The Alkaline Diet: What does the Evidence Say?

Among today’s most popular diet trends is the alkaline diet; an eating pattern that involves replacing acid-forming foods and beverages with those that are considered alkaline.

Why consider doing this? Proponents of the diet claim that limiting acidic foods found in the traditional Western diet such as meats, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol and swapping them with more alkaline foods such as fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables, can fight off diseases – specifically osteoporosis and cancer [1][2].  Because of this, promotion of alkaline foods and increased sales of expensive alkaline water have been seen in recent years [3]. Before believing the claims of this diet, however, it is best to take a look at the reasoning and evidence (or lack thereof) behind them.

pH & the Body

Anyone who has taken chemistry courses will likely remember learning about acids, bases, and the pH scale. When a substance has a low pH, this indicates that the substance is acidic, and when pH is high, the substance is basic, or alkaline.  The important concept here is that the human body is highly sensitive to changes in pH level, and even small discrepancies in its pH can have life-threatening effects. Thankfully, the body has many homeostatic systems in place to keep its pH levels balanced, even when acidic foods and beverages are consumed. 

The Alkaline Diet & Osteoporosis

Those who follow and promote the alkaline diet say that the typical Western diet, which is high in acid-forming foods (animal products, grains, etc.) can cause the pH of the body to become dangerously acidic.  In response to this change, they claim that the body takes alkaline minerals such as calcium from bone tissue to buffer the acidity, which can lead to osteoporosis over time [4]. This theory is called the “acid ash hypothesis of osteoporosis.” The issue with this theory is that it ignores the fact that both the kidneys and the respiratory system regulate blood pH; there is no evidence that the bones are even involved [5].  No existing studies have yet found a relationship between dietary acid and bone fracture risk or bodily calcium levels [6], so the belief that an alkaline diet can decrease risk of osteoporosis risk is generally unfounded.

The Alkaline Diet & Cancer

Proponents of the diet also argue that cancer cells grow best in an acidic environment, and that an alkaline diet can help to treat cancer.  This claim has no solid basis when considering that the most comprehensive studies available have not found any direct link between dietary acidity and cancer.  In fact, cancer grows well in normal body tissue which has a slightly alkaline pH of 7.4 [7].  Although cancer cells do grow more quickly in acidic environments, it has been found that the acidity is caused by the tumors themselves, not the other way around [8].

Conclusion

Despite the lack of evidence to support the main physiological claims of the alkaline diet, following it can have natural health benefits.  Foods that are more alkaline consist mainly of whole, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes, all of which are significant contributors to good, overall health.  Other than a potential lack of nutrients that are found mainly in animal based foods, adopting this diet can potentially improve one’s nutritional status.  However, it should be remembered that according to existing evidence, it is the nutrients found in alkaline foods, not their alkalinity, that make them healthy.

 

References

  1. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/4/517/htm
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-alkaline-diet-myth#section5
  3. http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/alkaline-water-company-reports-first-half-2018-financial-results-with-record-sales-exceeding-otcqb-wter-2241433.htm
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29690515
  5. https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/advan.00054.2009
  6. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1359/jbmr.090515
  7. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-9-72
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18301995

Mix Up Your Diet by Eating Local, Seasonal Produce

When choosing fruits and vegetables to eat, it can be easy to fall into routine. While eating any fruit or vegetable is healthful and good practice, mixing up chosen produce has its benefits.  Buying and meal planning with produce that is in season will mix up your menu with flavorful and nutritious food.  Not only that, but it will also help you cut costs and benefit the environment.

Produce seasons vary all over the world, which gives us access to most fruits and veggies all year long. This is great and gives us endless menu options, however, eating local-seasonal foods is best. Eating to season provides you with food that has better flavor and higher nutritional value due to being able to vine-ripen. When fruits and veggies are harvested too early, they are forced to ripen in a storage facility or on the shelf; and once picked nutritional value starts to decline. On the other hand, when harvested too early, the produce is not able to reach is full flavor-potential on top of slowly declining as it is stored and shipped. The shorter from harvest to table, the better.

In addition to supporting your local growers, shopping for local and in-season produce is less expensive while helping the environment at the same time. With less distance to travel, fuel is saved, reducing cost and harm done to the environment. Farmers also tend to use less pesticide and herbicides if the produce is going to be sold quickly at the local level.

Using the seasonal food guide, you can easily discover what vine-ripened, fresh produce is available to you all year round! Familiarizing yourself with new fruits and veggies every season will ensure you are able to eat the American Heart Association’s 4-5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day with ease all year long.

