Eat Your Sprouts
Thanksgiving is the main holiday associated with showing gratitude and many Americans will take the month of November as an opportunity to give thanks to family, friends and good moments in their lives. Research has shown that gratitude is positively linked to increased levels of happiness1, levels of wellbeing 2, longevity 3 and satisfaction with life4.
Not only does feeling grateful force us to think more positively but it also encourages us to assess our priorities thereby encouraging us to give greater space to what we value most. Gratitude has also been found to motivate engagement in positive behaviours leading to self-improvement.5 Given these benefits it would serve us all to practice it daily rather than just 1 month of the year.
As much as we often like to blame our surroundings, financial situations or in some cases the weather on our lack of happiness it is important to realize that achieving happiness can be influenced by practicing gratitude. Therefore, next time you catch yourself entertaining negative thoughts remember that you are in control of your own happiness.
If you need more convincing here are 5 ways in which feeling grateful can improve your life:
A simple ‘thank you’ can make a world of difference when trying to rekindle your romance with a loved one. Gratitude was found to be one of the most important factors in achieving a satisfactory long term marriage.6 A study found that people who expressed gratitude towards their partner felt more positive about them and this in turn made their partners feel more connected and satisfied in the relationship.7
Unsure as to how to motivate your staff? We suggest showing them some gratitude. It has been found that managers who show more gratitude towards their staff are more effective leaders as their employees feel more motivated to work harder. 8 In addition to increased productivity the work place becomes a friendlier and more enjoyable place benefitting happiness even further.
If you are a worrier, you probably know that sleep does not come easily to those who entertain negative thoughts in bed. Negative thoughts and worrying can make it more difficult to fall asleep and also reduce the quality of sleep. Practicing gratitude was on the other hand found to enhance sleep quality and duration.9 Therefore, writing a gratitude journal or simply taking a few minutes to really focus on what you are grateful for, before bedtime can help shift your mind to a more positive state and bring on some sweet dreams.
Gratitude is not just good for your soul but more surprisingly for your physical heart too. According to researchers, feelings of gratitude may improve hypertension and reduce the likelihood of sudden death from congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease10. Studies have also found an association between positive thinking and lower blood pressure levels.11
To note that the opposite is also true. Negative thoughts have been found to increase blood pressure levels regardless of the current mood or even levels of general optimisms/pessimism.12 It is therefore important to focus on gratitude and steer away from any negative thoughts as much as possible, not simply for our mental health and happiness, but also to prevent illness in our body.
5. Gratitude can make you more resilient.
It has been found that people who show gratitude have a more pro-active coping style and are more likely to seek out social support when needed. 13 They are also less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and find it easier to bounce back when faced with traumatic experiences. 14 Overall showing gratitude helps you become more resilient by focusing your mind on positive thoughts.
Ways to incorporate gratitude in your life:
What can I be grateful for?
In the beginning it can be difficult to come up with a gratitude list but with practice it will be easier as you will start to notice things throughout the day that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. The list can include the big things but most importantly it should include the little things that we often take for granted such as:
The list goes on and on as there are so many things to feel grateful for.
Let us know what you are feeling grateful for today!
So lets start from the basis that labels and groupings are often over-simplifications and always require a judgment call by someone. Just think that when we say that animal fat is saturated fat we are ignoring that pork for example has almost equal amounts of mono-unsaturated fats (43%) as it does saturated fats (44%), with the rest being poly-unsaturated fats.
Then lets also consider that much of what we know at cellular and molecular level is still in refinement mode and far from fully understood especially with regards to entire organisms (let alone an organism interacting with its environment). Just think of the case of cholesterol. It was found in arterial plaques and therefore was (understandably) immediately demonized. Any molecule that was carrying it ‘in’ was considered bad (LDL) any molecule carrying it ‘out’ was considered good (HDL). And from there it was a short step to demonizing all foods with cholesterol as well. It took a long time to give the right attention to the fact that the body produces most of its own cholesterol (75%) and dietary cholesterol only contributes about 25% of the total. And took even longer to accept that the body would auto-regulate production according to dietary intake. Now we know that LDL is not actually all bad and that only vLDL is the problem. We know that it is mostly grains that will raise vLDL and not saturated fats but many of the heart foundations (esp American) are still weary to change the original advice… and this is probably partly because it could lead people to loose faith in the advice and thus follow it even less… partly probably due to financial reasons ( I am sure the American heart foundation logo doesn t appear on certain cereals without some kind of ‘donation’ from the food industry –and this is even though it ends up supporting a food known to increase vLDL) and partly because it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks… and we live in a culture where dinosaurs (and money) set the rules (and its always possible to find or fund a study that will support your view).
