Dieting Digest

Dietary Fads and Frauds

The folklore and superstition of cultures throughout history have attributed healing or harmful properties to certain foods. This tendency has not disappeared with the advent of the sciences of nutrition and medicine. Food folklore continues today, although in many instances it is inconsistent with scientific evidence.

Nutrition fraud is a comprehensive term used by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to describe the abuses that occur as a result of the misleading claims for traditional foods, dietary supplements, and dietary products and of the deceptive promotion of other food substances, processes, and devices.

Food faddism is a dietary practice based upon an exaggerated belief in the effects of food or nutrition on health and disease.

Food fads derive from three beliefs:

  • That special attributes of a particular food may cure disease.
  • That certain foods should be eliminated from the diet because they are harmful.
  • That certain foods convey special health benefits.
  • Food faddists are those who follow a particular nutritional practice with zeal and whose claims for its benefits are substantially more than science has substantiated.

    Until Einstein’s equation, E=mc�, which may also be written Calories=mc� is invalidated the only way to reduce weight (m) is to reduce the amount of calories consumed (E). In other words, to lose weight it is necessary to eat less calories each day than you burn up, and the only way to gain weight is to eat each day more calories than you use. [Herbert, J., (Chief Hematology & Nutr. Lab. Bronx VA Medical Center) : Nutrition Cultism - Facts & Fictions. 1981.]

    Food quackery, which involves the exploitive, entrepreneurial aspects of food faddism, is the promotion for profit of special foods, products, processes, or appliances with false or misleading health or therapeutic claims. A food quack is one who pretends to have medical or nutritional knowledge and who promotes special foods, products, or appliances with false or misleading claims, usually for personal financial gain.

    Nutrition fraud flourishes today because of the diversity of cultures, the historical tradition of concern for health and the use of natural remedies, and the introduction of advanced communication technologies.

    Food faddism has its roots in Great Britain, where patent medicines were advertised and sold by everyone from hawkers to goldsmiths. In the colonies, legal protection of consumers against fraudulent claims was first recorded in Massachusetts Bayin 1630. Nicholas Knopp, was whipped and fined five pounds for selling a cure for scurvy that had “no worth nor value” and was “solde att a very deare rate”. [Young, J.H. The toadstool millionaires: a social history of patent medicines in America before federal regulation. 1961.]

    One of the earliest nutrition faddists was Sylvester Graham, a “back to nature” reformer who was suspicious of any food altered from its “natural” condition, such as white flour. His legacy continues among those who question whether processed food of any type can provide adequate nutrition.

    Although, it must be noted that processed foods should not necessarily be eliminated from a persons diet because of this belief, it is true that without fortification the more a food is processed and thus differs from its natural form the less nutrient dense it will be.

    Some groups such as fruitarians actually go a step further, they don’t eat processed or cooked foods. The reason being that when a food is cooked it is not able to be digested and becomes toxic. There is no scientific evidence to back this argument to its fullest extent.

    Popular interest in nutrition, coupled with concern about food shortages during World War I, was fostered by the increasing promotion of the health properties of foods in the early 20th century. Vitamins, by the very nature of their discovery, became associated with the prevention or cure of disease and were soon promoted as curative agents.

    Today the travelling patent medical man has been largely replaced by the highly skilled and organized use of electronic means to promote fraudulent marketing – computers, customized mailing lists, national advertisements, and other mass media. The medium and the details have changed, but the message and the goals remain. It is difficult for consumers to evaluate the validity of the health claims perpetrated by quacks and faddists.

    Purveyors of nutrition fraud capitalize on people’s desire to be healthy and on the lack of certainty in many areas of nutrition and health. No writer for a lay audience has any special insights into nutrition which are not known by a substantial part of the scientific community. Magic and sensational diets are nothing more than exaggerations of one facet of nutrition at the expense of another, often to the detriment of the willing victims.

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    Vegetarian Diets

    “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
    - Albert Einstein

    This site covers the nutritional and dietary guidelines presented by the mainstream to the general population. So when vegetarian diets have a direct effect on a persons state of health, it has been noted. For example in the Vitamins chapter there is mention of the fact that a strict vegetarian may need to supplement B12.

