Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Metabolic Adaptation: How eating too little can damage metabolism

Metabolic Adaptation describes how the body fights to maintain equilibrium and prevent starvation. It was very helpful back in our caveman days but a real problem today for people who need to lose weight.

As you lose weight your body adapts to conserve energy and be more efficient. With less body weight, resting metabolic rate decreases and you do not burn as many calories when exercising. With less food intake thermogenesis lowers. Hormones increase to stimulate appetite and stress from eating too little can cause higher levels of cortisol in the body.

As metabolic adaptation occurs weight loss reaches a plateau. At this point weight loss can continue only if you add more exercise or reduce calories even more. If calorie intake is already very low and exercise volume is very high you reach a limit where it is not safe, realistic, or advisable to continue such extremes. If you stop your routine weight gain is common. 

A good example of metabolic adaptation comes from research on The Biggest Loser. Researchers measured 14 participants metabolic rate at the start and end of the show. On average metabolic rate decreased by 610±483 calories. Following up 6 years later 13 of the 14 participants gained weight, although most kept at least 10% of their weight off. Metabolic rate remained low and did not go back to normal as their weight increased. Overall metabolic rate was 500 calories lower than what would be expected in people of similar height, weight, and age.

To minimize metabolic adaptation it is recommended to decrease calories gradually to support 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week rather than crash dieting for rapid weight loss. Eat protein rich foods at each meal and snack since protein has the highest thermic effect, provides satiety, and helps retain more lean muscle mass. In addition to cardio, make sure you strength train at least twice per week since lean muscle increases metabolism. Get enough sleep for the body to recover and work on stress management.

As weight loss starts to plateau make additional modest adjustments to continue losing. The ultimate goal is to develop healthy routines that are sustainable long term and help you feel energized and healthy. Understand that weight loss is not easy. We generally overestimate the amount of calories we burn and underestimate the amount of calories we consume. Work on  accuracy before assuming your metabolism is damaged.

Interested in Nutrition Counseling? We can calculate your calorie target and create a customized nutrition plan to help you reach your goals. Contact me to schedule your appointment.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Are We Getting Healthier? Update on U.S. Obesity Rates

Back in 2000 no states had obesity rates over 25%. Today 47 states are over 25% causing a big need for concern. Fortunately, obesity rates are stabilizing in adults and kids. Progress is being made in the fight against obesity and hopes of furthering nutrition education and public health funding can continue efforts into the future.

Last year was the first time the State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report showed a decline in obesity rates. Encouraging reports for this year again show a decline in one state (Kansas), an increase in four states (Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, and West Virginia), with all other states staying stable.

Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control, the highest obesity rates are in the South, Midwest, and in adults without a college education and income below $15,000 per year.

The most obese states are:
1. West Virginia 37.5%
2. Mississippi 37.3%
3. Alabama and Arkansas 35.7%
4. Louisiana 35.5%

The least obese states are:
1. Colorado 22.3%
2. The District of Colombia 22.6%
3. Massachusetts 23.6%
4. Hawaii 23.8%
5. California 25%

Pennsylvania ranks 25th most obese at 30.3% and New Jersey ranks 36th most obese at 27.4%.

The fight against obesity is far from over but small changes every day can lead us to a healthier future.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Is Occasionally Drinking During Pregnancy Safe?

Experts agree binge drinking is very dangerous to a pregnancy. But are a few sips of wine or champagne at a special occasion really harmful? Many pregnant women ask this question and with limited research in the area the true answer is hard to find.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, and Centers for Disease Control have strong positions that women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or who think they might be pregnant should not drink   alcohol. Their position is that no level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

One of the main concerns is that alcohol quickly passes through the placenta and umbilical cord to the baby and can lead to fetal alcohol   spectrum disorders that impact head size, height, weight, speech, vision, hearing, and other thinking and developmental skills.

Unfortunately the harmful impact of alcohol can be subtle and difficult to detect. It is not clear whether there is a safe threshold, or if even small amounts of alcohol can harm some infants.

One British team reviewed over 26 studies on women who had low alcohol consumption during their pregnancy (less than 1-2 glasses of light white wine or beer per week). Due to lack of data a safe level of consumption could not be identified. Researchers found evidence of an 8% greater chance of a low birth weight baby and a 10% greater chance of a      premature baby in women who drank lightly compared to those who completely avoided alcohol just before and during pregnancy. 

