Tag Archives: nutritional information

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man thinner??? Early bed times linked to less weight gain

late nightWhile it’s not how the old saying goes, that may actually make more sense than the original as we’re discovering early bed times linked to less weight gain.  FoodFacts.com found this interesting information regarding late bedtimes and likely weight gain that might encourage all of us to limiting our late hours.

Teenagers and adults who go to bed late on weeknights are more likely to gain weight than their peers who hit the hay earlier, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, that has found a correlation between sleep and body mass index.

Berkeley researchers analyzed longitudinal data from a nationally representative cohort of more than 3,300 youths and adults, and found that for every hour of sleep they lost, they gained 2.1 points on the BMI index. This gain occurred roughly over a five-year period.

Moreover, exercise, screen time, and the number of hours they slept did not mitigate this BMI increase, according to the study published in the October issue of the journal, Sleep.

“These results highlight adolescent bedtimes, not just total sleep time, as a potential target for weight management during the transition to adulthood,” said Lauren Asarnow, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic.

BMI is the measure of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A healthy adult BMI range is estimated to be 18.5 to 24.9.

The Berkeley study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which has tracked the influences and behaviors of U.S. teenagers since 1994. Focusing on three time periods — the onset of puberty, the college-age years and young adulthood — researchers compared the bedtimes and BMI of teenagers from 1994 to 2009.

Adolescents in the study reported their bedtimes and sleep hours while researchers calculated their BMI based on their height and weight.

Surveys show that many teenagers do not get the recommended nine hours sleep a night, and report having trouble staying awake at school. The human circadian rhythm, which regulates physiological and metabolic functions, typically shifts to a later sleep cycle at the onset of puberty.

The results of the study thus suggest that adolescents who go to bed earlier will “set their weight on a healthier course as they emerge into adulthood,” Asarnow said.

Asarnow is a researcher on UC Berkeley’s Teen Sleep Study, a treatment program designed to reset the biological clocks of adolescents who have trouble going to sleep and waking up. She is also currently an intern in psychiatry at the University of North Carolina.

In addition to Asarnow, co-authors on the study are Allison Harvey at UC Berkeley and Eleanor McGlinchey at Columbia University.

Sleep is a significant part of a healthy lifestyle. The more well rested we feel the better we are able to function at our full potential. Our brains work better. Our bodies work better. And according to this study, we’re actually a better weight than our counterparts who get to sleep later. It’s a good choice we can all be making easily!


Toxic chemicals are damaging our health

151001100058_1_540x360We hear it all the time … the level of chemicals we’re exposed to can’t hurt us – it’s not high enough. The population used to be told that about BPA in plastics. Turns out that wasn’t true. The truth is that no one has really been able to tell us how pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and other toxic chemicals are damaging our health. FoodFacts.com thought everyone in our community could really benefit from this new information.

Dramatic increases in exposure to toxic chemicals in the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the first global reproductive health organization to take a stand on human exposure to toxic chemicals.

The opinion was written by obstetrician-gynecologists and scientists from the major global, US, UK and Canadian reproductive health professional societies, the World Health Organization and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

FIGO, which represents obstetricians from 125 countries and territories, published the opinion in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics on Oct. 1, 2015, just prior to its Oct. 4 to 9, 2015, world congress in Vancouver, BC, where more than 7,000 clinicians and scientists will explore global trends in women’s health issues.

“We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals, and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern,” said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, MD, PhD, Honorary Secretary of FIGO and lead author of the FIGO opinion. According to Di Renzo, reproductive health professionals “witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients, and preventing exposure to toxic chemicals can reduce this burden on women, children and families around the world.”

Miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, congenital malformations, impaired or reduced neurodevelopment and cognitive function, and an increase in cancer, attention problems, ADHD behaviors and hyperactivity are among the list of poor health outcomes linked to chemicals such as pesticides, air pollutants, plastics, solvents and more, according to the FIGO opinion.

“What FIGO is saying is that physicians need to do more than simply advise patients about the health risks of chemical exposure,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, a co-author of the FIGO opinion and past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which issued an opinion on chemicals and reproductive health in 2013. “We need to advocate for policies that will protect our patients and communities from the dangers of involuntary exposure to toxic chemicals.”

