January 2014

Don’t Toss the Supplements!

If a study came out finding that people who drank water had no lower risk for dementia, would you stop drinking water?

If another study came out finding that people who meet their recommendation for protein were at no lower risk for heart disease than people who ate too little protein, would you eliminate protein from your diet?

Probably not. Both water and protein are essential nutrients. There is no controversy over their importance for human nutrition.

Three studies published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine conclude that taking supplements had little or no effect on lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer (Fortmann, et al), cognition decline in men (Grodstein, et al), or death and cardiovascular events in people who had already suffered a heart attack (Lamas, et al). Is this cause to toss the supplements, as one editorial in the same journal concludes? I think not.

As with water and protein, vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients. Every human body needs them from conception to the end of life, but cannot synthesize even one of them. They must come from the diet on a regular basis and in amounts known to ensure life, as well as health. There is no controversy there. In contrast, if a well-designed study showed that supplements of an herb had no effect on cognition, and that study was backed by a wealth of other well-designed studies showing similar results, then it would be justified to question whether it was necessary to supplement with that herb. But, our bodies don’t make the 13 essential vitamins and the 20 or more minerals known to be essential for life. A lack of even one vitamin or mineral over time can have devastating consequences, in many cases even death.

The implied message in these three studies is that people must be meeting their requirements for these essential nutrients from their diets, hence adding more through supplements has little or no effect on long-term health. Yet, numerous national nutrition surveys spanning decades of research have repeatedly and consistently found that many Americans do not meet the basic needs for certain vitamins and/or minerals. One study from the National Cancer Institute found that 99 out of every 100 Americans don’t meet even the minimum standards of a balanced diet (Krebs-Smith, et al). The USDA’s Healthy Eating Index, a tool to assess Americans’ eating habits, rating them on a scale of 0 to 100, consistently finds that most Americans score below or in the 60s, equivalent to an “F” or a “D” ranking on nutrition. (Hiza, et al) Why not fill in the gaps with a moderate-dose, well-balanced multi supplement on the days when people don’t eat perfectly? As these three studies found, there is no harm in taking a multi. In fact, it is one of the lowest cost preventive measures we can adopt. I can find no reason not to.

On one level, I agree with the findings of these research studies. As the Fortmann study concludes, there is not enough evidence to determine whether the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer can be reduced solely by taking a supplement. That’s why they are called supplements, not substitutes for an excellent diet. Even the Grodstein study concludes that the subjects “…may have been too well-nourished to observe benefits from supplementation.” Even the most staunch supporters of supplements agree that no pill can replace a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is one factor in a pattern of living that is known and supported by thousands of well-designed studies to lower disease risk, obesity risk, premature aging, and premature death, while improving the quality of life and lowering the need to take medications. I will continue taking my supplements.

Hiza H, Casavale K, Guenther P, et al: Diet quality of Americans differs by age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, and education level. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics202012;November 15th.

Krebs-Smith S, Cleveland L, Ballard-Barbash R, et al: Characterizing food intake patterns of American adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997;65(supple):1264-1268.

Photo credit: Frederic Poirot via Compfight,  U.S. Department of Agriculture via Compfight

Hot Off the Diet Press

And Turn...

Daily exercise reduces cancer risk

The Anti-Cancer Routine: Women could reduce their risk for developing endometrial cancer by almost 60% if they exercised daily and maintained a healthy weight, according to a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research. The researchers estimate that 59%, or approximately 29,500 endometrial cancer cases each year in the U.S., could be prevented if women exercised at least 30 minutes a day and avoided gaining excess body fat, which produces hormones that promote cancer growth and inflammation. Exercise not only helps maintain a desirable weight, it also decreases estrogen and insulin levels, strengthens the immune system, and helps maintain a healthy digestive system. In contrast, eating a diet rich in high glycemic foods increases risk, state the researchers. Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system. About 49,600 new cases of endometrial cancer occur each year in the U.S., more than ovarian cancer and cervical cancer combined.

Bandera E, Bender A, Gaudet M, et al: Continuous Update Project Report: Preventing Endometrial Cancer. AICR/WCRF, September 10, 2013.

Photo credit:  Sangudo via Compfight1. 

Diets high in sugar and fats contribute to inflammation and possibly depression

2. Eat to Beat Depression: If you are battling the blues, you might want to look first to your diet. According to a study from Laval University in Quebec, people who eat foods that fuel inflammation are also at highest risk for depression. Using dietary intakes from 43,685 women in the Nurses’ Health Study who were without depression at the start of the study, researchers compared mood during a 12-year follow-up with a dietary pattern that is related to plasma levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor). Results showed that women who consumed diets that increased inflammation had a 41% higher risk for developing depression. The researchers conclude that, “….chronic inflammation may underlie the association between diet and depression.” (Inflammatory triggers in the diet include, saturated fats in meat and fatty dairy products, sugar, trans fats in processed and fast foods, refined grains, potatoes, fried foods, palm or coconut oils, pastries, and processed meats like hot dogs – it’s the nitrite additives in these luncheon meats that are to blame. Being overweight also is a major contributor to chronic inflammation.)

Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, Shulze M, et al: Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain Behavior and Immunology 2013;October 1.

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt via Compfight

citrus3. Eye Candy: Seniors who load the plate with vitamin C- and vitamin E-rich fruits and vegetables have the lowest risk for developing cataracts, according to a study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dietary intakes and risk for cataracts was compared in 599 seniors. Plasma levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids also were gathered. Results showed that as fruit and vegetable intake increased, cataract risk decreased. Cataract risk also diminished as vitamin C intakes increased above 107 milligrams a day. A protective effect was noted when vitamin E intakes were 8 milligrams or higher each day.

Pastor-Valero M: Fruit and vegetable intake and vitamins C and E are associated with a reduced prevalence of cataracts in a Spanish Mediterranean population. BMC Ophthalmology 2013;13:52.

Photo credit: blackeiffel via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip – B is for Brain

Sushi | Culinária

Seafood is a source of B vitamins

It’s no coincidence that the word brain starts with the letter B. From vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12 to folic acid and niacin, these nutrients speed nerve transmission by maintaining the insulating sheath around nerve cells, they convert energy to a useable form for the brain, and they regulate the neurotransmitters that allow brain cells to communicate. Poor dietary intake of any B vitamin literally starves the brain for energy and leads to abnormal brain waves (as noted by changes in EEGs), confusion, irritability, and impaired thinking, concentration, memory, reaction time, and mental clarity. Although most of the studies have been done on older people, the same effects should be expected in younger adults with similar marginal nutrient intakes.

You don’t need to wash down Brewer’s yeast smoothies or swallow handfuls of vitamin pills to nourish your brain. Just include several servings daily of B-vitamin-rich foods, including nonfat milk and yogurt, wheat germ, bananas, seafood, whole grains, and green peas. Then take a moderate-dose, broad-range multi vitamin and mineral to fill in the gaps on the days you don’t eat perfectly.

Photo credit:  Alexandre Chang via Compfight

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week – Red Wine Lovers

98/365: ? Red, Red Wine...Wine is the universal love potion. It increases sexual desire and responsiveness in both men and women, and aids in lubrication for women, probably because it suppresses any fear or guilt about improper behavior, allowing the imbiber to “loosen up.” Of course, get too friendly with the bottle and your mojo will morph into a parked car. As Shakespeare so succinctly wrote in Macbeth: “It [alcohol] provides the desire, but it takes away the performance.” A study from Spain found that resveratrol in red wine also aids in weight loss, enhancing fat burning and reducing cells’ ability to make and store fat. How Much? One 5-ounce glass of red wine a day for women and no more than two glasses for men. Sip, don’t gulp, since resveratrol is absorbed 100-fold better through the mucus membranes in the mouth than it is from the intestines. Drink with a meal, rather than before, to help curb excess intake.

Photo credit:  Matthew Rogers via Compfight

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Zucchini-Tomato Lasagna with Fresh Thyme and Caramelized Onions from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams
This easy-to-make au gratin makes a tasty accompaniment to any Italian dish in the winter. Prep the zucchini and squash while the onions are sauteing and you’ll save even more time.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large yellow onions (about 6 cups), peeled and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 large tomatoes, halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
1 1 /2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/4″ inch diagonal slices
1 1 /2 pounds yellow squash, cut into 1/4″ diagonal slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 1 /2 cups low-fat Parmesan cheese, grated and divided into two portions
salt to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

1) Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and continue to stir and saute for another 10 minutes or until onions are limp and golden. Spread onion-garlic mixture evenly in bottom of a 13″X9″X2″ glass baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons thyme. Set aside.

2) Place tomatoes on paper towel to remove any excess liquid.

3) Toss zucchini, yellow squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil, rest of thyme, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.

4) Set aside half of cheese to use as topping. Start at one end of the baking dish, press an overlapping layer of tomato slices, laid upright across end of dish. Sprinkle lightly with cheese. Overlap with a dense layer of zucchini, again positioned upright, followed by a dense layer of yellow squash. Repeat tomato, cheese, zucchini, and yellow squash and finish with a layer of tomatoes. Push the rows back to make more room for additional rows and to firmly pack the vegetables. Any remaining pieces can be fit into the layers so that the red, green, and yellow layers are packed firmly. Sprinkle remaining half of cheese evenly over top.

5) Bake for 75 minutes or until top is golden brown and a fork easily moves through squash. Liquid should be bubbling and have reduced considerably. Let stand for a few minutes before serving. Makes 10 servings as a side dish and 6 to 8 servings as a main dish.