    Although it is becoming more popular, either for moral or health reasons, a vegetarian diet still seems to have a strange stigma attached to it.

    Hundreds of millions of people are vegetarian (eg. Hindus for religious reasons); more health professionals are discouraging the consumption of animal fats and red meats, that have been shown to increase the chance of obesity, cancer and other diseases; and the environmentalists who know that much of the limited resources, on Planet Earth, are wasted by converting them to meat.

    It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.
    70% of US grain production is fed to live stock.
    5 million acres of rain forest are felled every year in South and Central America alone to create cattle pasture.
    Roughly 20% of all currently threatened and endangered species in the US are harmed by livestock grazing
    Animal agriculture is a chief contributor to water pollution. America’s farm animals produce 10 times the waste produced by the human population.
    There are sound reasons for health, ethically, and ecologically to be vegetarian. There is nothing strange about being vegetarian.
    Definition
    Vegetarian, the belief in and practice of eating exclusively vegetable foods and abstaining from any form of animal food.

    To what extent this definition applies, in reality varies, what it refers to is a strict vegetarian or a vegan. Lacto-vegetarians include milk and other dairy products in their diet. Lacto-ovovegetarians eat milk, dairy products and eggs. Those who eat fish are not vegetarian.

    A vegan, excludes animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood), animal products (eggs, dairy and honey), and the wearing and use of animal products (eg. leather, silk, wool, lanolin, gelatin). The vegan diet consists totally of vegetables, vegetable oils, and seeds.

    vegan ‘ve-gen also ‘ve-jen or -,jan\ n [by contr. fr. vegetarian] (1944) : a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (as leather) _ veganism ‘ve-ge-,ni-zem, ‘va-ge-, ‘ve-je-\ n .

    Partial vegetarians exclude some groups of animal foods but not others. A diet that excludes red meat but includes fish is often adopted for health not moral reasons.

    Zen macrobiotic diets. This is a Japanese way of eating based on the ‘Yin Yang’ theory. It aims to keep the balance between Yin and Yang (positive and negative) aspects of life for optimal spiritual, mental and physical welfare. Foods are divided into Yin and Yang, and a spiritual goal is aimed for by working through ten levels of diet. These gradually eliminate all animal produce, fruit and vegetables towards the final goal which is only cereal (brown rice). Fluids are also severely restricted. Many nutritional deficiencies may develop and death can result. Infants and children subject to these restrictions are particularly at risk [Thomas et al., 1988]

    This is extreme, not all macrobiotic diets are so extreme and are often equivalent to a balanced vegan diet. It is important to eat as much variety of food as possible and not limit it to one group of foods.

    If you are vegetarian or want to become one, start off by giving up one kind of animal food, the one that offends you most. Once you are used to supplementing this food with another of vegetable origin, tackle the next. Progressively reaching the level of vegetarianisim you desire, slowly over a period of time. This progressive vegetarian is one who changes their eating habits / lifestyle at a positive rate, by doing so you allow your body to adjust to the eating of new types of foods or foods that may have given you troubles before (beans). It also gives you time to learn more about nutrition and increase your pool of knowledge on the subject. Thus it is not a fad diet that you will give up the next day but a progressive change towards a healthy lifestyle.

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    Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast

    What’s for breakfast – coffee? Most mornings, we barely glance at the kitchen. Fixing breakfast takes up precious time that’s in short supply. But there’s ample evidence that the simple act of eating breakfast — every day — is a big part of losing weight, lots of weight.

    “People skip breakfast thinking they’re cutting calories, but by mid-morning and lunch, that person is starved,” says Milton Stokes, RD, MPH, chief dietitian for St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City. “Breakfast skippers replace calories during the day with mindless nibbling, bingeing at lunch and dinner. They set themselves up for failure.”

    The Benefits of Breakfast

    Eating breakfast is a daily habit for the “successful losers” who belong to The National Weight Control Registry. These people have maintained a 30-pound (or more) weight loss for at least a year, and some as long as six years.

    “Most — 78% — reported eating breakfast every day, and almost 90% reported eating breakfast at least five days a week – which suggests that starting the day with breakfast is an important strategy to lose weight and keep it off,” says James O. Hill, PhD, the Registry’s co-founder and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

    Earlier this year, two studies in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association backed up this finding. Though they were funded by cereal companies, dietitians say they underscore the message – breakfast is important to weight loss.