In California, cherries are in season starting in April. Take advantage of the new season and try making this Cherry Fruit Leather recipe with fresh, local fruit!

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sweet dark cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • A large splash (About 1/4 cup) of water
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Tools:

  • Parchment paper or silicone baking mat, baking tray, immersion blender or stand blender.

Here’s What to Do:

  • Place the cherries and water in a medium-sized saucepan (a deeper pot is good if using an immersion blender in the pan) and bring to a boil. Simmer until the cherries begin to break down, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Puree the fruit, using an immersion blender or by pouring it into a stand blender and then back into the pot again.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°F. Line a jelly-roll pan or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside.
  • Add the sugar and continue to simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the puree thickens to the consistency of baby food; this may take 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Spread the thickened puree onto the baking sheet, tilting to create an even layer about 1/8 inch thick. Bake in the oven until just tacky to the touch, 2 to 3 hours (I would estimate closer to 3).
  • Cool to room temperature. Slide the leather (and its liner) onto a cutting board and carefully peel away the leather. Slice the leather in half vertically. Roll up each half and slice each roll into strips, about 2 inches wide. Store roll-ups in an airtight container for a few weeks.
  1. UC Davis
  2. Michigan State University
  3. Sustainable Capitol Hill

The Importance of a Varied Diet

As future health professionals, understanding the functionality and recommended daily intake for all nutrients is necessary.  Here is a list of the 7 major minerals used in the body and why it is of extreme importance to ensure we (and our future clients!) get all of these essential minerals.

Calcium (Ca)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake:

  • Integral part of bone structure and formation
  • Essential for muscle contraction, and blood clotting.
  • Regulator of ions, that are important in nerve transmission
  • 1000mg for adult male/female *Post menopausal females increase to 1200mg.

Good Sources 

  • Animal Sources: Milk /Dairy /Some fish (Sardines is a great example)
  • Plant Sources Green veggies ( Kale, Turnip, Mustard greens) Tofu, Almonds, black eyed peas.

Image result for calcium rich foods

Magnesium (Mg)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake:

  • 50-60% in bone along with Calcium and Phosphorous forming crystal lattice (The three minerals infused)
  • Necessary component in ATP production (In glycolysis and TCA cycle)
  • DNA/RNA production
  • Cardiac and smooth muscle contractility
  • In high doses can inhibit absorption of Ca, so be aware not to intake too much!
  • 300mg for adult females /400mg for adult males *Both male and female RDI increases by 20mg after the age of 30

Good Sources

  • Animal sources: Seafood (Salmon, Tuna)
  • Plant sources: Nuts, legumes, whole grain cereals, beans (pinto, kidney, garbanzo, navy), black eyed peas, sunflower seeds, whole grain bread, leafy green veggies

Related image

Potassium (K)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake:

  • Contractility of smooth, skeletal and cardiac muscle *This is performed by the flow of potassium and sodium moving in and out of the cell
  • Electrolyte that is involved in pH balance
  • Has the ability to lower blood pressure and intake should be emphasized in those with hypertension.
  • 4.7g  for adult male/female * can increase for those who excrete lots of sweat, for example long endurance athletes

Good sources

Animal sources: Fresh meat, milk

Plant sources: potatoes, spinach, melons, bananas, tomato, coffee, and tea

Image result for potassium

Sodium (Na)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake:

  • Major cation in extracellular fluid, works in concert with potassium
  • Helps maintain fluid balance * High amounts of sodium will increase a persons water retention, in result excessive consumption can raise a person’s blood pressure
  • Needed for muscle contraction
  • Aids in absorption of nutrients such as glucose. This is partly what makes sports drinks so effective in maintaining proper hydration (*Through SGLT1 absorptive method in the small intestine)
  • 1.5 g *decreases with elder population, and can increase for those who excrete lots of sweat, for example long endurance athletes

Good sources (*Typical American diet contains 3-5g of sodium- 2012USDA)

  • Any processed food
  • Soy sauces, pickled cubes, canned foods, smoked meats, cheese, pizza, fast foods

Image result for high sodium foods

SGLT1 (sodium glucose linked  transporter)

Image result for SGLT1

Sulfur (S)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake:

  • Unique because it is not used alone as a nutrient but is a component of organic compounds such as  water soluble vitamins  like biotin and thiamin. Sulfur is also a component of amino acids like methionine and cysteine.
  • Important in protein production*sulfide bridges help in folding protein to its functional molecular structure
  • Helps in some liver drug detoxification pathways
  • Maintain acid base balance