Chemical manufacturing is expected to grow fastest in developing countries in the next five years, according to FIGO. In the U.S. alone, more than 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are manufactured or imported, and yet the vast majority of these chemicals have not been tested. Chemicals travel the globe via international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. Environmental and health groups have criticized the proposed agreement for weakening controls and regulations designed to protect communities from toxic chemicals.

“Exposure to chemicals in the air, food and water supplies disproportionately affect poor people,” said Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, MSc, a FIGO opinion co-author, past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and chair of the UCSF department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. “In developing countries, lower respiratory infections are more than twice as likely to be caused by chemical exposures than in developed countries.”

Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals is linked to millions of deaths and costs billions of dollars every year, according to the FIGO opinion, which cites the following examples:

• Nearly 4 million people die each year because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as to lead.
• Pesticide poisonings of farmworkers in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to cost $66 billion between 2005-2020.
• Health care and other costs from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in Europe are estimated to be at a minimum of 157 billion Euros a year.
• The cost of childhood diseases related to environmental toxins and pollutants in air, food, water, soil and in homes and neighborhoods was calculated to be $76.6 billion in 2008 in the United States.

“Given accumulating evidence of adverse health impacts related to toxic chemicals, including the potential for inter-generational harm, FIGO has wisely proposed a series of recommendations that health professionals can adopt to reduce the burden of unsafe chemicals on patients and communities,” said FIGO President Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, MBBS, who is also past president of the British Medical Association.

FIGO proposes that physicians, midwives, and other reproductive health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals; work to ensure a healthy food system for all; make environmental health part of health care; and champion environmental justice.

Chemicals count. Our environment contributes to our health and well being and our environment carries toxins. Our food supply didn’t have to be chemically laden. Pesticides didn’t need to be uninvited guests in our body tissue. But they are. We’ve all got to advocate to eliminate the exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment and our food supply. It’s already affected us all far too much.


There may be more than grapes in that red wine you’re drinking: arsenic contamination

Red WineFirst it was apple juice. Than it was rice. Now it’s wine.  Arsenic contamination in our food supply is a very real concern.  If you’re a red wine fan, you may want to read about this new development that’s a very possible health risk for anyone who likes to enjoy a glass or two on a regular basis.

A new study that tested 65 wines from America’s top four wine-producing states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed US drinking water standards. But health risks from that naturally-occurring toxic element depend on how many other high-arsenic foods and beverages, such as apple juice, rice, or cereal bars, an individual person eats.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows drinking water to contain no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic. The wine samples ranged from 10 to 76 parts per billion, with an average of 24 parts per billion.

But a companion study concluded that the likely health risks from that naturally-occurring toxic element depend on how many other foods and beverages known to be high in arsenic, such as apple juice, rice, or cereal bars, an individual person eats. The highest risks from arsenic exposure stem from certain types of infant formulas, the study estimated.

The two studies from UW electrical engineering professor Denise Wilson appear on the cover of the October 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

“Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there’s little health threat if that’s the only source of arsenic in your diet,” said Wilson.

“But consumers need to look at their diets as a whole. If you are eating a lot of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, apple juice — all those heavy contributors to arsenic poisoning — you should be concerned, especially pregnant women, kids and the elderly.”

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is toxic to humans in some forms, and can cause skin, lung and bladder cancers, and other diseases. As rain, rivers or wind erode rocks that contain arsenic, it leaches into water and soil. From there, the toxic metalloid can work its way into the food chain.

The UW study is the first peer-reviewed research in decades to look at the arsenic content of American wines. As a group, they had higher arsenic levels than their European counterparts, likely due to the underlying geology of U.S. wine growing regions.

The study looked at red wines, except from two areas in Washington where only white wines were produced, because they are made with the skin of grapes where arsenic that is absorbed from soil tends to concentrate.

Wilson also tested for lead, which is a common co-contaminant. The study found lead in 58 percent of the samples, but only 5 percent — all from New York — exceeded drinking water standards.

Washington wines had the highest arsenic concentrations, averaging 28 parts per billion, while Oregon’s had the lowest, averaging 13 parts per billion.

“There were no statistical differences among Washington, New York and California,” she said. “The only star in the story is Oregon, where arsenic concentrations were particularly low.”