    A group of researchers analyzed data from a government-funded study that followed more than 2,000 young girls from ages 9 to 19. They found that regular cereal eaters had fewer weight problems than infrequent cereal eaters. Those who ate cereal occasionally had a 13% higher risk of being overweight compared to the regular cereal eaters.

    Another research group analyzed government data on 4,200 adults. They found that regular breakfast eaters were more likely to exercise regularly. And women who ate breakfast regularly tended to eat fewer calories overall during the day. Those men and women who ate breakfast cereal had lower overall fat intake — compared to those who ate other breakfast foods.

    It makes sense: Eating early in the day keeps us from “starvation eating” later on. But it also jump-starts your metabolism, says Elisabetta Politi, RD, MPH, nutrition manager for the Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical School. “When you don’t eat breakfast, you’re actually fasting for 15 to 20 hours, so you’re not producing the enzymes needed to metabolize fat to lose weight.”

    Among the people she counsels, breakfast eaters are usually those who have lost a significant amount of weight. They also exercise. “They say that before having breakfast regularly, they would eat most of their calories after 5 p.m.,” Politi tells WebMD. “Now, they try to distribute calories throughout the day. It makes sense that the body wants to be fueled.”

    Reade more – www.webmd.com

    The Cholesterol

    The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) encourages physicians to prescribe stringent dietary therapy of hyper cholesterolemia for at least 6 months before initiating drug therapy. Physicians should also be cautioned about premature use of hypercholesterolemic medications: no known study has demonstrated decreased mortality in recipients of such medications. Dietary therapy should strongly be encouraged, and physicians should adopt mandatory referral to a registered dietitian or other qualified nutrition professional before dietary therapy is declared a failure and drug therapy is started.

    Lowering cholesterol levels decreases the incidence of heart disease. In fact, several studies have convincingly shown that adequate hypercholesterolemic treatment can not only prevent CHD, but can also reverse it. [Kuo, P.T., Hayase, K., Kostis, J.B., and Moreyra, A.E.: Use of combined diet and colestipol in longterm treatment of patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia. Circ 59:199, 1979. ] Recently these topics have been comprehensively reviewed. Dietary therapy is the cornerstone of all hypercholesterolemic therapy, and it has been estimated that 60 million adult Americans may be candidates for dietary instruction.

    Findings suggest that blood lipid cholesterol levels predict subsequent mortality in men, especially those with preexisting cardiovascular disease. Those with high blood cholesterol levels have a risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, that was 3� times higher than that for men with a “desirable” blood cholesterol level.

    Familial hypercholesterolemia carries a marked increase in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), but there is considerable variation in susceptibility to CHD between individuals. Results indicate that an elevated level of lipoprotein is a strong risk factor for CHD in these individuals; the risk is independent of age, sex, smoking status, and serum levels of total cholesterol, triglyceride, or HDL-cholesterol. The higher level of lipoprotein observed in patients with CHD is the result of genetic influence. The New England Journal of Medicine: 322:1494, 1990.]

    The efficacy of hypercholesterolemic diets lowering cholesterol and in some cases, in preventing CHD, has been convincingly demonstrated. Such efficacy does depend, however, on the vigour which the physician and dietitian support dietary therapy. Many physicians have declared dietary therapy a failure without providing their patients with real dietary advice and support.

    Two factors that probably contribute to physicians disinterest in dietary therapy are extensive advertising of hypercholesterolemic drugs compared with the little advertisingof dietary therapy and patient reluctance to alter diet and life-style. Getting patients to alter their life-style is often a challenging task. A recent survey [Schucker, B., Bailey, K., Heimbach, J.T., Wittes, J.T., Cutler, J.A., Mackintosh, D.R., Gordon, D.J., Haines. C.M., Mattson, S.E., Goor, R.S., and Rifkind, B.M.: Change in public perspective on cholesterol & heart disease.JAMA 258:3527,1987] suggests, however, that the public is ready and able to embrace dietary therapy as the primary solution to hypercholesterolemia.

