Food & Fitness After 50: Clearing the Confusion on Probiotic Supplements

intestinal-gut-bacteria-balancing-microbiomeA friend asked a simple question, “should I take a probiotic supplement?” I wish there was a simple “yes” or “no” answer, as I’m sure that is what she wanted. But, as with many questions in nutrition, the answer is it depends. It depends on:

  • What is the reason for taking a probiotic supplement?
  • Is there a specific health problem that you are trying to alleviate by taking a probiotic supplement?
  • What dietary sources of probiotics are you consuming? And, is your diet rich in not only probiotics, but prebiotics and dietary fiber? Diets high in fat, sugar, and excess alcohol do not promote the good bacteria in our guts, while a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, pro-and prebiotics contribute to a healthy balance of bacteria in our guts. (For more information on dietary sources of pre-and probiotics, click here and here.)

I had the chance to ask Dr. Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas* to help us  navigate the landscape on probiotic supplements. First, let’s understand that probiotics won’t completely alter your gut microbiome because “probiotics do not sustainably colonize the adult gut, but should be thought of as temporary, transient residents that interact with the body and its microbial ecosystem to influence function and health,” according to Dr. Thomas.

Let’s start with the definition of probiotics:

  • “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (WHO/FAO definition).

The key words in that sentence, according to Dr. Thomas are live when administered, adequate amounts, and health benefit.

He explained that the probiotic has to be live when you take it. How do you know? “Choose products that include the “Best Used Before Date” date and avoid products that declare potency “at time of manufacture,” as this measurement does not reflect the amount still alive when purchased and consumed. A transparent, quality manufacturer lists the guaranteed minimum number of live cells, measured in CFUs, per serving when stored as recommended and used prior to the “best used before date.” Dr. Thomas goes on to explain that while probiotics don’t really expire, but the number of live cells may not meet label claims if not stored as stated on the label and used beyond that date. The “time at manufacture” almost certainly over represents the quantity of live cells because the normal manufacturing process results in some die-off of live probiotics.

probiotic_identification_graph
Identification chart courtesy of Jarrow Formulas

Adequate amounts mean not only quantity of probiotics in a supplement, but quality. “Probiotics are strain, dose, and condition specific.” Strains should be designated on a supplement label, so you know what you are getting. Dr. Thomas explains, “not all strains perform equally, and more strains are not better, better strains are better.” For example, if looking for a supplement to help with bowel issues, Lactobacillus (genus) plantarum (species) 229v (strain) is clinically proven to reduce bowel discomfort at dosing of 10 to 20 billion live cells daily.” The probiotic identification chart illustrates the difference between genus, species, and strain in a way that is understandable to those of us who might have forgotten what we learned in biology!

And, that leads us to the last part of the definition, health benefits. A probiotic must be studied to know if it conveys a health benefit. If a label simply says something like 40 billion CFU with 16 probiotic strains, it may or may not be clinically relevant. “Don’t be swayed by a large number of colony forming units (CFUs is how probiotics are measured). What you really want is the right strain in the right amounts,” says Dr. Thomas.

There are a lot of resources to help consumers know if a probiotic meets the definition from the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). It takes some homework to take the guess work out, but if you are going to pay good money for a supplement, isn’t it worth knowing that it has evidence to support it will do what you want it to do?

I think this statement from the ISAPP sums up what we know, “probiotics are not a “cure all” and it is not necessary to take them to be healthy. But they may help you even if you are generally healthy. Probiotics will have different benefits – look for a product with studies that support the benefit you want.”

Dr. Thomas cautions us to be aware of “disingenuous marketing masquerading as education” for some probiotic supplements. A product claiming to be “ancient” might sound impressive, but if the product doesn’t list the strains, 100 billion CFUs per serving is meaningless.

Resources:

To learn more about a specific supplement check out the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Produces Available in the USA to help you understand the evidence supporting a probiotic supplement.

And, here is a link to helpful infographics on probiotics from ISAPP.

*I heard Dr. Thomas speak at a sponsored food and nutrition conference, but I was neither asked nor compensated to write this post.

 

Fit to Eat

“Fit to Eat,” focuses on nutrition concerns of active people and showcases inspiring stories from adults who eat well, move well, and be well. Whether you are in your 50s, 60, 70s, or beyond you will find information to keep you healthy and active.

Food & Fitness After 50: Clint Eastwood Revisited

Guest blog post by Dr. Bob Murray

In a previous post Dr. Murray wrote about the powerful benefits of maintaining a young mindset on our healthspan—the number of years we enjoy good mental and physical health. In today’s post, he expands on maintaining a young mindset. (For the post, click here.)

attitude is everythingfamous study published in 2002 demonstrated that negative perceptions of aging can significantly influence longevity. Older adults with a positive mindset—a positive attitude—about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those who harbored negative perceptions of aging. Putting a more personal spin on the topic, Hollywood director and actor Clint Eastwood—still incredibly energetic and productive in his 80s—said that when he gets up every morning, he tries not to “let the old man in.”  In other words, Clint strives to maintain a young mindset in everything he does.

The incredible power of maintaining a young mindset is worth revisiting because we all have control over how we think about ourselves and our place in the world and that control allows us to reshape negative perceptions about aging that may have inadvertently crept in over time.

That very message was the central theme of a One Day University lecture by Professor Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College.  To help make her point about the benefits of having a young, positive mindset, Dr. Sanderson spoke of how mindset has been shown to alter perceptions of pain, susceptibility to illness, surgical outcomes, hormonal responses to eating, and the benefits of physical activity.  And she mentioned the 2002 study as an example of how mindset can affect aging.  In a nutshell, mindset is powerful stuff.

bad attitude Dr. Sanderson stressed that in addition to having a positive mindset about aging, other factors such as maintaining a strong sense of personal control and good overall health habits (including a nutritious diet and regular physical activity) also contribute to longevity, as does how we react to the inevitable stresses of life.  Those who typically view stress as negative and debilitating live shorter lives than those who embrace stress as unavoidable yet positive challenges that enhance life.  Successfully coping with stress improves our capacity to handle life’s ups and downs and directly contributes to our overall happiness.  We all know people whose glass-is-half-empty approach to life is a burden to them and to those around them.

Do you wallow in feelings of rejection when things don’t work out the way you had hoped, or do you accept rejection as an impetus for redirection?  The first reaction—an adverse response to stress—has many negative physiological and health-related consequences.  Although it is not easy to alter how we deal with stress, it can be accomplished.

Dr. Sanderson suggests ten ways we can change our outlook on life, including how we handle stress:

  1. Work to change our stereotypes about what happens with age. For example, if we think that becoming more forgetful is inevitable as we age, that self-fulfilling prophecy is likely to come true.
  2. Physical activity—every movement counts. Housework can be just as valuable as a fitness class.
  3. Meditation each day, even if it that amounts to only a couple minutes of mindful solitude, can positively affect mental health and physical function.
  4. Learning—both mental and physical—helps restore, maintain, and expand neural circuits in the brain and throughout the body.
  5. Faith of any sort. The stronger the faith in a higher power, the more positive the impact on longevity.
  6. Spend  time in nature.  Good things happen to physical and mental health when we spend time outside, even when we just sit and enjoy our surroundings. (We wrote about the concept developed by the Japanese called forest bathing as enjoying nature. For the post click here.)
  7. Get a dog (or cat).  Not only do pets prompt us to move more, having the responsibility to care for an animal’s welfare adds a purposeful dimension to life. (see out blog on the benefits of owning a pet by clicking here.)
  8. Maintain good relationships. Healthy relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, leads to happiness and happiness leads to longer, healthier lives.
  9. Manage stress. Often easier said than done, but how we react to unexpected events is usually under our total control.
  10. Embrace adversity. We can’t avoid it, so we might as well welcome adversity as a way to improve ourselves.

churchill quote on attitudeThere is a lot of compelling science to support Clint Eastwood’s advice to not let the old man (or woman) in.  The fact that our attitude—our mindset—has direct bearing on how we age gives all of us an amazing amount of control over our destiny.

For more tips on being well as we age, see Food & Fitness After 50 available on Amazon or from other book sellers.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Citicoline for brain health?

In 2015 I wrote a post on a dietary supplement called citicoline. For the post click here.

HealthyBrainIn the post I wrote about learning of citicoline at a conference and was given a sample. My husband had been experiencing some trouble finding the right word when he was speaking so he wanted to try the supplement. From that day on he has continued to use the product. Although his report of improved brain health is anecdotal (one person’s subjective experience does not equal a fact) there is some research to support the positive effects of the supplement. He is such a disciple of citicoline that many of his family and friends now take it. But, should you?

I was interested in finding additional and more current, research since the 2015 post was written but didn’t find much. One reason might be that dietary supplement companies tend not to invest in rigorous experimental research trials because they are not required to do so to market a supplement. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements don’t have to prove they work to be sold; that’s why there are so many supplements readily available.

Citicholine
Chemical structure of citicoline

To begin, citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical. It is not found to any great extent in foods (there is some in organ meats) but when taken as a supplement it is broken down into choline (a B-vitamin) and a compound called cytidine which is then metabolized to uridine. That’s important because citicoline can’t cross the protective blood brain barrier but choline and uridine can. Once in the brain the compounds convert to citicoline, sometimes called CDP-choline. In turn, citicoline increases the brain chemical phosphtidylcholine that helps brain function and increases the number of chemical messengers in the brain.

When I first reviewed the literature the small number of studies that had been published cautiously suggested that supplemental citicoline could be an effective treatment for mild cognitive impairment but more research was needed to see if the effect was long term (most studies are short term…a few weeks to a few months) and if it could slow the progression to dementia.

A study published in 2012 was well-controlled: by a well-controlled study I mean the participants in the study were randomized to treatment and it was double-blind…neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting the citicoline or placebo. The researchers studied 60 healthy women, between the ages of 40 and 60, and showed that when given either 250 or 500 milligrams of citicoline both groups improved on tests to measure mental attention compared to the placebo group. However, this was another short-term study; just 28 days.

My quest to find more current research was unsuccessful so I turned to Natural Medicines Database for their review. The conclusion, which was last updated in November of 2019, was that citicoline is “possibly effective” for a decline in memory and thinking sills that occur with normal aging. Supplemental citicoline “seems to help memory loss in people aged 50 to 85 years.” The review noted there is insufficient evidence to say it prevents or reverses memory losses in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are minimal side effects, although some people report trouble sleeping, headache, or nausea.

The dose of citicoline ranges from 250 milligrams to 2000 milligrams a day, but the range of 250 to 500 milligrams is a usual dose used the research studies.