So on to the actual articles…
The first point they both mention is the saturated fats argument. This is now starting to become old news but it takes time for research to trickle to clinical practice and as I said above it may never trickle to ‘the old dogs’. A large metanalysis in 2010 has finally confirmed a few earlier studies on sat fats showing how they are at worst neutral and definitely not linked to heart disease or stroke (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648). And for this we only really had to consider that human breast milk contains more than 50% of saturated fats!!
Then the second part is about MCTs
As I said above, it’s not unusual to box something in a category according to the main component and somewhat disregard the rest. Both beef and pork have marginally higher amounts of saturated fats compared to mono-unsaturated, similarly coconut oil has just over 70% MCTs. To be more accurate, it has about 55% borderline MCTs and 19% true MCTs. In fact depending on where the line is drawn (10 carbon atoms or 12 carbon atoms) the most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil –Lauric acid- can be seen as a medium or a long chain. In a way, judging from the effect that it has on the body it might make more sense to class it as a long chain, because it DOES have an impact on cholesterol like other long chain fatty acids. Does this matter? Very little, as even though some studies show that it increases LDL others show that both LDL and HDL go up (contrary to what trans fats do which increase LDL and reduce HDL). Furthermore it should also be noted that lauric acid is quite scarce in our diet and the other main source of it is… breast milk, which contains between 2-20% of this antimicrobial oil. In any case looking at just one fraction of a product and at one parameter can be interesting but it does not create a full picture of risks to health i.e the food in the way that it is consumed in relation to an entire organism with feedback mechanisms, environmental interactions etc.
Looking at research for coconut oil it is difficult to draw a clear conclusion about cholesterol; as for every negative study there is a positive one. I have no agenda on this and therefore no interest in creating an argument for one side or the other and looking at it objectively it seems to me that if research is inconclusive on the cholesterol front chances are there are other variables we are not taking into account. However which ever that specific argument swings it still is about cholesterol, which really is not a worry in the way the pharma industry goes about it. Of interest are studies looking at other parameters such as animal model studies where coconut oil was found to reduce the chances of thrombosis (implicated in heart attacks and strokes) as well as increase the amount of antioxidants vitamins and also reduces the oxidation of LDL and in particular of vLDL (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009912004001201 ). Or studies where they found comparable amounts of coconut oil use in groups of coronary heart disease patients and healthy subjects (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9316363). Or ones where 1 week of coconut oil supplementation was found to reduce waist circumference (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11745-009-3306-6#page-1). Now as the articles you provided also suggest this is unlikely to be due to the MCTs as it may be debatable if lauric acid is an MCT or not. However animal model studies have shown how coconut oil was effective at stimulating UCP1 a protein involved in thermogenesis in brown fat (a very exciting area of research with respect to energy production and weight loss) (http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/9806312).
All this is to say that yes I totally agree there is no magic bullet food or drug and most definitely no foods we should base our entire diet on. In fact I can hardly think of a food that doesn’t have a down side… from broccoli to kale to nuts to goji. Some foods should hardly be referred to as foods all together (grains come to mind) but coconut oil, in the face of my understanding of our current research, is far from being in this category and it is still the best vegetable oil to cook with and a good addition to smoothies. However it’s probably best not to make coconut oil soup… as there is an argument for not using more extracted oils than you would eat of the food it is sourced from (the same is also valid for juices).
Breast milk between 2-20% lauric acid
If omega 3 are low in breast milk the body will increase levels of laurc acid in order to still support the immune system
here is an animal model study showing the benefits of cocont oil on LDL oxidation
same team as above study also proved its beneficial impact on blood coagulation factors (thus no likelihood of inducing thrombosis). The profile on this parameter was comparable with sunflower oil, which is composed of unsaturated fats (in particular omega 6 and a small amount of omega 3)
plus animals fed VCO presented higher levels of antioxidant vitamin (remember fats will help absorption of many nutrients) and therefore not surprisingly the LDL cholesterol from these animals was also more resistant to oxidation.
And daily administration was found to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides
again same team confirming the increased antioxidant levels after coconut oil use (albeit in rats) and also found that an oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids actually reduced levels of antioxidant enzymes and increased peroxidation
VCO reduced total cholesterol, tryglicerides, LDL and more importantly vLDL (which is the only porton of cholesterol which is actually dangerous) increase HDL and reduced LDL oxidation
Prolonged consumption of CO was reported for two groups of native Polynesians who consumed 63% and 34% respectively of their food energy from CO (17). The respective average serum cholesterol values (males plus females ages 15-64 years) were 209 mg/dl and 172 mg/dl. The authors observed, however, that “Vascular disease is uncommon in both populations and there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having harmful effects in these populations”
Coconut oil consistently elevated plasma cholesterol compared to beef and sunflower oil
Also proves how beef fat has a very different impact on lipid profile that the one most heart foundatons will support….
in obese women 1 week of coconut oil supplementation increased levels of HDL and reduced the ration of LDL;HDL as well as a reduction in weight circumference
Animal model study: a diet high in fat and in particular coconut oil was effective at stimulating UCP1 (a protein in brown fat which stimulates thermogenesis and thus higher caloric consumption and metabolism)
Human population: no differences found in coconut oil consumptions between coronary heart disease patients and healthy patients
Human population: Coconat fat in the form of coconut cream fond to have no detrimental impact on lipid profile and it may even lower LDL and increase HDL
human population: no pronounced changes in lipid profile and oxidative stress when using coconut oil or sunflower oil in both healthy and type 2 diabetic patients most of the recent investigations conducted in animals as well as human beings contradict claims that coconut oil increases the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
Lipoeto NI, Agus Z, Oenzil F, Masrul M, Wattanapenpaiboon N, Wahlqvist ML. Contemporary Minangkabau food culture in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2001; 10: 10-6.
8. Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clin Biochem 2004; 37: 830-35
The results obtained are not uniform and are highly conflicting. There are studies that indicated that coconut oil consumption might result in undesirable lipid profile changes compared to safflower oil (21) and soya bean fat (22). Yet, there are other studies that have failed to find any association of coconut oil with adverse lipid profile changes (23) and some that showed that coconut oil consumption has beneficial effects compared to other dietary fats (24).
Results from Table 1 fail to provide any indications that coconut oil consumers have undesirable lipid profile pattern and increased risk for CAD compared to sunflower oil consumers.
Coronary artery disease is now considered as an inflammatory disease and accumulating evidence is now available to suggest that oxidative stress may contribute or aggravate the process of atherosclerosis (29,30)
The effect of various dietary fats on antioxidant enzymes and indicators for oxidative stress has been investigated in animals. The formation of the promutagenic, exocyclic DNA adducts in the liver of rats, which are markers for DNA damage by lipid peroxidation, was found to be highest in sunflower oil fed rats when compared to coconut oil, olive oil or rapeseed oil (42). It was found that rats fed with coconut oil have low susceptibility to lipid
peroxidation compared to olive or sunflower oil diets (43)
Since there was no noticeable variation for the anti oxidant enzymes of the subjects consuming either of the oils, it may be concluded that the type of dietary fat consumed may not be amajor contributory factor to oxidative stress in this population. It may be concluded that the consumption of coconut oil in moderation, as a part of routine diet, may not contribute to the risk for CAD, directly by affecting the lipid profile or indirectly by aggravating oxidative stress. It may not be the type of cooking oil, rather its quantity that may be contributing to the risk of CAD.
A new study reveals that BPA free plastic is not necessarily free from toxins. In fact what manufacturers ‘forget’ to tell us is that BPA has been replaced by another similar toxin called BPS, which is just as harmful as its predecessor and can disrupt the functioning of cells and hormones thereby promoting disorders such as diabetes and cancer.
It goes to show it is better to avoid plastics as much as possible. This includes plastic drinking bottles, cling film, plastic containers and foods kept in plastic like yoghurt pots or tinned foods which are also lined with BPA. Tetra packs are BPA free however are lined with aluminium which comes with its own problems. Lastly, heating up foods in plastic will leach the toxins to a greater extent so avoid pouring hot food in plastic containers (or in microwave ovens if you use them) or leaving plastic bottles in the sun.
Replace your child’s plastic drinking bottle and lunch boxes with stainless steel and use glass containers for your dinner left overs and make sure the cling film is not touching your food (the same is true for aluminum foil, even though for different reasons). Use glass jars to store your dry food items and buy foods stored in glass jars whenever possible such as tuna and tomato sauce. Go for the dried beans instead of the tinned ones whenever possible and remove fruit and vegetables from the plastic packaging when you get home or try and shop at farmers markets or other places that don’t use plastic packaging at all. Not only will it be better for the health of your family but also for the planet.
It is hard to avoid all plastic, but cutting out as much as possible will limit the amount of toxins you and your child will be exposed to.
Here are some links to help you find a healthy option for your child’s lunch box and drinking bottle made with stainless steel.
With warmer and sunnier days invariably comes the ubiquitous ice cream van and few people will easily turn down an ice cream, after all, it ticks many boxes. It provides fats and sugars, both of which will stimulate pleasure centers in the brain and by cooling down blood vessels in the mouth it lowers our overall temperature slightly. Also there are the subconscious childhood associations that stimulate our desire, not to mention the chocolate, with all its dopamine releasing chemicals.
If, like us, you love ice cream I am about to share some important information with you (If you don’t like ice cream, maybe pass it on to someone that does, or someone with children).
Like much of the packaged food available in supermarkets ice cream is rarely made up of the ingredients we would expect. In an effort to cut on costs most ice-cream producers have slowly replaced many natural ingredients with cheaper chemical options. All are of course deemed ‘safe for human consumption’ at the dosages present in a serving. However by trusting organizations that check food safety we may have created a boiled frog situation. We now find ourselves with a myriad of foods containing chemicals, all ‘safe’ in the dosage provided by each individual food they come in. But can we be sure that the combination of those ingredients in all the various foods could not be problematic, especially for children, who tend to be the target of most chemical-laden foods. Plus should we be happy with eating foods with chemicals that are safe or should we really try to focus on foods with nutrients that are … well, nutritious?!?
Simple questions that become more difficult given how we are used to certain foods being available immediately and anywhere… a great comfort that seems to come at quite a price.
Ingredients in ice cream that deserve some attention
High amounts of sugar in ice cream will not come as a surprise. Unfortunately this is often in the form of a fast releasing sugar like high fructose corn syrup (aka HFCS, but now also labeled simply as fructose or fructose syrup), which comes with more dangers than a simple sugar fix. To name but a few, studies have shown that it leads to high triglycerides, arthritis, insulin resistance, adiposity in the mid section as well as possible effects on learning mediated by inflammation in certain areas of the brain.
→ Look out for: High fructose corn syrup, HFCS, fructose, fructose syrup
Next comes the fat content. The amount of fat in itself is not a reason for concern, but the types of fats is. In most cases ice cream will contain some saturated fats (generally from dairy), but it is the vegetable fat/oil content that poses a greater problem. This will be a source of denatured omega 6 oils, which will at best cause inflammation in the body and at worst they come in the form of trans-fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils). Literally the most harmful thing you can eat, with health implications that span even further than high fructose corn syrup. Suffice to say it now has to be present on the label in the USA and Europe has been considering banning them altogether.
→ Look out for: vegetable oils, any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
Unfortunately there are other ways trans fats can make their way into ice creams and that is even if a full ban goes ahead. In fact the moment an ingredient is not classified as a fat it does not matter whether it contains trans fats or not, it will go right under the radar. Refined oils, emulsifiers, flavours and even colours can all contain trans fatty acids. Of these the most common and abundant in processed foods has to be emulsifiers such as mono and diglycerides (also labeled as monoglycerides and diglycerides). As labeling and restrictions or bans on trans fats become more widespread, we can expect an increase in these ingredients in order for manufacturers to maintain the current look and feel of their products without having to radically change the recipe.
→ Look out for: hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, refined oils, mono and diglycerides and be weary of more vague ingredients such as emulsifiers, flavours and colours
Of the questionable ingredients that come in smaller amounts there are a few that you may really want to hear about
Aldehyde C-17 ↔ Sour cherry flavor. A flammable liquid also used in the production of aniline dyes, plastics and rubber.
Amil Acetate (pentyl acetate) ↔ Banana flavor. Also used as a paint and lacquer solvent. It poses hazard for human health (skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation, and potential developmental toxicity)
Benzil Acetate ↔ Strawberry flavor. Also used in detergents, soaps, inks, polishers, lacquers and as a solvent in plastics and resins. In high dosages (unlikely to be reached via food ingestion, but data is unclear) can cause burning sensation, convulsions, diarrhea, drowsiness, vomiting.
Butyraldehyde (butanal) ↔ Hazelnut flavor. Is derived from butane and is also the main ingredients in rubber cement. Also used in the manufacturing of plasticisers, alcohols, solvents, polymers, rubber accelerators and cements, textile auxiliaries, perfumery and flavors. The substance is is irritating to the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract
Etil Acetate (EtOAc or EA) ↔ Pinapple flavor. It is used as a cleaning agent for leather and other fabrics, as an activator or hardener in paints as well as being used in glues and nail polish removers. It can cause chronic damages to the liver, heart and chest. May cause irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; narcosis; dermatitis
Piperonal (heliotropin) ↔ Vanilla flavor. Also used as a lice killer. Listed in the National Library of Medicine HSDB Database as “moderately toxic” as well as a “human skin irritant”.
Diethyl glycol (DEG) ↔ Used in ice cream as a cheap substitute for eggs to emulsify and thicken. Also used as an anti-freeze for engines, as a paint solvent and remover and to make polyester resins and plasticisers. FDA asked for a recall of toothpaste containing DEG, but it seems acceptable in ice cream and other edible products (!?!)
