Mitochondria — Part Two

by on December 1st, 2008

Nearly

three years ago, in January 2006, I wrote about the importance of exercise and weight loss with respect to the increase in the mitochondria of the cells (“Mitochondria-The Little Engines That Will!”). These mitochondria, as stated in the article, were just then being seen as an important part of any weight loss or weight management program. As it turns out, some new research has shown that this is, indeed, the case. In the most recent issue of my favorite nutrition periodical, “Nutrition Action” (published by the non-profit group The Center for Science in the Public Interest), the role of the mitochondria has been put into even clearer perspective. Usually, “Nutrition Action” rarely gets into the physiology of exercise and the components that contribute to weight management outside the realm of food rip-offs and diet control. However, it appears that the contribution of mitochondrial development as a result of proper exercise programs and its effect on “natural” and healthy forms of weight loss were too big to ignore.

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Holiday Feasting — Problem of Pleasure?

by on November 1st, 2008

Although it may seem a little early to start thinking about holiday eating issues, it seems that the average weight gain for Americans is influenced heavily (no pun intended) by events that begin in the fall and, of course, early winter. For example, how much leftover candy is till floating around your home or office after Halloween? It’s not easy to resist those little “fun size” candy bars is it? Whatever the Trick or Treaters don’t carry away from our door, we gladly use as temporary “snack” food for the next couple of weeks. And there is always someone at the office or workplace that puts out some goodies from his or her own Halloween leftovers.

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Diet and Brain Function

by on October 1st, 2008

I have written before about the obvious effects of diet and its relationship to various conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The pervading factors in this relationship are usually high levels of fat (especially saturated fats) as well as excess calories. I’ve also discussed on some occasions the positive links between regular exercise and improved brain function. But the connection between diet and brain function is a little more tenuous and murky. Fortunately, some recent research has begun to show that there is a positive response by the brain (either reactive or proactive) to a proper diet that is lower in fat and calories – especially where it involves memory.

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Vitamin D — Revisited

by on September 1st, 2008

I have written about Vitamin D in the past (see “Vitamin D – Superstar” and “Supplemental Vitamins – Should I or Shouldn’t I?” in the archive) as part of a long-term lesson plan about supplementation and the functions and needs of specific nutrients. My first TOTW about vitamin D was nearly five years ago and the most recent was in 2006. Why another “story” about vitamin D? Well, the information about this important nutrient just seems to keep piling up.

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Medication and Childhood Obesity

by on August 19th, 2008

While it is no secret that our children are becoming fatter due to lack of exercise and improper diet, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has put the cart before the horse in a recent position paper (July 7, 2008) that effectively promotes (not suggests) that statin drugs (used to reduce blood cholesterol levels in adults) are a proper response to high cholesterol levels in children as young as eight years old! Now granted, the position paper does say that the drugs should be used ONLY after a six to twelve month dietary intervention has been attempted. However, the “new” position seems to be in direct conflict with their own statement made just six years ago concerning the use of Lovastatin for children due to potential adverse reactions. Secondarily, many pediatricians are concerned about the lack of long-term studies with respect to the effect of these drugs for children. In other words, the use of these statin drugs in children is now going to become a public experiment.

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The Economics of Nutrition and Obesity

by on March 3rd, 2008

A year or so ago I gave a fitness presentation to a mostly female audience with the purpose of making individual health and fitness programs (including eating plans) easier to create and, more importantly, to follow. The audience was also from what might be called a ”challenged” socio-economic group and, therefore, needed some answers as to how to get more nutrition for their money. They seemed to enjoy the presentation content (attendees purchased 40 copies of my book in under ten minutes following my talk) but one woman remarked that even though she had trouble making ends meet when it came to buying food for her family, she was STILL struggling with her weight. Aside from regular exercise (which she claimed that she did on a regular basis) she was still obese and her two children also struggled with their weight. ”How”, she asked, ”can my family have weight problem when we can barely afford the basic nutritional necessities?”. For one of the few times in my professional career, I was a bit stumped. We chatted in an open forum about calories and ”nutrient density” and as the conversation continued, I realized that she was really talking about calories provided per dollar spent rather than a focus on the actual nutrient content of her purchases. I stupidly asked her why her focus was only on food cost rather than food CONTENT and she said, ”Because I have no choice!”

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Eating Plan Content

by on November 26th, 2007

Everybody, it seems, is or was confused by the different diets out there that suggested ”High Protein, Low Carbs” or ”High Carbs, Low Protein” or any other permutation of the major dietary nutrients. Most just want to know the bottom line in terms of what works in the real world for the long clomid haul (most ”diets” are short term fixes to long term issues). A simple yet elegant study published last year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (June 2006) may shed some light on some real world observations. The study was an assessment of the dietary (eating) habits of a matched group of ”normal-weight” versus obese adults. No ”diets” were forced on the subjects and then analyzed. Rather, the dietary habits of the two groups were analyzed using a simple food frequency questionnaire so that the information collected was what was REALLY being consumed (or as close as can be assessed using a self-reporting technique).

