Friday, October 31, 2014

One More Thing The Mediterranean Diet Is Good For!

The Mediterranean diet, with its real food and healthy oils, wine with meals, lack of processed foods or low fat food products has been shown to benefit so many conditions (memory, diabetes, childhood asthma, stroke, heart attack) so consistently, that you just expect it to be good for everything! 

Time to throw "Kidney Health" onto the pile. This study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology show that those who adhered to this dietary approach were also protected from kidney disease. 

In fact, the researchers scored the diets of 900 people over seven years to see how close they were eating according to a Mediterranean diet. Then they tested the GFR (glomerular filtration rate) on this group, which is the best test to measure the level of kidney dysfunction and determine your stage of kidney disease.

The tighter people kept to the Mediterranean diet, the better the results. The more they veered off the Mediterranean diet, the worse the results. Those who ate closest to this approach reduced their chances of getting chronic kidney disease by a whopping 50%, and reduced their chances of rapid kidney function decline by 42%. 

This result was powerful not only in quantity, but in sensitivity too. For every 1% decrease in the Mediterranean diet score, they were 17% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. 

That's a ratio of 17:1. Amazing.  

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Why Dark Chocolate Is So Good For You. And What To Do About It.

By this time, everyone has heard how wonderful dark chocolate is for your heart, your head, your cholesterol, for cancer prevention, and even for your weight. 

But most of those health benefits come from a single place: it's NOT the sugar, the wafer, the nougat, or any coco-licious food product ... thing ... at all. The health benefits come from the particular species of anti-oxidants that come pre-packaged in the cocoa bean called catechins (pronounced Cat-E-Kins) and epi-catechins. 

What are catechins? 
Catechins are phytochemical compounds, clasified as flavanols. High concentrations can be found in red wine, broad beans, black grapes, apricots and strawberries. Epicatechin concentrations are high in apples, blackberries, broad beans, cherries, black grapes, pears, raspberries, and chocolate. 

Statistics show that 14 out of ever 12 humans like chocolate so, if you are not from this planet and don't like chocolate, there are other ways to get all those health benefits! Check out the chart below for a list of the foods that are so very healthy for you, due to their catechin/epicatechin content  

Food Catechin (mg/100g) Epicatechin (mg/100g)
Apples 0.9 6.1
Blackberries 37.1 4.7
Black Grapes 10.1 8.7
Brewed Black Tea 1.5 2.1
Brewed Green Tea  2.6 8.3
Cherries  1.3 7
Cocoa  0 26.2
Dark Chocolate  12 41.5
Fava Beans  8.2 7.8
Milk Chocolate  2.1 6.3
Pears  0.3 3.8
Raspberries  1.6 4.1
Red Table Wine  7 3.3

References: 1. Williamson G, Manach C. Bioavailability and bioefficacy of polyphenols in humans. II. Review of 93intervention studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:243S-255S.2. Nutrient Data Laboratory US Department of Agriculture. USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content ofSelected Foods. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 2007.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

For Healthier Products In the Grocery Store? Try The Ghandi Solution

The obesity epidemic is so profound that over 65% of Americans now range from overweight to morbidly obese. As a result, weight problems threaten to overtake tobacco as the number 1 preventable cause of death and chronic disease. 

One common response to this epidemic has been to reflexively point fingers at the food industry for producing unhealthy foods in the first place.

The argument goes that the food industry is much more concerned with profits than people. As a result they load our foods with high fructose corn syrup (which may contribute to obesity), hydrogenated oil (which may contribute to heart disease), nitrates and other preservatives (which may contribute to cancer and stroke), and synthetic colors/fat/sweeteners.

This portrayal casts the food industry as a dietary Darth Vader that targets children with sly cartoon advertising, lures dieters in with low fat labels on high sugar products, and promotes “all natural” products loaded with excessive amounts of sodium.

While the facts are all true, the caricature is just not.

Our confusion centers around the thinking that food companies are moral entities who have some civic responsibility to better the common good. They’re not, and they don’t.

A better way to think about a food manufacturer is as any animal in nature. Like any animal, in order to survive it must consume and keep consuming. That kind of drive to survive doesn’t make them bad or wrong, it makes them successful. If you know sharks are swimming in the water and you jump right on in without protection, we can’t blame sharks for doing what successful sharks do.

