Tag Archives: American Dietetic Association

‘What’ you eat is more important than ‘How Much.’

The Hat in Rancho Cucamonga California

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Finally a large-scale study has concluded what I have been telling patients for years! What you eat is more important than how much of it you eat.  A calorie is not a calorie!

If you ask many classically trained dietitians about maintaining a healthy weight they will regurgitate the same old rhetoric they always have – “as long as you don’t eat more calories than you expend you won’t gain weight,” and “there are no bad foods, just bad amounts of food.”

The above statements have never made sense to me.  I remember taking ‘advanced biology’ in high school.  (There was nothing really ‘advanced’ about it. It was just the second of two courses, the first being ‘basic’ biology.)  In this class I remember learning about physiology and how the body responded differently to different types of food.  Some foods caused the release of insulin while others caused little or no release of this hormone.  The job of this hormone? It basically tells the body to store fat.  From that information I concluded that what you ate had to make a difference in your weight.

As I progressed through my eduction in college (as a biology major) and then on to chiropractic school where I truly received advanced training, my view did not change – the quality of food that I ate had to make a difference on maintaining my weight.  It could not possibly be as simple as calorie-in/calorie-out.

Yet when you read information online or from other mainstream media outlets you will hear just the opposite. “Eat whatever you want, just be sure it’s in moderation.” Or “It doesn’t matter what kind of food you eat as long as it’s low calorie.”

A new study of just over 120,000 people finally has come up with a conclusion that makes more sense.  Hopefully the American Dietetic Association will take notice.  Individually there are some very good dietitians out there, but the American Dietetic Association is making people sicker and sicker with their stance on many aspects of health in my opinion.

The researchers analyzed data on three separate studies over a 20-year period, tracking the long-term effects of different foods and lifestyle changes on more than 120,000 men and women. Adults in the study gained an average of 3.35 pounds every four years, for a total average weight gain of almost 17 pounds.

Regular consumption of potato chips, French fries and sugared beverages were most to blame for slow and steady weight gain. However, people who ate yogurt, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains either lost weight or gained the least.

Now, I will be the first person to tell you that weight is not the be-all, end-all of health markers.  It’s a good one, but there are plenty of thin people in this world who are very unhealthy.  Also, I generally do not recommend grains be a big part of anyone’s diet.  In small amounts they are ok, but they contribute to inflammation which can be problematic for many reasons.

The other foods in this study – yogurt, fruits, vegetables and nuts – are free foods! Eat them as much as you want.  I routinely encourage people to eat these foods as much as possible.

Interestingly, nuts are a high calorie food yet they performed very well in helping people lose or maintain their weight.  If it truly was about calorie-in/calorie-out then nuts should have performed poorly.  It just goes to show you it isn’t about the calories that we’re putting in, it’s about the quality of those calories.

As much as I’d like to say it’s only about the quality of our food that matters, I cannot.  The amount matters to a certain extent.  If you are regularly consuming 7,000 calories per day you will gain weight.  That type of excess cannot be combated with ‘good’ foods.  However, to get that kind of extra calorie one would have to consume huge amounts of the ‘bad’ foods like fast food, doughnuts, etc.  Those clearly are not quality foods in the first place.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital is the author of the study that appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.  He says the calorie-in/calorie-out theory is incorrect “because different foods have a different effect on the body. ‘You can’t just say a calorie is a calorie. It doesn’t address your feelings of fullness, your blood glucose levels, your blood insulin levels and the other biological responses in your body.”

I could not agree more and this has been my point to other ‘experts’ on nutrition when we debate the calorie-in/calorie-out theory.

Let me pose this scenario to you –

Two people are going to embark on an experiment.  They are going to eat identical calorie diets for the next year.  One person is going to eat 2,000 calories per day in potato chips and the other is going to eat 2,000 calories per day in chicken and vegetables.  Who will be healthier and have the most optimal weight at the end of our experiment?  Intuitively we would say the person eating the chicken and vegetables would be and I believe this is correct.

There have been many short-term studies that have concluded healthy diets only need to focus on calorie content.  The quality of the food was not important for maintaining weight.  Finally a study has looked long-term and concluded that the quality of your food is important. Make sure your choices are good choices.  If you focus on the quality of your food you will maintain your weight more effectively than counting those calories.


