The 100-year-old scientist who pushed the FDA to ban artificial trans fat – The Washington Post

The 100-year-old scientist who pushed the FDA to ban artificial trans fat – The Washington Post.

Though this link is on the older side, it does get me thinking. I feel like different foods or food groups are either vilified (get rid of fat!!) or put on pedestal (This superfood belongs in everyone’s pantry!! Go out and buy it now or the world will end!).  I know I’m being a bit hyperbolic when I put it like that. However I think that when talking about foods and supplements, it’s better to take a data driven view that is more even keeled. Not all fats are bad.  Trans fats definitely fit into the bad category. Fats are essential in our diet, without them there are key nutrients that we couldn’t absorb such as vitamins E, A, K, and D (though this last one we can make ourselves).

Aside from needing some fats in our diet, some fats are necessary for our diet since we can’t make them ourselves. N-3 and N-6 fatty acids are in this category.  Also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they’re used by the body to make prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which our body uses to help regulate many processes. The help regulate the immune system: in fact omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and omega-6 promote inflammationFatty acids make up the walls of our cells as well as the organelles inside cells.  How much of our diet fats should make up is something people can debate –  some (like Dr. Dean Ornish) advocate a low fat  – 5% of calories – diet. Others are at the other end of the spectrum. I won’t get into arguing who’s correct, though Dr. Ornish does has  data to show what he suggests helps reverse heart disease. Though to be fair, his program/views also advocates exercise, meditation, and other lifestyle changes, all of which affect heart disease and longevity so one can’t totally point to the low fat aspect and say that is the sole determinant of his success and data.  I think most would suggest 20-30% of calories come from fat. It’s important to get enough of what are called N-3 (or omega-3) fatty acids as well as N-6 (omega-6) fatty acids.

People trash carbohydrates a lot as well. My view of this is that refined sugar should be used sparingly. If one puts sugar in his/her coffee and only occasionally has something else that is sugary (donuts anyone? Ice Cream?), the world won’t end. If having something that is sweet helps keep someone eating healthy but not feel like they’re denying  themselves, then it’s ok.

The big danger is to lump all carbohydrates together. Yes, having some refined sugar is ok, and simpler sugars are ok in moderation: if you’re getting them by eating an apple or an orange, that’s ok. But when we talk about fiber, we’re actually talking about complex sugars which our bodies can’t digest or breakdown. These are actually healthy sugars! If I haven’t done so already, I’ll probably talk more about the specifics in a future blog.

My whole point of this particular blog is to use the above link to have people think about what they hear or read about nutrition, especially if what they hear is lumping all of a particular food/food group together for good or bad!

What’s the Secret to Longevity? Lessons from “Blue Zones” Worldwide – MPR

What’s the Secret to Longevity? Lessons from “Blue Zones” Worldwide – MPR.

I found this article interesting, although  it’s a few years old. I don’t know how the life span compares to communities surrounding the ones listed. The things each community does or has do sound a lot like the health advice given to patients to stay healthy and each community has things in common with each other.

The things that likely make a “blue zone” a blue zone are as follows:

1) They maintain a healthy plant based diet. With the exception of Seventh Day Adventists who don’t eat meat at all, meat is only eaten either in moderation or very rarely. In Okinawa people grow their own food, which also means they’re outside walking, bending, exercising, etc.

2) Exercise is done. It can be physical work, it can be walking. Current recommendations are for 2.5 hours of exercise a week (this works out to roughly 20-30 minutes daily).

3) People are part of  the community. Some have made the claim that regular church going helps you live longer. Given that there’s no empiric evidence for a higher power, it’s more likely the social contacts, the sense of belonging or being part of something greater than oneself that help maintain emotional health. I won’t ponder more about this at the moment. At this point I’m planning a post talking more about this because it deserves a post of it’s own (or two).

Of note, I haven’t been too active blogging here the past couple of years and am planning on becoming more active in doing so. I am considering adding another blog where I talk about self care things people can do to helps stay healthy and keep this blog to talk more about medicine itself, and  talk about specific illnesses. Let me know which (an additional blog about staying healthy/self care issues + this one or an “all in one” blog) you think would work better.

10 Biggest Nutrition Myths—Ever

>10 Biggest Nutrition Myths—Ever

I am a big fan of having people eat a healthy diet. The best of all possible worlds, doctors would know more about diet and have the time to talk with/educate their patients about this. Additionally everyone would have access to a nutritionist/Registered dietitian and access to healthy foods.  Lastly, people would not buy into fad diets or believe all of the mis information out there. Here is a list of some things to keep in mind.

Better Sleep May Be Incredibly Important to Alzheimer’s Risk

Better Sleep May Be Incredibly Important to Alzheimer’s Risk.

Sleep disturbances are common. Sometimes patients have come in with sleep problems that are clearly related to temporal issues (such as stressors like a death in the family, work stress, etc).

It is the people that come in with chronic issues which I think are challenging. Some patients have come on while on medications chronically to help with sleep. One concern is that they end up being too dependent on medications to sleep. When seeing things like this, it makes me wonder if patients on sleep medications chronically are altering their sleep architecture enough that it still puts them at risk for things.

Some sleep issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, do put one at risk for things like high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, etc. luckily for that things like weight loss, CPAP machines, etc can help without the use of medications. This article does make the case for getting good sleep regularly!

The Wide-Ranging Role of the Microbiome

What goes in your stomach can influence countless disorders, from cancer to asthma. Dr David Johnson surveys the latest data underlining the ever-increasing importance of a low-fat, high-fiber diet.

Source: The Wide-Ranging Role of the Microbiome

 

Anyone who’s been reading my blog probably won’t be surprised by my linking to this article (you may have to subscribe to medscape to read the full article).

Basically, the gist is that diet effects the kinds of bacteria in one’s GI tract. The good kinds of bacteria (that promoted by a low fat, primarily plant based diet) helps reduce risk of diseases like colon cancer, breast cancer (the former by producing short chain fatty acids and the latter by altering the reabsorption of estrogen that has been chemically altered by the liver and secreted into the GI tract).

 

Facilitating Story-telling Leads to Patient Growth | Sarah Monahan, RN, QMHA | LinkedIn

Facilitating Story-telling Leads to Patient Growth | Sarah Monahan, RN, QMHA | LinkedIn.

I came across this article in linkedin.  It’s an interesting idea because when a physician uses the term “challenging patient” (s)he is likely referring to one of two kinds of patients. One kind is one with a lot of health problems, some of which interfere with the treatment of others (or perhaps just a couple complicated health issues).  However it is often used to refer to patients who are hard to reach/not very compliant/have poor insight to how their behavior affects their health.

Many times I ask myself how did the latter kind of patient get to where they are.  I haven’t yet used this with any of my patients, but it does seem like an interesting way to help patients.