Monthly Archives: February 2006

Making your Own Snack Mix to Lower Cholesterol

Making your Own Snack Mix to Lower Cholesterol

Competency # 13, #14  FATS and SUPERFOOD

Reference: N Engl J Med. 1993 Mar 4;328(9):603-7;  JAMA 2003 Jul 23; 290 (4): 502-10; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2005 Nov 30; 53(24):9436-45.

This is fun!  I make a snack mix that half my friends call “Llama Chow”.  But it’s made with intention.  There have been lots of anecdotal ways to lower your blood cholesterol by eating.  Many of them involve single elements. One headline or another say’s, “Eat more….”  What we are getting from the literature is a weave and fabric of complexity that suggests our bodies are well served by a variety of foods.  It’s all in the mix.

Since the early 90’s and a study in the New England Journal of Medicine we’ve known that walnuts lower your cholesterol. In the early 2000s, the Journal of the American Medical Association had a land mark study on nuts and soy being as effective in lowering cholesterol as anti-cholesterol drugs.

Now, in the prestigious Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (Nov 30, 2005), something you all read each week, a study comparing the best of nuts to lower your cholesterol comes out in favor of the “best foods” to put in your snack mix.  Sesame seeds and wheat germ turn out to be the very best at lowering cholesterol.  They are a little hard to eat raw.  So, plan on eating some whole grains every day to get your wheat germ.  But pistachios and sunflower seeds came in second and they taste great.  And close behind were almonds and pine nuts.  Pine nuts are too expensive but almonds are delicious.

How do they work?  The oils in all these nuts and seeds are unsaturated.  They are liquid at room temperature.  These oils seem to have a very direct effect on your membranes, making them more fluid and flexible.  That allows all the transport proteins in all your cells to be more mobile as they go about making your bodies cells work.  And they have lots of phytosterols in them.  Phytosterols appear to have anti-inflammatory effects as well.  Here is were we see one of the emerging mega-trends in nutrition coming to bear:  the “Common Soil Hypothesis” which states that our endocrine receptors are mixed in and work in common with our inflammatory/anti-inflammatory receptors.  Our metabolism is closely related to inflammation.  Eating well is eating to reduce inflammation.  Cholesterol in our blood may be an indirect marker of inflammation.  But lowering it certainly helps our arteries stay healthy longer.  We have been down the road of taking supplements and found that individual components are just not as good as the whole food.

 

Here goes:  Dr. W’s Snack Mix  (All of this is available at Outpost Foods)

Raw almonds1 lb

Pistachios8 oz

Walnuts8 oz

Sunflower seeds1 lb

Sesame seed chunks (Outpost has a variety)

Wasabe Peas1 lb

Cajun Sesame sticks1 lb

Coconut flakes

WWW: What Will Work for Me:  This mix costs me $ 20 dollars to make.  But I get a huge tub of it.  I get snack mix for at least three months out of this recipe: and it’s lowering my cholesterol with every bite.  Think about how you can make your need to nibble into a healthy choice

Is Farmed Salmon Good for Me too?

Is Farmed Salmon Good for Me too?

Competency # 13 FATS

Reference: Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, March 2006.

This is one of those topics that goes around every couple of weeks.  Is farmed salmon as good as ocean raised?  And what about the mercury?  And what about the PCBs?  As we know, we are trying to clean up both of these contaminants from the environment.  PCBs may be banned, but mercury shows up from burning coal, and the whole world is doing more of that. As read in this column several weeks ago, we now know that pregnant mothers need omega fatty acids as much as the rest of us, and that you can measure increased intelligence in the children of fish eaters 5 years after the measured pregnancy. (And 15% positive swing in social adaptability)  That study concluded that the real risk of poor brain development mandated that pregnant women must find a way to eat more EPA and DHA, the fatty acids in fish.

The key to understanding is judging by science based on what is common.  When 50% of us are slated to get coronary artery disease, a 1 in a million chance is worth taking compared to the 50% chance of coronary artery disease.  If Americans cut their consumption of fish by one sixth, we would have 8,000 more coronary artery disease deaths.  That’s what’s common.

Here’s what I found out that’s new to me this week.  Farmed salmon has quite a lot of omega fatty acids in it!   Hurray!  I thought the cheap stuff wasn’t as good as the wild salmon.

This table got published in the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter this week.

