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What causes all those wrinkles as we age? No doubt, our gene pool makes a difference, but are there ways to keep those wrinkles at bay? For years, collagen has been touted as a fountain of youth. Is it?

What is this substance, and how do we get it? The word itself comes from the Greek kolla, meaning glue, and gennao refers to producing, which somewhat explains collagen’s role in the body. It is a protein produced by our bodies primarily from the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroproline. Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, is a main component of bones, skin, muscles, and ligament structures.

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Collagen production decreases as we age. We recognize symptoms of diminishing collagen when wrinkles replace soft, pliable skin. Tendons and ligaments become stiffer, and muscles weaken from shrinking. Worn cartilage causes joint pain and osteoarthritis. While aging may result in discomfort from less collagen, noticeable changes occur in the skin, the largest organ in our bodies. Collagen removes and repairs skin and keeps it moist. Most people notice changes well before middle age as skin loses its elasticity. The face and neck start to develop folds or creases we don’t want. What, if anything, will stop or at least slow the onslaught of wrinkles before we look like a dried prune? Aside from aging, poor diet is the primary reason people don’t have enough collagen.

Hands, Old, Old Age, Elderly, Vulnerable, Care

Food Sources of Collagen:  

Image result for pixabay free clip art foods with zinc and copper

Before spending money on creams, pills, and potions for the skin, consider this. Foods we consume may have a greater impact on skin and wrinkles than any other choices we make affecting health other than smoking and sun exposure. Smoking produces free radicals that damage cells. The sun’s ultraviolet light damages the elastin in skin causing it to sag, stretch, and lose the ability to snap back. The skin also bruises and tears more easily and takes longer to heal. Nothing can repair sun damage, but the skin sometimes repairs itself.

The best food source of collagTangerines, Citrus, Fruit, Clementines, Citrus Fruiten is meat broth. Equally significant are nutrients involved in the production of collagen, primarily Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), zinc, and copper. Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits, broccoli and green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, and green and red peppers. Oysters are plentiful in zinc and copper. Other good sources are seafood, dried beans, and dark chocolate. In addition to broth from meat sources, meats provide necessary amino acids as well as zinc and copper to produce collagen.

Supplements:

Varied collagen supplements may help increase collagen production. Before the body can use them, most supplements are broken down into peptides to increase availability. Check labels to confirm if they have been hydrolyzed. However, remember labels may or may not be accurate since food supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, manufacturers do not have to prove effectiveness or safety of the products sold.

One scientific study of collagen supplements compared to a placebo found that some participants reported improved skin elasticity and decreased joint pain. That does not mean results may hold true for those taking supplements. Because of lack of regulation, consumers have no way of knowing if what they choose is safe and effective.

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Like many products on the market, collagen supplements may be overrated. One thing is sure. No strong scientific evidence supports collagen supplements in any form to treat or reverse the natural aging process.

Aging remains a fact of life, but appropriate foods and adequate protection of the skin will help keep those wrinkles at bay.

We have known for a long time that overweight or obese individuals, especially those who are apple shaped, are more prone to certain disease conditions and higher mortality rates. A recent study, however, says that scales may not present the entire picture when it comes to susceptibility to certain illnesses and lifespan. Waistlines and body shape may be as important or more so than actual weight.

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Using the BMI chart as a standard and waist circumference as the indicator, researchers studied medical records of 156,000 postmenopausal women. Those with waistlines above 35 inches were categorized as having central obesity even when their weight was within normal range. Researchers found that women who were overweight or obese but did not have central obesity had a slightly reduced incidence of all-cause mortality. They referred to the phenomenon of too much weight with smaller waist circumference and normal weight women with a large waist circumference as the “obesity paradox.”  Does that affect health?

The study noted that central obesity presents risk factors for cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, namely breast and colon. Overall results may or may not apply to men and younger women. Nor is it known what role other factors may play since age influences hormonal changes and lowered metabolisms that affect weight.

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The journal of Neurology1 reported other negative health findings for those with large waistlines and higher BMIs. With an average age of sixty-four,1,289 participants underwent MRI brain scans to measure thinning of the brain cortex which has been associated with dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. Obese subjects younger than sixty-five had greater reduction in gray matter in the brain. Over a period of approximately six years, researchers found that as BMI scores increased, scans showed more thinning in the cortex―the area of the brain which causes loss of old memories. Dr. Tatjana Rundek, a co-author of the study, stated that “results would indicate that being overweight or obese may accelerate aging in the brain by at least a decade.”