Despite health organizations strong advise, some controversial studies have offered different evidence. One study published in 2010 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found no increased risk of behavioral or cognitive problems by age 5 in children who’s mothers consumed 1-2 alcoholic beverages per week during pregnancy.

The bottom line, until more research is conducted we do not know the risks. Many experts encourage women not to take chances; given so many other factors one can worry about, take alcohol out of the equation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Most Disgusting Smelling Fruit In the World

If you travel to Southeast Asia, or to your local Asian market, you might find a very large and very smelly durian fruit. Banned from many hotels, airports, and the Singapore Mass Transit-if you’ve smelled it once you won’t forget.

The durian is regarded as the “king of fruits” due to its large size. It can weigh between 2-7 pounds and grow up to 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. A thorny greenish-brownish colored skin covers its yellow flesh.

The smell has been described as a combination of rotten onions, raw sewage, and turpentine which can linger for several days. Despite the dreadful smell the flesh has a pleasant sweet taste of almonds and custard. People either love it or hate it.

While not native to Thailand, the country is a major producer and hosts the World Durian Festival annually. Southern Thai people often eat the fruit young when the flesh is still crisp and mild in flavor. Northern Thia people often wait for the fruit to fully ripen and become soft and aromatic making the flesh very rich and slightly alcoholic.

Strong demand for high quality durian can drive prices high, costing about $8-15 USD per fruit. Some markets will sell the flesh only, and people in Singapore have spent as much as $50 USD for six pieces of the flesh.

The flesh can be eaten raw or cooked to flavor traditional Asian dishes, added to sweet sticky rice, made into ice cream, served in cappuccino, and turned into candy. In traditional medicine it has been used to reduce fevers and as an aphrodisiac. The skin is not edible, and while raw seeds are toxic they can be boiled or roasted making them safe for consumption.

Half a cup of durian flesh has 179 calories. The fruit is a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and B6.

Durian contains compounds that may prevent alcohol from being broken down in the body, resulting in increased blood alcohol levels, nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations. It is advised not to consume durian and alcohol together.

This exotic fruit isn’t for everyone but the next time you find yourself in Southern Asia or an Asian market give it a try; if they are nearby you can’t miss the smell.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Eat Pizza and Lose Weight?

A New Jersey man named Brian Northrup claims he lost 5.9 lbs and improved his athletic performance after eating a full Domino’s pizza every day for a year.

Using social media Northrup tracked his starting weight at 167.1lbs and ending weight 367 days later at 161.2lbs where he celebrated with three Domino’s pizzas filled high with feta, sausage, bacon, and pineapple.

While this was not a scientific experiment Northrup claims “I eat more in order to work out more” which helped give him energy to lift weights 3-4 time per week and do 20-30 minutes of cardio daily. Northrup claims his routine increased his strength, speed, and cardiovascular endurance while getting him in great shape.

Active men like Northrup, aged 25-29 years, can require over 2800 calories per day to sustain themselves. One medium Domino’s pizza has 1680 calories which could explain why he was able to lose weight despite eating an entire pizza daily.

Health professions question the long term safety of his daily consumption since one entire pizza has 64g total fat, 28g saturated fat, and 3600mg sodium. Strong evidence-based research shows high intake of saturated fat increases chronic disease risk and high sodium intake has been linked to hypertension risk and stomach cancer.

Food is fuel and plays an important role in energy production, especially when it comes to athletic performance. Obtaining sufficient calories, clean burning fuel, and the right amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein is encouraged to promote optimal athletic performance. 

Domino’s states they did not sponsor the social media stunt and hope Northrup is a member of their Loyalty Program to earn free pizzas overtime.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Marijuana and Hypertension Mortality Risk

There is more support for marijuana legalization which may significantly increase usage. While it provides benefit for some, little research on its impact to cardiovascular health has been done.

A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found 21% of their 1,213 participants smoked only marijuana, 20% smoked marijuana and cigarettes, and 4% only smoked cigarettes. The average use of marijuana was 11.5 years.

From the data collected researchers found marijuana use to be associated with a 3.42 times higher risk of death from hypertension with an increase of 1.04 times higher risk for each year of use. It was found that cardiovascular risk was higher in marijuana smokers than cigarette   smokers which was cause for concern. One researcher stated “the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain function far exceed that of cigarette smoking.”