Where possible, the study also compared wines grown in “new” vineyards and those that had been converted from other agricultural uses like orchards, where farmers likely used arsenic-based pesticides that were popular in the early 20th century. It found some evidence that higher levels of arsenic in Washington red wines could be a result of pesticide residue.

Because the average adult drinks far more water (between 1.7 and 3.2 cups per day) than even core or frequent wine drinkers (roughly a half cup per day on average), it’s an imperfect comparison to gauge health risks based on the EPA drinking water standard of 10 parts per billion. That’s why Wilson also evaluated how much arsenic individuals can safely consume from all the sources in their diet.

In a companion study, she compiled consumption data for foods that have been shown to contain arsenic — juice, milk, bottled water, wine, cereal bars, infant formula, rice, salmon and tuna.

From that, she was able to determine how much of an arsenic “dose” an average child or adult would get from each food source and how close it would come to risk thresholds set by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for total arsenic consumption across a person’s diet.

For the core or frequent adult wine drinker, the arsenic consumed from that single source would only make up 10 to 12 percent of the total maximum recommended daily arsenic intake. But if that person also eats large quantities of contaminated rice, tuna or energy bars, for instance, that could push that individual’s arsenic consumption beyond levels that are considered safe.

A person who eats an average or large amount of contaminated rice would get between 41 and 101 percent of the maximum recommended daily dose of arsenic from that one source alone, the study found. A child who drinks apple juice could get a quarter of the maximum daily arsenic dose from that single source.

The food that posed the largest risk of arsenic poisoning was infant formula made with organic brown rice syrup, an alternative to high-fructose corn syrup. Wilson estimated that some infants eating large amounts of certain formulas may be getting more than 10 times the daily maximum dose of arsenic.

Based on recent studies that have found arsenic in numerous foods and beverages, Wilson recommends that U.S. wineries test for arsenic and lead in irrigation and processing water and take steps to remove those contaminants if levels are found to be high.

But rather than litigate against vineyards — as some have done — she would encourage consumers to evaluate their diets more holistically and speak with a doctor if they have concerns. Tests are available that can detect high arsenic levels and tend to capture arsenic exposure over longer histories than other toxic chemicals.

“The whole idea that you would sue a winery for having arsenic in their wine is like suing someone for having rocks in their yard,” Wilson said. “My goal is to get people away from asking the question ‘who do we blame?’ and instead offer consumers a better understanding of what they’re ingesting and how they can minimize health risks that emerge from their diets.”

While it doesn’t sound like most wine drinkers would be at risk, FoodFacts.com still thinks it’s important for us all to be aware when foods and beverages we enjoy pose health risks. Our consumption decisions need to be based on our individual comfort levels regarding health risk exposure.


Taco Bell thinks we should be drinking Starburst candy.

TacoBellStarburstCherryFreeze-600x350For FoodFacts.com, a Starburst Cherry Freeze is a doubly appalling concept. Think about it for a minute – the nutrition website whose blog is full of damning information on sugary beverages cannot possibly like a sugary frozen beverage associated with candy (more sugar). We really can’t think of any reason why consumers would embrace this concept either.

Just in case the idea of that double shot of sugar isn’t enough to turn you off to it, we went to the Taco Bell website to find out the facts behind the Starburst Cherry Freeze.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                190
Fat:                         0 grams
Sugar:                    51 grams

These nutrition facts are applicable to the 16 ounce size. Almost 13 TEASPOONS of sugar in a cup. That certainly puts the Starburst Cherry Freeze squarely in the sugary beverage category.

Going further, though, the ingredient list could be very important here. Starburst candies are brightly colored and this is a Starburst Cherry Freeze, so we’re envisioning something with color going on behind the scenes.

Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, water, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, yucca extract, quillaia extract, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (P), red 40 (C), calcium disodium EDTA (PF).

That color we were suspicious of is definitely in there. But it’s really worse than that. There are only 11 ingredients in this beverage and 6 of them are controversial. The Taco Bell Starburst Cherry Freeze isn’t really a beverage. It’s a frozen chemical concoction.

Not touching this one.