Good sources

  • Protein rich foods, like meats, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts seeds etc.  This is because sulfur is a component of all proteins, thus a food rich in protein will supply ample amounts of sulfur.
  • 800-900mg/day

The structure of insulin contains the mineral sulfur

Related image

Phosphorous (P)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake

  • 85%  of it works with Ca in the mineralization of bones and teeth
  • Production of ATP and activation of water soluble vitamin B6 through the process of phosphorylation
  • Is a component of DNA, RNA and phospholipids in cell membranes and lipoproteins
  • 700mg for adult males/females

Good sources (Most high protein foods)

  • Animal sources: Most meats, milk, eggs  and often found in processed meats and soft drinks used as a preservative
  • Plant sources: Legumes, nuts, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, lentils, tempeh

Image result for soft drinks

Chloride (Cl)

Functionality/Recommended daily intake:

  • Readily combines with hydrogen ions to form hydrochloric acid (HCl).  Production of HCl is crucial in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from foods (especially other minerals)!
  • Major extracellular anion
  • helps maintain a neutral charge in red blood cells
  • 2.3 g for adult males/females * decreases with elder population

Good sources

  •  Naturally in many fruits and vegetables
  • Most consumption of chloride comes from table salt, which is a combination of sodium and chloride

Image result for table salt

Minerals play a crucial role in simple everyday activities like muscle contraction , bone homeostasis , and the digestion of food.  Ensuring you eat a variety of foods in adequate amounts is vital to homeostatic control and overall health!

References

https://acupuncturefredericksburg.com/blog/2016/08/17/14/5-signs-you-may-benefit-from-a-magnesium-supplement/

https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/calcium-rich-foods/

https://sites.google.com/site/advinedu/some-personal-thoughts-on-the-curriculum/diffusion-and-active-transport?tmpl=%2Fsystem%2Fapp%2Ftemplates%2Fprint%2F&showPrintDialog=1

https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/0910/monitoring%20sodium%20intake.pdf

Gropper, S. A., Smith, J. L., & Carr, T. P. (2018). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Insel, P. M. (2014). Nutrition. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning

Roses are Healthy, Violets are Too: The Nutritional Benefits of Edible Flowers

With mid-February upon us, many are finalizing preparations for the hearts-and and-roses-themed extravaganza that is Valentine’s Day.  While the tradition of giving flowers to a love interest or significant other dates back a few centuries, flowers have been used for an even longer time as a source of bodily nourishment and healing.  Today, edible flowers are most often used as decoration for dishes, but the following flowers have health benefits that may cause one to reconsider throwing away the bouquet:

1. Lavender

This purple-budded herb has become increasingly popular as a flavoring in the past few years; lavender lattes, cookies, teas, and ice cream are among the items trending at specialty food and beverage shops.  In addition to its bright and fresh flavor, lavender has been found to help relieve nausea, headaches, and anxiety when consumed.  Lavender also contains Vitamin A and is a good source of iron, containing 2 mg per serving.  Lavender may interfere with some anti-anxiety medications, however, so consult your doctor before consuming the herb if you take these medications.

lavender-ice-cream-1

 

2. Rose

Rose is another popular flavoring for teas and desserts such as ice cream and French macarons, providing a delicate fragrance  to dishes that use the flower’s oil or petals.  Rose petals contain vitamin C, and they are also a source of antioxidants as they contain phenolic acids and flavonoids.  They have even been found to have antimicrobial properties, protecting against bacterial infection.  While most people would not simply eat rose petals from a garden or bouquet, rose petal tea and foods that incorporate oil from the petals may help provide these health benefits to your diet. 
rose
3.  Hibiscus

This brightly-hued flower, common in tropical climates, is mainly consumed in the form of tea.  The striking pink-red color of hibiscus tea is matched by its brightly tart and fruity flavor.  Made from the dried flowers of the hibiscus plant, this tea is naturally free of caffeine and calories.  Hibiscus tea has also been shown in studies to increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels, which can decrease risk of heart disease.  The anthocyanins (antioxidants) that hibiscus flowers contain are believed to be the source of its heart-healthy benefits.