Marijuana impacts the cardiovascular system by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to an increase in oxygen demand, heart rate, and blood pressure. Cases of heart attacks after marijuana use have been reported.

Researchers discourage believing in claims that marijuana is not harmful to health. As use becomes more popular they encourage caution to assess whether health benefits outweigh the risks. More studies to identify a correlation between marijuana use and cardiovascular health are encouraged. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It’s Greek to Me

They might come in similar white tubs, but all yogurt is not created equal, and consumers are catching on. Greek yogurt sales have skyrocketed, and for good reason. The straining  process removes whey, sugar, salt, and lactose from the yogurt which makes it more thick and creamy. For about the same amount of calories, Greek yogurt has less sugar and twice as much protein as regular varieties which makes it very nutrient dense. For people who are lactose intolerant Greek varieties might be better tolerated as well.

6 ounces of Greek yogurt has 15-20 grams of protein which is similar to 2-3 ounces of meat. Protein keeps you feeling full longer which can help keep your appetite controlled. Greek   yogurt is also very appealing to vegetarians and people seeking more protein in their diets. In comparison 6 ounces of regular yogurt has around 9 grams of protein.

Going Greek reduces carbohydrates, but only if you are cautions about the added sugar. Plain Greek yogurt is best for you (try sweetening it with fresh fruit). Many sweetened Greek yogurts can be very high in added sugar with total carbohydrates of 15-30 grams. Read the food label and select plain as often as you can.

Be cautious of Greek yogurt’s fat content, which can be much higher in saturated fat than regular yogurt varieties. Evidence-based research continues to encourage low saturated fat intake to reduce heart disease and diabetes risk. Eating healthier unsaturated fats in moderation is better for you. Select nonfat or 1% dairy products and pair them with healthy fats such as chopped nuts, flaxseeds, or chia seeds.

Whether you select Greek yogurt or regular varieties, both contain probiotics which promote a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system. It is encouraged to eat probiotics   regularly, making Greek yogurt a wonderful addition to your daily routine.

Greek Yogurt Tuna Salad Recipe
Serves: 2
90 calories per serving

1 5-ounce can chunk light tuna in water, drained
¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 stalk celery, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Refrigerate at least one hour until chilled. Pairs well with salad, whole grain bread, or with whole grain crackers.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Wine vs. Liquor vs. Beer

Is drinking alcohol good for you? Studies are mixed with some showing moderate amounts of alcohol decreasing inflammation, increasing good cholesterol, and lowering risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Other studies encourage reducing intake of alcohol even for light to moderate drinkers for improved cardiovascular health. 

While it is uncertain whether no drinking or moderate drinking is better, the general consensus is that too much alcohol is bad for anyone's health.

Imbibing more than 2 drinks per day for men and more than 1 drink per day for women can increase blood pressure and triglycerides as well as increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and liver disease.

What counts as 1 drink?
5 ounces of Wine
12 ounces of Beer
1.5 ounces of 80 proof Spirit

What alcohol is best for your health and for your waistline? Red wine likely offers the best health benefits because it contains the highest amount of antioxidants and natural plant chemicals, such as resveratrol, which might help lower disease risk. One glass has around 125 calories.

Beer and liquor have been shown to help lower disease risk too, but the calories can range greatly. Light beer such as Budweiser Select has only 55 calories per bottle, while craft beer such as Sierra Nevada’s Stout has 225 calories.

1.5 ounces of vodka has only 96 calories but use caution with sugary mixers like soda and juice which can make the calories soar. A cosmo has around 200 calories, a captain and coke has around 290 calories, and a strawberry daiquiri can be well over 600 calories. Mix with club soda and a fresh lemon or order on the rocks to cut down on calories.

Alcohol stimulates appetite too so watch what you are eating, especially bar food and late night snacks that often accompany libations.

Steamed Mussels Recipe
Serves: 4

4lbs mussels                            
2 tbs olive oil                              
1 shallot, minced                    
2 garlic cloves, minced             
4 sprigs fresh thyme                     
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1c low sodium chicken broth
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

Directions: Scrub mussels under cold water, discard any with broken shells. Heat oil in a 6qt pot and sauté shallots, garlic, and thyme. Add mussels, wine, lemon juice, broth, and red pepper flakes. Cover pot and steam over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until mussels open. Toss in tomato and parsley, cover, and steam 1 minute more until soft. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Do You Have To Wash Produce?