Propylene Glycol (1,2-propanediol or propane-1,2-diol) ↔ Used as a preservative, colouring additive and humectant (prevents drying) in foods. Also used as a solvent in plastics and paint, in aircraft de-icing fluid, automotive engine anti-freeze, liquid household and dishwashing detergents, as well as industrial soaps and cleaning fluids. Considered to have a low toxicity.
Sodium benzoate (E211) ↔ Preservative. Also used in fireworks as a fuel. It’s been shown in studies to be a carcinogenic substance, to increase DNA damage as well as hyperactivity in children. Plus when combined with vitamin C or E, it forms benzene another carcinogenic substance and can lead to kidney inflammation and damage.
Potassium sorbate (E202) ↔ Preservative to inhibit the growth of yeast and molds to increases shelf life. It’s been shown to be a respiratory, skin and eye irritant. Some studies have shown to be toxic to human DNA and mutagenic.
Polysorbate 80 (E433) ↔ Emulsifier in ice cream. Also used in soaps and shampoos. It’s been shown to suppress the immune system and it can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock. Animal model studies have also shown an impact on gut bacteria that could lead to colitis and metabolic syndrome
So make sure to check the label when purchasing ice cream, or consider making your own. Domestic ice cream makers come in all shapes and sizes and in most cases will be able to make great ice cream in an hour or less.
Otherwise check these two great real food options that taste great and will take almost no time at all to make.
Spring back to action
The worst of the winter is behind us and spring is almost at our doorstep, on some days it may not seem like it still… but it’s coming.
During the cold months a lot of the physiological functions slow down, from muscular contractions to nerve impulses all the way to peripheral circulation. This leads to a general reduction in activity from both a mental and physical point of view, which to varying degrees we are all aware of.
Depending on the calendar and tradition you follow the March equinox may mark the beginning or the middle of spring. In any case your body is waking up and getting ready for resuming activity (at least until you can lie on a beach again!)
A great way to lend a helping hand is to provide your body with foods that can be easily converted into energy to burn. Even better if we use foods that also increase energy expenditure all together, in order to facilitate the elimination of any adipose tissue (read: fat) accumulated during winter.
Yes you have probably guessed it… Coconut oil is such a food.
You are probably already using this oil in cooking, smoothies possibly even in your coffee. How could you possibly increase the amount in your diet??
By having some yummy fudge of course
Not exactly the fudge you may know, more like a fudge 2.0: healthy AND yummy.
For those of you interested in some of the details: ½ a cup of coconut oil will provide just over 16g of MCTs. This amount consumed over the whole day has been shown to increase metabolism between 5-7%. Not a huge amount you may say, but this is an increase in metabolism by eating more tasty foods!
A little info on the other ingredients:
Lucuma. A powder made from the dried lucuma fruit. It is rich in antioxidants, beta-carotene, iron and B vitamins. All useful in giving our body a spring boost. Traditionally it was associated with fertility but recent studies to date have ‘only’ found potential uses in glucose management, blood pressure reduction and as an anti-inflammatory. Although this fruit has been used for many years, I have the feeling more properties will come to the surface with more investigations.
Baobab. A powder made from the dried fruit of the baobab tree (not sawdust from the tree ). This fruit has a good spectrum of minerals as well as an incredibly high antioxidant capacity due to very high levels of vitamin C. I will avoid quoting any of the many antioxidant scales, as comparisons between foods are still unclear due to variations in bioavailability (amount actually absorbed) of the various nutrients. But the high levels of vitamin C will support greater caloric expenditures. In a study it was shown that low levels of vitamin C could lead to as much as 25% less fat burning during a simple 1 hour brisk walk. In addition baobab fruit has been found to offer hepato-protective activity, which is just what we need in preparation for a spring clean.
Goji berries. These berries have now been around as a superfood for some time, but have been used for a lot longer in China and Tibet. Traditionally used as a tonic with a specific action on both the kidney and liver meridian, they seem to fit our purpose perfectly. Preliminary studies indicated possible uses to provide a sense of well being, improve athletic performances and even aid in weight loss. With just two weeks of use providing a significant improvement in energy levels as well as digestive function.
Like all berries they are also packed with lots of nutrients. A full array of minerals, a huge dose of antioxidants as well as probably the highest amount of protein found in a fruit (well certainly in a berry).
From time to time we are reminded of how much we still need to understand about the various functions that many nutrients perform. This time is the often overlooked Vitamin D, proving that its impact on the body extends to brain function and mental health.