Seafood TypeOmega-3’s in 3 oz of cooked fish

Farmed Atlantic Salmon1.8 grams

Herring1.7 grams

Wild Atlantic Salmon1.6 grams

Blue Fin Tuna1.3 grams

Canned Sockeye Salmon1.3 grams

Mackerel  1.0 grams

Swordfish  0.7 grams

Canned Tuna  0.2 grams

Wild catfish  0.2 grams

Farmed catfish  0.1 grams

Atlantic Cod (Friday’s fishfry)  0.1 grams

What will work for me:  I’m back on salmon.  It’s delicious and has the most omega threes.  Your brain needs it!  Your heart needs it.  As for Friday’s fish fry…..well.  Don’t do the fry.  The cod has little omega three in it, and the fry part is probably trans fats.   And we know that they are poisons: twice as bad for you as saturated beef fat.  So, do the baked, grilled, anything but fried.

 

Another Reason to Eat Omega-3s ALL OF OUR LIVES

Another Reason to Eat Omega-3s ALL OF OUR LIVES

Competency # 13 FATS

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Dec 2005 (p 1178) – From Strasbourg, France

We have all learned that eating fish twice a week will reduce our risk of sudden death by 40%.  Even the American Heart Association has taking fish oil as one of its prime recommendations.

And we all know that over 60% of us are overweight.  And the best way to measure where you are in your life journey is the “Waist-Hip” ratio.  Men should have a WH ratio below .9.  Women should be below .85.  So, most of us aren’t there yet.  And we know we are therefore at risk to have the “Metabolic Syndrome”.  There are five characteristics to have the “metabolic syndrome”

1.   Overweight

2.   Abdominal “adiposity”

3.   Insulin resistance (AKA, diabetes or prediabetes)

4.   High blood fats

5.   High blood pressure

6.  Now we can add INFLAMMATION as number 6 in the Metabolic Syndrome list.

Dr. Klein-Platat took 120 twelve-year old overweight kids and measured their metabolic syndrome factors as listed above.  What they found was stunning.  Kids as young as 12 have elevated inflammatory markers in their blood:  C reactive Protein and IL-6.  Metabolic syndrome does not start at 45.  It’s life long.  But here is the good news!

The more omega 3’s the kids ate, the lower their inflammatory markers. And the more omega-3’s the kids ate, the lower their metabolic syndrome parameters.   I’m not sure how big this will be but I think it’s huge.  The implications are that our bodies are starved for these precious molecules.  Our cardiovascular system wants them so badly that just two servings of fish a week and our sudden death risk drops 40%.  And here is the mechanism by which that works: All of our risk markers for vascular disease get better when we eat more omega-3 fatty acids.

Where do omega-3’s come from?  They are made ONLY by green plants.  Algae in the ocean gets eaten by little fish: bigger fish: salmon.  Green grass is eaten by cows.  We eat cow.  That’s why free-range chickens and pasture fed beef is better for you.  The caveat is that omega 3s spoil easily when exposed to light and oxygen.  Most commercial vegetable oils have removed the omega 3s because they spoil on the shelf.  Olive oil is not purified.   Sunflower and safflower are good too.

WWW: What Will Work for ME.  This is easy.  Keep eating your fish.  I take flax oil and fish oil every day.  And flax seed is a champion omega three oil source.  Remember to grind it up first.  I need to do this all my life.  At no point is it bad for you.  So, get your kids on this too.  When you choose an oil to cook with: safflower and sunflower beat canola.

 