Nutritional Analysis per side dish serving: 183 Calories; 39 percent fat (8 grams);

Answers to “Do you know?” from last issue:

1. Does protein increase metabolism, so you can’t get fat on protein-rich foods?
True, sort of. Diet-induced thermogenesis or DIT refers to the boost in metabolism that occurs while the body is digesting and absorbing nutrients. DIT is revved more after a protein-rich meal than a fat-rich meal, but the effects are more theoretical than practical. The bottom line is that calories are calories, regardless of whether they come from protein, fat, or carbohydrate. Eat enough calories from any food and you gain weight, cut back on calories and you lose weight. A review of the literature supports this advice and found that the metabolism-boosting effects of protein had little effect on weight loss. High-protein diets are probably more satiating, so people eat less and lose weight. The problem here is that there are no long-term studies on the health effects of high-protein diets, other than we know that consuming two to three times the recommended protein intake contributes to calcium loss from bone and possibly osteoporosis and kidney stones.

2. Does eating most of your calories later in the day (at and after dinner) cause more calories to be stored as fat?
Pretty much false. This myth might have originated from a decade-old study that found that “diet-induced thermogenesis” or DIT (the extra calories it takes to digest and assimilate foods) was higher after breakfast than after lunch, and higher after lunch than after dinner (at least in men). These results suggested that more calories are used up and so are not stored as fat when consumed earlier in the day. No research since has added credence to the theory. There probably is a slight fat-storing effect when a person eats a large dinner or evening snack and then sits around all night compared to eating a large breakfast followed by an active day, but the effect is too small to make any difference in a person’s weight.

Do You Know?

1. There is more sodium and iron in muscles than any other mineral.

2. Eliminate red meat and the only thing you cut out of your diet are calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo

Labels that make claims about being antibiotic-free or “no antibiotic residues” can be misleading, since these claims have not been approved by USDA, so they mean virtually nothing. If you want to trust a label with this claim, look for those that say “Raised Without Antibiotics” or “No Antibiotics Administered,” usually on meat or poultry. If accompanied by the “USDA Process Verified” seal, you can rest assured the agency has confirmed that the farmer/grower/producer is doing what it says it is. Why should you consider these meats? The widespread usage of antibiotic drugs in farm-raised animals is a major contributor to the growth of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” which then infect humans. For more information, go to www.NotinMyFood.org

Food Finds/Food Fails

Food Finds:
1. Pre-cut Watermelon: Contrary to popular believe, watermelon is available year-around in your local produce department. Loaded with vitamins A and C, minerals such as potassium and magnesium, fiber, and phytonutrients such as lycopene, you are hard-pressed to find a better snack to fill you up without filling you out. Watermelon is 92% water, so it also helps keep you hydrated during those long hours indoors on chilly winter days. Better yet, watermelon is rich in two compounds, citrulline and arginine, that help maintain healthy blood flow. Looking for a whole watermelon? If your grocer has cut-up watermelon in those little plastic containers, that means they have whole watermelon in the back. So, ask!

Photo credit: www.carrotsncake.com

2. Hinode Black Rice: Low in fat, fiber-rich, and free from gluten, cholesterol, and sodium, this whole-grain black rice is one of the new super foods. Black rice also has something in common with blueberries; it is rich in anthocyanins, antioxidant-rich phytonutrients that protect the brain from memory loss. It is excellent as a side dish, in grain-based salads, soups, risotto, or mixed with quinoa in recipes.

Food Fails:
1. Lyfe Kitchen Chicken Chili Verde. This frozen dinner touted as “all natural” packs 320 calories, 34% of which comes from fat, with more than a teaspoon of artery-clogging saturated fat. It also is packed with sodium; 31% of your daily allotment or 470 milligrams. The bottom line: Just because something is in the health food section of your grocery store and says it is “natural” or “organic” does not mean it is healthy.

2. Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar. Is this an oxymoron? Just because it’s organic, doesn’t automatically transport sugar into the blessed healthy zone. Pure cane sugar or juice might sound healthier than regular table sugar, but it isn’t. Sugar is sugar. Don’t waste your money or your hopes on this one!

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 cup whole wheat Raisin Bran
2/3 cup nonfat milk
1 banana

Mid-Morning Snack:
Open-Face Creamy Peach Sandwich: Blend 2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 peach, peeled and chopped. Spread on a slice of 7-grain bread and sprinkle with 1 /2 teaspoon of chopped walnuts.

Confetti Salad: Mix 1 /2 cup canned and drained kidney beans, 2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion, 3 tablespoons corn kernels, 2 tablespoons diced cheddar cheese, and 2 1 /2 tablespoons low-calorie ranch dressing. Place on top of 3 cups baby lettuce greens.
1 slice French bread

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 cup chocolate low-fat soymilk and 1 /2 whole wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon almond butter.

Herb-Roasted Chicken: Combine 1 minced clove garlic, a pinch each of finely-chopped rosemary and thyme, and salt. Rinse and pat dry 1 skinned chicken breast and rub with herb mixture. Spray baking pan with vegetable spray and place chicken in pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, turn and bake another 15 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar while still in hot pan.
1 cup asparagus, sauteed in 3 tablespoons chicken broth over high heat until heated through (about 7 minutes). Salt to taste.
1 serving of Zucchini-Tomato Lasagna with Fresh Thyme and Caramelized Onions

Nutrition Score: 1,800 calories, 23% fat (46 g; 13 g saturated), 54% carbs (245 g), 23% protein (104 g),1,150 mg calcium, 40 g fiber.