Simple dietary changes ease diabetes risk

Since 1980 the number of individuals with diabetes in the United States has nearly tripled to an astonishing 17 million (1), leading physicians, researchers and pharmaceutical companies on the hunt for the most effective treatment options. A recent publication in Diabetes Care studied approximately 400 non-diabetic individuals at high cardiovascular risk and randomized them to one of three diets: Low-fat, Mediterranean with nuts, and Mediterranean with olive oil (2). Individuals were educated on the various diets but did not have to follow a certain calorie allotment or physical activity plan. After four years, the number of individuals with diabetes was 10.1 percent in the Mediterranean with olive oil group, 11 percent in the Mediterranean with nuts group and 17.9 percent in the low-fat group. Collectively when compared to the low-fat group, those following a Mediterranean diet were 52 percent less likely to develop diabetes. These results show the significant impact that simple dietary changes can have on diabetes risk reduction without having to dramatically change caloric intake or activity levels.

1. Diabetes Data and Trends. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/prev/national/figpersons.htm. Accessed: 10/14/2010

2. Salas-Salvadó J, Bulló M, Babio N, Martínez-González MA, Ibarrola-Jurado N, Basora J, Estruch R, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Ros E; For the PREDIMED Study investigators. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2-Diabetes with the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus Nutrition Intervention Randomized Trial. Diabetes Care. 2010 Oct 13. [Epub ahead of print]

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.

Eat your breakfast

You’ve probably heard it a billion times. “Don’t skip breakfast!” But most Americans, adults and children, are not heeding this advice. There are a bunch of reasons why you should eat breakfast within one hour of waking. And it’s even better if the meal is Zone balanced – the correct amount of lean protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates and a dash of monounsaturated fat.

After sleeping a full night, your blood sugar level is low, and you are in a catabolic state. This means that body has been using up stored energy in the liver as well as beginning to cannibalize your muscle for energy. If you skip breakfast, your blood sugar stays low and cannibalization of your muscle will continue. This is a stress situation, and the body releases more cortisol as a response. This creates insulin resistance that increases insulin levels further, driving down blood sugar even more. No wonder by mid-morning you are incredibly hungry.

The whole basis of the anti inflammatory diet is to keep your insulin in a zone, not too high and not too low. This will stabilize blood sugar and prevent continuing muscle degradation for energy. Eating a Zone breakfast can help keep your insulin stabilized, provide the necessary protein to start rebuilding muscle mass and increase the levels of glycogen in the liver. This is called anabolism. It is this continued balance of catabolism and anabolism that we call metabolism. As long as the two phases of metabolism are balanced, so are your weight and your mood. This is why breakfast is so critically important for your alertness, productivity, increased cognition and memory, satiety, and weight control because it starts your day out on a high note as opposed to digging a deeper hormonal hole that you try to crawl out during the rest of the day. A balanced Zone breakfast is also the easiest way to keep your sugar cravings under control during the day. In other words, you will not need the constant trips to the vending machine or your secret stash of candy to artificially maintain blood sugar levels.

Still not convinced? Then give your kids breakfast. Research shows a link between regular breakfast consumption and improvement in academic performance and psychosocial functioning as well as cognition among children. Eating a breakfast every day will be the best way to protect any child against becoming overweight. Make that a Zone breakfast balanced in protein, low glycemic-load carbohyrates, and monounsaturated fat, and you have the ideal pediatric weight-loss program as obese children are less hungry at their next meal as demonstrated at Harvard Medical School more than a decade ago.2 This finding at Harvard was also confirmed by a research study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association on breakfast consumption among children that found the prevalence of obesity to be higher in those who regularly skipped breakfast.3 Evidence also suggests that breakfast consumption may improve cognitive function related to memory, test grades, and school attendance.4 Want the smartest and leanness kid in the school? It’s easy — feed them a Zone breakfast every day. While you are at it, make each of their meals a Zone meal and give them plenty of EPA and DHA at the same time.

[1] Affenito S. “Breakfast: A Missed Opportunity.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107:565-69 (2007)

2 Ludwig DS et al, “High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103: e26 (1999)

3 Deshmukh-Taskar P et al. “The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006.” Journal of American Dietetic Association 110:869-78 (2010)

4 Rampersaud G et al. “Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents.” Journal of American Dietetic Association 105: 843-60 (2005)

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.

The Mood-lifting properties of B-vitamins

In a previous blog we addressed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids and their mood-lifting properties, and now it looks like we can add certain B-vitamins to the list. A recent publication in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at whether dietary intakes of vitamin B-6, B-12 and folate had an association with depressive symptoms in a community-based population of adults aged 65 and older over a period of seven years (1). The study concluded that higher intakes of vitamin B-6 and B-12, but not folate, were associated with a decreased likelihood of depressive symptoms. This held true even after 12 years of follow-up. For every 10 micrograms of intake of B-6 and every 10 micrograms of B-12, there was a 2 percent decline in depressive symptoms per year.