From farm to table, estimates show about 20 people will touch your produce before you bring it home. That is a lot of opportunities for germs and microorganisms to spread. In fact the CDC estimates each year 1 in 6 people in the U.S. gets sick from food borne illness, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die.

One study on 4,600 different food borne illness outbreaks found 46% of cases were linked to produce, in particular leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Contaminated water from fecal matter resulted in norovirus being the responsible contaminant for the majority of illnesses.

A different study analyzing produce from countries around the world found 97 different bacteria, many of which are known   opportunistic pathogens. The most abundant pathogens were E. coli which was found on 22% of vegetables and enterobacteriaceae which was found on 60% of fruits and 91% of vegetables.

To remove germs researches at Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found rinsing produce under tap water for one minute reduced pesticides and microorganisms by 90%. Water temperature did not change results but rubbing produce by hand was most beneficial.

Another study at the University of Florida found mixing vinegar with water removed E. coli and other bacteria and viruses by 95% on strawberries tested.

Experts and the FDA recommend washing produce to remove pesticides and microorganisms that could be harmful when consumed. It appears washing and rubbing produce under tap water is just as effective if not more effective than soap and vegetable washes. Diluted vinegar solutions are beneficial for removing additional bacteria and viruses.   

Grilled Fruit Kabobs
Serves: 8
150 calories per serving

8 wood or metal skewers (soak wood skewers at least 1 hour in water)
Assorted fruit cut into 1” cubes (pineapple, strawberries, banana, mango, etc.)
1 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter

Skewer the assorted fruit and place on a medium heat grill about 2-3 minutes each side until slightly brown.

Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together yogurt and peanut butter until smooth. Serve as a dip with fruit kabobs for dessert. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Is The Charcoal Food Trend Safe?

Black is in when it comes to food. Activated charcoal from burnt coconut shells, wood, or other plants is being used to color ice cream, juices, hot dogs, biscuits, and even cheese. 

Where can you find such foods? Health food stores nationwide are showcasing charcoal juices and waters, Morgenstern’s in NYC broke headlines featuring coconut ash ice cream, and to celebrate 10 years in Japan IKEA featured black hot dogs for $2.95.

 Activated charcoal has been used for centuries and continues to be used today in emergency rooms around the world. It binds easily to substances and has been lifesaving if someone ingests poison or overdoses. The charcoal will bind to the drug or chemical and prevent it from being absorbed by the body. 

While small amounts used in food is unlikely to cause harm, the safety of long-term use has not been studied. Researchers are concerned regular charcoal use could bind to vitamins and minerals in food and drinks, depriving the body of nutrients it needs.

Claims that it cures a hangover are also unlikely; it would take twice the typical dose used for poisoning to bind alcohol from one beer.

Despite numerous health claims, activated charcoal is unlikely to do a lot of good unless you’re been poisoned. We don’t recommend jumping on the charcoal juice or water craze, but small amounts in food or drinks is likely safe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Minimize Vacation Weight Gain

Most summer vacations center around food and indulging, which can have major consequences once you come back home. Studies show 61% of American adults gained weight while on vacation. Some gained as much as 7 pounds due to higher calorie intake, especially from alcohol. The average weight gain was 0.7 pounds, which is not too shocking, however the weight tended to stay on after they returned home.
Weight creep is when people gain small amounts of weight over a long period of time. What might not seem like too much weight gain over vacation can add up after several years. Unless you weigh yourself regularly people don’t realize subtle weight gain is happening. Follow these tips to minimize vacation weight gain this summer:

Weigh yourself before and after vacation

Go hiking, swim, plan physical activities, and exercise during your trip

Pack healthy snacks and sandwiches in a cooler for road trips

Don’t load up at breakfast, instead set the tone for the rest of the day by practicing portion control

Pick healthy menu items at restaurants such as baked poultry, fish, salads, and vegetable based dishes

Treat yourself in moderation, but not every day

Enjoy small portions and eat slowly

Order wisely from the bar, fruity drinks can have over 500 calories. Stick with wine, light beer, white wine spritzers, vodka soda, and champagne.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Watch out! Fried Potatoes Could Be Deadly

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people eating fried potatoes, in the form of French fries, potato chips, or hash browns, two-three times per week doubled their risk of dying early compared to people who never ate fried potatoes.

