April 13, 2010

Fat-Free = Fewer Nutrients: A Salad Study

Sometimes news takes a while to trickle through. 

A headline in the April 2010 issue of Cooking Light Magazine reads “Choose Fat-Free Dressing, and You’ll Miss Out on Many Nutrients.” Results from a 2004 Iowa State University study conducted by Associate Professor of Food Science and Nutrition Dr. Wendy S. White found that eating salads with fat-free or reduced-fat salad dressings is not as good for you as you may think.

The study brought to light that eating vegetables accompanied with little or no fat inhibits the absorption in the human body of cancer-fighting nutrients inherent in vegetables. The study acknowledges that eating a diet with moderate levels of fat is already recommended by U.S. dietary guidelines, but the study’s significance is its discovery that eating fat alongside vegetables, such as the fat found in salad dressings or other fats contained in salads improves the absorption of vegetables’ vitamins and minerals. Specifically, of those who ate salads with fat-free, low-fat, or full-fat (regular) salad dressings, the individuals who consumed salads with a higher fat content had a greater absorption of lycopene, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene in its participants.

From the  Iowa State Press Release, 7-22-2004:

"We're certainly not advocating a high-fat diet, or one filled with full-fat salad dressing," White explained. "If you'd like to stick with fat-free dressing, the addition of small amounts of avocado or cheese in a salad may help along the absorption.

"Our findings are actually consistent with U.S. dietary guidelines, which support a diet moderate, rather than very low, in fat," White continued. "But what we found compelling was that some of our more popular healthful snacks, like baby carrots, really need to be eaten with a source of fat for us to absorb the beta carotene."

The study was published in the August 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here is the  abstract, and here is the link to the full text study.

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Natalie Smith for preparing this post.  Ms. Smith is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

April 13, 2010 in Dieting, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2009

Friday Lite: CNN on Why We Eat Too Much

From CNN.com:

We all know we're supposed to eat healthy portions. So why is it that a rough day at the office or even just the smell of chocolate-chip cookies can cause us to throw our best intentions out the window?

We tapped the nation's leading experts for the unexpected reasons why so many of us overdo it -- so you can break the cycle and prevent an unwanted pile-on of pounds.

You're not getting enough sleep

Missing out on your zzz's . . .

read more

September 18, 2009 in Dieting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2009

American Heart Association: Eat Less Sugar

The American Heart Association is now recommending we eat less sugar.  This is probably good news, since there's a possible sugar shortage ahead (blogged here).

From the AHA website:

Study highlights:

  • High intake of added sugars is implicated in numerous poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • Added sugars and solid fats in food, as well as alcoholic beverages are categorized as “discretionary calories” and should be eaten sparingly.
  • Most American women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories.
  • Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet. 

DALLAS, Aug. 24, 2009 — A new American Heart Association scientific statement provides specific guidance on limiting the consumption of added sugars and provides information about the relationship between excess sugar intake and metabolic abnormalities, adverse health conditions and shortfalls in essential nutrients. The statement, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, for the first time, provides the association’s recommendations on specific levels and limits on the consumption of added sugars.


September 9, 2009 in Dieting, Ingredients, nutrition policy, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2009

Little known oxycholesterol may pose the greatest heart disease risk

Cholesterol Press release from Eurekalert:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2009 — Health-conscious people know that high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) can increase the risk of heart attacks. Now scientists are reporting that another form of cholesterol called oxycholesterol — virtually unknown to the public — may be the most serious cardiovascular health threat of all. Scientists from China presented one of the first studies on the cholesterol-boosting effects of oxycholesterol here today at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The researchers hope their findings raise public awareness about oxycholesterol, including foods with the highest levels of the substance and other foods that can combat oxycholesterol's effects.

read more

August 26, 2009 in Dieting, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2009

Coke Sued over Vitamin Water -- Sugar!!

Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued Coca Cola over its promotion of Vitamin Water as "healthful".  In fact, the drink has 33 grams of sugar per bottle, about the same as a can of pop. From the CSPI News Release:

"Coke fears, probably correctly, that they’ll sell less soda as Americans become increasingly concerned with obesity, diabetes, and other conditions linked to diets too high in sugar," said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. "VitaminWater is Coke's attempt to dress up soda in a physician's white coat. Underneath, it’s still sugar water, albeit sugar water that costs about ten bucks a gallon." VitaminWater typically retails for about $1.49 for a 20-ounce bottle.