Health_Benefits_Of_Hibiscus_Tea-770x402

4. Violets

Adorned with playfully vibrant, purple-blue flowers, violets are used seasonally as edible garnishes at some restaurants, but they can also be consumed as tea made from the flower’s petals and made into candies and syrups.  Violets have also been used medicinally against pain and inflammation.  Their petals provide vitamin C, which is beneficial for the immune system, and also contain rutin, a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory effects.  So the next time you are looking to add color to a salad or edible decoration to a cake, consider violets as an option that is both beautiful and nutritious.

violet

References:

1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1002/jsfa.6294/full

2. https://www.livestrong.com/article/500806-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-lavender/

3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265922.php

4. https://www.livestrong.com/article/385150-nutritional-value-of-edible-flowers/

5. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2011/976019/

6. https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/violet-flower-benefits.html

7.  https://www.livestrong.com/article/412805-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-rose-petals/

Friendly (and Not So Friendly) Flora: The Impact these “Non-Self” Cells Have On Our Bodies

All-Disease-begins-in-the-gut--300x300It is well established that the microbiome present in our guts interact with our bodies throughout our lives.  Although we understand that these bacteria are present, how do our bodies respond to communication with these organisms?

The brain-gut connection, or axis, communicates via the vagus nerve, which connects the brain with the intestines.  This is the explanation to feeling butterflies in your stomach or having GI issues with anxiety.  Although these common sensations are not surprising, it has also been established that information supplied by the gut sends signals to the brain about appetite, mood, taste, and even reward (Amen 2014).  These bacteria were described by Stefano et al as “non-self cells”, emphasizing the very apparent interaction gut bacteria have with the human body (2017).  It is likely that this symbiotic relationship between the body and other non-self cells was developed as an evolutionary benefit, being that good bacteria can provide energy to be utilized by the brain, improving cognitive function and efficiency (Stefano 2017).

However, because the variety of species of bacteria changes as diet changes, unhealthy diets high in fat and sugar have been linked a higher presence of unhealthy gut bacteria, compared to good bacteria.  These unfriendly flora can interact with your body as well, influencing cognition, metabolism, the immune system and inflammation, stress-related conditions, and pathophysiology and disease (Remely 2014; Perlmutter et al 2015; Neurobiology of Stress 2017).  It is not surprising then, that obese individuals were found to have higher ratios of unhealthy gut bacteria (Remely 2015).

With an increasing rate of obesity globally, we cannot help but wonder how these interactions between our brains and our guts will affect us long term.  Many chronic diseases are associated with bad gut health, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Obesity, cancer, and even autism (Zhang et al 2015).  The guts link to the brain is also being considered in the pathophysiological progression of neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s (Moos et al 2015).

To increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut, and drive out the not so good species, losing weight if obese (Remely 2015), increasing fiber intake, and consuming other pre- and probiotics can help reach a healthy ratio of species.  Cutting out overly fatty and sugary foods has also been seen to correct microbiome composition (Sen 2017).  By increasing these happier, friendly species of bacteria in the gut, we can reap the benefits they provide us and prevent the disease bad bacteria are increasingly becoming responsible for.

References:

http://www.amenclinics.com/blog/gut-bugs-causing-food-cravings/ (Amen 2014)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25609655 (Remely 2015)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28249783 (Sen 2017)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24325907 (Remely 2014)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/ (Zhang et al 2015)

http://www.drperlmutter.com/study/gut-microbiota-depletion-from-early-adolescence-in-mice-implications-for-brain-and-behaviour/ (Perlmutter et al 2015)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892191/ (Moos et al 2016)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28636585 (Stefano et al 2017)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28249783 (Sen 2017)

http://www.drperlmutter.com/study/stress-the-gut-brain-axis-regulation-by-the-microbiome/ (Neurobiology of Stress 2017)

Indulge Away: Surprising Health Benefits of Your Favorite Holiday Foods

  With Thanksgiving over, the holiday season is in full swing.  In what feels like a blur of frantic shopping trips, family visits, and parties galore, it can be difficult to know whether we’re getting adequate amounts of the important nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy and energized.  Thankfully, many of the foods that we enjoy eating most during the holiday season are already good sources of vitamins and minerals that can help us to stay nourished when eaten in moderation.  Here are 5 favorite holiday foods to include in your diet this month for a little holiday health boost.