If you choose to try citicoline, it is always recommended to discuss with your health care provider. And, be sure to include all over-the-counter medications, including dietary supplements, when your doctor asks about medications you are taking.

CDP_suplrgI found over 150 products marketed that contain citicoline, some with fanciful names, liked Active Mind or Brain Wave that claim to “speed up your brain.” Many of those products also contain caffeine; the likely source of “speeding” the brain. If you get the blessing from your physician and want to try it, stick to one that just contains citicoline. Two reputable products are Cognizin (Kyowa Hakko) and Citicoline CDP choline (Jarrow). The Jarrow formula is the one that my husband takes.

As for me, my memory is good and I haven’t found a reason to try a supplement, but my husband believes it has helped him.

To learn more about dietary patterns and supplements for those 50, 60, 70, and beyond, check out Food & Fitness After 50available on Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no financial connection to any dietary supplement, including the citicoline brands mentioned in this article.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness after 50: Beyond Google for Answers

We all do it. We use Google to search for information. That is fine when we are looking for a restaurant in a new town or curious about a historical figure after watching a Netflix movie, but when it comes to food and nutrition information it can lead to disinformation.

GoogleCase in point, I searched for citicoline (the subject of next week’s post on brain health, so stay tuned) and 796,000 results showed up. The first 3 results were sponsored posts or ads and many of us don’t pay attention to that distinction. Later in the list of results was a WebMD article but with no date on when the article was first published or recently reviewed, we don’t know how current it is. Then, while reading the article, an ad for another heavily advertised supplement, Prevagen, popped up. (For an interesting take on Prevagen, see this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest titled “Prevagen: How Can This Memory Supplement Flunk Its One Trial and Still Be Advertised as Effective? “To read the article click here. So, my faith in Web MD as an unbiased source of information has waned!

Most of us don’t go beyond the first page of Google results so we’re stuck with advertisements and sponsored content. So, where can you go for good information without wading through all the scientific journals which can leave you even more confused?

When I am researching a nutrition or health topic, I start with Pub Med, a free search engine containing more than 30 million citations for medical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Most of the citations will allow you read the research abstract but only some of the citations include links to full-text articles. Lucky for me, I have access to my university library…one of my favorite perks of being an emeritus professor.

I also use the Natural Medicines Database to research dietary supplements, but a subscription is required to fully use the site. Again, I’m lucky because membership in a practice group of sports dietitians, includes access to the database as part of my membership fee.

So, today, I want to share some free websites that I use and think will help you gain a clearer picture of  nutrition and health information. These are good places to begin your search instead of simply “googling it.”

Your Aunt Sue raves about the Eco-Atkins Diet and you’re scratching your head wondering if you should try it. Check out the website from the U.S. News & World Report Best Diets for 2019. This website is more than a ranking of “best” diets….it gives you detailed information on every aspect of the diet. And, they review 41 different diets…. from the most popular to those you’ve never heard of (Eco-Atkins?). I rely on this site when someone asks me about the latest and greatest diet. With the new year upon us…. dieting questions are bound to come up. The site includes commercial weight loss programs, diets for diabetes and heart health, plant-based diets, and of course, weight loss.

OSSHave you seen the documentary “The Game Changers,” featuring amazing vegan athletes? Documentaries can be very convincing but often one-sided. That is when I turn to McGill University Office of Science and Society for their take on everything on the latest nutrition trends, fads, and crazes. Their mission is to “demystify science for the public, foster critical thinking, and separate sense from nonsense.” They do that with good humor, sharp wit, and an engaging website. I love the short videos from Dr. Joe Schwarz and team and their answers to curious questions such as “should you put collagen in your smoothie, or should you wash eggs before cracking them?”

Keeping up with obesity research is daunting, and it seems like every day there is a new study with headlines telling us which food or beverage causes obesity or which diet will reverse the global tide of overweight and obesity in children. So, I turn to ConscienHealth and read their short post every morning. Founder, Ted Kyle, describes it thus, “our guiding principle is to connect sound science with the needs of consumers to develop obesity solutions that allow people of all sizes to be the healthiest they can be.” The daily post is always thoughtful and balanced and recognizes that black and white thinking won’t help us tackle the health problems facing Americans.

cspiLastly, I’m often asked about biotechnology. The word sounds scary, but it is just a combination of biology and technology. We all love technology (where would we be without our hand-held computers, or as we call them, smart phones?) but when it comes to our food, we are leery of using the latest technology tools to improve agriculture to feed the world. Biotech is moving so fast that it is hard to keep up with what is currently happening and what is coming. I like following The Agricultural Biotechnology Project from The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). This non-profit organization is not tied to industry and offers a clear-headed take on GMOs, gene editing and other tools used in agriculture. Before you dismiss all biotechnology practices as “bad,” take a look at this website for answers to your questions.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to seek new sources for information on nutrition and food and health. So, in 2020, here’s to good health and good information!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Unlocking the MIND Diet

While there is no one best diet for those over the age of 50, in Food & Fitness After 50, we highlight four healthy eating plans that can work for just about everyone. And, it happens that these are the top four plans identified as the “Best Diets” by U.S. News & World Report in their 2019 review. The four plans are:

  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The DASH Eating Plan
  • The Flexitarian Diet
  • The MIND Diet

minddietThe MIND diet stands for the official mouthful name of the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. A much catchier title is the MIND diet because its premise is that diet can delay cognitive decline.  Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied over 900 older adults from retirement communities for 5 years; those who had the greatest adherence to the MIND diet suffered less cognitive decline than those who did not. This was an observational study, meaning that it shows association with diet and brain health, but it doesn’t prove it. So, the researchers are in the midst of conducting a longer, more rigorous study with adults in both Chicago and Boston. The results will be available in a couple of years.