For more information:

FDA – CFSAN – Structure/Function Claims

Text of the Federal Regulation
The regulation deals with labeling in regard to the health benefits of nutrients within food.  This seems to ignore the health benefits of the food product as a whole.  While it may be true that a specific nutrient in a food is beneficial, those benefits may be overshadowed by harmful effects brought about by the food product as a whole.

Read the CSPI complaint against Coke alleging unlawful business practices, fraudulent business practices, misleading and deceptive advertising, untrue advertising, fraud, misrepresentation, which was filed on 1/14/09.

January 21, 2009 in Dieting, Labeling, marketing, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease --not connected

This is a video of a presentation to British Medical Association last November.  The presenter is a physician, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick.  He presents data about saturated fat, blood cholesterol, and heart disease and makes a very credible and compelling argument that eating saturated fat does not cause heart disease and that high blood cholesterol does not predict heart disease.There are 5 parts to Dr. Kendrick's presentation. If the embedded video doesn't work, here's the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPPYaVcXo1I 

March 11, 2008 in Books, Dieting, nutrition policy, Obesity, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 18, 2007

Fast Food Nutrition Quiz

According to the LA Times, 68% of the people who took a brief quiz on the nutritional aspects of fast foods failed every question.  I guess I'm ahead of the curve -- I got one question right out of the four.  I think that's pretty good considering I don't even eat Fast Food.  The first of the four questions is reproduced below:

A new Field Research Corporation poll asked Californians to identify the low calorie, low salt, high fat or high calorie menu items from a list of four choices. Of the people surveyed, 68 percent failed every question. Think you can do better?

Source: California Center for Public Health Advocacy

1. Which of the following breakfast items that are served at Denny’s do you think has the fewest calories?

A. Ham and cheddar omelet
B. Country fried steak and eggs
C. 3 slices of French toast with syrup and margarine
D. 3 pancakes with syrup and margarine
Go to the LA Times website to take the quiz and get your results

April 18, 2007 in Dieting | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

Soda Drinkers Consume More Calories

A study published in April's American Journal of Public Health finds that people who drink sugary soda do not reduce their caloric intake from other sources.  Overall, they tend to consume more calories than non-soda drinkers, and tend to become obese more often. 
Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Lenny R. Vartanian, PhD, Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, American Journal of Public Health, April 2007.
Abstract: In a meta-analysis of 88 studies, we examined the association between soft drink
consumption and nutrition and health outcomes. We found clear associations of soft drink intake
with increased energy intake and body weight. Soft drink intake also was associated with lower
intakes of milk, calcium, and other nutrients and with an increased risk of several medical
problems (e.g., diabetes).
Study design significantly influenced results: larger effect sizes were observed in studieswith stronger methods (longitudinal and experimental vs cross-sectional studies). Several
other factors also moderated effect sizes (e.g., gender, age, beverage type). Finally, studies
funded by the food industry reported significantly smaller effects than did non–industry-funded
studies. Recommendations to reduce population soft drink consumption are strongly
supported by the available science.

March 26, 2007 in Dieting, Food culture, marketing, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2007

Kids Affect Parents' Food Choices

Adult Fat Intake Associated with the Presence of Children in Households: Findings from NHANES III , an article published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, reports that adults living with children eat about the same calories as adults living without children, but more of the calories come from fat.  Families with children, it seems, eat more junk food and pizza. 

Baltimore Sun article on the report.

January 14, 2007 in Children, Dieting, Obesity, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 17, 2006

Book: Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink

The next book on my to-read list is Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink (Cornell, Marketing).  The book describes the findings of scientific studies on the external cues that affect how we choose to eat.  The findings will mesh well, I think, with public health experts' ideas about environmental effects on health, such as Kelly Brownell's (Yale, Psychology) Toxic Environment work, as well as Jon Hanson's (Harvard Law) work on behaviorialism -- the notion that how we behave is a result much more of external cues than of any inherent disposition. 

December 17, 2006 in Behaviorism, Books, Dieting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

Learning When to be Hungry

A recent study published in Nutrition and Metabolism suggests it may be possible for people to learn when to be hungry.  Study subjects were trained to estimate their blood glucose at meal times by associating feelings of hunger with glycemic levels determined by standard blood glucose monitors.  They were told to eat only when blood glucose dropped below a specified level.

And this worked!  Subjects did learn to accurately predict their blood glucose levels.  An untrained control group could not make the same predictions.  Here's the good part -- the trained subjects also experienced less hunger than the untrained.