Jett-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows attempt to sweeten up pumpkin season

pumpkin-spice-marshmallowsAt first blush, the idea of a Pumpkin Spice Marshmallow seemed pretty unappealing. We thought about it a little more though and figured out that we could make any cup of coffee pumpkin spice coffee or be really creative and innovative and enjoy a pumpkin spice hot chocolate. We could also make pumpkin spice Rice Krispy Treats. Of course, before FoodFacts.com got excited about any of this, you know we had to explore how the folks over at Kraft went about making Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows.

Nutrition Facts (about 5 regular-sized marshmallows):

Calories:                       100
Fat:                                0 grams
Sugar:                           17 grams

Honestly, the nutrition facts for marshmallows are really pretty good. They contain a reasonable amount of calories, no fat, and less than one teaspoon of sugar per regular size marshmallow. There are certainly worse sweet treats out there.

Now let’s find out about the ingredients:

Ingredients Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Cornstarch, Dextrose, Water, Gelatin, Contains Less Than 2% of Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1.

And here’s where our dreams of pumpkin spice coffee in an instant, pumpkin spice hot chocolate and pumpkin spice Rice Krispy Treats go flying out the window because we are not eating these.

Sorry, Kraft but we will be looking for our fall flavors elsewhere.


The overweight and obesity stigma is alive and well and provable with research

2CE809F300000578-3253766-image-a-1_1443547359971These days our society strives to be as kind and gentle as possible … well, sort of. Unfortunately, it’s pretty well known that our political correctness flies right out the window when it comes to the overweight and obese population. The overweight and obesity stigma isn’t going away any time soon. It’s already hard enough to be part of these populations … these aren’t easy lives. FoodFacts.com asks you to imagine for a minute throwing in the negative assumptions of others around you into that mix. It’s not a happy equation. For those that say that the negative stereotyping doesn’t exist, you might want to take a look at this information from a new study.

A blogger’s weight affects her or his credibility with readers seeking food advice, according to a Cornell study published online and in a forthcoming print issue of the journal Health Communication.

The study revealed that when a blogger is overweight, as shown in the blogger’s photo, readers are far more skeptical of the information that blogger provides when compared with a thin blogger’s recommendations, even when the content is exactly the same.

The findings are increasingly important as more than half of smartphone users report that they use their device to look up health-related information, making the internet one of the top places people get informed about health issues.

“When we search for health information online, there are a lot of related cues that can bias our perceptions in ways that we may not be consciously aware of,” said Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication and lead author of the study.

“Awareness of these biases could help us better navigate health information online,” he said. It could also help us “avoid being swayed by nutritional information simply because it is posted by someone who is thin rather than heavy,” he added.
But the study also suggests that “weight bias and prejudice — which are so rampant in our society — can spill over and affect not only the inferences we make about people, but also objects that are associated with them,” Schuldt said.

In one experiment, 230 subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups. They were all shown photos of the same 10 meals — including black bean and cheese quesadillas, chopped salad with croutons, sliced beef with vegetables and so on. With each photo was also a thumbnail photo depicting the supposed author of the blog post. Participants were then asked to judge how healthy the meal was overall on a scale of one to seven.

The only thing that differed between the two groups was the thumbnail photo of the blogger, which was a real picture of the same person before and after weight loss. The researchers found that when the photo of the overweight woman accompanied the meal, “our participants perceived those meals to be less healthy” than the same meal presented with a photo of a thin blogger.

“People appear to assume that if a heavier person is recommending food, it is probably richer and less healthy,” Schuldt said.

In a second experiment, the researchers also included calorie and fat content information next to the image of the food and above the thumbnail of the blogger. “What we found is that even when we provided nutrient information that is much more relevant to the food’s health quality, people are still strongly influenced by the body weight of the recommender,” Schuldt said.

The researchers even went so far as to vary the fat and calorie content, so that some subjects saw a healthy nutritional label and others saw a label with approximately double the calorie content and triple the fat. They found that this increase in fat and calories influenced impressions to a similar extent as the heavy vs. thin blogger, all else being equal.

“When we dramatically increased the fat and calorie content, it had just as much impact as when we said the food was posted by a heavy person,” Schuldt said.

So there you have it. The overweight and obesity stigma is a very real thing. Let’s extend our kind and gentle society to EVERYONE who needs those considerations.