Besides their mood lifting properties, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 have other important roles. Vitamin B-6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in more than 100 enzymes needed for protein metabolism. It’s critical for red blood cell metabolism, and it plays a role in the nervous and immune system (2). Vitamin B-12 is also a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis (3).

Now that you’ve read this article, it doesn’t mean go out and purchase mega doses of these vitamins. It’s not hard to consume either of these vitamins in your diet. Vitamin B-6 is found in a variety of foods from beans, meat, poultry, fish and some fruits and vegetables. Unlike B-6, the main dietary sources of vitamin B-12 include animal sources: fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. B-12 is not found in plant foods unless they are fortified. Three ounces of clams supply approximately 34 micrograms of B-12, about 570 percent of the daily intake (3). If you feel like your intake of either of these vitamins is low, a multi-vitamin that supplies no more than 100 percent of the daily value should be sufficient.

1) Skarupski KA, Tangney C, Li H, Ouyang B, Evans DA, Morris MC. Longitudinal association of vitamin B-6, folate, and vitamin B-12 with depressive symptoms among older adults over time. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun 2. [Epub ahead of print]

2) Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: B6. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminb6.asp. Accessed: July 2, 2010.

3) Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: B-12. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminb12.asp. Accessed: July 2, 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.

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.

Grains are good for us… right?

You want to be sick, have low energy and take a handful of medications?

Of course not. Your health is more than just eating what most people believe is “healthy.” You need a basic understanding of the hormonal effects of the food you eat. We often hear, “but I eat organic, free-trade, hand-milled, seven-grain, sprouted, whole-grain breads and pasta just like the USDA Food Pyramid recommends.”

The problem is while it’s politically correct, it’s poor nutrition. Consuming too many carbohydrates elevate blood sugars and insulin. When you compare the vitamin and mineral content of various carbohydrates, the non-starchy, colorful vegetables far exceed those from grains.
See: http://drsears.com/ArticlePreview/tabid/399/itemid/45/Default.aspx

If you believe that grains are the staff of life, and you need them in your diet, you may find Dr. Sears’ new baked goods to be an excellent substitute without the drawbacks of “regular” grain products. For information of “Why It Works” and the “Science Behind It”
See: http://www.zonediet.com/WeightLoss/Overview/tabid/259/Default.aspx

Wait, you said grains are not as good as vegetables. Correct. That’s why Dr. Sears recommends adding in non-starchy colorful veggies (Mediterranean) to his Zone baked goods.

If you want to look and feel better, here’s a recipe that will offer you a quick and easy way to experience a Zone meal.

Zone Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:
1 package of Zone Fusilli
Olive oil spray
½ cup red bell pepper – matchstick cut
½ cup summer squash – matchstick cut
½ cup zucchini – matchstick cut
¾ cup red onion – sliced thin
1teaspoon Italian spice mix (oregano, thyme etc.)
1 leaf Swiss chard
Parmesan cheese – sprinkling
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Cook fusilli as directed.
Meanwhile, heat skillet sprayed with olive oil over medium heat.
Sauté red pepper, summer squash, zucchini and red onion quickly. Remove while al dente (a little crunchy).
Add vegetables to large bowl and toss with drained pasta. Lightly spray with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Place on Swiss chard leaf. Enjoy pasta and the Swiss chard.

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.

Fresh versus frozen vegetables

Are you someone who is prone to buying fresh vegetables at the start of the week, and three to five days later they are still sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be used? If this sounds like you, you may be someone who would benefit from purchasing frozen vegetables to get more bang for your buck nutritionally speaking. Fresh vegetables are great, don’t get me wrong, but in the course of being picked and transported to the supermarket coupled with sitting in the fridge for a few days, they begin to lose their nutritional value.

A recent report showed that up to 45 percent of nutrients may be lost in fresh vegetables before they are consumed, and that in some cases it may take up to two weeks from the time they are picked to reach our tables (1)! Frozen vegetables are picked when they are at their ripest, and that is when fruits and vegetables typically carry the most nutritional value. From there they are blanched in water to kill any bacteria, sealed and immediately frozen.

A good rule of thumb is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season and at the ripest to get the most benefits nutritionally. If you have the luxury of picking your own in the summer months or taking advantage of locally grown, this can definitely help too. In winter months when there isn’t as much access to fresh produce or when you know you won’t be able to use your produce quickly, stock up on frozen vegetables so that you can reap all the nutritional benefits.

1. Frozen vegetables ‘more nutritious than fresh vegetables’, says report. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7374249/Frozen-vegetables-more-nutritious-than-fresh-vegetables-says-report.html. Accessed: March 5, 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.