Tag Archives: nutrition

Sorry, There’s Nothing Magical About Breakfast

I don’t eat breakfast. It’s not that I dislike what’s offered. Given the choice of breakfast food or lunch food, I’d almost always choose eggs or waffles. It’s just that I’m not hungry at 7:30 a.m., when I leave for work.

In fact, I’m rarely hungry until about lunchtime. So, other than a morning cup of coffee, I don’t eat much before noon. This habit has forced me to be subjected to more lectures on how I’m hurting myself, my diet, my work and my health than almost any other. Only a fool would skip the most important meal of the day, right?

As with many other nutritional pieces of advice, our belief in the power of breakfast is based on misinterpreted research and biased studies.

It does not take much of an effort to find research that shows an association between skipping breakfast and poor health. A 2013 study published in the journal Circulation found that men who skipped breakfast had a significantly higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who ate breakfast. But, like almost all studies of breakfast, this is an association, not causation.

Many of the studies are funded by the food industry, which has a clear bias. Kellogg funded a highly cited article that found that cereal for breakfast is associated with being thinner. The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence (part of PepsiCo) financed a trial that showed that eating oatmeal or frosted cornflakes reduces weight and cholesterol (if you eat it in a highly controlled setting each weekday for four weeks).

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Cutting Sugar Improves Children’s Health in Just 10 Days

Obese children who cut back on their sugar intake see improvements in their blood pressure, cholesterol readings and other markers of health after just 10 days, a rigorous new study found.

The new research may help shed light on a question scientists have long debated: Is sugar itself harming health, or is the weight gain that comes from consuming sugary drinks and foods mainly what contributes to illness over the long term?

In the new study, which was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published Tuesday in the journal Obesity, scientists designed a clinical experiment to attempt to answer this question. They removed foods with added sugar from a group of children’s diets and replaced them with other types of carbohydrates so that the subjects’ weight and overall calorie intake remained roughly the same.

After 10 days, the children showed dramatic improvements, despite losing little or no weight. The findings add to the argument that all calories are not created equal, and they suggest that those from sugar are especially likely to contribute to Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases, which are on the rise in children, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Benioff Children’s Hospital of the University of California, San Francisco.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Placing a Cap on Americans’ Consumption of Added Sugar

Health experts have been nudging Americans to kick the sugar habit for years, and now it’s official: The Food and Drug Administration is recommending a daily cap on sugar for the first time.

The goal is for Americans to limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, according to the proposed guidelines. For someone older than 3, that means eating no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of it a day.

That’s about the same amount of sugar found in a can of Coke, but for most people, giving up sugary soft drinks will not be enough to meet the recommendations. Caloric sweeteners like sugar, honey and high-fructose corn syrup are found in obvious places like sodas, cookies and candy — but they are also lurking in foods with health appeal, like low-fat yogurt, granola and wholegrain breads, as well as in ketchup, pasta sauce, canned fruit and prepared soups, salad dressings and marinades.

“There is a lot of hidden sugar in our food supply, and it’s not just in sweets,” said Dr. Frank Hu, a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard.

Currently, nutrition labels on food packaging reveal only the total amount of sugar in a product. The F.D.A. has said it wants to change the labels to help consumers distinguish between the amount of naturally occurring sugar and the amount of added sugar.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

Nutrition: The Simple Rule for Eating

Over the past few months, I’ve written a number of times on how nutrition recommendations are seldom supported by science. I’ve argued that what many people are telling you may be inaccurate. In response, many of you have asked me what nutrition recommendations should say.

It’s much easier, unfortunately, to tell you what not to do. But here at The Upshot, we don’t avoid the hard questions. So I’m going to put myself on the line. Below are the general rules I live by. They’re the ones I share with patients, with friends and with family. They’re the ones I support as a pediatrician and a health services researcher. But I acknowledge up front that they may apply only to healthy people without metabolic disorders (me, for instance, as far as I know).

These suggestions are also not supported by the scientific weight of rigorous randomized controlled trials, because little in nutrition is. I’ve inserted links to back them up with the available evidence. They are not “laws” and should not be treated as such. No specific nutrients will be demonized, and none will be held up as miracles. But these recommendations make sense to me, and they’ve helped me immensely.

Full disclosure: I did not invent most of these. I’ve developed them from reading the work of others, including what may be the most impressive “official” nutritional guidelines, those of Brazil, as well as from earlier suggestions from readers, as in this great NYT interactive graphic. It captures readers’ responses to food rules by Michael Pollan. He is, of course, the promulgator of the well-known advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

The New Guideline on Nutrition

A nutrition advisory panel that helps shape the country’s official dietary guidelines eased some of its previous restrictions on fat and cholesterol on Thursday and recommended sharp new limits on the amount of added sugar that Americans should consume.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, followed the lead of other major health groups like the American Heart Association that in recent years have backed away from dietary cholesterol restrictions and urged people to cut back on added sugars.

The panel said that Americans were eating too much salt, sugar and saturated fat, and not enough foods that fit a “healthy dietary pattern,” like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and moderate levels of alcohol. Members of the panel said they wanted Americans to focus less on individual nutrients and more on overall patterns of eating, such as a Mediterranean-style diet, which is associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke.

The panel singled out added sugars as one of its major concerns. Previous dietary guidelines have included warnings about eating too much added sugar, but for the first time the panel recommended that Americans limit it to no more than 10 percent of daily calories — roughly 12 teaspoons a day for many adults — because of its link to obesity and chronic disease.

Americans consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. The panel said sugary drinks should be removed from schools, and it endorsed a rule proposed by the Food and Drug Administration that would require a distinct line for added sugars on food nutrition labels, a change the food and sugar industries have aggressively fought.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Do You Understand Nutrition Labels?

Are you among the half of Americans who say they check the nutrition labels on packaged foods when shopping? If you can read the information without a magnifying glass, do you understand what the many numbers mean to your health?

Do you look only at calories, or do you also check the amounts of sugar, sodium, protein or dietary fiber in a serving? And does the serving size listed represent how much you might actually consume at a sitting?

The Nutrition Facts label, mandated by Congress on processed food packages since 1990, was designed to help Americans consume a more nutritious diet. If manufacturers had to reveal the nutrients and calories in foods, the reasoning went, they might be encouraged to add more nourishing ingredients and to eliminate or reduce those that are detrimental to health.

This strategy worked well for reducing artery-damaging trans fats, now all but gone from processed foods, but not nearly so well for ridding products of salt and sugar. And manufacturers added things like vitamins, minerals and fiber to make products appear healthier than they really are.

“Although the numbers can look good, the product may not be real food and have no nutritional value,” said Dr. David Kessler, who as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration championed the development of the current label.

The epidemics of obesity and Type 2 diabetes show that the goal of a healthier population has yet to be realized. One obstacle is that those most likely to read food labels are health-conscious people who least need to do so.

But another problem is the label itself, which can border on meaningless for many consumers, especially those who cannot relate grams of a nutrient or percentages of the Daily Value to the amount of food that goes in their mouths.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary