Good Health First

Nutrition Advice for a Healthy Body and Mind

Weight Loss Surgery Is Just Another Fad Diet

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 24, 2011

There’s no doubt we have become a society of quick-fix addicts. We take a pill to manage just about every condition under the sun. Fad diets are still irresistible to the overweight American. We’ve also become obsessed with going under the knife, and I don’t just mean for plastic surgery. When it comes to weight loss, surgical options are increasing and more people are choosing to exercise this option. In 2009, more than 220,000 Americans had some type of weight loss surgery, at a price of about $20,000 per patient, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Cutting back on calories and daily exercise is just too much work. It’s human nature to want to justify why something takes too much effort or is too time-consuming. But the fact is, weight loss surgery just doesn’t teach you how to eat right nor does it encourage you to exercise. Weight loss surgery also doesn’t prevent you from gaining weight, and not surprisingly, many do find they gain weight soon after surgery. As long as this obesity epidemic sticks around, we’ll find some way to skirt the hard-work it takes to lose weight correctly. If we aren’t willing to face the music, I can assure you that obesity won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

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Are Supplements A Waste of Money?

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 23, 2011

Americans spend five billion dollars a year on supplements. You can find supplements just about every where you can buy food. But are they really beneficial to your health or are they just a waste of your hard-earned cash? If you eat a healthy and well-balanced, you should be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to support your body’s daily nutrient requirements. What you swallow in a vitamin can never replace the nutrients found in whole-foods. For example, when you eat an apple you are eating a food that has been nourished by the sun and earth. With every bite of that delicious fruit, you are ingesting living cells and phytochemicals that can never be captured by a vitamin.

The ingredients in a vitamin are man-made and are produced in a laboratory. Although some brands claim all natural ingredients, it’s dubious that all that nature has to offer can be compacted into a small capsule. Think of supplements as just that, supplemental to one’s diet. They should never be substituted for the nutrients found in fresh whole-foods. Vitamins are there for “rounding off” the diet when it becomes difficult to eat a well-balanced diet on a daily basis. They are nothing more than insurance. They give us the peace of mind that we are taking care of our precious health.

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Low-Fat Diets Can Make You Fat

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 23, 2011

A good number of my clients come to see me because they want to shed some weight. When I mention they need to eat fat in order to lose weight, they immediately appear perplexed. What’s lacking in many people’s dietary habits is their ability to correctly balance their meals. It may sound simplistic, but balance is pivotal to maintaining a healthy body weight. By balance I mean balancing every meal with some carbohydrates, protein, and a modest amount of fat. Yes, I said fat. Aside from the body’s requirement for fat in order to function properly, fat also creates a feeling of satiety. Eliminating or severely restricting fat in the diet will lead to craving it, or worse yet, overeating it.

In a study conducted by Purdue University on the effects of Olestra, a fat substitute, researchers put rats on either a high fat or low fat diet and allowed them to eat as much as they wanted. The rats were also fed a few grams of potato chips a day. Half the rats received only regular chips, while the other half got a mixture of full fat and fat-free Olestra chips. Researchers found that rats that ate Olestra-containing chips consumed more of their regular food and gained more weight than those rats that ate the higher-calorie, full-fat potato chips. Although this study was conducted on rats and not humans, rats have a similar biological response to food as humans. Granted, this study many not hold all the answers to why eating enough fat results in lower caloric intake, it does show that fat may play a role in weight-control. So, go ahead and have a little peanut butter on your toast or some cheese on your sandwich. Chances are you’ll stay fuller longer and consume fewer calories in the long run.

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Will Posting Calories On Menus Slim Down Americans?