1. Pumpkin

Whether it’s incorporated into pie, bread, a soup, or a savory sauce, pumpkin is everywhere during the holiday season.  While eating too much pumpkin pie will certainly not benefit your waistline, moderate amounts of pumpkin foods can benefit your vision, immunity, body fluid balance, and energy levels due to pumpkin’s beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, iron, and zinc [1].  Instead of a high-calorie pumpkin dessert, try out this recipe for spicy roasted pumpkin:

https://whereismyspoon.co/spicy-roasted-pumpkin-wedges/

2. Cranberries

These tart, bright red berries are good for much more than holiday salad toppings or flavorful sauces.  Cranberries are rich in proanthocyanidin, an antioxidant that can help to protect your cells from the oxidative damage that can lead to cancer and other inflammatory diseases.  They also contain good amounts of vitamins C, A, and K, keeping your immune system in full swing this holiday season [2].  Although they are not very palatable as unsweetened berries, cranberries can still provide health benefits even in their sweetened form this holiday season.  Try this recipe for a sweet-and-savory cranberry appetizer and impress all your party guests:

https://cookieandkate.com/2013/cranberry-crostini/

3. Pecans

Although they are typically found coated in candy sugar or making up the filling of a classic holiday pie during the holidays, pecans can add a wonderful , nutty crunch to a variety of festive dishes this season.  Pecans are a good source of unsaturated fats that can help to lower blood cholesterol.  They also are rich in fiber and contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need such as vitamins A, B, and folic acid [3].  Pecan pie can be dangerously high in calories, but a small handful of spiced pecans like the ones in this recipe can reduce those pie cravings and leave you feeling energized this season:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/spiced-pecans-recipe-1956279

4. Dark Chocolate 

Chocolate is a well-loved treat around the holidays, whether it is used in some of our favorite desserts or given as a gift.  Dark chocolate specifically provides some powerful health benefits that can assuage the guilt often associated with indulging in dessert.  Research has shown that dark chocolate may be associated with reduced blood pressure and has the added benefit of protective antioxidants [4].  To increase those antioxidant levels even more in a tasty way, try this festive recipe for pomegranate dark chocolate bark for the holidays:

http://simply-taylor.com/2015/03/05/sweet-salty-dark-chocolate-pomegranate-bark/

5. Peppermint

The cooling flavor from this plant is commonly associated with the frosty cheer of the holiday season, found in your favorites candies, teas, and even as a flavoring for coffee.  What many don’t know is that studies show that peppermint may be used to ease the symptoms of indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, and some skin conditions.  The menthol in peppermint is also a decongestant, helping to treat the effects of a cold [5].  Although peppermint candies are highly enjoyable during the holidays nutritious alternatives are out there.  Check out this recipe for peppermint chocolate chip energy bites to satisfy your winter mint craving and sweet tooth:

https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Mint-Chocolate-Chip-Energy-Bites-1199499?columns=3&position=7%2F69

References

  1. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php
  3. https://www.shape.com/blogs/fit-foodies/pop-pecan-not-pill
  4. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20030827/dark-chocolate-is-healthy-chocolate#1
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265214.php

 

The history and culture behind our everlasting sugar addiction

Well, as we all know, sugary foods are utterly addicting; they are a concentrated, highly refined carbohydrate. Why is it so addictive? Well, let’s think back to our ancestors…

Imagine being a hunter and gatherer, constantly having to search for your next meal. One day you fall upon a bush of blueberries; sweet balls of sugar that almost instantaneously raise blood sugar levels! This quick energy made us adapted to loving these quick energy foods.  But society today has emphasized our love for sugary foods by providing an abundance of them, however, they are not needed in such large amounts.  Although we do need carbohydrates, we do not need foods that instantaneously give us energy like we used to.

Now that we have a better understanding for humanity’s innate love for sugar, we can further analyze the situation.  Perhaps, for many this is old news, but it seems the situation has only worsened. Countries are eating more and more sugar, with the top 3 countries with highest sugar consumption being Finland(109g/day), Germany(109g/day) and in first USA(126g/day). Although the side effects of sugar are well established, it seems nothing can stop the rise in consumption.

What will it take to change our societal addiction to sugar? What can we do to help? We must first take a look at the history behind our addiction to see exactly how the problem unraveled.

  • The sugar cane crop spread around the Eastern Pacific and Indian oceans around 3,500 years ago, carried by Austronesian and Polynesian seafarers.
  • First chemically refined sugar appeared on the scene in India about 2500 years ago; then the technique spread east towards China, and west towards Persia. Eventually making it to the Mediterranean in the 13th century.
  • Throughout the middle ages sugar was considered a rare and expensive spice.
  • Around 1647 Brazilian sugar cane was being mass produced and was introduced to the Caribbean which shortly led to the growth of the industry.
  • Huge demand for sugar industry was made possible by the labor of slaves who were shipped from Africa to the Americas between 1500’s-1800’s.
  • Mass consumption since the 17th century heavily influenced the increase in disease. (www.iflscience.com)

 Modern 20th century

refined sugar consumption in the USA

– Per capita consumption of refined sugars in the United States from 1970 to 2000. Adapted from the US Department of Agriculture .

