Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Interactive USDA Food Environment Atlas

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The USDA has published online an interactive map including food security issues by county.

Topics include”store/restaurant proximity, food prices, food and nutrition assistance programs, and how community characteristics—interact to influence food choices and diet quality.”

Options for printouts and exports (JPG and NPG).

A little tricky to use. Found by trial and error (I have a MacBook Pro) that the arrows on the lower right  of my keyboard re-center the map.

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March 19, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] You Are What You Eat, and You Eat What You Earn

From the November 2013 Bloomberg article

There are plenty of reasons why Americans eat the foods they do, but two of the most important factors in determining diets are income levels and education.

An analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reinforces the notion that high earners with college degrees are more likely than other Americans to eat a healthy diet. In the opposite corner, lower-income Americans without high school degrees are more likely to drink whole milk and eat beans cooked with animal fats. Still, it’s hard to explain the divide between orange juice (high-income college grads), apple juice (low-income college grads), and whole oranges (low-income, less than a high school diploma).

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January 19, 2014 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] A healthy diet costs $2,000 a year more than an unhealthy one for average family of four: Harvard study

Fresh vegetables are important components of a...

Fresh vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 12 June 2013 article at The National Post  by Jason Rehel

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Read the entire article here

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Diets Lacking Omega-3s Lead to Anxiety, Hyperactivity in Teens: Generational Omega-3 Deficiencies Have Worsening Effects Over Time

From the 29 July 2013 Science Daily article

Diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids — found in foods like wild fish, some eggs, and grass-fed livestock — can have worsened effects over consecutive generations, especially affecting teens, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

“We found that this dietary deficiency can compromise the behavioral health of adolescents, not only because their diet is deficient but because their parents’ diet was deficient as well. This is of particular concern because adolescence is a very vulnerable time for developing psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and addiction.”Diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids — found in foods like wild fish, eggs, and grass-fed livestock — can have worsened effects over consecutive generations, especially affecting teens, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

“Our study shows that, while the omega-3 deficiency influences the behavior of both adults and adolescents, the nature of this influence is different between the age groups,” said Moghaddam. “We observed changes in areas of the brain responsible for decision making and habit formation.”

The team is now exploring epigenetics as a potential cause. This is a process in which environmental events influence genetic information. Likewise, the team is exploring markers of inflammation in the brain since omega-3 deficiencies causes an increase of omega-6 fats, which are proinflammatory molecules in the brain and other tissues.

“It’s remarkable that a relatively common dietary change can have generational effects,” said Moghaddam. “It indicates that our diet does not merely affect us in the short-term but also can affect our offspring.”

 

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dietary guidelines and the food industry

Janice Flahiff:

I’ve commented on this issue in previous blogs…

Originally posted on Weight Maven:

pyramidOver at Eathropology, Adele Hite has published part 1 of As the Calories Churn. In it, she gets “down and geeky … with some Dietary Guidelines backstory” since 2000 noting that some involved may have thought that “the advice to Americans to eat more carbohydrate and less fat wasn’t such a good idea.”

Interestingly, an Eathropology commenter notes that earlier efforts on our dietary guidelines had their own back stories too, linking to the story of the 1992 food pyramid. Luise Light, former USDA Director of Dietary Guidance and Nutrition Education Research and responsible for the 1992 food pyramid writes that the actual published guide was “vastly different” from what was drafted (emphasis mine):

When our version of the Food Guide came back to us revised, we were shocked to find that it was vastly different from the one we had developed. As I later discovered, the…

View original 240 more words

July 14, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Eat to Dream: Study Shows Dietary Nutrients Associated With Certain Sleep Patterns

From the 6 February 2013 article at Science Daily

You are what you eat,” the saying goes, but is what you eat playing a role in how much you sleep? Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being. With the increasing prevalence of obesity and its consequences, sleep researchers have begun to explore the factors that predispose individuals to weight gain and ultimately obesity. Now, a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows for the first time that certain nutrients may play an underlying role in short and long sleep duration and that people who report eating a large variety of foods — an indicator of an overall healthy diet — had the healthiest sleep patterns.

..

The authors found that total caloric intake varied across groups. Short sleepers consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers, followed by very short sleepers, followed by long sleepers. Food variety was highest in normal sleepers, and lowest in very short sleepers. Differences across groups were found for many types of nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

In a statistical analysis, the research team found that there were a number of dietary differences, but these were largely driven by a few key nutrients. They found that very short sleep was associated with less intake of tap water, lycopene (found in red- and orange-colored foods), and total carbohydrates, short sleep was associated with less vitamin C, tap water, selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish), and more lutein/zeaxanthin (found in green, leafy vegetables), and long sleep was associated with less intake of theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), dodecanoic acid (a saturated fat) choline (found in eggs and fatty meats), total carbohydrates, and more alcohol.

