Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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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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Is the Ketogenic Diet Just Another Fad?

The ketogenic (keto, for short) diet is being promoted more and more in the media, especially on the Internet. CLICK HERE for more information on this “fad” diet which was published on this blog a couple of months ago. Also read a cautious and critical approach by Dr.David Katz, M.D.,M.P.H. HERE.


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Are Probiotics Ready for Prime Time?


A Bacterial Superbug

The microbiome is all over the nutrition news with studies pouring in on how just about every aspect of our physiology or pathophysiology is dependent on some degree on the kinds of bacteria that make up our collective species found there. As with any supplement, there are pros and cons.

A lot of these studies are done with animals or small samples in human studies.Even though this research shows promise, there are always precautions when taking any supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA. The following article was updated in 2014 and after checking more recent research, I found the same problems exist – inconsistent results, small sample sizes, study flaws, etc. etc. common in nutrition research.

The most common species of bacteria used in probiotics (among a potential 3,000 or more) are species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.  You’ll want a product that explicitly states a “sell-by” date. Once you have identified the right strain or strains (which at this point seems next to impossible), it’s important to find a product that is labeled correctly in terms of the number of bacteria in each dose. Tests from found that some probiotic supplements did not contain the amount of organisms claimed on the label. The organisms must survive stomach acid and therefore should contain an enteric coating to enhance their survival.

The best advice is to talk to your  doctor before taking probiotics as well as any supplement. People who have an immune deficiency or cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s okay.



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Pesticide Residue Free? About 50%

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the FDA and the USDA share the responsibility for limiting exposure to pesticides in the food supply. The EPA sets tolerances while the FDA and USDA monitor pesticide residues in both domestic and imported foods. In general, the amounts of pesticides we are exposed to through foods are very small. The USDA’ s Pesticide Data Program has found no more than 1% of samples with residues above established EPA tolerances. Since the dose matters, repeated consumption of any one pesticide could be harmful; this is unlikely since most people consume a variety of foods produced using many different pesticides. Newer pesticides are less toxic and more effective in smaller doses than many of the older  ones. New methods of controlling pests involve the use more natural occurring substances like microorganisms that control pests.  Smoler and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.


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Are High Protein Diets Harmful?

Americans are crazy about protein. I once had a student whose food record indicated  he had consumed 280 grams of protein on an average day. He had added a couple of high protein shakes to his daily intake. If we look at a typical American diet in terms of the government’s MY PLATE, our animal protein foods often fill half of the plate instead of the recommended amount (1/4 of the plate).

The recommendations can be thought of in this way:

The Acceptable Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is 10-35% of total calories for adults. This range is not associated with any known health risks.

A diet that provides only 10% of calories from protein meets the RDA but is on the low side since the average of energy from protein in the  typical U.S. diet is 16%.

The RDA for protein in adults is 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. For an adult weighing 70 kg (154 pounds) the recommended intake would be 56 g a day (70 x 0.8 g/kg/d = 56 g); for an adult weighing 59 kg (130 pounds) it would be 47 grams a day. On average, protein intake in the U.S. is about 90 g/day. (To convert pounds to kilograms, divide the pounds by 2.2). For example, 170 pounds /2.2 = 77 kilograms)

A quick and easy way to estimate your protein intake is to know the following :

Starch (1/3 c. pasta, 1/2 potato, 1 sl. bread)= 3 g. protein

Milk (1 cup) = 8 g. protein

Vegetables (1/2 c. cooked, 1 c.. raw) = 2 g. protein

Meats or Meat Substitute (4oz. beef, poultry, fish or cheese,  2 c. legumes) = 28 g. (4 oz is about the size of your palm.)

Fruits and any foods in the fat group have zero grams of protein.

Note: Protein needs are increased for growth, lactation, or when the body is injured.



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Is the Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss Safe?


What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Sally Feltner, PhD, RDN

Glucose is the preferred fuel for the body to use for energy. However, when carbohydrates are limited there may not be adequate glucose for energy use. The body can make some glucose from protein but it can also supply an energy source from fatty acids called ketones.

Ketones ( ketosis) are molecules formed in the liver from fatty acids and released in the blood when there is not sufficient carbohydrate. Ketosis can be generated in a ketogenic diet by fasting or by strictly restricting carbohydrate intake to less than 20-40 grams a day. Fat intake is increased to about 70-80 percent of total calories. Protein intake makes up the rest of the calories.

Ketone production is a normal response to starvation or to a diet very low in carbohydrate. Ketones can be used for energy by the heart, muscle, and kidney. After about three days of fasting, even the brain adapts and can obtain about half its energy from ketones. Ketones not used are excreted in urine. However, if produced in excess, they can build up in the blood. If severe in untreated diabetes, it can increase the blood’s acidity so much that normal body processes cannot proceed, eventually causing possible coma or even death.

The ketogenic diet was originally developed to treat children with epilepsy with some success. Lately, it has become a new diet trend in weight loss. When ketones are used for energy, the body can burn fat stores more efficiently often resulting in rapid body fat loss. Ketosis also lessens hunger helping to avoid excessive calorie intake.

In general, registered dietitians, but not all, do not recommend the ketogenic diet for weight loss due to some serious concerns about its safety. This is due to the lack of research especially on long-term effects. It may in some people cause adverse kidney function and bone metabolism leading to a reduction in bone mineral content. Since it is a carbohydrate restrictive diet, there may be other nutritional deficiencies that occur from a lack of fruits, vegetables, or fiber-rich foods. It is also generally a high fat diet causing some to question the safety of consuming high saturated fats and increasing heart disease risks.

There are other cautions. It is estimated that about 7 million people don’t know they have diabetes type 2. With a high number of people in the population that may have un-diagnosed diabetes, the serious dangers of high levels of ketones in the blood can have serious consequences as previously discussed above. This has been claimed to not be a problem in that ketoacidosis can be dangerous for diabetics type 1 but not for type 2 diabetics.

Food choices should be monitored by a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) in order to keep the carbohydrate content low and help the dieter choose healthy fats. Electrolytes such as sodium and magnesium should be assessed periodically. Lab values for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, blood glucose and blood pressure should be monitored.

My opinion? Long-term use of the ketogenic diet is not recommended until more research tells us more about its safety. Perhaps it may help people  to lose weight on a short-term basis; however, please consult your physician before trying any version of a ketogenic diet.

For more click HERE.

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More Glyphosate News?

The news continues to warn about the extensive use of glyphosate. While its carcinogenicity still remains to be determined, there are other health concerns about its extensive use. There are so many questions and biases  about the production and use of the herbicide from both sides of the  issue. Have the research findings been suppressed by the industry? Have they have been altered by the corporations that produce it? That depends on which side one believes. It is extremely hard to find an unbiased opinion about an important topic regarding our food supply.


For more news about Ben & Jerry ice cream, click HERE.