Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Prevent Osteoporosis and Fractures

Osteoporosis.  You might be thinking, "I'm not an old lady, this doesn't concern me, I'm going to go back to watching Honey Boo Boo and snacking on mayonnaise."  Wrong.  Whether you're a man or a woman, young or old, you need to know about osteoporosis.  It may be more common in post-menopausal women, but it happens in men too, and how you live in your 20s could have a HUGE impact on whether you fall and break a hip in your 70s.  So listen up.  There's a lot of misinformation around this topic, and I don't want you popping calcium, vitamin D, and Boniva pills and thinking everything will be okay.  Ready?  Let's go.

First, some basics.

Osteoporosis:  A disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine, and wrist.

In other words, having osteoporosis means you have weak bones that'll break on you a whole lot easier than they should.  Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures each year.  That's a lot.  What's more, up to 1/3 of hip fracture patients die within one year of their fracture, and up to 75% never walk independently again (1).  Obviously, the vast majority happen to older adults.  But it may be your bone health in your 20s that best predicts your bone health in your 70s.  Why?  Peak bone mass.

Top line = men, bottom line = women

Peak bone mass is just what it sounds like:  the point in life at which you have the thickest, densest, healthiest bones.  And that point is in your late 20s.  After that, it's very difficult/impossible to build more bone mass, and so it slowly declines into old age.  Key point... the more bone mass you can develop in your 20s, the more you'll have to work with when you're older.  It's never too early to start.  How do you do that?  You ask and I answer... 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Causes of Obesity: Food Variety

So I had this new idea today while sitting in class.  We were talking about food palatability and how modern food is "hyperpalatable"... this just means that it is extra salty, extra fatty, extra sweet, and overall just more pleasing to eat than food of the past.  (I've talked about this before 1, 2, 3, 4).  And I started thinking... there are like a million different reasons why Americans are so obese.  Why don't I start exploring each one individually on my blog??  So that is what I will be doing.  Starting now.  Maybe ironically NOT starting with hyperpalatability of food... although it's a related topic.  Today our cause of obesity is unconventional, one you probably haven't thought of.  And you all know how much I like bringing you a fresh perspective and new way to think about something.  So without further ado...

Cause of Obesity #33162:  Food Variety

Why do we eat?  Is it because we're hungry?  Partly.  But there are other reasons too.  Don't even act like you don't know... boredom, convenience, stress, depression, happiness, celebration, social pressures, societal expectations, just because it's meal-time...  the list really does go on and on.  Because of this, researchers have divided eating into two categories:  homeostatic and non-homeostatic eating (1).

Homeostatic eating:  eating is driven by a true need for energy
Non-homeostatic eating:  eating is driven by factors other than a need for energy

Pretty simple really. 

So how does variety fit into this?  Easy.  You can only eat so much of one food.  In fact, variety in food is one of the major factors driving how much you eat, whether you notice it or not.  There are even diets designed for weight gain based around this principle... take the cafeteria diet for example.  Allow humans (or rats) easy access to a high variety of food and they'll gain weight.  In contrast, give someone a restrictive diet that lacks variety and they inevitably eat less and lose weight.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Study: Replacing Animal Fat with Vegetable Oil = Death

Ahhh it was a good day today when I read this article... "Study raises questions about dietary fats and heart disease guidance".  Here's the scoop... researchers from the United States and Australia have recovered missing data from an old study from the 1970s.  The study, known as the Sydney Diet Heart Study, was a randomized controlled trial in which the participants were told to replace the saturated fats in their diets with polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oil.  The 458 subjects were all men between ages 30-59 who had recently had a coronary event, defined as either a heart attack or angina (1). 

Why was this data missing?  Who knows.  I can't find a good answer.  But had these results been available in the mid 1970s as they should have been, it may have changed the course of the dietary guidelines on fat intake.

Okay so we had two groups, both groups are coming off of either a heart attack or angina.  Let me break it down right quick...

Group 1:  Control group
  • Given no dietary advice at all
Group 2:  Intervention group, given the following instructions...
  • Reduce dietary saturated fat (animal fats) to under 10% of calories
  • Reduce dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg/day
  • Increase polyunsaturated fats (from safflower oil) to 15% of calories

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recipe: Lazy Man's Beef Stew

You'll learn as I roll out my recipes... I take shortcuts in my cooking.  Sure I love good food, but I also love quick food.  Getting the most deliciousness for my time is my goal.  When making a stew, there are a few things you can do to ensure a good, quality stew.  You should season the meat and brown it in a skillet.  You should peel the carrots before chopping them.  You should peel the potatoes too for a cleaner product.  You should use celery.  You should use beef broth for a richer flavor.  I didn't do any of these things.  I was lazy.  This is the Lazy Man's Beef Stew.  Prep time minimal.  Just throw a bunch of things into a pot and let it simmer.

Prep time:  10-15 minutes
Cook time:  2-3 hours (or more)

You can throw just about any vegetable into a stew.  Use anything you've got on hand.  Most of these are pretty standard for a stew, but I had some extra salsa lying around so I threw that in just for shits and giggles. 

  • Stew beef (I used 2 pounds)
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic (5 cloves, chopped)
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Mild Salsa
  • Butter (~2 tbsp)
  • Parsley
  • Salt (1 1/2 tsp)
  • Pepper
  • Water

Monday, February 4, 2013

The 80/20 Rule: The Essence of Holistic Health

A few years ago, I was first introduced to the Paleo diet concept through Mark Sisson's book The Primal Blueprint.  It's a great introductory book for anyone interested in learning about the basics of an ancestral diet.  One of Mark's key concepts in that book was called "the 80/20 rule".  The idea is that if you eat healthy and stick to the diet 80% of the time, you can have some flexibility for the other 20%.  As Mark says in a 2009 blog post on the topic, "If you align your life with the PB principles 80% of the time, consider yourself on course."  In other words, 80% adherence to the diet is good enough to get results.  I guess I sort of glossed over it at the time; my mentality back then was to go all out on this Paleo thing.  Why would I hinder my results by cheating 20% of the time?

But today, being three years older and just a little bit more mature, I understand the value of this 80/20 rule.  Perhaps I misunderstood the intent, but Mark makes it very clear in the article referenced above... "Even though 100% compliance isn’t the exact everyday expectation, 100% commitment is the intention."  Commitment is key.  If you're committed at the core to living a healthy lifestyle, if that is who you are and who you want to be, then eating like junk once in a while is perfectly okay.  The next day you'll hop right back on the wagon and keep on being you.

But beyond just the 80/20 rule being "good enough", I would argue that in many cases, the 80/20 rule is BETTER than adhering 100% to a diet.  Why??  Holistic health.

You've probably heard the term before.  "Holistic".  When we talk about holistic health, we're normally talking about using food as medicine... allowing the body to heal itself by giving it the proper raw materials... eating an ancestral diet fits right into this paradigm.  But I think we tend to forget what holistic health really means.  According to Merriam-Webster...