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Whole Foods

by on November 12th, 2007

About three and a half years ago, I wrote a TOTW concerning the effects of ”phytonutrients” and their importance in a proper eating plan (see TOTW ”Phytonutrients”, June 2004). Basically, the question came down to whether one should-or could-get their share of these healthful substances from whole foods or from supplements. My answer was that ”whole foods are superior” due to their lack of processing and that supplementation of theses substances (such as furosemide no prescription the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene) was still considered ”okay” but should not be the only source. In fact, at that time I wrote that the jury (i.e., research) was still out. Also at the time, I wrote that ”phytochemicals cannot be separated from the foods… and maintain their disease fighting effects”. Well, it appears that the research during the last few years has confirmed the superiority of ”whole foods” (whenever possible) as the source of these health protective compounds.

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Fat Is Good?

by on October 22nd, 2007

It seems that since the 60’s, dietary fat has had a bad name. Slowly but surely, carbohydrates took the place of fats upon the advice of ”nutritionists”. The problem was that not all fat was bad for us. In addition, ”trans fat”, a mostly man-made type of fat created by adding hydrogen atoms to vegetable oils to give food a better flavor and shelf life, also started creeping into our food stream. It took years before the research caught up to the fact that this same trans fat, initially touted by the FDA as safe, was really, well…not good for us. It’s now persona non grata in the dietary world and is being phased out of most foods (although it’s still around). But aside from trans fat, all fat was considered to be ”bad” and the cause of ALL weight gain and cholesterol issues.

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Selenium

by on May 28th, 2007

Over three years ago, I briefly mentioned the contribution played by the nutrient selenium in the function(s) of vitamin E and the subsequent relationship to protecting the body’s immune system. Indeed, more recent evidence has begun to surface showing the relationship between lower levels of selenium and the incidence of some types of cancer-especially in men. Moreover, it appears that there may even be a ”link” between selenium intake and what is known as ”age related cognitive decline”. Basically, it was found, that the lower one’s level of selenium, the lower the ”cognitive function” or ability to think appeared to be. Additionally, the amount of selenium in the diet seemed to have what is referred to as a ”dose response” (in other words, the higher the level of dietary selenium, the higher the level of cognitive function).

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Preventative Eating

by on May 21st, 2007

I wrote about a year ago in this space about the relationship between certain types of food and cancer (se TOTW ”Nutrition and Cancer”, May 8, 2006). Likely, it came as no surprise that foods like fresh fruits and vegetables (loaded with carotenoids like lycopene) were essentially foods that could help to prevent disease(s) and, therefore, were ”preventative” in nature. And it is true that our food choices can be as medicinal as regular exercise. Hand in hand, these two factors (good nutrition and an active lifestyle) are the best weapons currently extant in terms of cancer prevention. But fruits and vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower) aren’t the only nutritional tale to be told when it comes to reducing the incidence of cancer via the ”diet”.

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Fructose — A Closer Look

by on May 7th, 2007

Almost three years ago, I wrote a TOTW concerning fructose (a naturally occurring sugar in fruits, vegetables and even honey) and weight gain (see TOTW ” Fructose-How Can Fruit Sugar Be Bad?”). A even closer examination of fructose may help to alleviate any confusion about where it comes from and how it effects our ability to fuel our bodies and, perhaps, help us to keep weight gain under control. First, fructose is good for you. The fructose found in fresh and unrefined fruits and vegetables is also loaded with other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and even fiber. Even though it is metabolized somewhat differently than the glucose found in refined sugar, when consumed in reasonable amounts such as the level consumed when eating fruits and vegetables it (fructose) poses little if any impact on weight gain when part of a balanced eating plan.

The challenge is the ”high fructose corn syrup” that is now commonly used as a sweetener in almost every processed food and drink on the grocery store shelves. This concentrated form of sweetener has been discussed as one of the underlying causes of the obesity epidemic in America since its increase use since the early eighties has been mirrored by the rise in obesity and related diseases. Here’s the possible reason(s) why?

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Cholesterol

by on April 16th, 2007

Although the body produces cholesterol (since it IS an essential nutrient that is critical to the production of vitamin D as well as some hormones and even acids found in bile), it can also be consumed through the diet. There is not necessarily a one to one link between dietary cholesterol and the amount of cholesterol found in the blood (serum cholesterol) since different people assimilate cholesterol differently in terms of how much actually ends up in the blood and which can possibly ”clog” arteries (atherosclerosis). Indeed, high serum cholesterol, which can cause atherosclerosis, is a definitive factor in coronary heart disease (see TOTW ”Blood Cholesterol And Cholesterol In Food”). So what is one to do?

