Monthly Archives: April 2017

April Nutrition Nuggets


April’s Nutrition Nuggets have been very interesting. I had quite a few to choose from. Of course the one that intrigued me most was about coffee ūüôā I will start with that one & end with my other favorite subject; the Mediterranean¬†diet. But don’t miss out on the fish & frozen veggie guides along with other nutritional information.

As much as I love coffee, this article worried, no, actually scared me a bit. Only in the USA is “more” better.¬†¬†KTLA5:¬†Black Insomnia: ‚ÄėWorld‚Äôs Strongest Coffee‚Äô Now Available in¬†U.S.¬†“The ‚Äúworld‚Äôs strongest coffee‚ÄĚ is now available in the US, but just one cup could spill you over the daily caffeine limit….‚ÄúIf you want to stand out, you need to be the ‚Äėest‚Äô ‚ÄĒ the biggest, smartest, strongest, or cheapest,‚ÄĚ said Black Insomnia founder Sean Kristafor. ‚ÄúSo when we wanted to compete in coffee, as a caffeine product, we had to be the strongest, but obviously, we don‚Äôt exceed the world guidelines.‚ÄĚ

At $19/pound you get this….‚ÄúFor the same amount of coffee, you will get double the amount of caffeine,‚ÄĚ said Mary Sweeney, who researches the effects of caffeine at John Hopkins School of Medicine.

‚ÄúThis makes it easier to consume more caffeine than you intend to and effects can range from mild to severe, for example, jitteriness, nervousness, restlessness and trouble sleeping. The most serious effect would be cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).‚ÄĚ

Kallmyer calls Black Insomnia and its competitor, supposedly the second world‚Äôs strongest coffee Death Wish, ‚Äúinsanely strong coffees.‚Ä̬†I think I will take a pass on this coffee.¬†

Black Insomnia has 720 mgm of caffeine per 12 ounce cup! Starbucks Blonde Roast has 475 mgm in a 20 ounce Vente cup. Here is a chart to check the caffeine in your favorite coffee, tea, soda or energy drink: Caffeine Chart from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

According to the Mayo Clinic:¬†Caffeine: How much is too much?¬†¬†Mar 8, 2017 – Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks.¬†

Looks like all the health benefits of coffee would be nil with one 12 ounce cup of Black Insomnia or Death Wish. With names like that it will appeal to some people. Insanely bad choice ūüôĀ

While we are on the subject of drinks. This newest study regarding artificial sweeteners in diet soda’s is interesting. I want to warn¬†you that more research is needed & that a direct link has not been established. As the article states, it only shows an association.¬†

CBS News: Diet soda study looks at dementia, heart risks  Apr 21, 2017:  Much has been written about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages; research has linked sugary drinks to a number of serious health risks, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and an early death.

Now, new research suggests diet drinks with artificial sweeteners may have some health concerns of their own.¬†According to a new study published Thursday in the American Heart Association‚Äôs journal Stroke, people who drank at least one artificially-sweetened beverage a day had almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia.¬†The researchers caution that the study only shows an association — it does not prove that diet drinks actually cause stroke or dementia. Still, they say the study warrants more research in the area.”¬†

The study prompted the following, unsurprising, reaction: The American Beverage Association issued the following statement in response to the study: 

Low-calorie sweeteners have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities as well as hundreds of scientific studies and there is nothing in this research that counters this well-established fact. The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion ‚Äď they are safe for consumption.

While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not ‚Äď and cannot ‚Äď prove cause and effect.

The above statement is true, but, anecdotal evidence has shown a different story. I believe that water should be your first choice of a drink, but when you just need a Coke or Pepsi, then drink a regular one. Have 8 – 12 ounces only. No refills & no “BIG GULPS”. Skip the diet drinks. Revisit my post on Artificial Sweeteners.¬†

For more information see Additional Resources at the end of this post.

Here is some much needed GOOD NEWS! Hooray! NBC News: Trans Fat Ban Saved Lives in New York, Study Shows¬†“Heart attacks and strokes fell by more than 6 percent three years after some New York counties banned trans fats, researchers reported Wednesday.”¬†Nothing to add to that ūüôā

I have given you links to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site before; here is another good guide for those of you who eat fish.  

Click here for the guide:¬†A Safe Guide to Eating Fish, April 13, 2017,¬†“Need the straight scoop on fish that‚Äôs safe to eat and what you should absolutely avoid? Get this comprehensive list of good (healthy and sustainable) and bad (high mercury levels, over harvested) seafood, from¬†***The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.”¬†Informative & well written.¬†

***Link to the book at end of post.

This is another helpful¬†guide that EWG just came out with.¬†EWG’s:¬†5 Fabulous Finds in the Frozen Food Aisle¬†Health experts often advise shoppers to cling to the outer edges of the grocery store – where they can find fresh produce and less-processed foods. But, while fresh food is typically the best option, you don’t need to bypass all options in the frozen aisle.

In fact, a 2016 study¬†found that frozen food can help dramatically decrease your household’s food waste.¬†We scoured our Food Scores database to find five great options in the frozen food aisle that maximize nutrition, and can save you time and money.”¬†As you scroll to the bottom of the article you will find a box with good information on “How to Microwave Wisely.”

I keep frozen organic corn & peas in my freezer. They are great to throw into my vegetarian soup, pot of beans or stew. They are also simple & fast side dishes. Having healthy, frozen choices is just the ticket on those days when we are just too tired to cook. 

Last but not least, the Mediterranean diet. I am including this article I found in the health news a few days ago because it included a link to a chart I thought you might be interested in. First, the article.

