (77%), peanut oil (45%),  cashews (62%), peanuts (52%), and peanut butter (50%).

Bottom Line:

  • It is always a good idea to check the funding of any nutrition study.  There were a few red flags on this one due to the fact that olive oil was not mentioned at all.
  • Canola oil appears to be a healthy oil, but there are also some good  alternatives as well.
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