<p><em>abstract: </em></p><blockquote dir="ltr"><p><span class="subBHead" style="font-size: 1.2em;">Background</span></p> <p class="xfull" xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">The will to eat is a decision associated with conditioned responses and with unconditioned body sensations that reflect changes in metabolic biomarkers. Here, we investigate whether this decision can be delayed until blood glucose is allowed to fall to low levels, when presumably feeding behavior is mostly unconditioned. Following such an eating pattern might avoid some of the metabolic risk factors that are associated with high glycemia.</p> <p><span class="subBHead" style="font-size: 1.2em;">Results</span></p> <p class="xfull" xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">In this 7-week study, patients were trained to estimate their blood glucose at meal times by associating feelings of hunger with glycemic levels determined by standard blood glucose monitors and to eat only when glycemia was &lt; 85 mg/dL. At the end of the 7-week training period, estimated and measured glycemic values were found to be linearly correlated in the trained group (r = 0.82; p = 0.0001) but not in the control (untrained) group (r = 0.10; p = 0.40). Fewer subjects in the trained group were hungry than those in the control group (p = 0.001). The 18 hungry subjects of the trained group had significantly lower glucose levels (80.1 +/- 6.3 mg/dL) than the 42 hungry control subjects (89.2 +/- 10.2 mg/dL; p = 0.01). Moreover, the trained hungry subjects estimated their glycemia (78.1 +/- 6.7 mg/dL; estimation error: 3.2 +/- 2.4% of the measured glycemia) more accurately than the control hungry subjects (75.9 +/- 9.8 mg/dL; estimation error: 16.7 +/- 11.0%; p = 0.0001). Also the estimation error of the entire trained group (4.7 +/- 3.6%) was significantly lower than that of the control group (17.1 +/- 11.5%; p = 0.0001). A value of glycemia at initial feelings of hunger was provisionally identified as 87 mg/dL. Below this level, estimation showed lower error in both trained (p = 0.04) and control subjects (p = 0.001).</p> <p><span class="subBHead" style="font-size: 1.2em;">Conclusion</span></p> <p class="xfull" xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">Subjects could be trained to accurately estimate their blood glucose and to recognize their sensations of initial hunger at low glucose concentrations. These results suggest that it is possible to make a behavioral distinction between unconditioned and conditioned hunger, and to achieve a cognitive will to eat by training. </p></blockquote>

December 11, 2006 in Behaviorism, Dieting, Obesity, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2006

"Nutrition Nannies" to advise British Grocery Shoppers

Think Mary Poppins in a grocery store.  The London  Daily Mail reports that a UK supermarket chain is training "nutrition nannies" who will walk the aisles of its stores to provide advice on healthy food choices.  The nannies are part of a program aimed at reducing childhood obesity in the UK by helping families create healthier lifestyles.

Hmmm.  What advice will they provide, I wonder?  Low fat? Low carb? How to cook? 

December 8, 2006 in Dieting, Food culture, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2006

Nutrition Label Primer

The FDA and HHS announced two new learning tools to help consumers make sense of the nutrition facts labels on processed foods. The tools are Make Your Calories Count, a Web-based learning program, and a new Nutrition Facts Label brochure.  The goal of these projects is to help consumers make healthy food choices and "achieve healthy weight management."  The full announcement is available here:  http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2006/NEW01508.html

Comment:  We seem to be pouring a lot of resources into trying to educate people about how to eat processed foods.  Much of the emphasis is on serving sizes: "The program includes exercises to help consumers explore the relationship between serving sizes and calories, while they learn how to limit certain nutrients and get enough of others." 

But if we are emphasizing the need to limit serving sizes, then we really are emphasizing the need for self-control.  And recent research shows that there are biological reasons that this is unlikely to be successful.  All of this effort seems aimed at reenforcing hurried lifestyles that depend on processed foods.  If our immediate environment affects our ability to make choices, however, none of this is likely to help in the long run because we are not addressing the root problems of our sedentary, over-scheduled lives. 

November 24, 2006 in Dieting, Labeling, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blood glucose and Willpower


It turns out that exercising self-control makes it harder, not easier, to exercise more self control.  "A single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels, thereby impairing subsequent attempts at self-control," according to a study to be published next year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Vohs (Univ. of Minnesota) tested dieters with bowls of M&Ms. While watching a movie, half the subjects were seated next to the candy, half were 10 feet away. After the film, all were asked to complete a difficult puzzle. Those next to the candy gave up on the puzzle more quickly — as if resisting the M&Ms had sapped their willpower.

November 24, 2006 in Behaviorism, Dieting, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack