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Saving Lives, Saving Money

April 15, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

What’s good for the individual is good for society. That adage may not always be true, but it often is with regard to health care. But even if you accept this principle, you still have to establish the meaning of the word “good” in the realm of medicine and nutrition. This past week on Twitter I discovered several examples of “good” advice from a varied group of health experts. Some of the recommendations presented may very well surprise you.

England’s own Dr. John Briffa started the week off by proclaiming that, “Eating less saturated fat and more carbs could give you a heart attack (really)”. His statement is based primarily on a study presented in the April 7th edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That research investigated the eating habits of 53,644 men and women without heart disease. Over the course of a 12 year follow up, 1,943 of the test subjects suffered heart attacks. An analysis of the participants’ diets was conducted with a particular emphasis on the substitution of saturated fat with high or low glycemic carbohydrates. The conclusion of the population study revealed that the addition of low glycemic carbs *may* reduce the incidence of myocardial infarctions in a non-significant capacity. On the other hand, substituting higher glycemic carbs for saturated fat appears to increase the likelihood of having a heart attack. Dr. Briffa offers this insightful commentary: “What the results actually suggest, however unpalatable, is this: taking saturated fat out and putting carbohydrate in its place at best will do nothing in terms of heart attack risk, and at worst actually increases risk”. (1,2,3)

Back in the good ole United of States of America, Jimmy Moore recently embarked on a rather unique one month dietary trial. His objective was to determine whether eating a diet consisting mainly of eggs would affect his weight. A typical day on Jimmy’s “eggfest” consisted of “12 pastured eggs (960 calories) with 8 tablespoons of grass-fed butter (800 calories), and 2 ounces of raw cheddar cheese (180 calories) for a total of 1,940 calories”. After 28 days on such a program Jimmy reported a 26.6 lbs weight loss and a dramatic decline in his desire for artificially flavored and sweetened foods. He also noted a shift in his perception of food, “Today, I see food as merely fuel for my body and find enjoyment in the things of life”. Bravo to Jimmy for seeing this personal experiment through. His results are in line with my own observations. The best way to support a healthy weight and rid your diet of junk food is to focus on natural, whole foods. If you do so, your body and mind can be reminded of truly healthful eating habits. (4,5)

On Friday of this week I plan to write a column about a new form of sea salt that’s actually rich in potassium and low in sodium. I hope Dr. Andrew Weil catches my upcoming piece because I think he’d be happy to know about it. In a recent blog entry, Dr. Weil covers a presentation that was recently given at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Conference. The crux of the presentation revolved around a meta-analysis of 10 studies involving 247,719 men and women which revealed an 8% lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 19% reduced risk of stroke in those who consumed higher amounts of potassium. The press release from the AHA’s web site recommends select fruits and vegetables such as avocados and green leafy vegetables as good sources of this valuable mineral. (6,7,8)

Breastfeeding Reduces the Risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
Source: PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 3 March 2009 (link)

Dr. Orna Izakson is a beacon of positive information on Twitter. Orna is an herbalist and naturopathic physician practicing medicine in Portland, Oregon. She recently linked to a very practical news item originally published on WebMD. The topic is how to help “vegetable haters” to eat more veggies. Here are a few highlights from that column:

  • Hide vegetables in soup - “Embellish your favorite soups with added veggies. Some homemade soups already contain a nice amount of vegetables, but most canned and commercial choices can stand to have their veggie quota bumped up. I love adding carrots to chicken noodle soup, and edamame or green beans to minestrone. Just add the raw or frozen vegetables while you are cooking or heating the soup”.
  • Add vegetables to your favorite foods - “Most people like spaghetti and pizza, which makes them a good place to sneak in some vegetables. Chop any vegetables your family likes (zucchini, onions, eggplant, broccoli, celery, carrots) and add them to the spaghetti sauce. The smaller you chop them, the less likely anyone will notice that they’re there. Vegetables can also be a tempting topping for your pizza, adding fiber and nutrients. Any combination of the following will work well: fresh tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini, artichoke hearts, fresh basil leaves, and chopped spinach”.
  • Don’t use food as a prize - “Studies suggest that when we are rewarded for eating something, then the reward becomes the treat and we will not see the food itself as enjoyable. When this is standard table practice for vegetables, we’re taught indirectly that the vegetables are the punishment we have to get through to reach our reward”. (9,10,11)