However, the diet plan is healthy and while it can’t promise to prevent all cognitive decline with aging, it certainly can’t hurt as the plan is comprised of healthy foods that we should all be consuming.

Today, we feature the MIND diet by posing questions to registered dietitian, author, colleague, and friend, Maggie Moon. I met Maggie many moons ago at a CIA meeting…. Culinary Institute of America, not the spy agency, in her role as nutrition communications director for the Wonderful Company. The folks that bring us tasty, healthful foods, like pistachios, almonds, pomegranates and juice, and Halo mandarins. Maggie has written two books: The MIND Diet and the Telomere Diet Cookbook.

Chris and MaggieAs you can see from the photo of the two of us together at the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference, she is not in my age demographic, so my first question was obvious!

Question: You are a young woman…. how did you get interested in writing about food and nutrition to prevent cognitive decline which is something we think about as a part of aging?

Answer: I’ve been a registered dietitian for more than ten years and while I do still feel youthful, to answer your question, I think about when I was truly young. I grew up in a three-generation household with my parents and my grandmother. They were all immigrants from a war-weary and economically depressed South Korea in the late 1960s, so my immediate family is all I have. I am lucky to have a handful of siblings, but no big extended family. Because of this I feel extremely close to my parents and am ferociously driven to support their wellbeing. And because I was just as close to my grandmother, I’ve been aware of the importance of healthy aging from a young age.

I’ve always had an affinity for the elderly, probably because of my relationship with my grandmother. I love helping them and it is upsetting to my core when I hear about mistreatment of older adults. Truth is, I’m looking forward to being old lady! I’m in no rush, but it is something I think of fondly. I think of aging as a privilege.

This is a long answer to a simple question, but I guess it boils down to my writing what I care about. And I care about helping people thrive as they age and improving their health in longevity. It starts with my own parents, but then extends to my and my husband’s future, and finally to all humans that I can reach with my work, whether they’re worried about their own health or someone else’s.

 Question: Can you describe the MIND diet in your own words. What is it about the diet that would appeal to older adults and when is the best time to adopt the MIND principles? I can image some people in their 60s saying “it’s too late for me.”

Mind diet coverThe MIND diet was born from research led by Dr. Martha Clare Morris at Rush University in Chicago. Its foundation is a blend of two well-studied heart-healthy diets, but what makes it different is that it’s been optimized for brain health based on the available evidence for which specific foods support cognitive health, slow down decline, and reduce the risk of developing dementia. The two landmark studies that came out in late 2015 suggest that following the MIND diet keeps the brain 7.5 years cognitively younger and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to those who didn’t follow the principles of the diet.

It’s never too late, especially for someone in their 60s. Most of the research related to the MIND diet is with older adults, so it’s clearly relevant throughout older adulthood. The Alzheimer’s study was conducted with people ages 58-98 and the average age in the cognitive decline study was 81 years old.

That said, the results indicate that the longer someone followed the dietary principles the greater the benefit for brain health, suggesting that more years of healthy eating was more protective. Therefore, I think it’s important for people to eat for brain health at any age, but especially after age 40.

Question: What are the core principles of the diet? How did you develop the recipes for the book?

The core principles of the MIND diet includes ten healthy food groups that make up the foundation of the eating pattern. It also includes five food groups that should be limited.

The MIND diet includes whole grains, vegetables, olive oil, red wine (for those who drink alcohol), leafy greens, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, and seafood. From a culinary and cultural sensitivity perspective, I appreciate that the food groups are so broad that they can be adapted to many different heritage diets and preferences. The foods to limit include processed and red meat, solid fats from butter, margarine and cheese, fried food in general but especially from fast food, and added sugars from pastries and other sweets.

Here is a breakdown of recommended food groups to consume:

Foundation (these are minimums, except for red wine)

  • Whole grains – 3 times a day
  • Vegetables – daily
  • Olive oil – used as main fat
  • Red wine – a glass with a meal (only one; excess here is detrimental, and of course, if you don’t drink you won’t miss the benefits of the diet)
  • Leafy greens – six times/week
  • Nuts – 5 times/week
  • Beans – 4 times/week
  • Berries – 2 times/week
  • Poultry – 2 times/week
  • Seafood – 1 time/week

Limit

  • Processed and red meat – less than 4 times/week (e.g. no more than 3 times/week)
  • Butter/margarine – less than 1 tbsp/day (e.g. no more than 1-2 tsp/day)
  • Cheese – less than 1 time/week (e.g. once every two weeks)
  • Fried food – less than 1 time/week (e.g. once every two weeks)
  • Sweets – less than 5 times/week (e.g. no more than 4 times/week)

The recipes for the book were developed by me and other culinary dietitians. For the guest recipes, I collaborated with trusted colleagues. I provided the recipe parameters and then reviewed submissions to ensure they fit the guidelines and added a good variety of options before selecting them for my book.

