Chapter 11 excerpt from Health Inspires: Your Way to Sustainable Weight Loss
A note from me-your biggest health fan and the the biggest health and food marketing skeptic: The blood pressure guidelines have changed since I published my book in 2017, and marketing statistics age, and trends come and go. Yet, the principles and themes in my book stand the test of time and are the truth of the human condition-mind, body and spirit. That includes our individual beliefs, strengths and struggles around weight, diets and food. With 2019 New Year's Resolutions on the horizon, I feel compelled to send the reminder that there are a lot of slick marketing campaigns out there. And, that you already know how to take care of yourself. Do not let anyone convince you that you need something you don’t. I suggest listening and consulting with credible resources, and then YOU decide what is best for you.
Here's to your good health and limitless prosperity in 2019 and beyond, Kathryn
Chapter 11 - Clinical Evidence: Scientific Miracle or Marketing? (pgs 185-190, subtopic headings and closing pg 208)
“Modern medicine, for all its advances, knows less than 10 percent of what your body knows instinctively.”
Doctor’s offices are selling diets. Insurance pays for bariatric surgery. Overweight people are getting liposuction and other body-shaping treatments. We are bombarded with advertisements for some miracle something or other such as coconut oil, testosterone, pharmaceutical weight loss therapies, quick fix diets and weight loss programs or products.
You might agree that your state of mind on any given day determines what you buy into. Staying true to your principles is a much better approach to decision making than relying on a mood. Look to yourself for answers instead of outside of yourself. How do you know if a study finding is credible? You can almost always find the qualifying verbiage, “evidence suggests” attached to stories about study results because there are always caveats. There are holes in every study. I suggest that when it comes to health and disease, read the science, but apply common sense.
For instance, when we learn that broccoli is good for us, it should come as no surprise. When we hear that naturally occurring stanols and sterols in plant foods can reduce cholesterol, that also should come as no surprise. When we hear that chocolate with added sterols proves to reduce cholesterol…I hope you’re raising an eyebrow rather than opening your wallet at the candy counter.
The media magnifies study results, and we take the ball and run with it. I happen to like the studies that show eating a small apple before dinner reduces calorie consumption by 160 calories each day. I like the meta-analysis that reviews 22 studies and finds for every seven grams of dietary fiber eaten, the risks of CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) and CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) are each lowered by nine percent. Studies like these confirm what we already know about whole and nutritional foods.
It is okay to question nutrition or health studies supported by the food industry and to question new health claims. Even if a study isn’t funded by the food industry, it can be misinterpreted by the press or poorly communicated such that readers don’t understand the statistics cited, or twisted by a clever marketer. For example, I remember an insert in the Austin American-Statesman a couple of years ago regarding the health benefits of nitric oxide, as found in beets. That is great information supporting why you might consider incorporating beets into your healthy diet. However, the promotion was for a crystalized packet of “all natural” something made from beets…OH, COME ON! That is not a beet! As I write this, I have a beet salad in my fridge as my go-to food this week. Eat real food.
Studies that proclaim the magical benefits of one food promote extremes. For example, there are claims that oranges help prevent cancer and other diseases. This anti-cancer activity is determined by testing the actions of phytochemicals, the non-nutritive plant chemicals that fight disease. Laboratory tests may determine that a plant food displays anti-cancer activity, or slows the growth rate of cancer cells, or helps regulate hormones or shows anti-inflammatory activity. We can see these results in the lab using petri dishes, but you cannot say that eating one particular food will save us from cancer. There is not one magic bullet. What you can say is that a diet rich in plant foods helps reduce disease risk.
I agree, just like you would, that an orange is a nutritionally dense food and an exceptional and healthy choice. However, it is not the orange alone that makes you healthy. All of your health and lifestyle habits matter. Nutrient absorption may be affected by drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or you may have other health issues related to smoking, exercise, stress or even age. But maybe you heard about how great oranges are, so the orange might replace a less healthy food that you were eating before, and may help you eat less overall because you are more satisfied. Maybe eating oranges instead of what you used to eat has helped you drop a few pounds—and now that you feel better, you start exercising. So, eating oranges is a good thing—but not because of the sensational claim.
I want you to believe that eating a healthy diet rich in pant foods is the easiest, least-expensive way to reduce your disease risk, and it reduces your healthcare budget and makes you feel good! Most experts agree that a diet rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, lean proteins, plant-based foods and omega 3 fatty acids is a heart-healthy diet, a diabetes-preventing diet, and a healthy weight management diet. Such a diet simply reduces disease risk. These are your naturally gluten-free foods, your superfoods and your high fiber foods. There is not one specific vegetable that will prevent all disease—instead, it is your overall diet and lifestyle habits that matter.