Potato chips and French fries were found to contain higher levels of acrylamide, which the World Health Organization and FDA state is a major health concern due to its neurotoxicity in humans and carcinogenic properties.

Frying foods also oxidizes cholesterol more readily, which can produce more atherosclerotic plaque compared to nonoxidized cholesterol in the body.

Fried foods are high in calories, which could lead to weight gain and high in saturated fat, which could raise cholesterol. A side of French fries typically has 500 calories, 24g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 66g carbs, and 350mg sodium. Add a few squirts of ketchup and the sodium increases to 670mg.

The American Heart Association Recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories. For a 2000 calorie diet that is 11-13g per day.

The study was observational and cannot conclude fried potatoes cause early death, however researchers believe fried potato consumption is associated with a less healthy Western diet associated with higher mortality rates.

The study found no raise in mortality rates from people eating non-fried potatoes. A small potato with the skin is rich in fiber, has more potassium than a banana, provides half your daily needs of vitamin C, and contains protein. If you love potatoes consider roasting them in the oven with olive oil and rosemary or steaming them for a few minutes in the microwave for a healthier side dish to a meal. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Reducing Risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Temple University recently published a study in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology indicating extra virgin olive oil (evoo) protects memory and reduces  classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease such as  amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain.

Studying the relationship of evoo on Alzheimer’s, researchers fed one group of mice a diet rich in olive oil and a second group of mice regular chow. Mice fed the evoo diet for 3 months and 6 months performed better on working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities tests than the group fed regular chow. There was also a dramatic difference in nerve cell appearance and function of brain tissue between the two groups.

Mice fed the evoo diet had less brain  inflammation. They had better synaptic integrity, which is the connection between neurons. They also had a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation; a cellular process that clears out toxins and debris, such as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Neurofibrillary tangles are believed to contribute to nerve cell dysfunction in the brain, resulting in Alzheimer’s memory problems.

Researchers concluded “Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced.”

Researchers plan to continue their study on the same mice who have developed plaques and tangles to determine if a diet rich in evoo could stop or reverse Alzheimer’s once present. 

Olive oil has a medium-high smoking point and can withstand cooking temperatures to up 375-400F making it a good oil for salads, baking, oven cooking, and stir-frying. 1 tbs has 120 calories so watch the amount you use if you are also watching your waistline.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vegetarian Grilling

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancers including colorectal, ovarian, and breast.

Vegetarians are people who primarily eat fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Vegans exclude all animal products from their diet including dairy products, eggs, and honey. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but avoid meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs but avoid meat, poultry, and fish. The lacto-ovo’s make up the majority of vegetarians in the United States.

People choose to be vegetarians for many reasons including economical, environmental, personal health, spiritual beliefs, and compassion for animals. A well balanced vegetarian diet can be sufficient in all essential nutrients including protein, but careful planning is  important; after all many processed foods such as chips and French fries are vegetarian but not healthy choices. Clean eating by targeting minimally processed wholesome foods   provide the essential nutrients the body needs for optimal health.

Top sources of vegetarian protein include beans, lentils, tofu, edamame, tempeh, hemp, seitan, nuts, seeds, eggs, low fat dairy products, textured vegetable protein, soy products, and whole grains. Numerous vegetarian protein powders are also an option, the most prevalent contain soy, brown rice, pea, hemp, whey, or seeds.

Summer grilling is most often associated with burgers and hot dogs, but vegetarians can enjoy so much more when grilling outside. Using the grill brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables and seals in moisture for tender texture. Grilled vegetables do not develop dangerous carcinogens that meat does when cooked over high temperature, such as Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Vegetables are also high in fiber, rich in nutrients, low in calories, and provide antioxidants to fight off free radicals in the body.

Whether you are a vegetarian or not we can all benefit from eating meatless meals during the week. Consider the delicious summer recipe below and consider adding a meatless Monday to your families routine to help increase the vegetables in your diet.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Accurate Is Your Fitness Tracker?

A new study from Stanford University published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine evaluated the accuracy of seven fitness trackers on the market: Apple Watch, Fitbit Surge, Samsung Gear S2, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, Basis Peak, and PulseOn.