Just in case we all need a reminder … the importance of your five a day

fruits-and-veggies_625x350_71443011288We spend a lot of time telling our kids to eat their vegetables. We also spend plenty of time making sure they consume healthy snacks and pushing the desirability of an apple over cheese crackers. And we pour hours into planning well balanced meals that will give our kids the healthiest start in life. It is still questionable, though, how much attention we pay to our own advice. FoodFacts.com wants everyone to think of this seriously … are we all making sure we consume our five a day? It’s an important question. And if you need a reminder of why this is so important, you may want to give this a read.

Increased consumption of fruits and non-starchy vegetables is inversely associated with weight change, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine. The longitudinal study, conducted by Monica Bertoia of Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues, shows differences by type of fruit or vegetable, suggesting that characteristics of these foods influence the strength of their association with weight change.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults and children should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In this study, Bertoia and colleagues examined associations between changes in the intake of specific fruits and vegetables recorded in dietary questionnaires and self-reported weight changes in 133,468 US men and women followed for up to 24 years in the Nurses’ Health Study, Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses’ Health Study II. After adjusting for self-reported changes in other lifestyle factors such as smoking status and physical activity, an increased intake of fruits and of several vegetables was inversely associated with 4-y weight change (-0.53 lb (- 0.24 kg) for each extra daily serving of fruit, -0.25 lb (-0.11 kg) for vegetables). However, starchy vegetables, for example peas (1.13 lb; 95% CI 0.37 to 1.89 lb) and corn (2.04 lb; 95% CI 0.94 to 3.15 lb), were associated with weight gain.

These findings may not be generalizable–nearly all the participants were well-educated white adults, and the use of dietary questionnaires and self-reported weight measurement may have introduced measurement errors. However, study strengths include a very large sample size and long follow-up, with consistent results across three cohorts. The authors state, “our findings support benefits of increased fruit and vegetable consumption for preventing long-term weight gain and provide further food-specific guidance for the prevention of obesity, a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and many other health conditions.”

We’re all incredibly busy and we’re all under more stress than generations before us. The world is more complicated and demanding. While we all keep up, there are things that we sacrifice, consciously or unconsciously. Often those sacrifices are made in our diets. Eating on the run. Grabbing a sandwich for lunch. Making the quickest dinner possible. Let’s reevaluate our fruit and vegetable consumption and make a renewed effort to get the five a day we need to survive and thrive!


It doesn’t matter who you are, fast food consumption affects you the same way it affects everyone else.

KFC_Bandung_Supermall-300x199For years, we’ve all heard certain myths regarding fast food consumption. Among those myths are that low-income families are consuming more fast food than those with higher incomes. We’ve also been told that those who are overweight and obese are eating more fast food than those who maintain a healthy weight. We’ve also come to believe that folks who live in a “food desert,” or an area where there is limited access to fresh foods are consuming more fast food. These ideas have always made sense to us, but perhaps they shouldn’t have.

We may make fast food out to be worse than it is, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Consumption of fast food has been linked to weight gain in adults, as well as associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality among children and adolescents, said researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHNES). These effects have seemed more prominent among low-income families, as well as individuals who are overweight and obese, where there’s less access to fresh food, also known as a food desert. And yet, the CDC doesn’t find this to be the case.

Analyzing the data collected from the NHNES in 2011-2012 — a cross-sectional survey designed to monitor the heath and nutritional status of the U.S. population — the CDC reported “no significant difference was seen by poverty status in the average daily percentage of calories consumed from fast food among children and adolescents aged 2 to 19.” Similarly, “the average daily percentage of calories consumed from fast food did not vary significantly by weight status.” As The Atlantic first put it, the level of fast food consumption based on poverty and weight status was “pretty even.”

There were, however, some trends among age and race groups. Adolescents aged 12 to 19 consumed twice the average daily percentage of calories from fast food than did younger children, and overall, non-Hispanic Asian children and adolescents consumed fewer calories from fast food compared to non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic children and adolescents. The CDC noted that previous studies have shown that acculturation to the U.S. lifestyle plays an important role in the adoption of unhealthy behaviors, including but not limited to fast food consumption.

The Atlantic added these findings may dispel the idea that fast food is a primary cause of obesity in the U.S. The magazine cited a fast food ban passed in South Los Angeles, where the obesity rate was higher, failed to slow the epidemic. In fact, it seemed to speed up obesity levels.