Question: Let’s describe your newest book about telomere health….fill us in on how this ties into the MIND diet.

telomere-book-cover-on-amazonMy newest book, The Telomere Diet & Cookbook, came out in fall of 2019. It’s about genetic aging on a cellular level, and how what we eat can slow or accelerate biological aging. Telomeres are protective endcaps to our chromosomes, and they prematurely dwindle when exposed to inflammatory diets, environmental toxins, and poor sleep, to name a few. They protect the DNA in our chromosomes like shoelace tips protect shoelaces from unraveling and growing dysfunctional. Telomere length is a widely-accepted gauge for biological aging in research.

Telomere health is ultimately tied back to fighting inflammation and oxidative stress, which are also systemic issues the MIND diet attacks and improves. Both books are about healthy aging for all. In both books, the evidence-based perspective is that the more years spent eating healthfully the better. That sounds like common sense, and to some degree it is, but it actually signals a shift in thinking about aging: in this paradigm, aging is a continuum that begins at birth, not just once we hit a certain birthday. This is why two 50-year old people can be in completely different stages of biological aging while at the same chronological age – one vibrant, active and thriving; the other sedentary, sluggish and beleaguered with chronic health conditions. Of course, genetics, socio-economic factors, and lifestyle all play a part, but what we eat is something under our control.

Question: What the 3 key takeaways that you want people to know about cognitive health as we age?

  1. It’s never too late to start to eat healthfully.
  2. The earlier you start the better.
  3. Prevention through a healthy diet and lifestyle, not waiting for a miracle medication, is currently the best defense against age-related cognitive decline.

For more information on both diets, check out Maggie’s website by clicking here.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Surviving and Thriving the Holidays

Here come the holidays and with them lots of myths and misinformation about food and nutrition.

First, I want to be clear that we don’t need to restrict our enjoyment of traditional foods served during the holidays. But, some of us tend to go overboard and throw out all common sense when it comes to eating and exercising in the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. How many of us say, “I’ll start healthy eating and exercising on January 2?”

Let’s start with a holiday weight gain. What is the average amount of weight gained during the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day)?

  • None
  • 1-2 pounds
  • 5 pounds
  • More than 5 pounds

nihms663481f1The most common answer is 5 pounds, but no one really knew for sure. So, in 2000 a small study with about 200 adults was published and reported that the average weight gain was about 1 to 2 pounds.

However small the weight gain, it tended not be lost in the spring or summer and the researchers surmise that about 50% of annual weight gain is tied to the holiday period. One to two pounds doesn’t sound like much, but fast-forward 20 years and the extra weight adds up. During the holidays we might adopt a more carefree attitude when surrounded by so many social events featuring lots of special foods with greater variety and bigger portions. Couple that with less physical activity during the winter months and it is easy to see why we tend to gain a few pounds.

What can we do? A study with 111 adults randomly assigned to daily self-weighing or no weighing during the holiday period found that the group who self-weighed did not gain weight and the control group gained a few pounds. Interestingly, the individuals who were overweight and self-weighed lost a bit of weight. I’m an advocate of self-monitoring of weight. No one needs to obsess over the number on the scale, but for many it can be a motivator to maintain weight.

Is turkey coma a real thing?

We’ve all heard it and some of us have probably said it, the reason we are tired at the end of the Thanksgiving meal…. turkey coma! The origin story is clear. Turkey is rich in protein, protein is made of amino acids, and one of those amino acids is tryptophan which is a starting compound for making the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin has a calming effect. But here is where the connection between tryptophan from our turkey dinner and serotonin in the brain gets murky. First, our Thanksgiving dinner, including the turkey, contains many other amino acids and they compete for entry into the brain by sharing carriers that shuttle compounds across the blood brain barrier. If we only ate a meal with just tryptophan it could make you sleepy, but we don’t. And, chicken has the same amount of tryptophan as turkey, but we don’t talk about “chicken coma!”

5835c3211a00002500cc97f0So, what makes us sleepy? Most likely it is the large meal that we consume. As the big meal gets digested the small intestines stretch sending signals to “rest and digest.” Couple the big meal with a beverage choice for many of alcohol, which also has a sedative-like effect. and a perfect sleepy state is likely! So, don’t blame the poor turkey!

What about the pie?

Dessert abound at holidays, but from a nutritional standpoint, which is the best choice?

  • Apple pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Sweet potato pie

OK, they all taste great, but the pumpkin and sweet potato pies are the nutritional champs. One slice has about 300 calories but about 80% of your daily need for vitamin A. I know, you don’t eat pie for vitamins, buy why not? Choosing nutrient-rich foods is always a smart idea. The apple and pecan pie weigh in at 400 and 540 calories, respectively. Enjoy a taste of any or all but remember that the second half the dessert tastes just like the first, so scale back your portions.

Don’t forget to be active

Keep your activity up during the holidays by engaging family and friends to move away from the televised football games for a game of touch football. And, many of you have pool tables, ping pong tables, or other game tables in your house or garage, so organize a fun tournament to get people off the couch. Check out local organized events, like Turkey Trots. Last year, my niece got us involved in a “Gobble Jog;” running or walking a 5-K event on Thanksgiving morning is a refreshing way to start the day.

Thanksgiving 2018

And, take “activity snacks” throughout the day. Set your fitness watch reminder to get up and move every hour. Even 5-minute activity snacks can add up to help meet exercise goals.