“Overall, people who sleep 7 — 8 hours each night differ in terms of their diet, compared to people who sleep less or more. We also found that short and long sleep are associated with lower food variety,” said Dr. Grandner. “What we still don’t know is if people altered their diets, would they be able to change their overall sleep pattern? This will be an important area to explore going forward as we know that short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Likewise, we know that people who sleep too long also experience negative health consequences. If we can pinpoint the ideal mix of nutrients and calories to promote healthy sleep, the healthcare community has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other cardiometabolic risk factors.”

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

February 8, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , | 1 Comment

USDA Supertracker -Our Third Week of Tracking Nutrition & Physical Activity

My husband and I are on the third week of using the USDA online tool Supertracker to monitor our daily nutrition intake and physical activity.

We have begun to change our eating habits. For example, I am eating more fruit and drinking more milk to get calcium and potassium.
Unsalted unbuttered air popped popcorn has been re-discovered as a whole grain. Meat consumption has decreased. Cocoa powder is not as tasty as the chocolate in store bought chocolate milk. But another source of high fructose corn syrup no longer is in our fridge.

It is a good thing I am using this as a lifestyle tool, not with a goal to lose weight. My weight has stayed the same despite sticking to overall calories and having a great physical activity report. So, although I would like to lose 10 pounds, I will have to look at other factors, as sleep quality.

As noted in a previous post, I am going to be looking into vegan nutrient sources to replace some of my dairy and meat.

Some thoughts on the pros and cons of Supertracker.

Pros

  • One place to go for tracking both nutrition and physical activity
  • Easy to use.  food and activity selections are made by entering a word or phrase and then selecting from the resultant options
  • Throughout the day one can monitor levels of consumed fats, oils, calories, nutrients as well as see how one’s food choices stack against daily food targets.
  • Entered foods can be modified (as portion size) or deleted. This is a great decision making tool, including snack options later in the day.
  • One can opt for calorie allotment based on previous week’s physical activity

Cons

  • Does not include all foods (especially convenience/packaged foods)
  • When entering homemade,  you are probably best off entering ingredients individually.  USDA food options having several ingredients tend to be convenience/packaged which are are high in sodium.
  • Physical activity tracker seems to be a work in progress. For example, the range of weight lifting activities seems to be sparse.
  • Physical activity options are “canned”. They do not allow for individual heart rates.
  • Long range reports can be done for data on individual nutrient levels. However overall long range reports for nutrition are only averages.
  • It does take time to enter one’s data!

November 14, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Lacto-Ovo and Vegan Information Included in USDA Dietary Guidelines

Three weeks ago my husband and I started using  USDA’s Supertracker in an effort to make changes to our eating and exercise patterns.
Our goal is to reach and maintain a  healthy weight range and reap the benefits of a good exercise program.
More on this in a later blog entry.

A three week report showed I was deficient in several nutrients. I went to the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines to look up foods that are highest in these nutrients (including potassium and choline).While going through the appendix I came across

  • Appendix 8- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Adaption of the USDA Food Patterns (p. 81 of the Guideline)
  • Appendix 9 – Vegan Adaption of the USDA Food Patterns (p. 82 of the Guideline)

The USDA Guidelines state “[t]hese vegetarian variations represent healthy eating patterns, but rely on fortified foods for some nutrients. In the vegan patterns especially, fortified foods provide much of the calcium and vitamin B12, and either fortified foods or supplements should be selected to provide adequate intake of these nutrients. “

I am the first to admit I am not a nutritionist or expert in vegetarianism. So I would not be surprised if folks knowledgable in these areas would take issue with the USDA approach on fortified foods and/or the information in the appendix.
Still, this is giving me pause to at least consider  vegan “substitutes” for some meat and dairy.
And it is heartening that the USDA is starting to be a bit more inclusive in the guidelines, no matter what the intentions are.

On a related note, Planning Has Begun for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015.
According to the USDA announcement

The Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are pleased to announce their intent to establish the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) and to invite nominations for the DGAC. Nominations will be accepted until 6:00 pm EST, on Monday, November 26, 2012 to DG2015Nominations@hhs.gov or via fax or postal mail as described in the Federal Register notice.

The DGAC is expected to convene five meetings, with the intent of the first in April 2013. The Committee’s recommendations and rationale will serve as a basis for the eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more and submit nominations, see the Federal Register notice.

Related Article

Is a Vegetarian Diet the Future of Food? by  on October 18, 2012
The evidence points to environmental costs and the effects of factory farming.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | 1 Comment

[Reblog] Keepin’ It Real (with Real Food) …October 24 is Food Day

English: Loma Linda University Vegetarian Food...

English: Loma Linda University Vegetarian Food Pyramid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

[Reblog] 

 

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Wednesday, October 24 is Food Day. Join in this second annual national event where thousands of businesses, coalitions and other participants are holding Food Day celebrations to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food. 

