More bad news on Toxic Fat with a glimmer of hope

Last month, I discussed disturbing new data on the impact of omega-6 fatty acids on genetic expression (Cardiovascular Psychiatry and Neurology (2009;2009:867041). At the recent International Fatty Acid Conference in the Netherlands I had the opportunity to talk with Joe Hibbeln, the lead author, of that study at length.

During the conference, his group presented more data on how excess omega-6 fatty acids double the production of endocannabinoids (the hormones that make you hungry). Furthermore, increasing the intake of omega-6 fatty acids from 1 percent of total calories (what it was in 1960 and apparently all the way back to 1900) to 8 percent of total calories (the current level in the American diet) causes massive genetic changes that result in greater obesity.

It should be noted that the American Heart Association recommends 5-10 percent of total calories should be omega-6 fats. Let’s put this into perspective. 1 percent of total calories represents about 20 calories or about 2 grams of omega-6 fatty acids. That’s the amount to fill about one-half teaspoon. Eight percent of the total calories (assuming a 2,000-calorie-per-day intake) represent 16 grams of omega-6 fatty acids. That’s the amount that would fill a tablespoon.

There it is. The difference between being lean and fat may be determined by a very small amount of the same fats being pushed by agribusiness and the American Heart Association. These fats are ubiquitous as they also represent the cheapest form of calories and are the foundation of American agribusiness.

The only good news from the conference is that if you take 2 grams of EPA and DHA per day, you can reverse the inflammatory damage done by the increase in omega-6 fatty acid consumption. So maybe our obesity epidemic started the day that mothers stopped giving their children a daily tablespoon of cod liver oil that would have contained 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA. Fortunately, you can get the same amount of EPA and DHA today with only four capsules or one teaspoon of OmegaRx and without the excessive toxins contained in today’s cod liver oil or other fish oil available in grocery or health-food stores.

But without the added EPA and DHA in the American diet, we are probably doomed to become fatter, sicker and dumber with each succeeding generation.

Milk helpful in workout recovery

A common question among active people is what is the best snack or drink for recovery or to fuel with after a workout? There have been lots of studies suggesting the importance of fueling your muscles within the first 15-30 minutes after a workout, having the right combination of protein and carbohydrate, coupled with the less scientific ploys for consumers to buy various products, but the answer may already be in your refrigerator.

A study recently done with women examined how supplementation post workout influenced changes in body composition and strength after resistance training (1). Twenty women were separated into two groups. One group received 500mL of fat-free skim milk on two occasions (immediately after exercise and one hour post-exercise), and the other group received 500mL of a carbohydrate control drink (immediately after exercise and one hour post-exercise). Both drinks looked identical in appearance and were flavored with vanilla to have the same odor.

Each group reported to a lab five days per week for resistance training for 12 weeks. At the end of 12 weeks those who were placed in the milk group had significantly greater fat-mass loss, more lean body mass and greater strength gains than the group that received the control carbohydrate beverage.

So, the next time you have a great workout and are wondering how to fuel after, grab the milk. Not only will your bones thank you, but your body will too.

1) Josse AR, Tang JE, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1122-30.

Nothing contained in this blog is intend to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

United States’ major export: Obesity

By Dr. Barry Sears

Back in 2005, in my book “The Anti-Inflammation Zone” I wrote that many trends start in the United States and then cover the globe. We’ve exported Big Macs, Coca-Cola and the USDA Food Pyramid.

Now, five years later a report from the research organization, Datamonitor, indicates we have also exported childhood obesity – now more than one-third of European children are obese.

The organization attributes this weight gain to increased affluence and blames the usual suspects. “This is caused by a combination of eating too many calories and not doing enough physical activity,” according to the report.

That’s the same mantra that is used over and over in the United States. But obesity will not be curbed by eating less and exercising more unless we find shelter from the perfect nutritional storm that began in the United States and now has been exported across the globe.

New research indicates the primary factor has been the increasing consumption of omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils, made in the USA.

The United States is also the king as far as processed foods are concerned, and we’ve been happy to share our junk food with children around the world.

And in Europe, as well as here at home, the amount of omega-3s consumed has dramatically declined.

The solution is to follow an anti inflammatory diet, increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids and dramatically reduce the intake of omega-6 fatty acids. Unfortunately this is easier said than done because of the ubiquitous presence of omega-6 fatty acids in virtually every processed food. Fortunately, increased intake of EPA and DHA (about 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA per day) can dilute out the inflammatory impact of these excess omega-6 fatty acids on our genes.

The bottom line, no pun intended, is that if there is no dietary change, children will continue to get fatter no matter how much they exercise because the genes that make children fat and keep them fat are being constantly turned on by diet they consume.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Go organic…or not?

A hotly debated topic is whether it’s worth it to buy organic versus conventional produce. Let’s first define what organic means. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic food is produced without the use of most conventional pesticides; and no synthetic ingredients, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or radiation (1).

For meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products this means that the animals are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. In a time when people are trying to cut back on their expenses, it’s hard to justify spending $5 on organic strawberries, but is it worth it? Unfortunately, the literature isn’t there just yet to support whether nutritionally speaking organic is better than conventional. The studies that do exist are flawed and few and far between (2).

However, a recent article in CNN poses the question of whether the benefits of organic come from the fact that they aren’t exposed to as many pesticides as conventional produce (3). The Environmental Working Group is an organization that has created a ranking system of fruits and vegetables based on their likelihood of being contaminated with the highest levels of pesticides (4). The ranking is established after the fruits and vegetables have been washed or peeled. The top offenders include those that have soft skins because they are more likely to absorb pesticides, which they term the “Dirty Dozen” (3). These include: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale and collard greens, cherries, potatoes, imported grapes and lettuce. The good news is that there are a good number of non-organic fruits and vegetables without high levels of pesticides. Since many fruits and vegetables have peels, they offer a higher level of protection, which have been dubbed the “Clean 15” since they have little to no pesticides (3). These include onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes and sweet onions.

So what does all of this mean? Do you need to stop eating celery and strawberries if they are conventionally grown? Absolutely not! First off, let me say that the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks of the pesticides they may contain. Even for conventional produce the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the USDA set limits for the amount of pesticides that can be used on farms to be safe.

From a nutritional standpoint the scientific literature isn’t there to support buying organic over conventional produce. The advantage of buying organic may come with those fruits and vegetables that have soft skins or are porous as they may absorb more of the pesticides used on them compared to those that have peels and are more durable.

To save on costs, it may be worth checking out your local farmers’ markets since now is a great time to take advantage of summer produce. Inquire as to what types of pesticides are used or consider the option to pick your own. Another idea is to check out Community Supported Agriculture, which is a popular way for people to buy locally grown produce and have it delivered right to your home. With this option you have a better way of determining how the produce you eat is handled, plus it’s fresher since it has traveled a smaller distance from the farm to your table.

References

1. What is organic production? Available at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml. Accessed: June 9, 2010.

2. Williams CM. Nutritional quality of organic food: shades of grey or shades of green? Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 Feb;61(1):19-24

3. ‘Dirty dozen’ produce carries more pesticide residue, group says. Available at:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/01/dirty.dozen.produce.pesticide/index.html. Accessed: June 9, 2010.

4. EWG’s Shopping Guide to Pesticides. Available at: http://www.foodnews.org/faq.php. Accessed: June 9, 2010.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Bringing back the lost art of cooking

If someone were to look at your eating habits throughout the week, what would they find? Are you the one who religiously stops at Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks in the morning for your caffeine fix? Do you pack your lunch or eat out each day? Is eating out still considered a treat for you or is eating in a rarity?

For many Americans the hectic pace of life has led them to eat the majority of their meals away from home. Despite the numerous television shows that captivate our attention from Top Chef and Iron Chef to The Food Network, many individuals have no clue how to cook and have to rely on convenience foods for their meals. This can wreak havoc on our waistlines. A recent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association proposed how to address this on the pediatric level with the reemergence of Home Economics. Most kids probably have no idea what “Home Ec” is, but the thinking is that having a revamped course that equips students with the know-how on cooking basics, calorie requirements, budgeting principles, food safety and nutrition, will lead to the development of life skills that will help to reverse obesity and the diet-related diseases that are becoming more prominent in this population (1).

Let us know your thoughts. Do you think bringing back Home Economics would make a difference with the eating habits of the current youth?

1) Lichtenstein AH, DS Ludwig. Bring Back Home Economics Education. JAMA. 2010;303(18):1857-1858.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Take the pain out of your arthritis

About one percent of the U.S. population suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which the joints become inflamed leading to redness, warmth, swelling and pain. Individuals typically experience this type of inflammation in their hands, wrists or knees; but occasionally it may affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood or nerves (1). Although medications can be prescribed to help people with this condition, they don’t come without their risks. A few years back a powerful drug used to treat arthritis called Vioxx was recalled because it led to cardiovascular complications in a number of people taking it.

For those looking for more natural ways to treat their arthritis without the side effects, omega-3 fatty acids may be the answer. A recent study looked at the impact of supplying omega-3 fatty acids to individuals with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (2). For two weeks individuals were given omega-3 fatty acids intravenously (eg, parenteral nutrition) after which they then took omega-3s orally in capsule form for the following 20 weeks. After one week of infusion, the group that received the omega-3 fatty acids had significantly fewer swollen joints than those who did not. By the study’s end, the omega-3 group had benefitted both from supplementation intravenously and orally and had decreased swollen and tender joints compared to the group that received no treatment.

1) Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/rheumatoid-arthritis-basics. Accessed: May 27, 2010.

2) Bahadori et al. {omega}-3 Fatty Acids Infusions as Adjuvant Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr.2010; 34: 151-155.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.