Friday, February 17, 2017

“Food and Fear: How to Find Facts in Today’s Culture of Alarmism”

What a great title! That was the title of a great conversation held last night in the Clark-Fox Forum here on the Wash U campus. The conversation lasted not quite two hours and it covered topics ranging from food, farming, technology, hunger, where do we go next and many other issues.

The panel who offered their expertise before opening the conversation to the audience included - Dr Liza Dunn, @DrLizaMD, an Emergency Medicine Physician, Medical Toxicologist and Medical Outreach Lead for Monsanto; Lora Iannotti, PhD, Associate professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work; Joni Kamiya, @hifarmersdtr, an occupational therapist and farmer blogger; Steve Savage, PhD,@grapedoc, a plant pathologist and consultant in the areas of plant genetics and sustainability and Amanda Zaluckyj ESQ, @farmsdaughterusa, a practicing attorney and agriculture blogger.

The presentations and the conversation demonstrated how confused most consumers are when it comes to how their food gets to their table; how anxious people are about what is “right” to eat, and how this fear and confusion is impacting what people eat – sometimes to the point of triggering poor nutritional intake.

An almost two hour conversation can’t be easily condensed but some key outcomes.
1.      This conversation is just starting
2.      Education on how to separate “fake news” – in terms of food – from the science of food is desperately needed
3.      Understanding the issue of food and nutrition to help prevent malnutrition is a growing priority – 48 million people are undernourished
4.      Nourishment is more than just calories, it is about the nutrients

My take-away – it’s time for all involved with food to step back and then sit down and talk the science of food and how we help share that science, in a usable manner, with consumers. Where will you be in that next step?

Connie Diekman, MEd., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA, FAND

Nutrition Communication Consultant 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Facts on Fats

The recent media blitz around butter and health or even cheese and heart health can make it very difficult to know – what should I eat, how much is okay and are these foods okay in an eating plan aimed at promoting heart health?

Science is constantly evolving and this is why dietary recommendations can, and do, change but what is important to remember is that single studies should never be the trigger for eating behavior changes. In light of a recent conference, where I was a sponsored attendee, there was a session on this topic so it is very timely to talk about dairy fat and health.

Starting at the beginning, the issue with dairy fat is that science has long looked at animal fats – meat,  poultry, eggs and dairy fat – for the amount of saturated fat that they contain. Saturated fats have long been shown to be triggers for elevated LDL, or bad, cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease. Dietary guidelines throughout the world have been developed based on this evidence and all currently recommend some level of limitation of saturated fat.   All fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, are made up of a variety of fatty acids so most foods contain a mix of saturated fats and a mix of unsaturated fats, often you will hear them referred to as fatty acids. What has long been known is that different fatty acids act differently in the body and therefore have different impacts on blood cholesterol. However, since we eat foods and not individual fatty acids, dietary guidance has long been focused on the impact of the whole food on health or on the risk of heart disease.

With all of this background where does that get us on the issue of dairy fat and health? The bottom-line right now is that different saturated fatty acids affect our blood lipid levels differently with most causing not only an increase in levels of ‘bad’ LDL, but also in concentrations of HDL, the good cholesterol. Some small scale studies have shown little impact on heart disease mortality when the saturated fat consumed was from dairy foods, and from cheese in particular But more studies are needed to determine if the impact is related to the cheese consumption or to the saturated fat content of the whole diet. When discussing how to include foods that contain saturated fat in the diet the key is what foods you consume in place of them and right now the evidence points to including plant fats – nuts, oils and seeds – in place of saturated fatty acids. If you love cheese, you can include it in a heart healthy eating plan but you need to know how to balance the saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats and talking with a Registered Dietitian might be a good idea to achieve that goal.

The adage might seem trite but all foods can fit in a healthy eating plan it is a matter of portions, balance among the foods and remembering that no food will offer magical health benefits or be the single cause of disease. #fatfacts #registereddietitiancanhelp #dairyfatupdate #communciatesoundscience