    To further facilitate dietary therapy, recent research suggests that certain forms of fat (eg. fish and monounsaturated fatty acids) may be hypocholesterolemic, especially if they replace saturated fatty acids in the diet. Food technology is improving daily in palatably, removing fat from items like cheese, chips, and crackers. Frozen yogurt has become a popular replacement for ice cream. Fat substitutes, as they become available, may also facilitate compliance with a low-fat diet.

    Psyllium is an especially attractive hybrid intervention in that it is well tolerated, lowers LDL-cholesterol by 10% to 20%, has no adverse effects on triglycerides, high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or serum glucose, and is readily available and fairly inexpensive. It has a long history of use without any evidence of long-term adverse effects.

    A recent article estimated that oat bran supplementation (90 gm per day) was a much more cost-effective method of lowering serum cholesterol than either cholestyramine or colestipol. [Kinosian, B.P., and Eisenberg, J.M.: Cutting into cholesterol: Cost-effective alternatives for treating hypercholesterolemia. JAMA 259:2249, 1988.] In addition, high-fibre diets may decrease risk of colon cancer, improve glucose tolerance, lower blood pressure, and assist in weight loss.

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    Balanced Diet

    Marilyn Stephenson, a registered dietitian and director of the Office of Nutrition and Food Sciences in the FDA Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition explains just exactly what a balanced diet is: [A How-To Guide to a Balanced Diet, FDA Consumer, Pg 23, October 1986]

    Eating a balanced diet means eating a wide variety of foods. A traditional way of getting a balanced diet has been to eat a certain number of portions from certain food groups, as defined by the US Department of Agriculture.

    The five basic groups are vegetables; fruit; bread and cereal; dairy; and meat, poultry, fish, and legumes (dry beans, lentils and peas).

    It’s recommended that you have four servings from the fruit and vegetable group, and should include one good source of vitamin C each day, such as citrus fruit, and a good source of vitamin A, usually deep-yellow or dark-green vegetables. From the bread and cereals group, it is recommended that you get six basic servings including some whole-grain bread or cereals. The recommended servings from the milk and cheese group vary with age, the highest recommendations for teens and nursing mothers (four servings). Two basic servings from the meat, poultry, fish and bean group are recommended.

    Then there’s the sixth group: fats, sweets, and alcohol. It’s a group you want to avoid getting too many servings from. Foods in this group have plenty of calories and not a fair balance of other nutrients.

    Eggs, as a protein source, are included in the same group as meat, poultry, fish and beans. One egg is considered a serving in that group. So if you eat two eggs for breakfast you have obtained your recommendations from the protein group and should have no more egg, meat, poultry or fish that day.

    Read more at www.diet-and-health.net

    Diet Planning

    The fact that more than 20% of the United States adult population is obese presents a major public health concern. However, the failure to follow through and maintain weight loss on their own, after termination of counselling, makes the long-term success of weight loss programs difficult to achieve.

    Health professionals often assume that patients will dutifully comply with recommendations simply because they are urged to do so. The magnitude of noncompliance has been well documented. Adherence to dietary programs is thought to be poorer than to medication regimens. [Glanz, K.: Dietitians' effectiveness and patient compliance with dietary regimens. JADA 84:444, 1984.] Dietary regimens are often restrictive, require changes in life-style and behaviours, interfere with family habits and customs, and are of long duration.

    Weight control methods are considered a success if weight loss is maintained without expense to overall health. A goal of any successful weight reduction program is to promote permanent life-style changes. The physical and psychological consequences of repeated weight fluctuations may be more harmful than maintaining some degree of overweight. [Rock, C.L., & Coulston, A.M.: Weight control approaches: A review by the California Dietetic Association. JADA 86:44, 1988] The ultimate goal of all weight loss programs is to reduce nutritional risk factors associated with chronic diseases by increasing consumer awareness of healthy food choices.