In the same way, we can’t blame food manufacturers for positioning sugary breakfast cereals on the bottom shelf so kids can better see the cartoon advertisements; nor because they lace their products with the preservatives that extend the shelf life. It is the very nature of this beast for it to act in this way. We can’t blame companies for doing what successful companies do.

By the way, even though their prey is us and the market share we represent, their success at it makes us very happy when we look at our 401k.

Now, do food companies have to follow food safety laws? Of course. Can they promote products with blatant falsehoods? Of course not. But between those two extremes is an ocean of marketing potential for them to hunt you in.

If we want to assign blame for the unhealthy products that fill our shelves, we might start closer to home. Our gripe is that we only buy bad products because they fill the shelves. But the opposite turns out to be the truth. Food products with excess sugar, salt, preservatives only exist there for one simple reason: because we buy them. If we didn’t, there would be no market for them and the manufacturer would stop producing them.

The perfect case in point is the recent expulsion of high fructose corn syrup from everything from sodas to pasta sauces. It wasn’t removed because the manufacturer “did the right thing” for our obesity epidemic. It’s gone because people stopped buying them. The same thing happened with low carb food products. Right after they stopped being purchased, they stopped being manufactured. The food industry groused, but changed their products nonetheless.

The bottom line is that there’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad news is that the unhealthy food supply we complain about is ultimately our responsibility. The good news that we can vastly improve those choices with just a little twist on the words of Gandhi: be the change you want to see in the grocery store.  

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ick Or Treat! Candy Corn: Why to avoid this.

It says, "Made with REAL HONEY",
so it must be good for you.
I'm presenting Week 1 of our Not One Ounce Holiday Program today at noon and 3pm, and we're talking about the best candies to choose for Halloween. 

Spoiler Alert! (it's not the candy corn)

To make the point for the presentation, I brought this into the office, and everyone here moaned and groaned about how gross these things are, in every possible inflection: 
  • "You BOUGHT that?" 
  • "YOU, bought that?" 
  • "Wait, you bought THAT?" 
This mini-cone of waxy sugary dye is so popular that over 35 million pounds of it will be produced this year. That's almost 9 billion pieces. Gosh, I wonder why we have weight and health problems? Maybe it's our genes or the carbs or because we're not eating 12 times per day ... or maybe it's because we're eating 9 billion pieces of this every year. Maybe that has something to do with it. 

Candy Corn Ingredients:
4 sugars, 4 AFCs/flavors

To put an exclamation point on the problem, there's even a National Candy Corn Day on Thursday, which is amazing for 9 billion reasons. How do I get a National Buy-My-Product-The-Day-Before-Everyone-Wants-It ... Day? 

Check out the ingredients here. There are four (count 'em, four) kinds of sugars, because three just wasn't sweet enough. Plus there are four kinds of artificial flavors and food dyes (AFCs). Please read this article on AFCs and the research showing their impact on behavior, particularly on our kids. 

So, this staple of Halloween contains ingredients associated with behavioral disturbances and weight gain. Besides the things that are in it, it's great for you. 

So, if you want to be healthy, control your weight, and avoid the Halloween Hyperactivity Effect, just say no to this scary little bit of weirdness. 

The good news is that you will have the opportunity to say no a whole lot more now. Manufacturers now make a Thanksgiving "Indian corn", a Christmas "Reindeer corn", "Cupid corn" to give to your love for Valentine's Day, "Bunny corn" for Easter, and (no kidding!) "Freedom corn" (red, white and blue) for July 4.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Hyperactive kids and the "Halloween Effect": What's really the cause?

Conventional Wisdom
This article was written with Dr. Raquel Keledjian (who is awesome!). 

With Halloween soon approaching, parents brace for the yearly “Halloween Effect. This is the common belief that the sugary sweets and chocolates of Halloween cause children to bounce off the walls with hyperactivity. 

To compensate, parents often substitute these with “healthy” sugar-free gelatin, low-fat, sugar free yogurt, or low calorie fruit popsicles, which also happen to all come in a variety of neon-bright colors that kids can’t help but notice. 

Unfortunately, conventional wisdom is mistaken. A whopping twelve double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have all failed to show any effect of sugar consumption on kids’ behavior – either those with ADHD or those without.

But parents know how their kids get amped up after the Halloween haul. So if it isn’t the sugar, what would it be? It turns out that those healthy alternatives of Halloween may contain a decidedly unhealthy trick hidden within the treat: the artificial food colors (AFCs). 