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Diet and Exercise

by on April 9th, 2007

I get lots of questions about diet and exercise. In combination, these two factors, when applied properly and regularly, are the most potent ”weapon” against overweight and obesity. But I am also asked which one is MOST important or MOST effective. This brings up other issues that are also related to a comprehensive weight management program. First, does one really have to choose one over the other and, second, if one could do only one, which would assist in losing weight more quickly? Since most people choose diet over exercise as the weight management ”program” of choice, it seems that this is the best answer to these questions. After all, ”dieting” is something that you can do while sitting still and not even attempting to exercise. In a sense, it’s the easier of the two choices and everyone treats the ”dieter” like a hero. But the devil is in the details since dieting without exercise can and will REDUCE metabolism or what is known as metabolic rate (the rate at which one burns calories—even at rest).

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Pot Belly Predictions?

by on March 5th, 2007

I get lots of questions about diet and exercise. In combination, these two factors, when applied properly and regularly, are the most potent ”weapon” against overweight and obesity. But I am also asked which one is MOST important or MOST effective. This brings up other issues that are also related to a comprehensive weight management program. First, does one really have to choose one over the other and, second, if one could do only one, which would assist in losing weight more quickly? Since most people choose diet over exercise as the weight management ”program” of choice, it seems that this is the best answer to these questions. After all, ”dieting” is something that you can do while sitting still and not even attempting to exercise. In a sense, it’s the easier of the two choices and everyone treats the ”dieter” like a hero. But the devil is in the details since dieting without exercise can and will REDUCE metabolism or what is known as metabolic rate (the rate at which one burns calories—even at rest).

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Wonderful World Of Research — Part Two

by on February 26th, 2007

I wrote a few weeks ago in this space concerning the vagaries and scams associated WITH ”research” due to the frequent influence of corporate sponsorship OF research. Of course, I received e-mails that seemed to indicate, although very politely, that I was a little over the top in negatively describing the corporate research ”process” and the subsequent validity of research findings. It was an interesting week. But here’s a little more information that may help to bring home the message that I was trying to deliver about how the consumer needs to be wary and, at least, carefully critical of the results of research especially when it applies to consumer goods and, even more especially, food products and supplements.

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Brain Food?

by on January 22nd, 2007

Many people fervently believe that certain specific ”foods” can help the brain to function better. Well, they’re not completely right nor are they completely wrong. Although there are some foods, particularly those that contain tryptophan (a precursor of the B-vitamin niacin), that appear to improve both mental capacity and mood, there is no single food item that can do the trick. And the reason for that is a good argument for variety in one’s diet or eating plan.

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The Wonderful World Of Research

by on January 15th, 2007

The fitness and nutrition ”industry” many times relies on the hopes, fears and comparative ignorance of the American public to sell products. Whether it be equipment, foods, supplements or diet plans, the problem is not in getting information to the public, it is getting the public to accurately assess how much of the information they are receiving is credible. It is quite easy for any group or organization even remotely related to the ”industry” to tout ”proof” that their system, plan or product is just what you need. Many times (nearly always actually) research is mentioned or referenced to back up their claim. Additionally, the wording of these seemingly research-based pronouncements is not the only issue concerning fraud and misinformation campaigns to get the consumer to buy the ”product”. In many cases, it is the research itself that is to blame. It’s personal politics in the guise of ”science” as well as other factors in research that makes the final conclusions or findings a little shaky.

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Avoiding holiday Pounds – Part Two

by on December 11th, 2006

Much of the weight gain that occurs during the holidays doesn’t even take place at the dinner table. It happens as a result of the increase in highly caloric snacking that takes place during the holidays. Just like the Halloween candy that seems to hang around from late October until Thanksgiving Day, cookies, candies with a seasonal theme, cakes and pies all become a part of the holiday festivities. These foods are more common and more available during holidays in between the family feasts where they are generally considered dessert. Therefore, keep highly caloric snacks out of sight or at least out of easy reach and keep more healthful and less caloric snacks such as vegetables with low-fat dips and a variety of fruits within easy reach. Again, higher levels of ”nutrient density” will be the result as well as lower levels of total caloric consumption.

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Just Sit There And Diet!

by on November 27th, 2006

It’s amazing that the approach that most people take to weight management is still extreme dieting. Rather than moderate levels of calorie reduction coupled with increased levels of exercise (which will ”burn” even more calories), many still feel that a ”diet” is their method of choice. After all, it requires no physical effort and all one has to do is sit there. And many who ”diet” will feel that they are being almost heroic by denying themselves the nutrients that will keep them healthy-or even alive. It’s sort of a psychological paradox with emphasis on the ”phycho”. In addition, most individuals want to lose their excess weight right away-right now-TODAY, despite the fact that they may have been slowly gaining their excess poundage over a period of weeks, months or years. Sadly, there is little difference between this type of extreme dietary response and what is known as ”fasting”. The body handles extreme caloric reduction and ”fasting” (eating no food) in similar ways.

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