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 20, 2011

If you haven’t noticed calorie postings on the menus of food chains, then you probably haven’t been eating out. This new federal law requires restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts on their food items and supply information on how many calories a healthy person should eat in a day. It’s great that we now know how many calories we’re eating for lunch. But the question still remains whether this will help America’s climbing obesity rate. People who are weight conscious will continue to be calorie conscious with or without the calories posted on menus. Those who don’t care about their weight will be the ones to keep a close eye on.
A study, by several professors at New York University and Yale, tracked customers at four fast-food chains: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity. It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28 percent of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result. But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008. “I think it does show us that labels are not enough,” Brian Elbel, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said in an interview.
When it comes to food, old habits die hard. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s going to take a lot more than just posting calories on a menu to influence the obesity rate. To slim down waistlines, will power and the desire to change one’s eating habits will have to be in the forefront of a hungry person’s mind at lunch time

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LAUSD Got This Milk Thing All Wrong

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 17, 2011

The Los Angeles Unified School District voted to stop providing school children with flavored milk drinks like strawberry and chocolate milk beginning July 1st. It’s encouraging to see the LAUSD make an effort to provide children with more nutritious meals, but I hardly think eliminating flavored milk from school cafeteria meals is anywhere near a giant leap. Even though flavored milk will be eliminated, regular milk won’t. Orange juice will still be offered as well. But orange juice has just as much sugar as flavored milk. It’s true that orange juice is loaded with vitamin C, but did LAUSD forget that milk, even the flavored kind has protein, vitamins D and A. It seems like perception plays a big part here when it comes down to choosing between orange juice and flavored milk. There’s no doubt that good nutrition plays a significant role in keeping a growing child’s weight within healthy range, but getting enough daily physical activity has a hand in this process as well. Even children on a low-fat and nutritious diet can become overweight if they don’t get enough daily physical activity. LAUSD needs to see the big picture and improve its physical education program as well. It remains to be seen what effect eliminating flavored milk from cafeteria meals will have on the 650,000 children who eat school lunches daily. My guess is that it won’t be dramatic.

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Should You Seek Nutrition Advice From Your Doctor?

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 14, 2011

Many people are under the misconception that physicians are adequately trained in nutrition. In reality, physicians receive very little, if any nutrition education in medical school. Only approximately 6 percent of the graduating physicians in the United States have any training in nutrition. Medical students may take elective courses on the topic, but few actually do. The education of most physicians is disease-oriented with a heavy emphasis on pharmaceuticals. In short, physicians learn about drugs and why and when to use them. As a nutrition professional who has seen hundreds of patients, I can tell you unequivocally that many of the ailments that plague people can be treated by simple dietary and lifestyle changes. Although I find it disappointing that Western medicine has not yet fully embraced the healing power of nutrition, I find comfort knowing that the topic of nutrition in the media is more prevalent now than ever. Even, insurance companies are starting to cover the costs of natural health care modalities like acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. I have and always will respect Western medicine. It saves countless live every day. However, I also know that good nutrition can prevent many illnesses. There is no reason why the complementary effects of the two can’t work miracles together. So if you need sound nutrition advice, you might be better off seeking the counsel of a nutrition professional. After all, doctors look to us to help heal their patients.

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The Sprouting Facts

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on June 13, 2011

The danger of eating sprouts is all over the media. It’s tempting to forever scratch sprouts off your shopping list when 31 people lost there lives and 3,100 were sickened by this nutrient packed food. Sprouts come in a variety of types from alpha sprouts to bean sprouts. They are chalked full of protein, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. They taste great on sandwiches and in stir fry. The problem with sprouts stems from the way they are grown. Sprouts need a warm and humid environment. These conditions are prime for the harmful growth of bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. The Center for Disease Control warns against the consumption of sprouts in populations with comprised immune systems, pregnant women, the elderly, and children. Christopher R. Branden, acting director of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases at the CDC says that they potentially can be part of a very healthy diet. He goes on to say that sprouts are not a huge crop yet there have been a number of outbreaks in them. There’s no question that more work needs to be done in order to try and make sprouts safe.
Although sprouts can be a great addition to one’s diet, it’s understandable to be very concerned about its potential hazards. Do keep in mind that sprout producers in the U.S. abide by very strict food safety rules before shipping sprouts to local grocery stores. If you still aren’t convinced that eating sprouts is safe, then rest assured that there are plenty of other vegetables that can supply one’s diet with ample amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. If you do decide to eat them, purchase them from reputable suppliers.