“We’re still not entirely certain of the role vitamin D plays in brain function and development, but we do know there are vitamin D receptor sites in various brain cells. We don’t know exactly what happens when those receptor sites aren’t active, but we do know they are there and that they are there for a reason,” Dr. Cheng
In a study presented at the American Psychiatric Association 2011 Annual Meeting by investigators at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland it was found that children with mental health problems are twice more likely to be deficient in Vitamin D than mentally healthy children.
“Low vitamin D is so easily diagnosed that overlooking it may represent a missed opportunity. Psychiatric diagnoses are often not as clear-cut as many other [medical] illnesses where you can get a lab value or an imaging test and based on the results make a definitive diagnosis. But with low vitamin D you can get a number, and it is pretty easy to diagnose and treat,” Dr. Cheng
What was interesting to note is that a standardised cut-off level for vitamin D deficiency is currently missing, underlining the lack of attention many crucial nutrients have received in both research and clinical practice (As some of you know it is difficult to find funding to research a molecule that cannot be patented!).
“Defining what constitutes vitamin D deficiency was one of the very challenging parts of this study and others. There is controversy about this all over the place. Some studies say 15 [ng/mL], some say 20, some say 30, some say 32. There really needs to be a standardised cutoff level,” said Ms. Zhang.
“What we are recommending right now is just to follow the AAP and the Institute of Medicine cutoff value, which uses 20 ng/mL,” said Dr. Cheng
Info and quotes are from: Medscape Medical News, Psychiatry. Low Vitamin D: a Contributor to Mental Disorders in Children? Caroline Cassels (2011), Jun 02, 2011 Authors & Disclosures
To read the full article go to: www.medscape.com/viewarticle/743846
The study discussed is from: American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2011 Annual Meeting: NR01-67. Presented May 14, 2011
To avoid Vitamin D deficiencies:
Ensure you spend 20 minutes in the sunshine every day as well as including foods such as cod liver oil, fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), butter and eggs in your diet. If supplementation is necessary always ensure to take only the D3 form and never D2 form (this is a mistake carried over from studies using animal models with rats, which being nocturnal produce Vitamin D in a different way from us) and never take more than 5,000IU per day (which is a pretty high dose)
A study presented here at the
American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2011 Annual Meeting: NR01-67. Presented May 14, 2011
There is an interesting study on the importance of weight management in the first 5 years of age (1) that is being discussed by the media more than I would have expected. I say this because we had already been tipped from other studies that obesity in the early years can be a good predictor of adolescence or adulthood weight problems. In some cases even prenatal factors have been identified such as maternal weight, BMI and nutrition during pregnancy. However it is good that the public (especially the less health conscious public) grasps the message and it is always great to get further confirmation from a new study especially from a longitudinal one! What is unfortunate is that even though the study is a longitudinal one (a far more realistic and solid way to do these kind of studies which is unfortunately rarely employed due to time and cost constraints), they have used BMI as a measure of obesity. BMI provides a rough indication of the weight to height ratio, but it does not take into account muscle mass or frame size. My wife is in deed all too familiar with the false positives caused by using BMI alone. Whilst working for the NHS she visited many children that had been flagged as overweight only to realize they were either particularly muscular or simply had a heavier frame than most. In a study setting with a good sample having a few false positives is unlikely to skew the results. But in case you have a child that erroneously falls in the overweight category please take the other factors into account before panicking. (here is a link to a BMI calculator )
Weight management is not the goal, but merely the monitoring of a consequence. The main focus is nutrient rich foods! TWEET THIS!
For those that are more tuned into health I feel I should make sure we all realize that weight management is not the main goal, but merely the monitoring of a consequence. If you attended one of our talks or webinars you will know how we value the importance of concentrating on nutrient-dense foods. This will automatically shift the focus away from calorie-dense food and as a consequence keeps weight in check. It is indeed quite short-sighted to only consider the caloric aspect of a diet and it can be plain dangerous when children are involved. In deed as Joanne Ikeda, nutritionist and co-founder of the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, says a calorie-restricted diet could place a child at risk of stunted growth (2). However lets not forget to consider the flip side of this. A calorie appropriate diet could still prevent a child from reaching his/her full growth potential. The main focus should be: nutrient rich foods!
In the next post we will look at postnatal and then also prenatal factors that have been found to be associated with obesity in later life
You can find the original study: Incidence of Childhood Obesity in the United States here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1309753
Here is one of the better articles I found that discussed the new study: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01/29/267829554/adult-obesity-may-have-origins-way-back-in-kindergarten
and here is an audio file of the same article above: http://pd.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/atc/2014/01/20140129_atc_adult_obesity_may_have_origins_way_back_in_kindergarten.mp3?dl=1
here is a short mention of the study in the New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129552.200-healthyweight-toddlers-protected-from-later-obesity.html
1) Cunningham, Michael R. Kramer, Ph.D., and K.M. Venkat Narayan, M.D. Incidence of Childhood Obesity in the United States N Engl J Med 2014; 370:403-41
2) Rob Stein. January 29, 2014. Adult Obesity May Have Origins Way Back In Kindergarten. Published by www.npr.org
Why do we even need help to do something that is the biological norm, a completely natural thing; a mammal feeding her offspring? Surely we should just be able to get on with it without all this fuss?
