Summarizing the Latest in Clinical Nutrition (2009-2010)
In: Diet & Nutrition
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Being a health nut , I could sit for hours reading up on diet, nutrition, and fitness. Unfortunately for me, my time is very limited these days. Rather than try and keep up on the latest research and news for all of my interests, which would quickly deliver a debilitating dose of information overload, I find people who aggregate all of the important trends and deliver it in summary form. This is exactly what Dr. Michael Greger does in the world of clinical nutrition research. This weekend, I watched his 3 hour DVD entitled Latest in Clinical Nutrition Vol. 4, which summarizes the important studies from 2009 to the present (mid 2010).
Below are the notes I took on the research that I felt was most applicable. My hope is that you can benefit from these notes I took. If there is anything that isn’t clear to you, I encourage you to shell out the $20 to purchase the DVD (I don’t make any money if you buy it and all of the proceeds received by Dr. Greger are donated). It’s well worth the money.
Note: I apologize in advance for any grammar errors in my notes. I was taking them rather quickly while the DVD was playing.
- Chlorella & spirulina – Samples of chlorella and spirulina (micro-algae that are promoted for their health benefits) have been found to have liver and/or neuro- toxins present, which were actually produced within the chlorella and spirulina itself, rather than through external contamination. Until more evidence comes out, avoid supplementation with these two micro-algae.
- Stevia extract is safe when no more than two sweetener packets are used a day. Otherwise, the extract compounds (which make stevia sweet) convert into a somewhat toxic compound in your gut at high enough levels to be significantly unhealthy.
- Aspartame – well we all knew it was bad, but now more evidence is out to prove it.
- Yerba mate – As much as I love this tea, a 2009 study revealed that yerba mate caused “cytotoxic and geno-toxic activity” within human white blood cells. Hold off on frequent consumption until more research is done.
- Among popular herbal teas, the highest in antioxidants is dandelion tea (who knew?).
- Berries are very powerful anti-cancer agents. Studies were done on using berries to treat cancer patients with noticeable positive results. This isn’t anything new, but the more research that comes out to validate it, the better.
- Blueberries improve memory in humans.
- Eat bell peppers raw because any cooking method causes it to lose 75% of its antioxidant activity, on average.
- You can eat artichoke, beets, and onions pretty much any way you desire because they lose virtually no antioxidants through any cooking method.
- It’s healthier to cook carrots and celery because it increases antioxidant availability.
- Volatile aldehydes are produced from heating cooking oils when deep frying. AVOID FRIED FOODS. But this is pretty much common sense.
- I’ll save you the one hour of reports and clinical studies on meat-related bacteria, viruses, super-bugs, and disgusting industry practices, and just tell you to cut down your consumption of meat as much as you’re willing to go. It’s a scary world behind the scenes of the meat industry. Ideally, go for local, organic, and pastured meat, which has a place in a well-balanced, healthy diet.
- Fortified foods and multi-vitamins usually contain folic acid, which was thought to convert into folate in our liver. Folate is very important to have in our diet, especially for pregnant women. However, a landmark study just concluded that folic acid is not as convertible into folate in our bodies as researchers once thought. The original study was done on rats, but humans don’t have nearly the same capability to convert folic acid into folate, which results in health problems, including cancer. This is especially worrisome to me because I’ve been taking a multi-vitamin for years and almost all multis contains folic acid in it. Lots of fortified foods I eat also contain it. I may need to re-evaluate my supplementation protocol, as should you. The takeaway here: do your research on which foods are high in folate, and EAT THOSE.
- Interestingly, adding milk to tea nullifies the antioxidant benefits of it (absorption of these antioxidants drops to almost nil). Soy milk has the same effect. Researchers are not sure why this happens.
- Some researchers are starting to believe that the Asian paradox (that Asians smoke much more frequently than most Americans, yet consistently experience lower rates of heart disease and lung cancer) is due to the high intake of green tea. According to the study: “The flavonoids in green tea, researchers suggest, may be partly responsible by maintaining artery function, inhibiting clots, and blocking tumor growth.” The takeaway: Drink green tea. A lot. It’s THAT good for you.
- Surprisingly, researchers found that cold brewing tea (which means room temperature, not literally cold), actually increases antioxidant activity of the resulting tea beverage. Researchers believe this may be because heat actually destroys a lot of the beneficial catechins. Until more studies can confirm that the most beneficial antioxidants (EGCG) are still extracted in room temperature water, the takeaway here is to steep your green tea is less hot water (rather than pouring it in right after it boils). But if you’re in a rush, it’s okay to just stick some teabags in with some room temp water if need be.