While too much weight isn’t a positive aspect on health as we age, it not only affects physical well-being but brain functions as well. Remember these effects, if you can, the next time you eye that glazed doughnut or tempting dessert.

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  1. 1Michelle R. Caunca, Hannah Gardener, Marialaura Simonetto, Ying Kuen Cheung, Noam Alperin, Mitsuhiro Yoshita, Charles DeCarli, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, Ralph L. Sacco, Clinton B. Wright, Tatjana Rundek. Measures of obesity are associated with MRI markers of brain aging The Northern Manhattan StudyNeurology, 2019 DOI: 1212/WNL.0000000000007966

 

Who doesn’t know that nearly 70 percent of our nation is either overweight or obese? And the trend keeps rising. Dr. Michael Ungar, a family therapist, in his article “Why did Walmart buy a plus-size women’s fashion line?”1 puts his finger on weight-related trends. He  concludes that the move by Walmart “says a lot about failure of the self-help industry . . . and fitness and dieting programs.” Common sense tells us that if Walmart invests in a plus-size woman’s fashion venture, the company expects increased sales and revenue. Plus-sized apparel is one of the fastest growing in the clothing industry. Why wouldn’t it be with more than half of US women now wearing a size 14 or larger?

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But Ungar’s article wasn’t to give accolades to Walmart’s smart financial move. No, his concern, as is mine, was why this avalanche of need for over-sized clothing. Americans now consume 23 percent more calories than in 1970. Ungar points out that while “The self-help, fitness and diet industries have been making billions of dollars promising solutions that simply don’t work,” people are more influenced to make informed decisions when opportunities for better choices are placed in front of them.

Self-help places responsibility on individuals. If we think of the many times we have been influenced by pictures of food or the wafting aroma of pizza, doughnuts, or other favorite foods, we see his point. Many places have supersized sugary drinks or have tempted patrons with extra foods (think “Do you want fries with that?”) to increase sales and revenue. Who can resist? And we aren’t prone to change for the better without strong incentives.

See the source imageUngar insists society needs to shift emphasis from individual’s self-control to changing the world around us such as 1) government intervention on sizes of sugary drinks, 2) calorie counts on menus, 3) taxes on sugar, 4) removing empty calorie foods from checkout lines, and 5) providing greater access to fresh produce for all people. Several of these practices are underway in efforts to reduce the girth and improve overall health of citizens. Many towns and cities have initiated accessibility to parks, walking areas, and bike lanes.

Dr. Ungar makes no claims at knowledge or education in the field of nutrition. He sees before him what all should see―a society run amok from constant exposure to eat too many calories. Is he right? What are your thoughts about regulating, taxing, or whatever it takes to help people make healthier food choices. Drop me a line in the comments and share your views. When do positive actions to control decision making for our own good override freedom of choice to have excess weight that costs in enormous medical bills and lost wages?

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DeSoto Times-Tribune, P. O. Box 100, Hernando, MS 38632, Vol 123, Issue 46, page 4, June 20, 2019

 

 

 

 

No one wants dirty foods. Before we shy away, what are dirty foods? A little dirt can be washed off, but dirty foods encompass much more. Recently I discussed how kale landed on 2019’s “Dirty Dozen” list. What is that list, and should we have concerns? Should these foods be eliminated from our diets?

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling, releases lists of the most and least pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. These are referred to as EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 and EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2019 include the following, in order: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. Some produce may come as a surprise. Most of these fruits and vegetables had residue of two or more pesticides. Kale and spinach averaged 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than other crops.

Red Strawberries

So which fruits and vegetables are safer when it come to pesticide content? The EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2019 include avocados at the headAssorted Vegetable Lot of the list followed by sweet corn. Less than one percent of these two products had any detectable pesticides. More than 70 percent of the remaining list; pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons had no pesticide residues. View the entire listing of both lists at the EWG’s website.

 Farmer spraying pesticide

Does this mean to avoid foods listed on the dirty list? Fruits and vegetables are significant contributions to the diet. It would be a mistake, health wise, to discontinue these foods. For instance, strawberries are low in calories yet have high levels of flavonoid phytochemicals that can deter onset of cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Strawberries are also excellent sources of vitamin C plus A, E, and B-complex vitamins which have powerful antioxidants.