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Is Gluten Really Bad For You?

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on May 12, 2011

Every where you turn, there seems to be a product label boasting the words “gluten free”. Gluten free products have become big business and many people seem to believe that gluten is just plain bad for you. The fact is, the majority of people can tolerate gluten. However, to the 1% who has celiac disease, an immune disorder that causes a high degree of gluten intolerance, gluten is toxic and must be avoided at all costs. Those who don’t suffer from celiac disease may have gluten sensitivity, which can include headaches, fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Those with gluten sensitivity feel much better on a gluten-free diet. Sometimes the added benefit of weight loss can occur too. However, weight loss has nothing to do with gluten itself as much as the reduction of extra calories. Also, those on gluten-free diets tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, adding to the increased feeling of well-being.
It’s important to note that there is no test to date that can determine gluten sensitivity. However, celiac disease can be detected by a blood test. If you suspect you have gluten sensitivity, or worse yet, celiac disease, avoid gluten and keep listening to your body. Take note of how you feel when you eat foods with gluten. If there is a noticeable difference in how you feel, chances are you have gluten sensitivity. Severe reactions may be indicative of celiac disease and require the immediate attention of a physician.
Listening to your body is key. Don’t just follow the gluten-free trend without really exploring whether you have gluten sensitivity. You could be unnecessarily eliminating a very enjoyable and healthy part of your diet.

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Food Allergies in Children

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on May 8, 2011

Many parents are concerned about the potentially harmful effects that a food allergy can have on their child. Surprisingly, only about 4 in 100 children have a food allergy. Most children who do have food allergies are allergic to eggs, milk, and soy. The good news is that the majority of children outgrow their food allergies. Eight foods cause 90% of food allergies in children: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (pecans, walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
The only way to prevent a food allergy is to avoid the food and any items that contain it as an ingredient. Promising treatments for food allergies are in the works. Ongoing studies indicate it may be possible to “desensitize” children, even those with severe reactions. The best way to keep your kids safe from potential problems is to carefully read food labels. Make sure your child’s teacher or caregiver knows what foods your child is allergic to. It’s important to emphasize to others how even the smallest ingestion of this food can cause serious health problems. Take the time to teach your child about his/her food allergy and how to recognize foods that are potentially hazardous. Finally, if you need guidance and seek answers, consult a registered nutrition professional.

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Organically Grown Food Versus Conventionally Grown Food

Posted by Frieda P. Fontaine, Ph.D. on April 23, 2011

There is little evidence that shows that organically grown food is better for you or provides substantially more nutrients than conventionally grown food. Organic food is food that has been grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Organic animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, come from animals raised without hormones, antibiotics, and are fed organic meal. Expert nutritionist, Connie Diekman, M.Ed., R.D., director of nutrition at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri says that more research is needed before it can be stated that organic foods provide more nutritional value. Although the organic food industry has grown exponentially and is more popular than ever, the consumer may be unnecessarily paying more for food that isn’t much healthier.

A study called, Until now: “Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems,” led by Washington State University Regents professor of soil science John Reganold, shows why organic strawberries are healthier than conventional strawberries. In this study, strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields. These fields were in close proximity to one another to adjust for soil and weather patterns. Over a two year period, the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions. The results showed that the organic strawberries were healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries. Specifically, these strawberries had a higher antioxidant, vitamin C, and total phenolics content. However, potassium and phosphorous levels were higher in conventionally grown strawberries. The organic soil was found to contain more zinc, boron, sodium, and iron. Although this study exposes the health benefits of organically grown strawberries, it is limited to one specific fruit and cannot be applied across the board to all organically grown fruits or vegetables. Moreover, the conventional farm soil examined in this study was located in the same area and in close proximity to one another. Conventional soil samples from more distant locations were not examined to determine the vitamin and mineral content. More importantly, the study mentioned that organic and conventional soils contain similar levels of most extractable nutrients putting organic and conventional crops on equal footing. Thus, this study was too narrowly focused and cannot stand alone as proof that organically grown crops are nutritionally superior to conventionally grown crops.