- You can add powdered matcha green tea to water and drink the ground up tea leaves and it actually has enormous health benefits and no downside (based on current research, of course). It’s the same as eating any other leafy greens, according to researchers, and is loaded with nutrition. It’s as simple as adding it to water.
- Your gut flora have now been implicated in promoting human obesity (when not in a correct flora balance). Takeaway: take a probiotic supplement (I recommend PB8, which can be found in GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, or Vitacost.com).
- Because of the hormonal activity of lactating cows, scientists questioned whether the hormones in milk affect human hormone balance. Males age 19-21 ingested a quart of cow’s milk within 20 minutes. The level of estron (a pregnancy hormone) in their bloodstream shot up within an hour of drinking the milk, while testosterone levels dropped. Being involved in the bodybuilding world, many men don’t drink soy milk because of the phytoestrogens and their potential to decrease testosterone levels, which prevents optimal muscle growth. However, the cow’s milk used in this study demonstrated a much higher testosterone reducing response than the phytoestrogens of soy milk. However, I wonder if normal consumption patterns (rather than a quart of milk in under 20 minutes) would have significant testosterone reducing effects that still beat out soy milk. Until more studies are done, keep this in mind. (Thankfully, I’m allergic to dairy, so I don’t need to worry about it)
- An even stronger link has been established between dairy and acne from studies this past year.
- Because of the insane amounts of pollution in our oceans, scientists have been able to use dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, and mercury as biomarkers to accurately measure how much fish someone has consumed. The correlation with these compounds is just as close, if not closer, correlation to fish intake than omega 3 acids. I find it incredibly scary that a scientist can estimate how much fish you consume by the LEVELS OF TOXIC, CARCINOGENIC CHEMICALS IN YOUR BODY. Yikes. The takeaway: cut down on consumption of fish. As healthy as they are inherently, they’re just way too contaminated to safely consume on a regular basis.
- In certain fish oil capsules, studies have shown an INCREASE in inflammation. They believe that, although omega 3s inherently fight inflammation, the high dose of PCBs and industrial pollutants also found in fish oil actually swing the balance over into an increase in inflammation. Unfortunately, molecular distillation, a common practice to create “pollutant free fish oil” has been shown not to remove all of these contaminants, despite label claims.
- There are environmental toxins that we receive through our diet that are now being implicated, to some extent, in the rapid rise of obesity. The number one dietary source of these “obesogens” is fish. If you want to do your own research, the class of chemicals are called organotins.
- Kombucha tea, commonly sold in health food stores, used to be a favorite drink of mine. I used to buy it by the case, actually. However, a study came out in the past year that highly discourages the consumption of kombucha tea because it may be associated with “life-threatening lactic acidosis”. Researchers aren’t sure why lactic acidosis results in some cases of kombucha ingestion, but it is wise to stay away until more research is done over the next few years.
- Goji berries are literally among the healthiest dried fruits on the planet. Fun fact: When sold as “goji berries”, these berries are VERY expensive. But if you go to an Asian food store and by them as “Lycium Berries”, the price is significantly lower (cheaper than raisins even) and it’s the exact same dried fruit.
- Meat and dairy were shown to suppress melatonin levels at night, which can reduce quality of sleep. The takeaway: avoid eating heavy at night. But you already knew that, right?
Below are a few questions that I felt were unanswered by the studies summarized above. I e-mailed Dr. Greger these questions and hopefully he will get back to me. If you would like me to post his response on Living For Improvement, let me know in the comments below!
1) In one study on milk consumption, the amount of estrogen shoots up in males 19-21 drinking a large amount of milk in a short period of time. In the next study, it shows that dairy promotes a higher amount of DHT in your body, which results in acne. So I’m just confused as to whether dairy is promoting a higher estrogen balance or a higher testosterone balance.
2) Regarding the article on cold-water extraction of green tea, did the study happen to mention the extraction levels of EGCG in green tea when doing a room-temperature extraction? If the extraction levels were just as higher, or even higher, in the room temp water, you’ve firmly convinced me that room temperature is the way to go. Did the study mention how long you should brew room-temp green tea?
3) When you briefly mention that eggs may be the greatest source of estrogen in a consumers diet, does that have to do with conventional eggs from hens that may have been injected with hormones or other drugs, or did you mean to imply that the estrogen-boosting effect is inherent eggs, which would apply even to organic eggs from local farmers. (I didn’t mention this study in the notes above, but he does mention this in the DVD.)
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