Check out the amazing and beautiful food-based infographics on Wired.
I don’t even have to read the study about high-fat diets causing breast cancer in teenage girls to say that it’s essentially meaningless. Just reading the news article pissed me off. Why? Because the headline reads: High Fat Diet Tied To Accelerated Breast Cancer Development In Teenage Girls. Oh no! Maybe we were wrong (again!) that fat isn’t the demon food we once believed it to be. Read a little further… “the researchers fed a group of female, pubertal mice a high fat diet”. Wait… So this study didn’t actually study human teenage girls? Well, how much fat is “high-fat”? And what type(s) of fats did these mice eat? Perhaps I do need to turn to the actual study after all.
Mice on the low-fat diet were given 10-12% of total calories from fat. Mice on the high-fat diet were given 60% of total calories from fat. The fat was from corn oil and lard. Mostly lard. Up to 54.5% of total calories came from lard. Can you imagine eating more than half of your calories in a day from lard? Presuming an average teenage girl needs 2, 000 calories a day (give or take a couple of hundred) that means that about 1, 080 calories come from lard! That’s more than 100 grams of lard. And that’s not even counting the calories from the corn oil!
The study found that the high-fat diet affected genes in the mice associated with breast cancer. Interestingly, the high-fat diet had no effect on weight (more evidence that calories do matter). Their conclusion was that a high-fat diet can increase the risk of breast cancer in girls, independent of weight status.
My conclusion: humans are not the same as mice. If you are a mouse eating obscene amounts of lard and corn oil on a daily basis you might have cause for concern. Even if you’re not a mouse, that’s too much lard.
Apparently gelatin is the latest “superfood”. Yep, the stuff in jello. Of course, you have to take away the added sugar, colour, and flavour for it to ascend to “superfood” status. You all know how I feel about “superfoods”. They’re a super scam. Sure, many of them are nutritious (think avocados and blueberries) but there’s nothing about them that makes them superior to other fruits and vegetables.
Okay, even if gelatin isn’t a “superfood” is it exceptionally good for you? Should we all be eating plain jello or taking gelatin capsules? Let’s take a look at the specific claims in the article…
Improved digestion - According to pretty much every wellness blog and self-proclaimed nutritionist gelatin improves digestion. However, as far as I can tell there is no scientific basis for this claim. I can’t find any research on the topic. This isn’t to say that gelatin doesn’t help digestion, but we don’t currently have any reason to believe that it does.
Reduced food intolerance and allergy - This is a frightening claim. It would be lovely if it were true; people with peanut allergies could eat some gelatin and then chow down on some peanuts. And what about those people who suffer from gelatin allergy?
Strong bones and flexible joints - Because gelatin is made from animal cartilage (unless it’s the vegetarian variety which is made from seaweed) it’s easy to see how people draw the connection between gelatin and joint and bone health. However, despite this widespread belief, there’s no evidence to support the use of gelatin for bone and joint health. The same applies for Thick hair, strong nails and healthy teeth. Just because a substance (e.g. collagen) acts to strengthen our hair doesn’t mean that it will do so if we consume it orally. Otherwise, we would be able to improve our eye sight by eating eyeballs. A bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.
Ageless skin - See the last point above. I’d also like to add that skin ages! Sorry, no matter what supplements we take, and what lotions and potions we apply we are all going to get wrinkles. Want to retain your youthful complexion for as long as possible? Eat a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables and fluids, get enough sleep, exercise, avoid tanning and sunburns.
Improved sleep - I was able to find one study that suggested that 2 grams of glycine ingested at bedtime improved subjective sleep quality. There’s 1.3 g of glycine in one serving of gelatin so it’s possible that you might obtain some benefit from it. However, this quantity may not be present in capsules so before you go running out to buy them before bed you might want to make sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for.
I was innocently reading twitter last night when I saw the following tweet from a Holistic Nutritionist:
Are you Diabetic? Get away from the numbers! No carb counting, no constant testing, just REAL FOOD! That’s the answer.
I completely understand what she was getting at. I speak with many newly diagnosed diabetics who are overwhelmed and have no idea what they can eat. I also get a lot of them looking for “diabetic” cookies, granola bars, and sweets. This is during their first grocery shop after diagnosis. I loathe the vast majority of sweets marketed to people with diabetes. Most of them would not fall under the heading of “real food”. They’re full of sugar alcohols and highly processed ingredients. And despite that, they still often have a considerable amount of sugar. What so many people don’t understand is that people with diabetes can eat “real food”. They don’t need to have specially formulated bars and snacks. In fact, the diet that’s recommended for people with diabetes is the diet we should all be following: lots of vegetables along with protein, healthy starches, and dairy (or alternative) products. So, yes, “real food” is the recommended diet for all.
This is where I get ranty… This advice is dangerous. If I was newly diagnosed as diabetic I would not find this helpful. Yes, constant testing of blood sugar is no longer recommended. That doesn’t mean that people with diabetes shouldn’t check their blood sugar at all. It can be very helpful for people with diabetes (especially those who have just been diagnosed) to figure out what foods and activities may trigger highs and lows. It can also help people to become attuned to what high and low blood sugar feels like. Carb counting is also a useful tool for those with diabetes. Consistent quantities of carbohydrates are needed to ensure that appropriate doses of medicine are prescribed. Carb counting helps to make sure that appropriate serving sizes of carbohydrate are being consumed and can help reduce the need for medications. For those with insulin pumps, carb counting is necessary to determine how much insulin should be administered at meal times.
Yes, ”real food” is important but taken alone it’s a simplistic solution. The numbers are useful tools to help people figure out when, what, and how much of “real foods” to consume.
A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the consumption of nuts was tied to lower mortality rates. I love nuts but I hate studies like this.
The research was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation. Yep, that sounds like an impartial sponsor. I’m sure that didn’t affect the results whatsoever. Yes, they may have had no influence on the design and results but if they study hadn’t found a benefit to eating nuts would it have been published? Would it still have been promoted in the press?
Even putting aside the significant issue of bias, this study wasn’t great. It used the data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Why do I see this as an issue? Well, it relied on self-reported data. We know that self-reported food intake surveys are flawed and tend to provide inaccurate information. Even if the information provided was accurate, we don’t know how generalizable the results from a survey solely of nursing staff is to the general population. These nurses may differ in some fundamental way from the general populace. There’s huge potential for confounding factors in studies like this. Lower mortality rates may be attributed to other aspects of lifestyle, diet, or socioeconomic status. The nut eaters could have been eating the nuts with something else that was the actual health promoter or they may have been eating the nuts in place of something else that was detrimental to health.
It also bothers me that people who had previously had cancer, heart disease, or stroke were excluded from the study. This means that even if eating nuts benefits healthy people (as the study claims) we still don’t know if it benefits those who are, or who have been, ill.
The study also fails to tell us if there is a limit to how many nuts we should eat in a day for maximum benefit. They found that those who eat nuts at least daily had the lowest mortality rates. However, they didn’t say how many nuts people were eating each day. Nuts are undoubtedly delicious and nutrient dense. They are also calorie dense. Having a handful of nuts on your oatmeal or a walnut pesto on your pasta may be beneficial but eating a large bag of trail mix for a snack most likely is not. Simply telling people to eat more nuts is not helpful dietary advice.
Check-out Rustik Magazine. An online publication designed to help you master sustainable living. Based in rural Nova Scotia they focus on issues that are affecting both urban and rural NS, and the Maritimes. However, much of their content could apply to anyone anywhere. If you are in NS you may find them to be a useful resource for local events related to food and the environment.