Filed under Diet, Public Health

National Nutrition Month – Tackling the Myth of the Food Guide Pyramid

March is National Nutrition Month.  It is an event sponsored by the American Dietetic Association in an effort to raise awareness about nutrition.  The idea of a National Nutritional Month is a good one, however, the ADA still insists that low fat is a must.  Let’s have a look at the paradox of the food guide pyramid and why it is actually an unhealthy way to eat.

Above is the most recent food guide pyramid from the government.  They have changed the way it looks in order to try and keep up with recent research.  No longer do you see the grains at the “base” of the pyramid as you did in the old one.  Now you see it on the left and as the first “step” which still suggests it should be the largest part of your nutritional day.  From the governmental website www.mypyramid.gov you can find their suggestions regarding each category in the pyramid.  Let’s start with grains.

They recommend that half, only half, of your grain serving be whole.  The other half?  I guess it’s o.k. to get that from simple and refined grains.  They recommend eating breads and pastas every day to maintain health simply because they are low fat.  What they fail to inform the public is that these kinds of foods cause massive amounts of insulin to be released and over time this causes obesity and diabetes.  I can’t tell you how many patients I have that want to lose weight and all they eat are “low fat” carbohydrates.

Their information on vegetables and fruits is actually o.k.  It’s not that hard to say ‘eat more.’  The one exception to their fruit recommendations that I have is that they say to eat fruit any way you can get it including canned or dried.  Canned fruits are often in a sugary syrup to maintain flavor and this is extremely high in terms of glycemic load.  Sugar is sugar and just because it comes from a fruit doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  Dried fruit is acceptable once in a while, but drying a fruit raises its glycemic load.  The information is only a little misleading in this area of the pyramid.

If you look at the new pyramid you can see a small yellow sliver in there somewhere.  It is so small that it does not have a correlating category listed at the bottom.  This is supposed to be your entire serving of oils for the day?  This is a major problem.  The healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and fish are unbelievably good for your health.  They promote heart health, reduce inflammation, provide a great source of healthy energy and increasing them reduces the carbohydrate intake one consumes. Primitive cultures have been using fats for thousands of years as a source of energy and nutrition.  These cultures, while few and far between now, are not the ones that have the epidemics of heart disease, diabetes and obesity that Western cultures do.  The difference is the amount of carbohydrate that Western cultures consume on a daily basis.  The problem with the current food guide is that all people see is that fat is bad.  It’s so bad it fact that it barely deserves a place in the pyramid.  That’s what the diagram suggests anyway.

The next section is also very misleading.  This section is entitled simply milk.  If milk is going to be consumed it should be raw.  Pasteurization destroys any health benefits outside of the calcium that one might get from milk.  They also recommend you drink skim milk which just makes the sugars in the milk more of a problem.  Milk is also highly allergenic.  There are many people that are allergic to casein, the protein in milk.  It is especially bad for children.  The protein in milk has been linked to increases in the number of kids with diabetes and autism. Asking America to drink more milk could be a worse idea.  If you’re going to consume milk, make sure it is raw and whole.  That is the only way to benefit from milk.  It should still be a small portion of what you have in a day.

The next section is meats and beans.  This section is also o.k. with one exception.  They still can’t get away from the the fact that they want you to go low fat.  They stress lean meats in this section.  While lean meats are good, don’t shy away from cuts of meat with a little more fat in them.  Go ahead and have that steak.  The benefits of the fats in the cut far outweigh any negative.  This steak only becomes problematic when you combine it with steak fries. Keep the carbohydrate count low and the fats and oils from your steak only help you.

The food guide pyramid is designed on flawed data and therefore is flawed itself.  All fats are not bad, as this pyramid suggests.  There are many fats that are actually very good for you, but you’d never know it looking at the schematic they have designed.  It places entirely too much emphasis on carbohydrates which are known to contribute to inflammation, diabetes and obesity.  To make this more appropriate the healthy fats must be emphasized more and carbohydrates much less.


Filed under Diet, Public Health