The modified list below from MedlinePlus summarizes how to protect yourself and family from pesticides on fruits and vegetables.

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing food.
  • Wash produce when ready for use. Washing before storing degrades the quality of most fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash produce even those for peeling since chemicals or bacteria may transfer to the inside when peeled or cut.
  • Rinse all produce under cool running water for at least 30 seconds.
  • Buy a produce wash product or use a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of water. Avoid washing foods with dish soaps or detergents that can leave inedible residues.
  • Pat produce dry with a clean towel after washing.
  • Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Rinse and eat the inner part.
  • Eat organic sources of foods grown with approved organic pesticides, especially for those fruits with thin-skins. Eating more organic foods may lower risks of cancer compared with individuals who do not eat organic foods.

These guidelines can help reduce exposure to pesticides yet allow continued enjoyment and healthful benefits from susceptible “dirty foods.” When you weigh the odds, the nutrients these foods contain may outweigh harm if you follow precaution in using. Eat well, eat healthy.

 

Rarely does a day go by without nutrition articles catching my attention. Some explore new research in varied topics. Many regurgitate information with a new twist reported decades ago. As a professional dietitian nutritionist, articles should make sense to me, and if not, maybe its nutrition nonsense. No wonder the public is confused.

Headlines tantalize readers with everything from fried Twinkies to cures from horrible diseases by eating certain foods. Where is the truth, and what can consumers believe? Sadly to say, a few qualified professionals tout foods and products for all the wrong reasons―money.

I don’t know if fried Twinkies still exist. Hopefully, they have met their demise. Because of their high-fat high-sugar content, they’re not recommended by anyone with common sense. On the other hand, valid research continues to enlighten us about healthy foods that may impact cancer development. Some food choices increase the probability of cancer, while other types of foods help the body avoid invasion. And it isn’t just cancer. Research proves relationships between certain types of foods and heart disease. Recent studies have advanced discovery of foods that could thwart the onset of such conditions as Alzheimer’s Disease. These are important issues to all of us, especially when genetics causes a greater propensity for certain disease conditions.

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Separating nutrition sense from nonsense isn’t easy. Think back to the many products labeled with eye-catching appeal to let you know it is free of cholesterol, or more recently, gluten-free. Do advertisers have the best interest of consumers in mind, or are they focused on increased sales? Certainly, if you need foods with no cholesterol or gluten-free, having it boldly printed on the front helps. But really! The majority of the population does not need gluten-free products. Gluten, like cholesterol and many other substances, may not be tolerated by some individuals. But for most of us, foods containing these materials aren’t harmful.

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A recent exaggerated headline proclaimed,“Kale is a Surprise on 2019’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ List.” Well, not really. Acclaimed as one of the greatest foods for health promotion, who wouldn’t want to know why kale has fallen into disfavor? The truth of the article? Kale, like most of the fresh produce we buy, is subject to contamination through harvesting, processing for market, and shipping and handling all along these steps. Yes, kale is exposed to everything from dirt, sometimes pesticides, possibly human waste, plus a myriad of other contaminants. But does that lessen its nutritive value? Caution must be taken with all fresh produce and washed thoroughly, but that’s no excuse to eliminate it from the diet.

The next time you read an astounding news headline about foods and nutrition, take time to read beyond the first paragraph. If truth is important to you, check out reliable sources to verify the most recent claim.

Food is what we eat. It’s necessary to nourish our bodies. Don’t take the latest gimmick as factual. Make sense of what is touted and ignore the nonsense.

I would love to hear your concerns and responses. If you have a question about healthy foods or especially weight-loss diets, let me hear from you. I will make every effort to get the facts―nothing but the facts to make sense from the nonsense.

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What do you think about requirements for restaurants to show calorie counts on their menus? Do you use them?

As of May 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stipulated restaurant chains with 20 or more locations must serve essentially the same menu items with calorie counts and do business under the same name. Written nutrition information stating total carbohydrates, added sugars, fiber, and protein must be available for those who request it.