Dr. Alan Greene is one of the leading voices in the integrative pediatric world. A few days ago, he tweeted about how “$13 billion (can be) saved. 911 lives too. Each year. More reasons we must do what it takes to support nursing moms”. This pointed message is based upon a current Harvard analysis that was published in the April 5th edition of the journal Pediatrics. Dr. Greene explains that increasing the number of breast fed babies would likely reduce the incidence of various childhood health threats ranging from asthma to eczema to ear infections to obesity to pneumonia and even SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). He goes on to state that, “we could save an average of $4,000 in medical costs for each baby where we delay formula to at least six months”. Providing breast milk exclusively isn’t always an option. However, Dr. Greene’s point is that it should be encouraged and enacted whenever possible. (12,13,14)

The tweets I’ve selected from Twitter this past week illustrate the breadth of information available on social networking web sites. It’s such an incredible asset to have access to personal accounts by unique individuals like Jimmy Moore and analysis from world renowned physicians such as Dr. John Briffa, Dr. Alan Greene and Dr. Andrew Weil. But what’s even more refreshing to learn about are lesser known proponents of alternative and complementary medicine, including Dr. Orna Izakson. This is an unparalleled time in human history in terms of the exchange of natural health information. I hope you’ve been enjoying the tweets I’ve been passing along every Thursday of late. But perhaps there are some figures on Twitter that I haven’t featured yet and that you’d like to see here. If so, please let me know who these people are. I want to know about them as I’m always looking for new material to share.

Be well!

JP

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14 Comments & Updates to “Saving Lives, Saving Money”

  1. anne h Says:

    It seems like common sense, but it’s pretty uncommon!

  2. JP Says:

    Indeed, Anne. Indeed. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Nina K. Says:

    Good Morning, JP :-)

    …potassium rich diet: very good! here you go http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/nutrition.pdf

    scroll down to coconut water: contains 250 mg potassium / 100ml. Very very much and soooo delicious – i know you know that ;-)

    Do you think Jimmy Moore had digestive problems? i think of “airpollution” ;-)

    Im very interested about the potassium rich sea salt, is it for cooking or bathing or both?

    Greetings,
    Nina K.

  4. JP Says:

    Good day, Nina! :)

    I love, love, love coconuts. I regularly use coconut fiber/flour and shredded coconut in my recipes.

    I don’t drink much coconut water because it’s a little high in carbs for me. However I do think it’s a wonderful drink for many diets – wonderfully hydrating.

    I’m not sure about the air quality during the “eggfest”. ;)

    The potassium-rich sea salt, of which I’ll be posting tonight, is intended for cooking. You’d simply replace all or some of the “normal” salt with this natural alternative.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Nina K. Says:

    Good Morning, JP :-)

    one add to the carbs: maybe you know that already: in Germany diabetics use the term “BrotEinheiten (BE)” for the carb content, 12g carbs = 1 BE, 2 BE=24g carbs. Its neccessary in therms of insulin injections that means 2 units insulin for 2 BEs. I or we don’t suffer from diabetes but we find it helpfull to count our carbs in that way. So we eat not more carbs than 6-8 BEs a day, allways under 100 g carbs, so thats still a antiinflammatory dosis. The carbs are most of veggis, fruits and for me sometimes from oats, lentils and whole grain toast (1 slice has 1BE).

    What i wanna say is that you can drink coconut water if you love it too, you must only watch a little bit the other carbs in your meals, than its ok.