Happy, healthy holidays…from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, here’s hoping you enjoy the festive period. Let me know what you did to stay active or eat healthfully this year by responding to this post!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: My Favorites from Philadelphia’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo

Every fall about 10,000 dietitians get together for 4 days of education, networking, and fun. The meeting is packed with workshops, breakfast briefings, committee meetings, education sessions, culinary demos, receptions, and hundreds of exhibitor booths. For me, the meeting is more about networking, connecting with old friends, and meeting new ones. While I enjoy the education sessions, I get more science from the specialized workshops than from the general sessions. However, the general sessions help me understand what health professionals are concerned about and what their patients or clients are asking about.

While it is hard to pick favorites, here my highlights from 2019.

My favorite workshop was sponsored by The Beneo Institute on the gut microbiome. Canadian researchers presented data on the progressive loss of diversity of gut microbiota when low fiber diets are consumed. And, Canadians and Americans are woefully short of dietary fiber in their diets. Fiber is not only needed for regularity but maybe more importantly as a source of food for our gut bacteria. We’ve talked about probiotics in previous posts but prebiotics…the food source for gut bacteria is taking on greater interest. One well-studied prebiotic fiber is chicory root fiber or inulin, used as an ingredient in some yogurts, bars, and cereals to boost fiber. And, because chicory root fiber is slightly sweet, it can lower sugar content at the same time as increasing fiber. The workshop concluded with a demonstration of the challenges of adding fiber to our favorite foods (some fibers form gels when mixed with water that would change the texture and palatability of foods) and ended with a taste test of muffins made with chicory root fiber to demonstrate the ability to increase fiber and while decreasing sugar. You might read in the popular press that chicory root fiber or inulin should be avoided because it can cause bloating and gas. Anytime you eat a lot of fiber, especially if your diet is low in fiber, you can experience gas and bloating. That is why dietitians always tell patients and consumers to gradually increase fiber intake. Gradually increasing fiber, including prebiotic fibers, is good for the gut and good for health.

My favorite educational session was “Redefining Aging and Embracing Longevity.” The speaker, Brenda Richardson, is a superstar dietitian in long-term care. Her lecture started with a series of videos on ageism and if you can have a few minutes, watch this video from Australia on how ageism affects us all. “We are not at risk for aging, we are aging,” was a central message. She shared some useful resources on reframing aging initiatives and the Frameworks Academy, offering a free course on communications and aging.

protein noodlesMy favorite new product bite in the exhibit hall was courtesy of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, tasting Trident Seafoods Wild Alaska Pollock noodles; these noodles are fully cooked and have 10 grams of protein per serving. I’m ready to try them in my favorite Pad Thai.

 

 

Pistachio crusted chicken with lemony greens

My favorite new recipes from sponsor receptions are included below. As I have said before, I don’t develop recipes, but I love trying new ones. Pistachio Baked Herb Chicken with Lemon Baby Greens, from Wonderful Pistachios, is absolutely mouth-watering! The recipe isn’t online but here’s a picture of the recipe and email me at chrisrosenbloom@gmail.com if you want me to send the recipe. I made this dish when my brother-in-law was in town and it will be in regular rotation of recipes in my house.

Another recipe is from General Mills. Mini chocolate peanut butter bites, a sweet treat, but with the small portions, the calories are kept in check (but, it is so good you might be tempted to eat two or three!) I made a batch to take to a neighborhood cookout tonight but I should have tripled the recipe as they were gone in flash! mini-chocolate-peanut-butter-bites

My favorite reception? Well, that is easy and while I’m not one to brag, my friend and business partner, Stephen McCauley of The Ginger Network hosted a soiree in my honor for receiving the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Medallion Award for lifetime achievement. The reception was held on the 59th floor of The Four Seasons Hotel and the views, the food, the friends were all fantastic! We always say that Stephen knows how to “ginger things up,” and he more than gingered up this event. He even made medallion stickers for everyone to wear! I’ve been a dietitian and an involved volunteer in my professional organization for 45 years. To be honored by one’s peers and celebrated by one’s friends is humbling, exciting, and made this meeting the most special one yet!

Food & Fitness After 50: Keep Active Every Day

Cibola Nat'l Forest
Barbara at Cibola National Forest

I met Barbara through exercise classes at the YMCA and volunteering at our local county library, but I didn’t really know her, and my hunch was that this 65-year old energetic, vibrant, kind woman would have lots to offer on eating well, moving well, and being well. So, I invited her to lunch and my intuition was correct. She was joining me after a visit to the assisted living facility where her father lived until his death about a year ago. She was dropping off home-made banana muffins to the staff and residents because she gained an affection for them for treating her father so well. That is a definition of a kind person!

Barbara spent her working life in administration and moved into sales for a financial product. Like many who live in this small town, she and her husband were weekenders to the lake and when they retired about 5 years ago, they moved into their lake house for full time residence. She says she is busier than ever, a refrain that is frequently heard from retirees. With five children and four grandchildren she still finds time to do the things she enjoys, mainly keeping active every day.