A quick glance a sample of Halloween candy packaging reveals the kinds AFCs they contain.

Kid’s Snacks
Yoplait: Light 90 calorie yogurt
Red #40
Gatorade: Fruit Punch
Red #40
General Mills: Trix Cereal
Yellow #6, blue #1
Jello: Strawberry Flavor
Red #40
Popsicle: Cherry Pop
Red #40
Sunny Delight
Yellow #5, and #6
Blue #1, Yellow#6, Red#40, Yellow#5, blue#1
Red Vines
Red #40
Hero Nutritionals: Yummy Bears Multi-vitamins
Blue #1, Yellow#6, Red#40

The safety of AFCs and other food additives is regulated by the FAO (Food and Agriculture and Organization)/WHO (World Health Organization).  A total of seven certified food colors are approved for use in the U.S.: Brilliant Blue (Blue #1), indigotine (Blue #2), fast green (Green #3), tartrazine (yellow #5), sunset yellow (yellow #6), erythrosine (Red #3) and allura red (Red #40b).  Two other AFCs are approved for specific limited use: citrus red (Red #2) and Orange B.

While these are designated by the FDA to be “generally recognize as safe”, they have also been linked to hyperactivity in children in over 35 years of research studies.
In fact, an early pioneer was Dr. Benjamin Feingold, who proposed in 1973 that hyperactivity and learning problems were due to certain foods and food additives.  Based on his clinical observations, he concluded that his subjects were sensitive to foods that contained natural salicylates, artificial colors and flavors. 

By providing a diet free of these substances, his small study group showed that 60-70% of the children exhibited improved behaviors. Further study was needed to replicate these results with larger groups.

The most important recent work (2004 and 2007) support Dr. Feingold’s original work, directly linking AFCs with hyperactive behaviors in children.

One possible mechanism to explain how AFCs lead to behavioral changes is their ability to leach zinc from the body. Zinc is an essential mineral needed for brain function, and low zinc levels are found in children with ADHD. This might explain the multiple clinical studies showing that zinc levels are decreased in hyperactive children when given tartrazine (yellow #5) and sunset yellow (yellow #6).  In children who were already hyperactive, ingestion of these AFCs are also associated with aggressive behavior and increased hyperactivity. 

Given the dramatic increase in AFC consumption over the past 60 years, this becomes a serious public health concern. 

(Neurotherapeutics. Jul 2012; 9(3): 599–609.)
This growing dataset inspired a petition to the FDA from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to review the evidence on AFCs and ADHD. However, despite these data the FDA concluded that further research was needed before making any statement at all. 

By contrast, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union requested that the food manufacturers avoid these additives in favor of natural food colors and flavors.  In this document, they also asked manufacturers to remove several AFCs from foods and beverages.

While we wait on our food safety organizations to issue a statement, while we wait on the science to figure itself out, what’s a busy parent to do with bags of children’s Halloween candy brightened up with more AFCs each year? 

Very simply, look for them in the ingredients list, and then choose something else. And, if the data are correct, doing this for your kids may result in less of the bouncing-off-the-walls Halloween effect this year.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inoculate Your Child Against Childhood Obesity. Here's How.

Research science has identified a new drug that increases the odds that children do not grow up to suffer from childhood obesity. This is an oral medication that must be taken daily, with meals, and administered by the parent. 

And what parent wouldn't want to provide this medication, which also has been shown to increase teen's nutrient status (from a study of over 4700 middle school kids in the Minneapolis area)? 

Side effects include better grades and less risky behavior (such as alcohol use, tobacco use, marijuana use, sexual activity, depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, violence and delinquency, school-related issues, and general well-being). 

What is this miracle med that improves behavior and helps prevent childhood obesity at the same time? 

It's called the family meal. Kids that simply eat with their family are less likely to grow up to be obese. 

Of course, there are some caveats (there always are). Positive outcomes are more likely when the environment includes "warmth, group enjoyment, parental positive reinforcement with conversation."  

Also it turns out to matter whether the TV is on or not. In one study, roughly 1/3 of the teens watched TV while eating their family meals. The others ate at the table with their parents, sans electronics. Those who ate with their family and you know, talked with each other, ate healthier foods. 

The authors conclude that "Feasible ways to increase the frequency of family meals should be explored with adolescents and their families." No kidding. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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