That’s not to say the CDC is giving everyone a pass to load up on fast food; studies do show fast food items are spiked with potentially harmful antibiotics, fat, sodium, and sugar. But what they are finding is that everyone eats fast food, so the obesity rate among low-income families could very well be fueled by another type of food. The Atlantic pointed a finger at the general cheap access Americans have to sugar foods. As Medical Daily previously reported, sugary drinks in particular have been shown to weave “a complicated web of disease and increased risk of death” not just in the U.S., but around the world.

While the findings may dispel the belief that fast food is a key culprit in the obesity crisis in America, they also point to the idea that too many of us are eating it, no matter where we live, no matter our socioeconomic status, no matter our weight. FoodFacts.com wants us to all get on the bandwagon and stay away from fast food!


Pushing the pumpkin envelope … Pumpkin Spice Bagels from Thomas’

As we gingerly step out of summer and into fall, we can take notice of a cooler breeze helping to push us along. Ready or not the cooler weather is coming. Some other, less gentle indicators of the new season have already hit our grocery store shelves. Like it or not, there’s pumpkin everything all around us, everywhere. FoodFacts.com is really not exaggerating. Just take a look at Pumpkin Spice Bagels from Thomas’.

Now instead of simply enjoying pumpkin in your coffee, you can have it in every part of your breakfast. Let’s take a look at what’s really going on with these pumpkin bagels.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                            270
Fat:                                     2 grams
Sodium:                             440 mg


We will definitely not be trying these bagels. It’s difficult to understand the necessity of three different, very controversial artificial colors in any one product – especially a bagel, which really has no need to be colorful at all.

We really don’t need to be pushing the pumpkin envelope, Thomas’. See you next fall.


Your brain and a balanced diet

fruitsA healthy diet keeps your body healthy. Here at FoodFacts.com we’re always talking about how important it is to commit to a healthy diet. What we don’t talk about very much is that your healthy diet is especially important to the health of your brain.

Eating a Mediterranean diet or other healthy dietary pattern, comprising of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and low in processed meats, is associated with preventing the onset of depression, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine. A large study of 15,093 people suggests depression could be linked with nutrient deficits.

Following extensive research into diet and its effect on our physical health, researchers are now exploring the link between nutrition and mental health. This is the first time that several healthy dietary patterns and their association with the risk of depression have been analyzed together.

The researchers compared three diets; the Mediterranean diet, the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern and Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010. Participants used a scoring system to measure their adherence to the selected diet, i.e. the higher the dietary score indicated that the participant was eating a healthier diet.

Food items such as meat and sweets (sources of animal fats: saturated and trans fatty acids) were negatively scored, while nuts, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals respectively) were positively scored.

Lead researcher, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, says “We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds. These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.”

“The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”
The study included 15,093 participants free of depression at the beginning of the study. They are former students of the University of Navarra, Spain, registered professionals from some Spanish provinces and other university graduates. All are part of the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project, a cohort study started on 21st December 1999. The cohort has been used to identify dietary and lifestyle determinants of various conditions, including diabetes, obesity and depression.

Questionnaires to assess dietary intake were completed at the start of the project and again after 10 years. A total of 1,550 participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs after a median follow-up of 8.5 years.

The Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 was associated with the greatest reduction of risk of depression but most of the effect could be explained by its similarity with the Mediterranean Diet. Thus, common nutrients and food items such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and moderate alcohol intake present in both patterns (Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 and Mediterranean diet) could be responsible for the observed reduced risk in depression associated with a good adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010.

Almudena Sanchez-Villegas says, “A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet. Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.

So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily. This dose-response pattern is compatible with the hypothesis that suboptimal intake of some nutrients (mainly located in low adherence levels) may represent a risk factor for future depression.”

A limitation of this study was that the results are based on self-reported dietary intake and a self-reported clinical diagnosis of depression. More research is needed to predict the role of nutrient intake for neurophysiological requirements and identify whether it is minerals and vitamins or proteins and carbohydrates that cause depression.

Fruits and vegetables are important for our bodies. Our brains are a significant part of those bodies. Let’s feed our brains as if our lives depended on it because, well, they do.