60 healthy participants wore the wrist watches or bands while sitting, walking, running, and biking while also having continuous cardiac monitoring and indirect calorimetry to measure metabolic rate. Results showed fairly accurate measurements of heart rate, on average within 5% of the gold standard 12-lead ECG. Apple Watch had the greatest accuracy with an average error of 2.0% and Samsung Gear S2 had the lowest accuracy with an average error of 6.8% from the gold standard.

Unfortunately none of the devices accurately measured calorie expenditure. The most accurate device, Fitbit Surge, was off by 27% on average, and the least accurate device, PulseOn, was off by 93% on average. Researches caution use of fitness trackers for assessing calorie expenditure and encourage greater transparency from companies to validate data.

Wearable technology, such as fitness trackers, do a great job motivating people to get moving, stay mindful of their goals, and foster healthier habits throughout the day. This study highlights the benefit fitness trackers have on measuring heart rate within a generally acceptable range of error. Unfortunately there are some limitations and fitness trackers should not be relied on for accurate calorie expenditure at this time.

If you have been tracking exercise on your fitness device and considering that…cheeseburger/glass of wine/ice cream treat at the end of the day you might want to reconsider. While everything in moderation is good...if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Probiotics For Depression

In our country depression is the most prevalent mental health condition. 80% of people do not receive treatment, and those that do face major side effects with medications. Could a change in diet alleviate symptoms for millions of sufferers? Scientists are optimistic it can happen with probiotics.

Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found a direct link between mental health and gut microbiome when they fed mice Lactobacillus probiotic bacteria found in yogurt resulting in a reversal of depression symptoms.

Scientists found when mice were stressed their gut microbiome changed and they lost Lactobacillus bacteria which then was  followed by depression symptoms. Feeding mice Lactobacillus bacteria with their food reversed their depression symptoms.

Lactobacillus bacteria in the gut also impacted the level of a  metabolite called kynurenine in the blood, which other studies have shown impact depression. 

The team of scientists plan to apply their findings on humans to study how the microbiome and probiotics could alter depression.  People with depression should not stop taking medications  without consulting their physicians, but including yogurt daily could be beneficial.

Yogurt begins with Lactobacillus cultures, but some products are heat treated which kills the good bacteria. The National Yogurt Association has a Active Cultures Seal on products that contain at least 100 million live and active cultures per gram. Look for the seal to ensure sufficient quantities of probiotics are in the yogurt you are eating.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Red Meat Risk

New research published in the BMJ looked at the association  between different types of meat intake and disease risk. Over the course of 16 years the diet and health of 536,000 men and women aged 50-71 was tracked.

The study compared total meat intake of processed red meat (bacon, sausage, etc.), unprocessed red meat (beef, pork, lamb), white meat (poultry, fish, seafood), heme iron (type of iron found in animal protein), and nitrate/nitrite consumption (additive in processed meats such as bacon and sausage.)
Results showed 26% increased risk of death from 9 different diseases (heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, infections, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, and liver disease) in the group who ate the most red meat and processed red meat.
High intake of heme iron and nitrate/nitrites from processed meat was also associated with an increased risk in death, although researchers found a stronger tie with nitrate/nitrite consumption than from heme iron consumption.
Interestingly higher white meat intake resulted in a 25% reduced risk of death from diseases.
Many organizations such as the American Heart Association recommend limiting intake of red meat, especially processed red meat, to promote greater health. The Mediterranean Diet which as been associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer recommend limiting red meat to about once or twice per month.
If you are a red meat lover consider eating it less often, reducing your portion size, and selecting leaner cuts such as  bison, lean pork loin, 95% ground beef, eye round roast, and top sirloin steak.

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

Serves: 4

295 calories per serving



4 Portobello mushroom caps                         

2 tbs balsamic vinegar                       

1 tbs low sodium soy sauce              

1 tbs olive oil                                  

1 tbs chopped rosemary                                   

1 1/2 tsp steak seasoning                

4 red onion slices  

4 thin slices of reduce fat Swiss cheese

 4 tomato slices

1/2 avocado, sliced thin
2 handfuls of baby spinach
4 whole wheat low calorie buns

Directions: Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, oil, rosemary, and steak seasoning. Toss with mushroom caps and let stand 30 minutes to marinate. Grill mushroom caps over medium heat for 5-7 minutes each side until tender; brush with marinade frequently. Grill onions for 1 minute each side and grill buns until toasted if desired. Top each mushroom cap with cheese during the last minute of cooking. To assemble place one mushroom cap on each bun and top with onion, tomato, spinach, and sliced avocado.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beat the Common Cold with Zinc Lozenges

A new study from the University of Helsinki in Finland found promising benefits of zinc lozenges reducing length of colds.