Before requirements were initiated, I often drove through Wendy’s drive-thru for their Frosty when shopping or running errands. Their refreshing drink perked me up. When I noticed the calorie count on the menu board, I was shocked. Now I love Frosty, but it’s no friend to maintaining a healthy weight. It had to go. It wasn’t easy to stop this delightful treat, but it was better than the extra exercise needed to get rid of added weight.

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Americans consume about one-third of their daily calorie intake from food and beverages consumed away from home. These items contain more calories, sodium, and saturated fats than most home-prepared foods. The average person who eats one meal away from home each week will gain about two extra pounds over the course of a year. To abate the problem of extra calories when eating out, consider these three suggestions adapted from FDA.

  • Know your calorie needs. While 2,000 calories a day serves as a guide, needs vary according to sex, age, and physical activity. See the Estimated Calorie Needs Table to determine your needs.
  • Check calorie and nutrition information of menu items. Find information on menus or menu boards next to the name or price of the item. Deli counters, bulk food items in grocery stores, food trucks, airplanes/trains, and school lunches are not required to list calorie counts. Foods with two options or with a side will be listed with a slash―200/300. Multiple food items of three or more choices or different flavors (think ice cream) will be shown as a range of calories―200-300 calories.
  • Choose what is best for you.
    • When you choose an entrée, check the available sides and choose those with fewer calories.
    • If servings are more than you usually eat or want, don’t hesitate to ask for a to-go box.
    • Order salad dressings, gravy, and cream sauces on the side to limit what you consume.
    • Choose foods that are baked, roasted, steamed, grilled, or broiled.
    • Avoid those described as creamy, fried, breaded, battered, or buttered.
    • Try water with lemon for a refreshing beverage with your meal and avoid or limit sweetened beverages.

Eating out should be a pleasant event, not a time of restricting your diet and enjoyment. These simple guidelines will help you choose wisely while enjoying your dining experience.

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Share your thoughts with other readers about inclusion of calorie counts on menus and menu boards.

 

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New research on eating habits implicated a need for revised food labels to reflect updated scientific findings. Labels provide useful information to help consumers choose foods wisely. While companies with annual food sales in excess of $10 million have until 2020 to initiate new labels and companies with less than $10 million in annual sales have until 2021, at least ten percent of manufacturers already use them.

An earlier blog listed eight changes to expect on updated food labels. In a condensed version these included:

  • Manufacturers will use larger fonts in bold to print “calories” and “servings.”
  • Serving sizes will more readily reflect what people actually eat.
  • New labels will identify “added sugars.”
  • Packages with from one and a half to two servings will change to one serving to reflect what most people actually consume.
  • DV (daily values) of some nutrients will indicate recommendations based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine.
  • Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron will include actual gram amounts plus %DV while vitamins A and C will no longer be required on labels, but food manufacturers may choose to list them.
  • Total calories from fat will be deleted, but the types of fat―“Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat”―will remain.

What do consumers want on a food label? Recent changes seek to help interpret and use labels to make better choices. What else would be helpful? A random online survey of more than 1,000 people ages 18-80 revealed that a whopping 95 percent most always looked for healthy food selections. Information on food labels influenced decisions, and that could lead to better dietary choices. While consumers want to eat healthy, only slightly more than a fourth (28 percent) thought the task easy. Eleven percent thought it difficult to identify nutritious foods.

Most in the survey (69 percent) agreed the nutrition Facts Panel on labels was their primary source of information followed by the ingredient list (67 percent). Participants paid attention to iconography such as the American Heart Association certified seal, “Heart-check Mark,” and believed additional information would be even more helpful. Nearly half of respondents checked front-of-package icons with millennials the most aware of symbols. They advocated universal icons or images to identify and encourage food selections of higher diet quality.

Joseph Clayton, the CEO of International Food Information Council Foundation and one of the sponsors of the survey, suggested that “Even subtle changes to food labels could have a positive impact on public health.”

Confusion over food dates may be among future changes. Currently, “best before” and “sell by” dates are unregulated but about 1/3 of consumers believed they were. Consumers perceived “best used by” as a quality standard while they interpreted “expires on” and “use by” as a safety standard. In 2017, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) proposed consistent wording with two standard phrases, “Best if Used By” for product quality and “Use By” for more perishable items and those that may be unsafe after the date stated. By December 2018, 87 percent of food products used these terms to bring clarity of product quality and safety to consumers.

While updated labels help us make nutritious and safer choices, future changes in food labels may ease the process even more.

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