    In 1992 over 49 million people were dieting. The National Council Against Fraud estimates that quackery costs consumers between $25 billion and $50 billion a year – and nutrition fraud is the most common type. [Legislative Highlights, Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Page 648 - 650. May 1990]

    Therefore to identify a quality weight loss program, and not to be misled by a “fad diet”, the following indicators must be considered:

    A variety of foods. Weight control programs should be individualized to fit people’s life-styles and food preferences. Individualization diminishes feelings of deprivation, which lead to discouragement, bingeing, and rebound weight gain – all hallmarks of the yo-yo diet syndrome.
    Enough calories to maintain good health. Consuming less than 1200 kcal a day may result in loss of muscle instead of fat and may compromise nutritional status as a result of deficient nutrient intakes.
    Realistic weight loss goals. To lose body fat and not just water, a maximum weight loss of 2 pounds per week is advised.
    Regular exercise. Especially as we age, exercise can be the key to weight loss and maintenance of a desirable weight.
    Behaviour modification. Registered dietitians counsel people to keep lost weight off by helping them alter their eating behavior and responses to foods for the rest of their lives.
    Unfortunately, a current trend toward the view that a single food is either a panacea or a poison is being gradually adopted by major health associations. This “good food/bad food” dichotomy ignores the consensus among nutritionists that all foods can be compatible with health when used in moderation as part of a balanced, varied diet.

    Over the past decade people have become obsessed with the nutritional value of the food they eat. Time and again, nutrition ranks high among consumer concerns, along with food safety, convenience, quality, and value. In the United States sales in the “healthy foods” category accounted for $65 billion in 1985, but are expected to reach $98 billion by 1995.

    Consumers are asking for specific information about which foods and, in particular, which brands of packaged foods to choose from when they eat or purchase foods. For example the broad guideline to avoid to much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol require specific behaviour implementations that include:

    Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, potatoes, rice noodles, dried beans, peas, and lentils.
    Choose low fat dairy products, including skim, 1%, and 2% milk, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat yogurt.
    Choose lean meats, fish, chicken and turkey.

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    An Introduction to Diet and Health

    The importance of diet to health, especially in the prevention and cure of illness, is slowly becoming apparent. I endeavour to provide you with more than the basic, and usually inaccurate information on diet and nutrition. So whether you are a registered dietitian and want to brush up on the immense amount of information, or whether you just want to find out, for the first time what you should be eating, then this site is for you.

    First I would like to talk about a very contentious word – diet. Many people don’t like using this word, when referring to their eating habits, because they feel that it is humiliating to be on a diet. I am the opposite, as I am always on diet. Whether underweight, overweight, sick or fit, diet, by its Greek definition means the food eaten by an animal to maintain its state of health. So, when I talk about a diet I don’t mean that you must necessarily lose weight, what I am referring to is the food that you should generally be eating, be it to build muscles, put on weight, lose weight or get rid of a cold.

    This topic is as arguable as religion, politics and sex. There are always many different opinions relating to diet and nutrition. I am only going to present facts on the subject of nutrition as affirmed by the mainstream diet and nutrition world. The fallacies of the fringe will not be proposed, although they have been investigated by myself, so I know what the quacks are telling “Joe Public”.

    It has become apparent that the overconsumption of certain dietary components is now a major concern to people in the Western World. Foremost among them is the disproportionate consumption of fats, sodium, and sugars, at the expense of foods that may be more conducive to good health, such as foods high in complex carbohydrates and fiber (vegetables, fruit, and whole grain products).

    The usual approach of the orthodox medical circles, when dealing with a disease, is to treat the symptoms with a remedy rather than removing the cause. Yet, by following the dietary guidelines of the nutrition and health authorities, that have been proven with epidemiologic studies to be scientifically correct, it is possible to achieve and maintain good health.

    Dietary factors play a prominent role in five out of the ten leading causes of death for Americans. Thus, it is important to emphasize the relationship of diet to the occurrence of chronic disease and to understand how wholesome food is necessary for good health.

    Foods contain nutrients essential for normal metabolic function. An imbalance in nutrient intake or the consumption of harmful substances is the underlying factor in many chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.

    To acquire these nutrients we have to eat foods that contain them and make choices about what foods shouldn’t be eaten in excess. This is difficult and requires a comprehensive research base and much effort before it is possible to maintain good health.

    Eating is a source of considerable pleasure and an important part of our lives. It is not necessary to lessen this pleasure by following a healthy diet plan. By knowing what nutrients are, how they relate to different diseases, and how to make choices in selecting and preparing foods, it is quite possible to feel good and enjoy life equally or more.

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