Low-fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Cardiovascular DiseaseNumber 124 Competency # 13 FATS Reference: JAMA. 2006 Feb 8;295(6):655-66 Date: 2/08 This is very interesting NIH study. It cost over $ 451 million to conduct. Over 48,000 women followed prospectively for an average of 8.1 years. Half were told how to eat less fat. The others were simply given literature about how to eat better. This was started back in the days when we thought low fat was nirvana. (As we now know, the low fat mantra was not matched with low calorie and America gained a pound a year per person during that era by eating more calories: that’s the background) The study women indeed reduced their fat intake from around 35-40 % to 24-29% of daily calories. There was no identified benefit to a reduced fat intake. No reduction in cancer, heart attack, stroke. Study patients had a trend to fewer breast cancers that was not statistically significant, and fewer colon polyps, which turn into cancers. Was the study a bust? This study will be quoted for years. Here is the nuance for you to understand its context. Here is the conjecture published so far. 1.All the women were started after age 50 and menopause. That may be too late. We may need lifelong habits. 2. No effort was made to reduce weight. That may be part of the story (I agree) 3. 8.1 years may be too short a period to tell. (My opinion. My belief is the benefits take 25-40 years to show in full) 4.No effort to eat good fats (olive oil) versus bad fats (trans fats and sat fats) was made. That may be crucial. (I agree) 5.No correlation with exercise. (That may be bigger still) My other opinions: no clear focus on fiber. Most women were probably below 40 grams as most Americans eat 25 grams of fiber a day. No focus on the benefits of the DASH diet with its whole grain, abundant fruits and veggies and dairy servings every day. And, let me slip in, no Vitamin D! This confusion lends credence to the frustration we all feel as research continues. Don’t let it. I think it underlines the importance of life long habits. The story of inflammation and how the metabolic processes in our body mesh with long-term risk is yet untold. We do know that our fat tissue is not a passive storage site but actually metabolically very active, making LOTS of inflammatory hormones. There will be more to come on that later this year when we talk about the Endocannaboid System. This study was put together before we realized the catastrophe of the “low fat” strategy when we didn’t tie to lower calorie control. High monounsaturated fat diets (olive oil) are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. What will work for me? I continue to eat GOOD fat. Lot’s of olive oil is fine, if not good for you. I avoid TRANS fats like they were poisons. And I’m avoiding refined grain foods: whole grains are better. And I struggle to lose weight. We are in this for the long haul. I intend to live longer than 8.1 more years. The investment I’m making in me at age 54 will pay off at age 84. As best as I can tell from this research, I will have lower blood pressure, fewer colon polyps and less breast cancer. Anyone want to schedule a golf game with me on my 84th birthday? That’s what we want for each other. Community, support, and activity for the long haul.

Low-fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Cardiovascular DiseaseNumber 124

Reference: JAMA. 2006 Feb 8;295(6):655-66

This is very interesting NIH study.  It cost over $ 451 million to conduct.  Over 48,000 women followed prospectively for an average of 8.1 years.  Half were told how to eat less fat.  The others were simply given literature about how to eat better.  This was started back in the days when we thought low fat was nirvana.  (As we now know, the low fat mantra was not matched with low calorie and America gained a pound a year per person during that era by eating more calories: that’s the background)  The study women indeed reduced their fat intake from around 35-40 % to 24-29% of daily calories.  There was no identified benefit to a reduced fat intake.  No reduction in cancer, heart attack, stroke.  Study patients had a trend to fewer breast cancers that was not statistically significant, and fewer colon polyps, which turn into cancers.  Was the study a bust?  This study will be quoted for years.  Here is the nuance for you to understand its context.

Here is the conjecture published so far.

1.   All the women were started after age 50 and menopause.  That may be too late.  We may need lifelong habits.

2.   No effort was made to reduce weight.  That may be part of the story  (I agree)

3.   8.1 years may be too short a period to tell.  (My opinion.  My belief is the benefits

take 25-40 years to show in full)

4.No effort to eat good fats (olive oil) versus bad fats (trans fats and sat fats) was made.  That may be crucial.  (I agree)

5.No correlation with exercise.  (That may be bigger still)

My other opinions: no clear focus on fiber.  Most women were probably below 40 grams as most Americans eat 25 grams of fiber a day.  No focus on the benefits of the DASH diet with its whole grain, abundant fruits and veggies and dairy servings every day.  And, let me slip in, no Vitamin D!

This confusion lends credence to the frustration we all feel as research continues.  Don’t let it.  I think it underlines the importance of life long habits.  The story of inflammation and how the metabolic processes in our body mesh with long-term risk is yet untold.  We do know that our fat tissue is not a passive storage site but actually metabolically very active, making LOTS of inflammatory hormones.  There will be more to come on that later this year when we talk about the Endocannaboid System.  This study was put together before we realized the catastrophe of the “low fat” strategy when we didn’t tie to lower calorie control.  High monounsaturated fat diets (olive oil) are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet.

What will work for me?   I continue to eat GOOD fat.  Lot’s of olive oil is fine, if not good for you. I avoid TRANS fats like they were poisons.  And I’m avoiding refined grain foods: whole grains are better.  And I struggle to lose weight.  We are in this for the long haul.  I intend to live longer than 8.1 more years.  The investment I’m making in me at age 54 will pay off at age 84.   As best as I can tell from this research, I will have lower blood pressure, fewer colon polyps and less breast cancer.  Anyone want to schedule a golf game with me on my 84th birthday?  That’s what we want for each other.  Community, support, and activity for the long haul.