Over the past decades women have lost confidence in their bodies’ ability to breast feed and can easily get swayed or hindered by friends, family and health care professional when deciding whether or not to breast feed. Successful marketing of artificial baby milk, ill informed medical professionals, baby ‘experts’ offering advice as well as the extreme sexualisation of breasts in our culture have all played their role. All of these factors culminate with the covering up of breastfeeding. We rarely see it in public, or even in private homes and often, when we do, it’s hidden by blankets, shawls and aprons. If a woman has never seen what it looks like to latch a newborn, why would this come naturally to her? There’s a learning curve for mothers and babies in those early days, but if you’ve never been exposed to breastfeeding, how would you know if your technique needs tweaking? If everyone tells you it’s normal to feel pain to begin with, how can you measure whether your pain is indicative of complications that could ultimately sabotage your breastfeeding journey? If the baby ‘experts’ tell you that your three week old should be feeding every four hours for 30 minutes on each breast, of course you’re going to think there’s something wrong with your milk when your fussy baby wants to nurse every hour and all evening long!
Who to trust?
By default, we naturally trust our doctors to know everything. And of course, there are plenty of wonderful and extremely knowledgeable doctors who do educate themselves on more than just the daily scope of their GP practice. However, for the most part, doctors and even paediatricians, in the UK, have limited, if any, specific breastfeeding training. There’s a range of breastfeeding support available and it differs from area to area, from volunteer peer supporters to breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants.
But my baby has a medical issue; surely a doctor must be most qualified to deal with this?
Absolutely. If it is in fact a medical issue. But so many newborn ‘conditions’ can actually be direct results of breastfeeding issues. Reflux , dairy intolerances, colic, digestive discomfort, fussy behaviour; all areas that can often be dealt with by correcting a latch or assessing for a tongue tie, as well as managing expectations of what is ‘normal’ baby behaviour. Any good Breastfeeding Supporter will signpost you immediately to your GP if there’s any doubt that it’s not an issue relating directly to breastfeeding. Sadly, many doctors don’t afford us (Breastfeeding specialists) the same courtesy. ‘Stop breast feeding and give medication/ specialist formula milk’ is far too often the advice given when in fact a consultation with a breastfeeding specialist may have highlighted that this need not be necessary at all.
Ways to take control of your breastfeeding journey
During pregnancy attend a breastfeeding course or information session. In the UK, most hospitals offer these for free and they can also be accessed privately through organisations such as the NCT.
Find the breastfeeding groups in your area. Most UK children’s centres provide this service or can signpost you. Also in the UK, look up The Breastfeeding Network (BfN), Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) and National Childbirth Trust (NCT) to see what groups they have running in your area. La Leche League (LLL) are an international organisation with groups worldwide. Go and hang out at a group, ask lots of questions and just watch babies feeding and talk to new mums and Breastfeeding Supporters. Have at least one specialist who you would feel comfortable contacting once the baby is born. Make sure your partner knows their details too.
For some, breastfeeding doesn’t happen as naturally as we might hope. It certainly didn’t for me. In a vulnerable state having just given birth, if your baby is struggling to latch, you may find yourself under enormous pressure from hospital staff to supplement with formula milk. Ultimately, this isn’t going to do you or your baby any favours and although plenty of babies have this start and go on to breastfeed exclusively, it can often be a harder route to take, both physically and emotionally.
You can start (hand) expressing colostrum from 36 weeks of pregnancy. You might want to freeze a stash to have on hand when the baby’s born. Even if you’d prefer not to, by just familiarising yourself with the technique, should it come to it, you’ll have the means to feed your baby without artificial milk.
Don’t hang about!
If in any doubt, or even just to check you’re on track, seek support immediately. Get in touch with that Breastfeeding Supporter you met during pregnancy, drop in to your local group or call a local or national helpline. If you’re really struggling, many services offer home visits too. Don’t worry about wasting anyone’s time, thinking your issues aren’t serious enough. Breastfeeding supporters are there to reassure and answer questions as much as to problem solve and action plan. And they’re always happy to meet a lovely new baby
If you’re struggling in hospital, ask to see a Breastfeeding Specialist. Don’t just take the word of the midwives (as lovely and well meaning as they are). Contact your local group and see if they have anyone who can visit you in hospital if necessary.
