Perils of Arsenic in Baby Food, Raw Dough, and Licorice Tea

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This week’s off-site posts addressed a range of Continue reading “Perils of Arsenic in Baby Food, Raw Dough, and Licorice Tea” »

Is Farm-Raised Fish Safe?

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Q. I have seen a lot of conflicting information about the safety of farmed-raised fish. I stopped buying farm-raised salmon years ago because of the concern. How does farm-raised trout stack up to other fish in terms of nutrition and safety? Where does most of the supply come from in USA?

A. Unfortunately, this issue is a moving target.  Exponential growth in aquaculture and the pressure to control costs means that procedures are constantly evolving.  If watchdog groups make enough noise about a safety or nutrition concern, the industry often changes practices in response.  So, something that was a concern a few years ago may no longer be a problem. (See, for example: Farmed salmon gets an anti-inflammatory makeover.)   However, newer concerns may have cropped up in the meantime.

The best resource I’ve found to keep up with these issues is Seafood Watch. These guys are working hard to stay on top of all of these issues and to provide up-to-date resources for consumers trying to make safe and responsible choices. They have a number of tools for consumers, including a mobile app for your smart phone or a low-tech wallet card, as well as in-depth reports on  individual fish.  According to the fact-sheet on farmed trout, most of the farm-raised trout in the U.S. is produced in Idaho, with a minimum of negative environmental impacts. They consider it an excellent choice.

Nutrition Over Easy: Is Industry Sponsored Research Useless?

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What a waste of everyone’s time.

A company that manufactures a soy-based meal replacement drink funds a study comparing a soy-based meal replacement (i.e., their product) with a “standard breakfast” which had the same number of calories but was lower in protein, higher in refined carbohydrates. They found–gasp!–that the high protein breakfast controlled hunger better and regulated fat-burning metabolism.  Conclusion: Meal replacement regimes high in soy protein are beneficial for weight loss and metabolic syndrome. Continue reading “Nutrition Over Easy: Is Industry Sponsored Research Useless?” »

Red Meat and Stroke Risk: Beyond the Headlines

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Red meat is back in the news , and once again it’s being singled out as being uniquely bad for you.  Here’s the sound bite: Eating red meat increases stroke risk while eating poultry reduces it.   But, there’s a little bit more to the story. (There usually is.) Continue reading “Red Meat and Stroke Risk: Beyond the Headlines” »

Caffeine and Sugar: An Unexpected Link

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Did you know that caffeine reduces our perception of sweetness? Researchers found that if they took the caffeine out of a sweetened beverage, they could then remove about 10% of the sugar without altering the taste.  I had no idea!  The researchers  go on to suggest that removing caffeine from sweetened beverages could allow manufacturers to lower the amount of sugar in those products, thereby reducing the amount consumed by the general population and aiding in the fight against obesity.

That doesn’t seem terribly likely. First of all,  people who consume caffeinated beverages are usually looking for that caffeine bump.  (See also: Benefits of Caffeine) Secondly, we already have caffeine-free versions of many sweetened beverages.  And interestingly, caffeine-free Coca-Cola and Sprite both contain the same amount of sugar as regular Coca-cola.

Nonetheless, it’s an interesting finding.   Have you ever noticed this effect? For example, does caffeine-free Coke taste sweeter than regular? (I find both types to be unpleasantly sweet so I’m not a good judge.)  If you drink sugar in your coffee, does it take less sugar to sweeten decaf to your liking?

Low sodium intake linked to heart problems?

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This is crazy. A new study evaluating the link between salt intake and heart problems finds that people with low sodium intake also have an increased risk of cardiovascular issues. But the “low” sodium intake that was linked to increased risk was between 2,000 and 3,000mg per day…in other words, substantially higher than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum intake of 1500mg. The risk declined slightly at higher intakes and then rose again when sodium intake got up around 8,000mg per day.

Study details: Too little salt may also increase risk of heart problems.

To me, this somewhat ridiculous finding confirms what I’ve long suspected:Except for those with salt-sensitive hypertension, the relationship between sodium intake and heart disease is largely a red herring. I think we could do a lot more good by coaching people to increase their potassium intake than haranguing them to decrease sodium intake.

Related Content:

Sodium and Potassium: What’s the Relationship?
Forget Salt: Focus on Potassiu
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Why Can’t The Experts Agree on Sodium?

Is Eating More Often Really the Key to Staying Thin?

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A study in this month’s  Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that people of normal weight eat more frequently (5 times per day on average) than overweight people (who average 4.2 times per day), suggesting that eating more frequently may be a key to maintaining a healthy weight.  At least, that’s what all the headlines will say–and this will fuel the popular myth that eating more frequently “revs up your metabolism.”

See also: Metabolism Myths

But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?   Although they ate slightly more often, the normal weight people in this study still consumed fewer calories than overweight people.  More significantly, the normal weight people logged more than twice as much physical activity every week.  And we’re going to conclude that meal frequency is the most salient variable in this picture?

Do Thin People Eat More Often (or Just Remember Better)?

Finally–and I don’t mean this as a slam against people who are overweight, just a fact that must be considered when interpreting these results–it’s well-documented that people often under-estimate how much (and how often?) they eat. And the more overweight people are, the greater the disparity between what’s reported and what’s actually consumed.  How much of the difference in meal frequency can be chalked up to under-reporting?

Eating more often is not a good weight loss strategy.

Look, I have nothing against snacking…I’m an enthusiastic snacker myself.  I just think it’s dangerous to suggest that eating more frequently is some sort of magic weight loss charm.   It’s not.  Despite the headlines, this study actually underlines  the fact that how much you eat (and how much you move) are the primary factors.

See also: How Often Should You Eat?

Here’s what I think is really going on:  Eating more frequently doesn’t automatically cause people to eat less.  However, people who eat less overall may find that they are more comfortable if they eat more frequently.  In other words:

If you want to lose weight, don’t eat more often. Eat less (more often).

Nutrition Over Easy: How to Ensure Good Nutrition on a Limited Diet

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Here’s the latest installment of my Healthy Eating video blog, with tips dealing with food allergies and other restricted diets. If you have to eliminate certain foods from your diet, make sure you’re not eliminating important nutrients in the process. Continue reading “Nutrition Over Easy: How to Ensure Good Nutrition on a Limited Diet” »

Is There an Optimal Ratio of PUFAs, MUFAs, and Saturated Fats?

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Q. Is there an optimal ratio of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats that you’d recommend for optimal health? Continue reading “Is There an Optimal Ratio of PUFAs, MUFAs, and Saturated Fats?” »

Do Herbal Supplements Really Work?

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A listener recently wrote with a question about herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort, which is sometimes recommended as a natural treatment for depression. “I know you aren’t a big fan of vitamin supplements,” she writes, “but what about herbal supplements for specific disorders?” Continue reading “Do Herbal Supplements Really Work?” »

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