Image result for sugar consumption and disease

–  We have seen an exponential correlation between sugar consumption and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome etc.

HFCS-items

-This picture illustrates perfectly how sugars have been incorporated into the western diet, and most importantly our culture. What makes things most scary is that most these sweetened products are advertised to the future of our country: children.

Now what we all been waiting for, what can we do as future health professionals?

Parental education

  • If a person’s life long habits are usually attained while they’re young, then we must educate parents on proper nutrition, effects of overconsumption, and give them tips on how to make lower-sugar versions of their favorites at home. For example, using a natural non-caloric sweetener such as stevia, or using oat flour when making cookies to increase fiber content and lower the products glycemic index, are just a few ways people can take their sugar intake into their own hands.

Macronutrient distribution

  • Another great pointer to give people is for them to pay attention to their macro-balance. By advising people to monitor their consumption of the three macronutrients, they can make sure to have appropriate amounts of each, instead of carbo-loading. This balance varies depending on the activity and individual needs of a person and should be determined by a health professional. But, for the sake of regulating blood sugar, diets higher in protein and fat while being lower in carbs has been seen to have beneficial effects in regulating blood sugar. (www.diabetesincontrol.com)MACRODISTRUBUTION

– A few examples of how someone’s macro-nutrients maybe distributed.

Political Justice

  • Sometimes it is easy to forget that we vote with our wallets, so we as future health professionals should try our best to lower the demand for products with added sugars. By buying wholesome minimally processed foods and advising our clients to do the same, we can create a lower demand for these foods. Furthermore, getting involved in your local community and being an activist for things like the taxation of sugary drinks or putting a minimum age limit on the purchase of soft drinks. The ideas may seem radical, but, for a change to take place we must push for change! A great example of change occurring is in Berkeley California, which is the first city to begin the taxation of  sugary drinks. As of January 2017, over $2.5 million has been raised by the tax, to go to community health and nutrition efforts, including school garden programs. For more information visit http://www.berkeleyvsbigsoda.com/faq .

Blood examinations

  • People who have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome are at high risk to develop diseases such as diabetes. As future health professionals, we should advise our clients with symptoms of metabolic syndrome to get frequent blood glucose testing; and even healthy adults should be advised since some diseases are caused through genetic disposition and not dietary intake.
  • A1C- Longer-term glycemic control assesses glycosylated hemoglobin. Dangerous levels of glycosylated hemoglobin occurs when blood glucose levels remain high (hyperglycemic) for long periods of time.
  • Normal A1C is 4-6%, anything higher then 6.5% would indicate a person is diabetic.
  • Another common method of checking glucose levels is Fasting Plasma Glucose, this test is done after an 8 hr. fasting period. Levels greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl diagnoses a person as diabetic.

Through parental education, macronutrient balance, high quality/minimally processed foods, political contributions, and monitoring the blood glucose levels of our clients, we can assist in one of the biggest epidemics this world has ever faced. Sugar consumption maybe part of our innate senses for survival, but, ironically it’s consumption has influenced the death of millions. Let’s fight for the promotion of health and vitality that will improve the lives of millions!

Believe.

References

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/history-sugar-food-nobody-needs-everyone-craves/

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/2/341.full

https://www.quora.com/What-types-of-sugar-cause-heart-disease

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/23/491104093/berkeleys-soda-tax-appears-to-cut-consumption-of-sugary-drinks

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/glycemic-index-good-versus-bad-carbs#1

http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/ask-the-dietitian-whats-the-best-carb-protein-and-fat-breakdown-for-weight-loss/

http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/high-protein-diet-can-help-type-2-diabetes-patients-control-blood-sugar/

Balance During the Holidays

October marks the beginning of the great hubbub of the year. All at once, every weekend is booked up with parties, get-togethers, and all sorts of social visits. With all the fun comes the best part of it all: food. Lots of it. Even if the weekend isn’t spent out, there’s still those pumpkin scones sitting in the pantry waiting to be devoured while binge-watching the new season of Stranger Things, or the homemade fudge your neighbor made that you eye while Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is playing in the background. Before you know it, that summer bod you spent Spring working on is transforming into the holiday version. While there’s no problem with that, it’s not exactly the best lifestyle to inhale all the goodies that are waiting at Grandma’s house, or even more tempting, your house.

