Sunday, 1 June 2014

Health news from the net 1 June 2014.

Health news 1 June, 2014.
Do you enjoy reading about health as much as I do?
Here are links to a few health and nutrition related articles I was reading today. Click on the links for the full article and to read them from the source. Hope you find them interesting.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Exercise Snacks Control Diabetes Levels Better
This article was originally published on Health Central 

All of us snack on food from time when we’re hungry and hope that it wouldn’t raise our blood sugar too much. But I wonder how many of us take “exercise snacks.”   New studies on food and exercise snacks point us in different directions. Food snacking may not be what it’s cracked up to be, and I will report on that study soon. But a new concept of exercise snacking is showing that brief but intense exercise before meals can help us manage our diabetes better.  

See more at:
A smooth(ie) way to ensure nutrient sufficiency
This article was originally published on Diabetes Counselling Online

As suggested by a member of the Diabetes Counselling Online Diabetes Weight Matters closed Facebook group, today’s blog is on the topic of ‘smoothies’. It’s very timely as this being the week before Christmas (only 2 days to go!!) as so many of us are short on time.

Smoothies are a great topic to chat about because they can involve ingredients from all the major food groups, they’re convenient and easy to make, as well as being both nutritious and delicious.  In today’s blog I’ll cover how they can help you meet your dietary guidelines in certain food groups as well as providing a few recipe ideas to get you started if you like the idea.

See more at:
This article was originally published on GI News

When does a regular food become a super food? When it has lots of dough spent on promotion. And the over-hyped, “super” food of the moment is coconut: the Kardashian of the food world due to abundant self-promotion. Its uber-cool aura has now drifted from the health nuts to normal folk who are apparently caught; hook, line and sinker.

I love coconut for its flavour, texture and versatility in the kitchen. What I hate is amateur nutritionists encouraging coconut oil in everything because “it helps lose weight”, and the shameless marketers and their misleading advertising and PR. If I see another dodgy, unfounded, exaggerated and pseudo-scientific claim about the superiority of anything to do with coconut I think I’ll scream.

See more at:
Fast Weight Loss May Mean Muscle Loss
This article was originally published on Web MD

If you lose weight too fast, you lose more muscle than when you shed excess pounds more slowly, a small study says.

The researchers put 25 participants on a five-week very-low-calorie diet of just 500 calories per day. Another 22 volunteers went on a 12-week low-calorie diet of 1,250 calories per day.
The investigators found that right after the end of their diets, both groups had similar levels of weight loss. The average weight loss was a little over 19 pounds among those on the very-low-calorie diet and just under 19 pounds among those on the low-calorie diet.

See more at:

Stop dieting now. PLEASE!!

STOP DIETING NOW. Please. With a significant and growing proportion of our population now overweight or obese, I’m urging you, please, don’t go on any more diets.
Now before you think I’ve lost my mind, let me explain why.

You may have read my previous post on why "one-size-doesn't-fit-all" when it comes to diets. One of the points I make in that post is that the word "diet" traditionally just meant the food we eat every day, our daily menu so to speak. But in modern times this word has been charged with so much more meaning (and judgement). We now refer to a "diet" as a restriction of our food, as a set of rules or choices, as a formula or requirement to eat a certain way, and the implication that by "dieting" we are somehow restricting or depriving ourselves. And finally there is the Diet with a capital D - the food plan that comes with a name, a trademark, a book, a TV show, a range of supplements and a one true faith to believe in, often with a cult like fervour and a celebrity to endorse it. And in many cases it is sold as the one, the only, way to eat. Diet has become a dirty four letter word and can fill people with fear and dread.

So if we agree on that definition, and knowing that I'm a doctor and I want you to be as healthy as possible, then why don't I want you to go on a diet?

Firstly, "diets" make you gain weight. Yes, you heard right. I'm not talking about gaining weight during the 12 weeks you are doing the particular plan on the internet or the 60 days you follow the book or the three months you attend the meetings. Most diets, no matter how intense or how crazy, will help you lose weight during that time. I'm talking about afterwards. People who follow a restrictive "diet" generally end up fatter than people who don't in the long run.

The weight-amplifying effect of dieting was evaluated in a study in 2011 based  on over
2,000 sets of twins from Finland. The results indicate that dieting itself, independent of genetics, is significantly associated with accelerated weight gain and increased the risk of becoming overweight.  The researchers concluded, “It is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term.” This study adds to a body of research which shows that dieting and the ensuing cycling of losing weight, re-gaining weight, and gaining more weight with each subsequent diet, ratchets the baseline weight up even higher, beyond the original weight.

How does this work? The first issue is that very low calorie diets can cause the body to lose a disproportionate amount of muscle mass (which is not the type of weight that any one wants to lose).  People are happy because they lose weight fast (on the scales) and look smaller but it is our muscle mass that actually burns the most calories for us in the background. Lose fat AND muscle and you end up thinner, but utilising less and less energy on a daily basis and therefore require less and less calories just to stay the same. After a while the weight loss slows, then stops then people start to re-gain weight even if they are eating the same amount. Do this cycle enough times and you end up with someone who is strictly dieting AND overweight at the same time.

Secondly, extreme caloric restrictions are a physical stress on your body.  In patients on  low calorie diets (and interestingly also in patients on a ketogenic low carbohydrate diets) some studies have shown markedly increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol raises blood sugar, and stimulates laying down of fat, especially around your abdomen where  it is most dangerous. The other metabolic effects of "dieting" can also cause a change in the hormones that control satiety and hunger - patients are more preoccupied with food, feel more hungry and are less likely to feel full, and this can continue for some time after their "diet" is over. 