 

Food Day, Food Pyramid Killing Us, diet, nutrition, USDA, agriculture, corn, grocery, government

 

Created by the Center for Science in the Public InterestFood Day has become a movement to increase awareness of the usual unhealthy American diet which is leading to our top three causes of death and other forms of morbidity.

 

Our nation’s food system is not focused on promoting health, but maintaining agribusiness and food production as cheaply as possible. Fellow blogger, Ellice Campbell of Enlightened Lotus Wellness, just published a worthwhile post, Corn And It’s Stranglehold on the Food Industry. Also, have a look at The Trouble With Corn Subsidies. About 75% of all grocery store food products contain some form of corn (not the sweet kind that we enjoy during the summer) and high fructose corn syrup. This is creating a sugar addiction among our children and is one factor contributing to increased diagnoses of diabetes in adults and children, not to mention obesity. I find this to be an outrage.

 

What we put into our bodies is 100% up to us! Just because cheap and processed foods are available everywhere we look, does not mean we must succumb to eating them. As one of my blog readers previously commented, “Eat what you want–no one is forcing you not to.” Every time we eat and every thing we eat is completely our choice. I feel this is too fundamental to even blog about, but as a nation, we are clearly not making the best choices.

 

Of course this has implications beyond personal diet and disease. According to CSPI, only minor amounts of Farm Bill funding support organic and sustainable farms, while the unhealthiest farm producers reap the major funds. We have allowed our government to carry on this way for decades. Food production methods are harmful to workers, animals and the environment.

 

How will you celebrate Food Day? Click the link for inspiration, activities, recipes and a zip code map to see what is offered in your area. Or, take a page from their school curriculum, eat real around your dinner table and discuss healthy eating and where your food comes from.

 

Eat Real, y’all. Practice mindful eating and the world will be better off. Really.

 

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October 24, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plant-Based Diets Can Remedy Chronic Diseases

From the 17 October article at ScienceNewsDaily

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 63 percent of the deaths that occurred in 2008 were attributed to non-communicable chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, Type 2 diabetes and obesity — for which poor diets are contributing factors. Yet people that live in societies that eat healthy, plant-based diets rarely fall victim to these ailments. Research studies have long indicated that a high consumption of plant foods is associated with lower incidents of chronic disease. In the October issue of Food Technology magazine, Senior Writer/Editor Toni Tarver discusses recent discoveries in nutritional genomics that explain how plant-based diets are effective at warding off disease.

The article indicates that bioactive compounds in plant foods play a role in controlling genetic and other biological factors that lead to chronic disease. For example, antioxidants in plant foods counter free radicals that can cause chronic inflammation and damage cells. And other plant compounds help control a gene linked to cardiovascular disease and plaque buildup in arteries and the genes and other cellular components responsible for forming and sustaining tumors…

 

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Is There Such a Thing as Eating Too Many Fruits and Vegetables?

 

English: Fruit on display at La Boqueria marke...

English: Fruit on display at La Boqueria market in Barcelona. Français : Fruits à l’étal dans le marché de La Boqueria à Barcelone. Español: Fruta en el mercado de La Boquería, en Barcelona. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 24 July 2012 article at Science News Daily

 

t may make you scratch your head, but in fact it is possible to overeat healthy foods, according to Loyola University Health System registered dietitian Brooke Schantz.

While fruits are nutritious, too much of even a healthy food can lead to weight gain,” Schantz said. “The key is to remember to control the portion sizes of the foods you consume.”

Schantz reported that overeating healthy foods is easy to do, but the same rules apply to healthy food as junk food. Weight fluctuates based on a basic concept — energy in versus energy out. If your total caloric intake is higher than the energy you burn off in a day, you will gain weight. If it is lower, you will lose weight.

“I have had many patients tell me that they don’t know why they are not losing weight,” Schantz said. “Then they report that they eat fruit all day long. They are almost always shocked when I advise them to watch the quantity of food they eat even if it is healthy.”

Schantz said that one exception applies. Nonstarchy vegetables are difficult to overeat unless they are accompanied by unnecessary calories from sauces, cheeses and butter. This is due to the high water and fiber content of these vegetables coupled with the stretching capacity of the stomach. The vegetables she suggested limiting are those that are high in starch, such as peas, corn and potatoes. Foods that are labeled as fat-free or low-fat are another area of concern.

“People tend to give themselves the freedom to overeat ‘healthy’ foods,” Schantz said. “While the label might say that a food or beverage is low-fat or fat-free, watch the quantity you consume and refrain from eating an excessive amount. Foods that carry these health claims may be high in sugar and calories.”