During these months, keep this in mind: do not feel as you though you need to cut out all the goodies from your diet. It’s the holidays, not boot camp. Do not resist! Enjoying some Halloween candy, pumpkin pie, and peppermint bark is part of the whole season. The goal here is to not go overboard. An average-weight person can expect to gain nearly an extra pound during the season, and even though a lot of us make those New Year’s resolutions to get more active, we don’t stick to them most of the time and that weight is sticks around (1). Binging on the treats with the excuse that January will bring weight loss is not an effective way to stay healthy. With that in mind, keep these healthy tips in mind as the season begins.

Everyone is in good spirits with a good spirit in their hand. Alcohol tends to flow pretty freely during the holidays. Unfortunately, we tend to enjoy more than just one, making these high-calorie beverages quickly add up by the end of the night. Wine can account for about 120 – 125 calories per glass. With this in mind, cut down the second glass of wine by a few finger widths and top it off with some club soda. Not only did you decrease the number of calories you are taking in that night, but you made yourself a tasty wine spritzer. It is a great way to still partake in the adult fun with friends and family, but still keep the calories in check.

Appetizers can bulk up your caloric intake at a party. A great way to ensure that there’s a healthy alternative to the delicious, but maybe not so calorie wise appetizers is to bring your own to add to them! Contributing a veggie platter or a yogurt based dip will not only show what a gracious guest you are, but will also help balance out your plate. Even more so, become the nutrition-savvy person at the party, making healthier choices available for everyone at the party.

I know everyone goes for the dark meat at the table, but white meat means less fat, about half as much as dark meat. While the lighter cut may not be up our alley, try to mix it in with the darker meat, creating a balance among the two. Sound familiar?

Eat the pumpkin pie, and don’t let anyone tell you not to. But instead of grabbing that big buff piece that looks like it’s been sitting there waiting just for you, maybe take half of it, and let the other half wait for someone else. Keep an eye out for portion distortion and keep treats treat-sized.

The holidays don’t have to be a scary time consisting of avoiding the scales because you just know you ate your weight of treats the night before. It’s about pairing the food you’ve been looking forward to all year with the food that you know should be a part of your daily diet. It’s about laughing around the table with your friends and family with that homemade meal and dessert, and going to bed with a belly full of good-for-you and some not-so-good-for-you food, knowing that you had a wonderful time. It’s about balance.

 

References

  1. Yanovski JA, Yanaovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O’Neil PM, Sebring NG. A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2000;342(12):861-867. http://nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200003233421206. Accessed October 25, 2017. 

What’s with the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet is a seemingly extreme way of eating. This trendy, high-fat diet, low in protein and carbohydrates1, is complex and is still being investigated. In the 1920’s, John Hopkin’s Medical Center developed this high fat diet to mimic starvation2, which has been historically used to treat conditions like epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Both starvation and keto cause the body to produce ketone bodies for energy.

Typically, the body’s main source of fuel comes from carbohydrates being broken down into glucose, reserving fat as the backup source. Since the ketogenic diet is high in fat, sometimes up to 85-90% of daily calories, carbohydrates get the cut.2 With very minimal carbohydrates being consumed, the body begins to metabolize the dietary and body fat into ketones (an appealing metabolic phenomenon for those trying to lose weight).

When the body is physically starving, fat stores are metabolized when carbohydrates stop being consumed. However, on the keto diet, enough calories are being consumed, but the amount of carbohydrates is very limited, making fat the main fuel source. The liver produces ketone bodies, putting them into circulation to be used in all bodily tissues in place of glucose.3

This high-fat diet helps up to 15% of drug resistant epileptic children to have complete control of their seizures.2 This is achieved by either a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of fats to carbohydrates and protein. In a 4:1 ratio, 4 grams of fat are consumed to every ½ gram of protein and ½ gram of carbohydrate.2 This is achieved by an experienced group of medical professionals and compliant patients and their parents. If and when the ratio is disrupted, the body will default to using glucose as energy and the patient will fall out of ketosis (causing the symptoms to return).

It is still not completely understood why keto can be beneficial in treating diseases such as diabetes mellitus II, obesity, cancer, autism spectrum disorder, and most notably, epilepsy.3,4 Possibly even Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS can be treated and prevented with keto, but much more research is needed.3 However, it is understood that the reduction of blood glucose reduces your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, and therefore reduces the inflammation.5 Because Alzheimer’s Disease, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders are highly associated with neuroinflammation, reducing this inflammation is where the benefits may lie.6 Despite the good possible uses of keto to treat disease, the choice to start this diet has to be made carefully with the risks in mind.  Little evidence has been collected on what the long-term effects of this diet are for those without neurological disorders, such as for weight loss and the prevention of neurological damage.  Although these have been trending areas in nutrition, it is important for us to know the long-term effects of starving the body from glucose.