The statistical bottom line is that the vast majority of short term diets don't work. Sure you will lose weight short term (probably water, fat and muscle), but within 2 years the vast majority of people are the same weight if not heavier than they were before. Funny enough, we seem to know this intuitively, yet we still try keep getting back on the diet cycle. A current Australian weight loss company are using a celebrity in their advertisements who previously and publicly lost a significant amount of weight on their program, has regained it, and is now on their new TV campaign starting again, because she "knows it works". Really? Depends on your definition of "works" I guess.  Her weight gain is nothing to be ashamed of and is not her fault, in fact its almost standard for any short term extreme diet, but I find it interesting that it is part of the TV commercial to sell the program. How many people do you know that have weight problems that say they are going to weight watchers again or signing up for another 12 week body transformation program again "because it worked last time". Did it really? If it worked, why do you need to sign up again?

Blogger Ragen Chastain actually describes this really well. She says "I think the diet industry continues to be so successful is that they have found a way to take credit for the (typically successful) short term results of dieting, but blame the client for the  (typically unsuccessful) long term results. They know that almost everyone can lose some weight in the short term on almost any diet.  They also know that their 5 year success rate is less than 5% but somehow they managed to convince people that the other 95% just didn’t doing it right, and should buy their product again.  And we do!"

So if I don't want you to diet, what do I want you to do?

1. Firstly I want you to avoid a fad diet. According to the Better Health Channel Victoria, A fad diet generally has some or all of the following features: 

  • Promises a quick fix
  • Promotes 'magic' foods or combinations of foods
  • Implies that food can change body chemistry
  • Excludes or severely restricts food groups or nutrients, such as carbohydrates
  • Has rigid rules that focus on weight loss
  • Makes claims based on a single study or testimonials only.
  • Is anything that you cannot maintain for the rest of your life without restriction, unhappiness or difficulty
2.  I would encourage you not to focus on a diet but instead on a healthy eating plan. My eating prinicples are listed on my blog here, but the general principles for any health eating plan include:
  • Plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits.
  • A variety of grains preferably wholegrain, low glycaemc index and minimally processed
  • Lean meat, fish, poultry or alternative sources of lean protein.
  • Milk, yoghurts, cheeses or alternatives sources of calcium.
  • Plenty of water.
  • A moderate amount of total fat and limited saturated fat.
  • A limited amount of salt.
  • A limited amount of processed and refined sugars, and food and drinks containing added sugars. In particular, limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Limited alcohol intake, if you choose to drink.
  • Portion sizes appropriate to your size, age and exercise level.
  • Flexibility to enjoy treats in moderation.
3.  I would like you to try and be mindful of your eating, responsive to your body and don't follow strict eating plans that are not tailored for you. No diet or meal plan from a book or off the internet could possibly “know” your hunger and fullness levels, or what satisfies you.   Only you know your eating triggers, your personal likes and dislikes of food, and how foods impact on you physically and emotionally. If you need more structure and support than general principles, then I would encourage you to see a qualified dietitian to have an individual plan tailored for you.

4. Whatever changes you make, make them for life. Don't start doing something you can't continue. Don't get suckered into short term fixes, supplements or snake oil unless you plan to do it forever. Because when you stop these extreme measures, you may be worse off than if you never started. Small, sustainable changes are the key to long term success.

5.  Be realistic and focus on the process. Patients who eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly are healthier than those who don't, no matter what their weight is. Obesity is much more complex than just calories in versus calories out - environmental, cultural, genetic and epigenetic, health, socio-economic and lifestyle factors all contribute. So don't focus on the numbers too much. Concentrate on making healthy choices every day. Chances are you will lose weight in a slow and sustainable way and keep it off and get closer to a healthy weight for you. But no matter how much weight you ultimately  lose, you will definitely be healthier, and isn't that the ultimate goal?

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Recipe - chicken cacciatore

This is a favourite of ours and another great recipe full of fresh vegetables. If you don't eat meat it would be tasty with tofu or lentils for protein instead. You can cook it in around 45 minutes but this is a meal that's very hard to overcook- leave it bubbling for an hour to really intensify the flavours if you wish. 

What you'll need:
500g chicken thigh or breast fillets (or equivalent in tofu or lentils for veggie option)
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic or 2 tsps minced garlic
2 stalks celery
2 large carrots
1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper)
4 large flat mushrooms
2 large fresh tomatoes
1 400g can diced tomatoes
a jar of good quality pasta sauce or if you wish to make your own, more tomatoes & tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme or whatever you choose)
a handful of pitted kalamata olives
a slop of red wine
some fresh basil or parsley for serving
cooked penne pasta (preferably whole wheat or low GI pasta)

Dice your chicken and brown in a large heavy based pot along with your onion, garlic, a sprinkle of dried herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.  As its cooking, dice the carrots, capsicum and celery finely. Throw it all in the pot and cook for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and the chicken no longer pink.

Add a slop of red wine to deglaze the base of the pan and then add diced mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes and a jar of pasta sauce (alternatively add 2 cans of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce and about a cup of chicken stock). 

If all of your family eats olives then add them now. If you are like my family where not everyone is a fan, save them for serving :)

Add the bay leaves, the rest of the dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, season with black pepper and simmer for 30 minutes or so until sauce is thickened.

In the meantime cook your pasta - choose low GI varieties like wholemal pasta, and remember to keep serving sizes small. If pasta is not on your menu (it isn't for me) then consider eating yours over a plate of fresh green baby spinach leaves or even by itself with a spoon!

To serve top with shaved fresh parmesan and fresh torn basil leaves.
Serves 4-6

Bon appetit !

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy