The Harvard School of Public Health recently conducted a study pitting the Mediterranean diet against a low fat diet. The results?
Weight change over 18 months:
- Mediterranean dieters lost an average of 9 pounds.
- Low-fat dieters gained (yes, gained) an average of 6 pounds.
Those who stuck with the diet:
- Mediterranean dieters: 54% stuck with it the whole 18 months.
- Low-fat dieters: 20% stuck with it.
Dr. Walter Willet, Chair of the Dept. of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health says:
“The real issue is not losing weight—people can cut back on calories and lose weight on almost any diet—but keeping weight off over the long run. Thus it is more important to find a way of eating that you can stay with for the rest of your life. For this reason, any eating plan you choose should be satisfying and allow variety, and should also be nutritionally sound.”
Quote source: Harvard School of Public Health website
Additional study: A small new study shows that following a Mediterranean Diet helped men at high risk for heart disease reduce their bad cholesterol, regardless of whether they lost weight.
Image source: The Boston Globe, “Mediterranean diet vs. low-fat Ornish plan,” April 15, 2013
So, last night, I picked up The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and perused it in the book store. It’s by an MD and a PhD, and is backed up with lots of studies. In it, the authors explain why sugar, corn syrup and anything high in fructose are so harmful to our bodies in general and especially our heart health. The quick summary: because they’re processed first by the liver. (This article by the editor of Harvard Health Publications provides a quick and easy-to-understand summary of the subject.)
Which isn’t to say that ANY fructose is bad; it’s just the over-prevalence in the modern American diet that is problematic. A meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reached the conclusion that “obesity and diabetes rates were low when total [dietary] fructose intake was in the range of 25–40 g/d [grams per day],” adding the caution that, “Conclusions as to the safe and prudent amounts of fructose consumption will require carefully controlled dose-responses studies in different populations….”
This has prompted me to do some research on fructose found in various types of sweet substances. Here are some things I’ve discovered…
Where do you find fructose? Fructose can be found in (roughly in order from most to least):
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Sucrose (white sugar)
- Maple syrup
The monosaccharide form of fructose, which is found in corn syrup, is supposed to be the most harmful. Surprisingly, the honey has about 42gm of monosaccharide fructose per 100gm serving, while molasses has about 13gm and maple syrup has about 4gm (source). So with regard to monosaccharide fructose, maple syrup would appear to be the least toxic.
However, in the previous thread on honey, studies are cited which show that honey does not have the same harmful effects as other sweeteners, and may even be beneficial. This is probably because honey is a whole food whose ingredients have complex interactions that somehow mitigate some of the possible harm from the fructose.
Probably more info to come…
photo credit: Wikimedia
What you think you know about cholesterol could hurt you.
Twenty years ago, doctors told us to stay away from high-fat foods like eggs, bacon, and butter because they raised cholesterol and could lead to heart disease.
America responded and stopped eating fat. In its place, however, we ate more sugar and other carbohydrates.
How did that work out? Not great.
As a whole, Americans grew fatter and sicker than before. Scientists back then may have reached the wrong conclusion.
As more research uncovers the role diet plays in cardiovascular disease, it’s becoming obvious that fats aren’t the only villains in the picture. Increasingly, scientists are recognizing that you should also watch out for some carbohydrates—specifically, sugars and refined grains. “I believe that a diet containing moderate amounts of saturated fat is OK, and possibly better, than a low-saturated-fat diet that is rich in sugars and refined carbohydrates,” says Ronald Krauss, M.D., director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
Now a growing number of medical experts say weight gain, heart disease, and other illnesses are not caused by high cholesterol, but by something different: inflammation.
Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, said scientists wrongly blamed cholesterol for heart disease when they saw high levels of it at a damaged blood vessel. Teter believes the body put the cholesterol there to fix the problem, which was actually caused by inflammation.
“It’s the inflammation in the vessels that start the lesion,” she explained. “The body then sends the cholesterol like a scab to cover over it to protect the blood system and the vessel wall from further damage.”
Good things cholesterol does in your body:
– can protect against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
– helps create vitamin D.
– the brain contains more cholesterol than any other organ and needs it in order to send messages from one brain cell to another.
Foods that fight inflammation:
– that are high in Omega 3 fats
– olive oil
– cold water fish
– coconut oil (fights colds and the flu and has even reversed the symptoms of Alzheimers, ALS and Parkinson’s Disease in some people.)
– walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
– pumpkin and sesame seeds
– natural saturated fats (maybe; science is still sorting this one out).
Foods which, in excess, cause inflammation:
– Omega 6 fats
– vegetable oils
– anything containing high fructose corn syrup or other sugars
– white bread, white pasta, white rice
Foods which, in any amount, cause inflammation:
– trans fats (Which is a man-made fat, and for which the Harvard School of Public Health says there is no safe level to consume.)
– any packaged food containing the word “hydrogenated” on the label.
I am not a health professional and this post is not intended to be professional medical advice.
- Switch to diet pop, same amount. Update, 9/28/12: If you have a serious sugar addiction, you may need to do this step in phases. See this article for info about sugar withdrawal symptoms and how to manage them.
- Replace one pop a day with coffee, tea or juice. No added sugar or artificial creamers. You may use other sweeteners. Do some research and experimentation to find a sweetener that you feel is healthy, and that doesn’t cause any troubling side effects for you.
- Continue replacing servings until you are off pop completely.
- Replace one drink a day with water or green tea. Flavor with real fruit or a splash of juice, if you want. (Note: if you’re going off of coffee or strong tea, you’ll need to do the replacement slowly to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and sluggishness.)
- Continue replacing until water is all you drink all day (with fruit, if you like). Or green tea till 3 pm; water after.