Keto is an extreme diet and has many possible side effects: gastrointestinal problems, hypoglycemia, metabolic acidosis, micronutrient deficiencies, bone loss, excessive bruising, elevated cholesterol, dehydration, lethargy, kidney stones, and premature heart disease.2,4 Outside of established use for treating medical diseases, the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet have yet to be proven. It is important that before going on a restrictive diet such as keto, you speak with a medical professional.

References

  1. Castro K, Baronio D, Perry I, Riesgo R, Gottfried C. The effect of ketogenic diet in an animal model of autism induced by prenatal exposure to valproic acid. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2016; 20(6): 343-350. doi: 10.1080/1028415x.2015.1133029
  2. Klier K. Medical Management of Ketogenic Diet Therapy. PowerPoint presented at: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, August 28, 2017; Los Angeles, CA.
  3. Branca A, Ferreira A, Simões R, et al. Ketogenic diets: from cancer to mitochondrial diseases and beyond. European Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2016; 46(3): 285-298. doi: 10.1111/eci.12591
  4. Azar S, Beydoun H, Albadri M. Benefits of Ketogenic Diet for Management of Type Two Diabetes: A Review. Journal of Obesity and Eating Disorders. 2016; 2(2). doi. 10.4172/2471-8203.100022
  5. British Heart Foundation. Diabetes mellitus, fasting blood glucose concentration, and risk of vascular disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 102 prospective studies. The Lancet. 2017; (9733)375: 2215-2222. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60484-9.
  6. Lopez-Picon, et al. Neuroinflammation appears early and then plateaus in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease shown by PET imaging. Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Oct 2017. Retrieved October 10, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28986511.

The Wonders of Alginic Acid

After learning of a new acid in class; I figured I would praise the amazing features that this compound holds. It is called Alginic acid and it is primarily found in brown seaweed (Phaeophyceae) and is what gives this seaweed strength and flexibility.

This is the structure

Hand with pen drawing the chemical formula of Alginic acid

  • Alginate was first isolated by E.C.C Stanford in 1883. He discovered that alkali salts such as potassium and calcium alginate produced a viscous and aqueous solution at low levels.
  • Alginate is part of a family called hydrocolloids; hydrocolloids are substances which form gels in the presence of water.
  • Sodium Alginate: is used in foods as a stabilizer for ice cream, yogurt, cream, and cheese. It is also used in the food industry as a thickener, emulsifier for salad dressings, pudding, tomato juice, and jam.

Some cool applications may include:

Food spherification

ALGINATE

  • In order to make spheres of this sort; you must first make a mixture of sodium alginate and your desired substance (like the flavors above). Then simply add droplets from your desired substance into a pool of calcium chloride(direct method). For more information regarding this process watch this  video  https://youtu.be/TzmnmLI79IE
  • The spherification process works due to the sodium alginate coming in contact with divalent ions, of calcium. In result gel forms as sodium ions exchange with calcium ions and polymers become cross-linked.
  • When sodium alginate is used without calcium the effects are as a shear thinning thickener and this can be useful in thickening pie fillings as well as being a stabilizer in water in oil emulsions.(e.g salad dressing, cream)

Alginate wound dressings (hydrogels)

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  • Facilitates wound healing
  • Maintains a physiologically moist microenvironment
  • Minimizes bacterial infections at wound sites

Polynesian Sauce 

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  • You can even find alginate in Polynesian sauce from Chick-fil-A, HOPEFULLY, you get the point. Alginate has a variety of applications and ways of being used!

Hopefully, after this short article, you are more aware of the effects that alginate can have on the food and pharmaceutical industry. It seems mother nature has an everlasting list of amazing goods.

References

“Food+spherification.” Google Search. Google, n.d. Web. 07 May 2017.

“Sauces and Dressings.” Chick-fil-A. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2017.

Augst, Alexander D., Hyun Joon Kong, and David J. Mooney. “Alginate Hydrogels as Biomaterials.” Macromolecular Bioscience 6.8 (2006): 623-33. Web.

The seaweed site: information on marine algae. [Internet]. Galway, Ireland: Seaweed.ie. [Accessed 2017 April 22]. Available from

Dry Powder Alginates | Sodium Alginate Suppliers. In: SNP Inc. http://www.snpinc.com/chemical-products/alginates/. Accessed 23 Apr 2017