It’s true that organic fruits and vegetables are grown without pesticides. However, evidence shows conventional produce is just as safe and nutritious as organic produce. There have been some studies showing that people who eat conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have traces of pesticide by-products found in their urine. Yet, the small amounts of pesticide by-products found in human urine have not been determined to be injurious to human health. Of course it’s always wise to wash all fruits and vegetables carefully to erase any doubts. It’s even recommended to wash organic products because winds sometimes carry pesticides from conventional farms to nearby organic farms. Also, there is an “allowable” amount of pesticide an organic farmer can use, so not all organically grown crops are completely pesticide free. Another study was conducted to determine whether there is a difference in the nutritional benefits of conventional and organic crops. In this study, the researchers conducted a review of 55 studies published between Jan. 1, 1958 and Feb. 29, 2008. They evaluated foods’ nutrient content, including vitamin C, phenolic compounds, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper, and total soluble solids.
They found no evidence of a difference between organic and conventional crops in terms of eight of those nutrient categories.

Moreover, all fruits and vegetables, regardless of how they are grown or what they cost, contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that contribute to a healthy diet. A recent Danish study found that the nutritional value of select crops did not differ depending on organic versus conventional methods of cultivation. In order to conduct this study, the researchers fed dried carrots, kale, peas, potatoes and apples, produced either conventionally or organically over two consecutive years to rats. Three systems of cultivation were employed: an organic system based on animal manure and no pesticide application (with the exception of one pesticide for kale permitted by organic standards); a more-conventional approach using animal manure and pesticide application; and another truly conventional approach based on delivery of nutrients via inorganic mineral fertilizers and application of pesticides. All other parameters were consistent between the cropping systems. The Danish researchers studied both the nutritional content of the dried foods themselves, as well as the bioavailability of nutrients in the rats. No evidence could be found supporting the claim that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional crops. This led the researchers to conclude: “This study does not support the belief that organically grown foodstuffs generally contain more major and trace elements than conventionally grown foodstuffs, nor does there appear to be an effect on the bioavailability of major and trace minerals in rats.” Therefore, conventionally grown food appears to be equally nutritious as organically grown food.

Whole Foods, one of the largest purveyors of organic food has a very strict policy when it comes to customer inquiries on the health benefits of organic food. Whole Foods employees are prohibited from telling customers that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. Undoubtedly, organically grown foods have become a very profitable area. Consumers who purchase organic foods buy them based upon perceived nutrient value. Many consumers don’t understand the difference between conventional and organic farming. Nonetheless, they purchase organic foods based upon what they perceive to be true; that organic foods are better for you. This mass perspective has done little to encourage research that provides both contrary and supporting evidence. As a result, research is scarce despite the popularity of organic foods. Much of the research in favor of organically grown crops is limited. Articles that support consumption of organic crops repeatedly use the same limited body of research to formulate favorable arguments.

Even though organic foods are costlier, consumers continue to believe that the extra cost is worth the benefit, both environmentally and nutritionally. One thing is for certain, more research needs to be conducted in this area. The health conscious consumer deserves to know the truth. Without a growing body of research, the consumer will continue to pay more for food that may be no different in nutrient value than conventional food. It behooves the consumer to demand more answers. If they don’t, they may be supporting a scientifically baseless fad.

Bibliography

1. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/09/organic_green.html
2. http://www.grist.org/article/new-study-weighs-in-on-organicconventional-debate
3. http://articles.cnn.com/2007-04-13/health/cl.organics_1_organic-foods-organic-products-organic-market?_s=PM:HEALTH
4. http://www.providence.org/Oregon/Health_Resource_Centers/Nutrition/AskAnExpert_Organics.htm
5. http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2008/08/organic-vs-conventional-nutrition-studied.aspx
6. http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/DietNutrition/15303

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