Cholesterol-Lowering Food Products
Plant sterols and stanols are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. They work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine and, thereby, prevent it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. They look a lot like cholesterol on a molecular level, so essentially, they get in the way. A healthy diet rich in stanols includes leafy greens and some whole grains, but manufacturers have started adding stanols to foods as well. Many doctors recommend the fortified juices and spreads containing stanols and sterols, but this is not an invitation to consume too much of anything
Mars, Inc. came out with a line of sterol-laced chocolates called CocoaVia in 2005. Scientific evidence tells us that eating about two grams of plant sterols every day lowers cholesterol by about 10 percent in people with high cholesterol. The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in April, 2008, showed that “the regular consumption of a heart-healthy chocolate bar (CocoaVia, Mars, Inc.) can lower total and LDL-cholesterol levels as well as reduce systolic blood pressure, a new study has shown. The benefits of eating the chocolate, a dark chocolate product supplemented with plant sterols, occurred without any weight gain, suggesting the cocoa-flavanols-rich treat might be helpful in the dietary management of cardiovascular risk, say investigators.”
You have to eat this EVERY DAY to get the benefits? It might make sense, if you have high cholesterol, and if you replace a less healthy daily treat with this treat. But not all of us question studies like this. For example, a gentlemen attending one of my nutrition presentations half-jokingly asked, “Where can I buy that chocolate!?”
The New England Journal of Medicine reported on the cholesterol-lowering benefits of consuming Benecol branded margarine, which has added plant sterols. Apparently, you have to consume it every day in order to receive the benefits—but Benecol has hydrogenated oil in it as well. Hydrogenated oil is trans-fat, and the worst artery-clogging fat we can consume. Trans fats every day! What do I think about this? Uh…NO. The only way this would make sense is if you were a person who was already consuming cookies or crackers with high trans-fat content every day, and you replaced those with this product that has less trans-fat. Okay, so you would come out ahead in that context, but it is a clearly another “lesser of two evils” scenario.
Even Minute Maid® jumped on this bandwagon, coming out with “heart-wise” orange juice packed with a solid dose of phytosterols. Sterols in pill form are also widely available. You can find sterols in granola bars and more. All I can say is, nutritionist and food politics expert Marion Nestle once commented that even she gets confused about what to believe anymore. My belief is that if we simply started eating real foods, all of this would be a non-issue. Choosing an apple every day instead of a granola bar would be to your health benefit.
I did not ride the coconut oil wave either. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which means it’s an artery-clogging fat….
Probiotics are microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on the host. The claims are that these beneficial forms of gut bacteria reduce harmful bacteria and may relieve intestinal discomfort and aid in digestion. This claim is good for the yogurt manufacturers and the sellers of cleanses. My thought is…
Resveratrol in red wine has gotten a lot of attention. Resveratrol is a phytochemical that is shown to be good for our brains, our hearts and our health. However, red wine contains alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin and a human carcinogen…..
pH and Acidity
Oh please stop. Your body has powerful mechanisms in place to maintain homeostasis and a normal pH of 7.4. The pH of your body is regulated in three ways: through your kidneys, through your lungs and through chemical buffers within your cells and body fluids. Having said that, if you are not able to clear carbon dioxide through normal breathing, or you have kidney disease or your kidneys cannot remove enough acid from the body, then you may have a problem.
Acidosis, a pH of below 7.35, can occur if you’re a heavy drinker, your liver doesn’t function properly, you are on certain medications, have diabetes, have cancer or just had surgery, for a few examples…..
Testosterone levels typically decline with age. Hormone replacement for Low T seems to be a newer fad; and many doctors support it, but not all of them….
Other “Science” Facts or Fiction
How does stress relate to being overweight?...
Some recent studies have compared sugar’s effect on the brain to that of heroin, nicotine or alcohol.
At the American Medical Association (AMA) 2013 Annual Meeting, physicians voted overwhelmingly to label obesity as a disease. It is no surprise there was opposition to this decision…
“By abstaining from pleasures we become temperate and once temperate we are more able to abstain from them. Likewise, once habituated to despise what is terrible we become courageous.” - Aristotle
The U.S. weight loss market totaled $64 billion in 2014. There is an unbelievable amount of noise out there: slick marketing campaigns, industry-sponsored studies and profit-motivated medicine. But you already know how to take care of yourself, and only you know what you are truly capable of. Do not let anyone convince you that you need something you don’t. You have everything you need right now to start. The solutions are inside of you and not outside of you.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” - Lao Tzu
Health Inspires Publishing
My passion and purpose is helping people reach their full potential and master their wellbeing.
Disclosure: Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before beginning any diet or exercise program and ask whether you are healthy enough to engage in a diet and exercise program. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider concerning your overall health and wellness, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. It is your choice to follow the suggestions, opinions and advice given by a Health Inspires wellness coach.