    Wish you both a funny-sunny-and-super-duper-relaxing weekend :-)

    Your friend from the far side ;-)
    Nina K.

  6. JP Says:

    Good day, Nina! :)

    Thank you for explaining the German system of carb counting. I wasn’t aware of that. Very interesting.

    I agree with you that most beverages and foods – such as coconut water – can be worked into virtually all diets (even low carb diets). It’s also a matter of the quantity consumed.

    I wish you and your husband the same! Enjoy your days off! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Jennifer Says:

    This is a very informative and interesting site.

    I suspect that the substitution of saturated fats with high-glycemic carbs may have resulted in a lower fruit and veg intake and possibly a high intake of processed foods – but then I have not read the study. Did it say what high-glycemic carbs they used?

  8. JP Says:

    Jennifer,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the full text of the study. All we have to go on is the substitution of low vs high glycemic carbs for saturated fat in general.

    If the full text becomes available soon, I’ll replace the abstract link with the full text version – and then add some additional details to this column.

    Thanks for the great question!

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Dana Says:

    High-glycemic carbs are bad any old way you look at it. Doesn’t matter which ones they used. You’re basically diluting your micronutrient nutrition with a bunch of sugar that your body is going to have to get rid of, since excess glucose is toxic.

    It’s been known information among researchers for years that diabetes and heart disease are two sides of the same coin. Even if you are not officially diagnosed diabetic, if you have blood pressure or cholesterol issues, you are on the same metabolic spectrum as type 2 diabetics and could easily wind up with it if your doctor puts you on the typical low-fat diet to address the cholesterol. Yes, even if you’re slender.

    Saturated fat is needed for so many bodily structures and processes that the replacement of it with high-glycemic foods in the American diet is not the only problem. The fatty acid profile in our diets has also suffered and we find ourselves struggling with hormonal imbalance, infertility, and mental health problems among other issues. This is all related to fat intake and quality of fat eaten. The best thing the “experts” could do for human health is to admit they were wrong about saturated fat causing disease, and encourage us to eat it liberally.

    I suspect saturated fat even has a protective effect in a diet that’s relatively high in starch. Think back to what Americans ate in the 1700s and 1800s, and even early in the 20th century before the low-fat anti-cholesterol dietary dogma took hold. Heart disease was not difficult to diagnose. If nothing else, they could do an autopsy afterward and see the clots in the person’s arteries. But there was less heart disease than there is today, and they ate pounds and pounds of butter and lard year after year, right next to their wheat-flour bread and biscuits.

    I like to say that part of what trips us up as a civilization is that we focus too much on how we think things ought to be, rather than observe them as they are, and work with “what is.” Possibly nowhere is this more true than in the area of diet.

  10. JP Says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments, Dana! Thank you for sharing them with us. It seems as though we have a similar dietary philosophy. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  11. Jennifer Says:

    One important factor about the saturated fat eaten in days of yore was that it came from grass-fed animals, whereas today most farm animals are grain-fed. There are nutritional differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef, and the milk that comes from the cows, that impact health. These include a beneficial omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in grass-fed beef plus the presence of the cis form of conjugated linoleic acid which is beneficial in preventing heart disease.

    The other major factor in the rise of heart disease was the introdction of margarine (hydrogenated fat) in the late 1800′s and early 1900s. Coronary artery disease was very rare at the beginning of the 20th centuary and only took off in the mid-1920s. In fact the inventor of the ECG was initially told that it wasa a useless invention as there was no need for it.

  12. JP Says:

    Jennifer,

    You make some very important points. Eating a whole food diet is something to strive for. But eating whole foods that are grown and raised in a traditional manner is even better, IMO. What could be more natural than that?

    Be well!

    JP

  13. orna izakson Says:

    “Beacon of positive information on Twitter” — you’re too kind! Thanks, JP, for mentioning me and for all your great work!

  14. JP Says:

    You’re most welcome, Orna! :)

    Thank you for all positive work you’re doing!

    Be well!

    JP

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