Move Well

shinrinyoku“I’ve always been an outdoor person,” says Barbara. ”I love being in nature and I embrace the Japanese concept of forest bathing (not bathing in the sense that we think of it), but the idea that being surrounded by trees in nature brings peace and rejuvenation.” She is right; being in the presence of trees is part of a public health program in Japan, stated in the 1980s called “shinrin-yoku” or an appreciation of nature. A walker for most of her life she enjoys hiking, pickleball, and rollerblading. “There was an office park near by my office and every day after work I would roller blade 10 miles. It was my absolute most favorite exercise! If I could find a suitable place to roller blade, I would still be doing it.”

gardening-www5At the YMCA, she can be found in 2 classes most days as well as playing pickleball on some days. “Dance aerobics, yoga, and boot camp are my go-to classes…I do one for fun and one for a tough workout.”  As member of the local botanical garden, she has learned enough to care for her garden which she calls “organized chaos,” but it keeps her outdoors, her happy place.

She has also paid more attention to her balance, something we all took for granted when we were younger. “Besides yoga, I try to work on my balance every day. I stand on one foot when brushing my teeth and practice getting up from a seated position on the floor without using my hands. I haven’t mastered that yet, but I’m trying!”

Eat Well

Family Beach 2018About 11 years ago, Barbara became a pescatarian, eating fish and seafood, and avoiding meat. “I didn’t do it for health reasons, but for environmental and ethical reasons.” She enjoys a mostly plant-based diet with lots of veggies. “I love the hydroponic lettuce that is grown here in town and I buy it by the case as a base for my daily salads.” I love to eat, but I try to control my portions and fill up on the good stuff.” She does treat herself every night to something sweet, usually dark chocolate, but is mindful of the portions.

Be Well

I used to tell my sons, “every day when you get up you can choose to have a positive attitude or choose to be a grump. I try to keep a positive attitude and always look for the good in a situation; I surround myself with positive people and have no time for negativity and complaining. That keeps me well.”

pexels-photo-319834She is an active volunteer keeping her connected to her community and provides the social aspect of being well. When we met, I encouraged her to join me in the Friends of the Library and she is now the president of our little group. She also belongs to a neighborhood dinner club and the previously mentioned botanical gardens.

Challenges

When I asked Barbara what challenges she faces, she laughed and said that number 1 was she loves food! Doesn’t seem like a challenge to me, but she explains that she when dining out or going to parties she wants to eat everything, so she practices restraint, but still enjoys all the foods.

And, despite her love of nature and being active, she says there are some days when she doesn’t want to go to an early morning exercise class. “I have a hard time giving myself permission to listen to my body and take a morning off. But my friends remind me it’s OK and I’m trying to heed their advice.”

Tips for healthy aging

Barbara offers these succinct tips to eat well, move well, and be well.

  1. Say no to diets and enjoy any food you like in moderation.
  2. Do stuff that makes you happy.
  3. Do things with people that you enjoy. The social connection is critical as we age.
  4. Aim for financial freedom; stay within your budget and don’t put yourself needlessly into debt by buying a bigger house or newer car.

I think we can all get on board with those tips!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: It’s Movember: A Movement to Raise Awareness on Prostate Cancer

Moustaches 3x. His and Hers.MuttsnuttsIn 2003, two friends in Melbourne, Australia were having a beer when they began talking about fashions and fads that have faded with time. The conversation got around to moustaches and they decided to bring back the facial hair in the month of November. Inspired by a friend’s mom who was raising funds for breast cancer research, they decided growing a mustache for prostate cancer awareness would be a unique way to capture public attention. Hence, Movember was born.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. according to the National Institute of Cancer. Since prostate cancer cells grow very slowly there are efforts to reduce growth through chemoprevention, that is compounds in foods or drugs that can slow the growth.  One of the most promising is a naturally occurring red pigment of the carotenoid family called lycopene (lye-co-peen). In plants, lycopene protects their cells from light-induced stress. Apricots, guava, and watermelon contain the compound, but they can’t beat the lycopene content in tomatoes and tomato-based products like canned tomatoes in all forms, including tomato sauce, paste, and marinara sauces. Which brings me to my favorite t-shirt, the one that gets a double take every time I wear it my exercise class. chris

Lycopene is a lipophilic, meaning it has an affinity for fat (lipids) so eating tomatoes with some fat will increase absorption. Maybe that is why a drizzle of olive oil over fresh tomatoes tastes so good. But, another way to increase lycopene absorption is through heat treatment, as in the canning process. Cooking makes lycopene about two and half times more available to the body. While there is no recommended dietary intake (RDA) for lycopene, studies show about 10-20 milligrams/day is a good bet. One cup of tomato sauce has 46 milligrams, while tomato catsup has only 2 mg per tablespoon.

Research presented at the 2016 American Institute for Cancer Research Conference “based on a systematic review of 66 population-based studies conducted over a period of more than 20 years to identify trends that indicated a relationship between tomato and lycopene consumption and prostate cancer incidence found that men who consumed higher amounts of lycopene had an 11 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those who consumed the least; highest amounts of circulating blood lycopene was also linked to a 17 percent lower risk. There was a 1 percent decrease in prostate cancer risk for each additional 1 milligram of lycopene consumed per day. An average tomato has about 3 milligrams of lycopene.”

 

Tomato Wellness Line Up

While the research is promising for slowing prostate cancer cells, it is far from conclusive, so please don’t turn to lycopene supplements, but do eat plenty of tomato-based products for not only their lycopene, but for the vitamins A and C, folate, and potassium.