Who to trust (again)
Beware of breastfeeding advice from non-breastfeeding specialists. Everyone wants to help; grandmas, mother in laws, aunties, neighbours, midwives, health visitors, nurses, paediatricians, baby ‘experts’…. Many of these people may be well informed and up to date, but unfortunately many of them won’t be. In fact, just because someone has breast fed babies themselves at some point in the past, this doesn’t make them qualified to give breastfeeding advice. Speak to someone who is trained in breastfeeding support. Even if the first person you see does not have all the answers, there’s no pride involved and a Breastfeeding Supporter will signpost you if your questions are out of their remit. Untrained people may give you their personal opinions or out-dated theories that are not backed up by evidence based research.
Be emotionally prepared
Breastfeeding is wonderful. It isn’t just about nutrition and food. It helps forge that unique relationship between a mother and her baby. It is the normal and natural way to feed and soothe a baby, carries numerous health benefits and is every baby’s right. It’s not always easy to begin with and even throughout the breastfeeding relationship, there may be many hurdles and obstacles encountered. For the vast majority of women, these can be overcome with determination and appropriate support from breastfeeding specialists.
Further sources of reliable breast feeding information:
Laura Walzer is a guest writer, Brestfeeding Peer Supporter and fellow Inquisitive Parent
Laura developed a passionate interest in breastfeeding after encountering great difficulties with her newborn, 16 months ago. She has since trained with the NHS in Harrow, UK, as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and supports local mothers at a drop in group. In addition to this, she is now training with the ABM, with the intention of becoming a Breastfeeding Counsellor.
Those of you who have been known to clean your baby’s pacifier by popping it in your mouth rather than sterilizing it, will be pleased to know that you have been doing your baby a lot of good.
According to a Swedish study published in the journal ‘Pediatrics’, children were less likely to suffer from asthma, eczema and allergies before the age of 36 months if mums would clean the pacifier by sucking on it.
It would seem that passing on small amounts of bacteria from your own mouth, could help to strengthen your babies developing immune system. Obviously avoiding times when you are ill might be a good idea and if you dads are feeling left out – your saliva will do just fine as well! For those parents who don’t use a pacifier rest assured that giving lots of kisses on the mouth may be just as effective.
Have you found yourself doing this in the past? If so had you seen it done/heard about it or was it just instinctive? Let us know
Having just been to my 3 year olds first kids birthday party I realized how much sugar is consumed by these little ones in just 2 hours. From sweets to cakes to chocolate covered fruits and breadsticks and bucket loads of juice. I over heard one of the parents saying “Oh well that’s what a party is all about isn’t it?”
But does it have to be? My 3 year old has never tried sweets or cakes apart from the grain free, sugar free treats I make at home and despite this did not have less of a good time than the others. In fact he did not even once ask to try the different sugary treats. If you can call these treats when children consume them several times a week or even every day.
He was immediately attracted to the fruit kebabs, which looked like big lollipops and the parsnip and beetroot chips. I admit he was allowed some natural apple juice too. When the piñata was broken and sweets came tumbling out alongside little presents such as whistles and harmonicas he grabbed these with joy running around blowing them happily. When the treasure hunt was a mix of sweets and plastic jewelry he came to me proudly with his new pink necklace and a ring but did not have a sweet in hand. He thoroughly enjoyed the party and did not feel left out or unhappy that he was not able to eat all that sugar. Some of the other parents were struggling to limit the sugar intake in their kids. “No more, I said no more sweets” as the children were digging through their treat bags.
We have created an association between sugar and having a good time for children like alcohol at an adult party. In fact sugar has been termed a gateway drug and one can see from the affects and the cravings this is definitely true. Sugar is found in many foods hidden so well that many parents are unaware it is even there. Just look at cereals, cereal bars, yoghurts and juices, which are deemed as healthy by many. These are packed with sugar thereby exposing children to much more sugar than they should ever have and this on a daily basis.
For a sugar free treat that could easily be served instead of ice cream at a kids party see this recipe.
“One ingredient banana ice cream”! Add some berries, raw cocoa, mint or vanilla for some different flavours. I added peanut butter which turned out to be delicious and you would never know it is dairy and sugar free! All you have to do is peel the banana, cut it into slices and pop them into your freezer. Once frozen you just blend them on their own or with your favourite flavor. Its as easy as that and kids will love it!
If you would like more information on ‘Nutrition for Families’ please contact us about one of our nutrition talks.
Here is to someone who gave up sugar for a whole year with her family.
The best thing you can do for your child is to never even start!