A meta-analysis of three randomized controlled   trials on zinc acetate lozenges found 70% of patients had recovered from colds by the fifth day; three times faster than control groups.

The recommended daily intake of zinc is 11mg/day for men and 8mg/day for women. In the three studies 80-92mg/day of zinc was given, and while long-term zinc supplementation is not recommended none of the three analyzed studies observed negative side effects. Authors concluded it seems highly unlikely that 80-92mg/day of zinc for one to two weeks starting at the onset of cold symptoms might lead to long-term adverse effects.

Many zinc lozenges on the market have little zinc contents or they contain citric acid or other substances that bind to zinc and prevent absorption. It is best to compare labels to find the best options available.

Foods naturally rich in zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, lentils, sesame seeds, garbanzo beans, plain nonfat Greek yogurt, cashews, quinoa, turkey, and shrimp.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Therapeutic Benefit of Massage

More than just pampering, scientific research has concluded massage is an effective treatment for chronic lower back pain. In the first study of its kind researchers analyzed data from primary care physicians who referred patients with chronic lower back pain for 10 massage sessions with licensed massage therapists in their community.

Over half of study participants had clinically significant improvements in their lower back pain. The best results were seen in patients over 49 years of age.

Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. With 31 million Americans experiencing lower back pain on a daily basis, massage could provide therapeutic relief while reducing disability and absenteeism from work.

Some studies have also found massage to be therapeutic for treating fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, GI disorders, insomnia, joint pain, sports injuries, and headaches. Some research has even shown temporary reduction in blood pressure and heart rate after treatment.

Various types of massage provide different benefit, for example Swedish massage uses gentle kneading and long strokes to move muscles and tendons for relaxation, while trigger point massage uses deep pressure to reach tight muscles after injury.

While massage is beneficial and safe for most people, some people should discuss treatment with their doctor first. This includes people with bleeding disorders or taking blood-thinning medication, DVT, fractures, osteoporosis, thrombocytopenia, or injury to skin such as burns or wounds. Look for licensed massage therapists to ensure proper training and safety.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Are You Hangry?

Have you ever snapped at someone, then realized you are probably just hungry? Hangry describes the feelings of anger or irritability as a result of hunger. While hunger is a natural instinct, some people have stronger reactions than others when it comes time for a meal.

Glucose is the main source of fuel for your brain and central nervous system. After a meal blood glucose levels rise and then start to fall. Hormones such as ghrelin play a role in producing a feeling of satiation after eating. As time passes ghrelin decreases and you start to feel hungry again. If you wait too long between meals your blood glucose will fall too low and you will start to feel changes in your mood and mental function.

Serotonin, the feel good chemical, can also decrease when you are hungry which could contribute to feelings of irritability and anger. Sleeping less than 7 hours each night can impact the hormones that regulate appetite and hunger, making hunger more difficult to manage. Sleep deprivation can also impact someone's mood.

Waiting too long to eat and feeling hangry often leads to picking the wrong foods out of desperation. It might also lead to binge eating. Blood sugar spikes after eating too many refined carbs and junk food causing a rollercoaster of blood glucose throughout the day.

The best way to prevent feeling hangry is to plan 4-5 small well-balanced meals/snacks throughout the day. Carry healthy portable options when you are on the go. Don’t skip meals or crash diet. Pair fiber with protein to keep you satisfied longer.

Some healthy snack ideas are:

  • 100 calorie pack of almonds and 1 piece of fruit
  • KIND bar, Balance bar, Kashi granola bar, Simple Protein bar
  • 1/4 cup hummus with baby carrots
  • 1 low fat string cheese and 1 pear
  • 1 brown rice cake with 1 tbs natural peanut butter

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blood Oranges in Season

Deep red and purple hues fill the flesh of the blood orange, a delicious fruit available through winter and spring. According to the National Gardening Association a cooler climate plays a role in the formation of the deep red color, as does the presence of anthocyanin.

Anthocyanin is an antioxidant found in several fruits but not often seen in citrus. Studies have shown anthocyanin may reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer growth, and reduce free radical damage. Blood oranges contain much higher amounts of anthocyanin than navel oranges, making it a great disease fighting fruit.

Blood oranges are primarily grown in Italy, although their origin is likely from China or southern Mediterranean. The cool temperatures at night during the fall and winter allow the anthocyanin to develop and give the blood orange its distinct color. It tastes less acidic compared to other oranges, and often has a subtle taste of berries.

One blood orange has about 70 calories and is a high source of vitamin C, delivering over 100% of daily recommended allowance. Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant in the body while repairing tissue and building collagen. Blood oranges are rich in folate which is needed for healthy red blood cells. Adequate intake is also associated with lowering cancer and heart disease risk. Vitamin A is also found in high amounts, this fat soluble vitamin is important for vision, the immune system, and healthy skin.

Blood oranges can be enjoyed in many different ways. Try adding segments into a arugula and fennel salad drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. Or perhaps reduce the juice into a glaze to spread over roasted turkey or scallops. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Cardio or Weights Better for Weight Loss?

Exercise does a great job lowering bad cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and improving insulin sensitivity. It can also help you get in shape, but which type is best for weight loss?

Researchers at Duke University followed overweight and sedentary participants for 8 months. Participants exercised with aerobics, strength training, or a combination of the two. At the end of the study the cardio group lost the most weight.

The strength training group gained weight from increased muscle mass but did not lose even 1 pound of fat mass despite exercising 47 minutes more each week.

The group that combined cardio and strength training lost some weight, had the best improvements in body composition by losing the most fat, and increased muscle mass.

Cardio burns more calories per minute compared to strength training so it is beneficial for reducing weight. Strength training is important too though, especially for maintaining lean muscle mass (which impacts metabolic rate), improving bone mineral density, and proper body mechanics for daily activities.

For the best benefit start with a warm-up and then move into strength training followed by cardio. The American Council on Exercise found this can drive heart rate higher during the cardio session which helps burn more calories.

It is recommended to do cardio exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days per week, although 60 minutes is best for weight management. Strength training should be at least two or more times per week with all major muscle groups being worked to volitional fatigue. Brisk walking counts as cardio, but greater benefit is seen with more vigorous activity.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Which Health Fads Are Not Worth the Hype

Juicing promises to deliver concentrated vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants which might be “locked away” in the fiber of whole fruits and vegetables. While a tall glass of juice might taste great, this fad is busted. Juice is concentrated in sugar and calories. It does not fill you up because the fiber is left behind. People who drink juice regularly have a 21% increased risk of type 2 diabetes compared to people eating whole fruits. Instead drink a protein smoothie with a small amount of whole fruit blended in. This retains the fiber and the protein slows down digestion.

Gluten-free diets truly help people allergic to gluten, and while  gluten sensitivities are pretty rare they do exist. A gluten-free diet is restrictive which helps people cut out lots of calories and junk food, but packaged gluten-free foods are not all they are cracked up to be. Most are refined grains, stripped of their nutrients. Gluten-free products are often higher in calories, sodium, fat, and sugar to make up for flavor differences compared to conventional products. Increased exposure to arsenic from rice-based products is also a concern. There is nothing wrong with eating fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and dairy which are all naturally gluten-free; use caution with processed foods though.

Coconut oil claims to increase metabolism, boost weight loss, and improve cholesterol. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but due to its medium-chain triglyceride structure it does not appear to have a significant effect on cholesterol like other high saturated fat foods such as butter and red meat. Instead coconut oil is rapidly delivered to the liver. Over-consumption can lead to stress on your liver and may contribute to fatty liver disease. Stick with olive oil which has well documented heart health benefits.

Paleo diet also known as the caveman diet bases nutrition on the foods available during the Paleolithic Era. You get to eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. You must avoid grains, sugar, dairy, beans, alcohol, salt, and all processed foods. While eating clean and giving up junk food is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle, Paleo ranked one of the worst diets by U.S. News and World Report. Experts found the diet was too high in saturated fat, which triggers inflammation as well as increases cardiovascular risk, insufficient in essential nutrients such as calcium, and long term adherence is low due to it being very restrictive.

Fads come and go but solid research can help guide us in the right direction. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Enjoy the benefits of minimally processed foods and remember to enjoy all things in moderation.