For those of you who say, “I never eat processed foods,” think again when it comes to canned tomatoes. According to Alec Wasson, “chief tomato evangelist” with the Tomato Products Wellness Council, “canned tomatoes are harvested in the field and immediately whisked to a nearby processing plant, where they are sealed within 3-6 hours, capturing the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes at their peak. And since about 85% of the lycopene in our diets comes from tomatoes, canned products are easy, affordable, and versatile.”

So, as November is upon us and prostate cancer awareness is a theme for the month, enjoy eating canned tomatoes in every form this month, and the other 11 months, too. For more information on all things tomatoes and tasty recipes check out Tomato Wellness. And, for those of you who ask where you can get a cool “Legalize Marinara” FNCE 2019 Medly (1)shirt, click here. 

And, 100% of all t shirt sales goes directly to Movember Foundation.

P.S. You might know that botanically tomato is a fruit, but in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court declared tomato a vegetable (it went to the court based on a tariff dispute!)

For more on foods that fight cancer and other chronic diseases check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon or other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with the Tomato Wellness Council or any of the products shown here. I simply love tomatoes!

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat?

high_protein_diet_s4_steakI grew up eating beef. Meat was always at the center of the dinner plate, except on Fridays when we usually got fish sticks. And, when I say beef, I’m not talking about the lean beef that I encourage meat eaters to eat. Juicy meatloaf, fatty burgers, pot roasts, and roast beef were staples. Add to that, prepared meats, like bologna, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage were also in heavy rotation.

A couple of weeks ago several research papers were published that rocked the nutrition world. OK, with everything else going on in the world, it may not have made it to your newsfeed, but for dietitians it was a big deal. Basically, the studies published in The Annals of Internal Medicine seemed to reverse decades old advice that eating red meat is bad for your health. The media headlines were fast and furious casting doubt on all nutrition science and warning us that once again, nutrition researchers are flip floppers.

We dislike flip flopping….be it from a politician or a health professional.

A lot of the discourse focused on the research methodology used to conduct nutrition studies. Here’s the bottom line: it is hard to study nutrition in people. It is easy to use cell cultures (in vitro research) or animals, like mice, because you can control cells or mice. With humans, it is not so easy. (I always used to tell my students to count the legs on the research subjects before accepting the study results to apply to humans.) If you think about it, it makes sense. Let’s say I asked you to complete a very long questionnaire asking you what you ate and how often you ate it over the past six months. Most of us can’t remember what we ate yesterday, let alone over an extended period. To add to the mix, how the food was prepared is hard to recall….was the fish broiled, fried, battered, blackened, or frozen? And, what about the portion size…do you know how to distinguish a 3-ounce from a 5-ounce hamburger patty?

Another confounding issue with nutrition research is when we change our eating habits there is usually substitution involved. Let’s say you substitute ground turkey for lean ground beef in your tacos. Unless the ground turkey is ground turkey breast (which is usually more costly), the lean ground beef may have a better nutrition profile.

But, today, I don’t want to get into all the arguments for or against eating beef. Many others have written on the topic with clarity and insight. For a detailed analysis, I like this piece from Cara Rosenbloom of Toronto in the Washington Post (no relation, but we joke we are distant cousins).

Another good read on nutrition controversies, including eating meat,  comes from ConscienHealth, one of my favorite daily reads.

And, check out this post from friend and colleague, Dr. Keith Ayoob that includes a discussion of the environmental impact of beef…hint, it might be lower than you think.

What I do want to share are tips for those who choose to eat meat. And, it is a choice. I consider myself a flexitarian; I don’t eat meat every day and when I do eat meat I choose lean cuts and small portions. Here are some tips that work for me.

Lean-BeefChoose lean cuts. By definition, a lean cut has 10 grams or less of total fat and less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat in 3.5-ounce serving. A quick way to know if a cut of meat is lean is to look for the word “round” or “loin” in the name. Pork loin, ground round, eye-of-round, or sirloin are all lean cuts. A 3-ounce (size of a deck of cards) lean cut of beef or pork provides about 20 grams of high-quality protein and 10 essential nutrients. A scoop of protein powder might also give you 20 grams of protein but is devoid of other nutrients.

Honey-Mustard-and-Herb-Oven-Roasted-Pork-Loin-3Lean pork is also a high-quality meat. Yes, there are fattier cuts of pork (ribs, bacon, sausage) but pork chops or pork loins are lean and contain quality proteins, packed with vitamins and minerals.

While there several plant-based burgers on the market today (Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat) they are not nutritionally superior to lean beef burgers. Enjoy them if you want to choose less meat but don’t think they are the most healthful options.

Consider a beef-plant mixture for a burger. One of my favorite way to make burgers is to mix about 2-ounces of lean ground beef with about ½ cup of finely chopped mushrooms and form patties for the grill. The mushrooms add volume and moistness as well as sneaking in a serving of veggies.

Grill flank steak and slice and serve over a salad brimming with veggies.

thLook for healthy substitutions at the deli counter. I like Boar’s Head Pastrami Seasoned Turkey Breast; not pastrami turkey, but turkey seasoned with pastrami seasoning, as a substitute for fattier pastrami. Use the turkey to make a healthier reuben by adding sauerkraut, a slice of Swiss cheese, tangy mustard on a rye bread. ((I have no connection to Boar’s Head meats!)

Whatever you choose, remember it is the total dietary pattern that makes for good health. So, for meat eaters, keep portions in check, pile on the veggies, healthy grains, and delicious fruit to balance your meals.

For more tips on healthy food choices, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available from Amazon and other book sellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.