 

 

 

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Complex World of Gut Microbes Fine-Tune Body Weight

More research needed, still these scientists may be on to a contributing factor in weight control…

From the 6 June 2012 article at Science Daily

Microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract form an intricate, living fabric made up of some 500 to 1000 distinct bacterial species, (in addition to other microbes). Recently, researchers have begun to untangle the subtle role these diverse life forms play in maintaining health and regulating weight….

Research conducted by the authors and others has demonstrated that hydrogen-consuming methanogens appear in greater abundance in obese as opposed to normal weight individuals. Further, the Firmicutes — a form of acetogen — also seem to be linked with obesity. Following fermentation, SCFAs persist in the colon. Greater concentration of SCFAs, especially propionate, were observed in fecal samples from obese as opposed to normal weight children. (SCFAs also behave as signaling molecules, triggering the expression of leptin, which acts as an appetite suppressor.)

While it now seems clear that certain microbial populations help the body process otherwise indigestible carbohydrates and proteins, leading to greater energy extraction and associated weight gain, experimental results have shown some inconsistency. For example, while a number of studies have indicated a greater prevalence of Bacteroidetes in lean individuals and have linked the prevalence of Firmicutes with obesity, the authors stress that many questions remain.

Alterations in gut microbiota are also of crucial concern for the one billion people worldwide who suffer from undernutrition. Illnesses resulting from undernutrition contribute to over half of the global fatalities in children under age 5. Those who do survive undernutrition often experience a range of serious, long-term mental and physical effects. The role of gut microbial diversity among the undernourished has yet to receive the kind of concentrated research effort applied to obesity — a disease which has reached epidemic proportions in the developed world.

Exploiting microbes affecting energy extraction may prove a useful tool for non-surgically addressing obesity as well as treating undernutrition, though more research is needed for a full understanding of regulatory mechanisms governing the delicate interplay between intestinal microbes and their human hosts….

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exercise and a Healthy Diet of Fruits and Vegetables Extends Life Expectancy in Women in Their 70s

From the 29 May 2012 article at Science News Daily

Women in their seventies who exercise and eat healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables have a longer life expectancy, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society….

…Researchers at the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University studied 713 women aged 70 to 79 years who took part in the Women’s Health and Aging Studies. This study was designed to evaluate the causes and course of physical disability in older women living in the community.

“A number of studies have measured the positive impact of exercise and healthy eating on life expectancy, but what makes this study unique is that we looked at these two factors together,” explains lead author, Dr. Emily J Nicklett, from the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

Researchers found that the women who were most physically active and had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were eight times more likely to survive the five-year follow-up period than the women with the lowest rates…

May 31, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet

Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet

From the 29 November Eureka News alert 

 IMAGE: Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet.Click here for more information.

A healthy diet and the right amount of exercise are key players in treating and preventing obesity but we still know little about the relationship both factors have with each other. A new study now reveals that an increase in physical activity is linked to an improvement in diet quality.

Many questions arise when trying to lose weight. Would it be better to start on a diet and then do exercise, or the other way around? And how much does one compensate the other?

“Understanding the interaction between exercise and a healthy diet could improve preventative and therapeutic measures against obesity by strengthening current approaches and treatments,” explains Miguel Alonso Alonso, researcher at Harvard University (USA) who has published a bibliographical compilation on the subject, to SINC.

The data from epidemiological studies suggest that tendencies towards a healthy diet and the right amount of physical exercise often come hand in hand. Furthermore, an increase in physical activity is usually linked to a parallel improvement in diet quality.

Exercise also brings benefits such as an increase in sensitivity to physiological signs of fullness. This not only means that appetite can be controlled better but it also modifies hedonic responses to food stimuli. Therefore, benefits can be classified as those that occur in the short term (of metabolic predominance) and those that are seen in the long term (of behavioural predominance).

According to Alonso Alonso, “physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet. In fact, when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run.”

The authors of the study state how important it is for social policy to encourage and facilitate sport and physical exercise amongst the population. This should be present in both schools and our urban environment or daily lives through the use of public transport or availability of pedestrianised areas and sports facilities….

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Football Players Prone to Late-Life Health Problems, Study Finds

Former football players experience more late-life cognitive difficulties and worse health than other former athletes and non-athletes. An MU study found that these athletes can alter their diet and exercise habits to improve their mental and physical health. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia)

From ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2011)

 — Football players experience repeated head trauma throughout their careers, which results in short and long-term effects to their cognitive function, physical and mental health. University of Missouri researchers are investigating how other lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, impact the late-life health of former collision-sport athletes.

The researchers found that former football players experience more late-life cognitive difficulties and worse physical and mental health than other former athletes and non-athletes. In addition, former football players who consumed high-fat diets had greater cognitive difficulties with recalling information, orientation and engaging and applying ideas. Frequent, vigorous exercise was associated with higher physical and mental health ratings.

Read the entire news article

 

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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