(HealthDay News) —Get to Know the Mediterranean Diet¬†“The diet followed by people who live in countries around the Mediterranean Sea has been shown to be more than just delicious. The so-called Mediterranean diet can help you limit daily calories so you can lose weight. Plus, it’s a healthy long-term way of eating.

The main focus of the Mediterranean diet is on eating plant-based foods. That means including fruits and vegetables in every meal, and eating them for snacks and dessert, too.

Switch from refined to whole-grain foods, including breads, cereal, rice and pasta. Also add legumes like peas and beans. Try to eat a vegetarian dinner one or two nights a week.

People who successfully lose weight while following a Mediterranean diet generally get about a third of their calories from healthy fats, including a small handful of nuts each day.

The chart from on the Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, mentioned in the article:  Appendix 4. USDA Food Patterns: Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern has the daily portions of food in each food group by your calorie intake. It has 12 calorie levels. Useful to see how much you should eat based on 1,000 to 3,200 calories a day.

Here is a new recipe for you: This Cauliflower Fried Rice Bowl Will Make You Forget About Takeout Forever  I need to try this one. Looks so good!

It has come to my attention thru an email that I may need to reiterate my focus for this website. As I have said on the welcome page:

“I have always felt that we need to be our own advocates when it comes to our health. We need to make choices that fit our personal lifestyles, culture, gender, age and physical well-being. We are not a statistic! One size does not fit all! Each one of us is a unique¬†individual on our own unique path. Your path happens to include cancer.

Educating yourself abut your disease will be the strongest tool in your arsenal against cancer. That is where this site comes in. Stay updated here. Learn about nutrition do‚Äôs and don‚Äôts. Find food facts to help you eat healthy, and discover new tools to add to your cancer-fighting tool box.”

I would like to add that what I choose for my personal well-being is not going to be the same as you. We each walk our own path. I am here to give ¬†you the most up to date, scientifically based, nutrition information available. Using today’s post as an example, if you choose to eat fish then I want to give you the information to make a healthy choice. When I was a child, I refused to eat meat & seafood because I didn’t like the texture, the smell & the taste. Much to my parents chagrin ūüôā I was a natural born vegetarian. Views about nutrition came much later.¬†

I am not here to add stress to your life, quite the opposite, I want to help you to see that a healthy, balanced diet is not that difficult whether you are vegetarian, vegan, flexatarian, Paleo, Gluten Free, or omnivore. Okay, I am off the soap box.

Now for my last cup of coffee of the day…Mary ūüôā

Additional Resources 


Clean Eating~are there risks?


I was listening to NPR’s A Way With Words¬†last week when the term “clean sandwich” came up.¬†Host Martha Barnette mentioned the following: Some restaurants now advertise that they sell “clean” sandwiches. But that doesn’t mean they’re condiment-free or the lettuce got an extra rinse…. In the food industry, the word “clean” is taking on a whole new meaning. The word clean, as in clean food, has taken on a whole new life as a buzzword describing food free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, or added color. A restaurant chain now boasts clean sandwiches, and the topic is now covered by the magazine Clean Eating.”¬†“Clean” has taken over the word “Green” & is gaining momentum. Green energy is now clean energy. Green eating is now clean eating. Are there real risks with clean eating?

This concept of clean eating has really taken off recently. A series of clean eating guide books & cookbooks, by Tosca Reno, started in 2007. It is said that she invented the clean eating diet based on her own experiences losing over 70 pounds. Here is a review of her book from 2016.¬†WebMD:¬†The Eat-Clean Diet: Diet Review¬†¬†“It sounds so simple and so trendy. ‚ÄúThe Eat-Clean Diet is a lifestyle way of eating that allows you to eat more, weigh less, and become the healthiest you can be,‚ÄĚ says Tosca Reno, author of The Eat-Clean Diet series.”¬†

The Eat-Clean Diet: What You Can Eat.¬†Foods allowed include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nonfat dairy, and healthy fats — preferably organic and eaten in proper portions every few hours.

The Eat-Clean Diet recommends avoiding all saturated fat, trans fats, overprocessed, refined foods — especially white flour, sugar, sugar-loaded colas, juices, and alcohol.

The bottom line:¬†“The Eat-Clean Diet is a pure approach of healthy eating and exercise taken to the extreme. It is so structured, restrictive, and unrealistic that it may be difficult to follow long term. Take the questionable advice peppered throughout the book with a grain of salt, as there are lots of inaccuracies that are more opinion than scientific evidence.¬†The best part of The Eat-Clean Diet is the motivation, nutrient-rich recipes, and meal plans that can help dieters shift toward including more healthy wholesome foods into their menus.”¬†I looked at her cookbooks & they are very nice.¬†

Here are the guidelines from her website: Tosca Reno 

  • Eat Clean foods only:¬†whole, nutrient dense, well-sourced and properly prepared¬†Excellent.¬†
  • Avoid all refined foods including sugar, refined grain products and fats¬†Good advice.
  • Eat several smaller meals per day spaced 21/2 to 3 hours apart (about 6 per day)¬†Difficult to do if you are on the move.
  • Never skip a meal especially breakfast¬†We agree with that.
  • Adjust portion sizes to suit your body and physical output¬†Hmm, interesting concept. Not sure we can be unattached enough for that one ūüôā
  • Combine healthy fats + lean protein + complex carbohydrates in each meal¬†Ok, that works for “My Plate”.
  • Consume healthy fats,¬†even those that are saturated¬†Good.
  • Drink 2 – 3 litres of water per day¬†¬†3 litres = 12.75 cups.

After reading her site I agree with the WebMD review. It is too difficult to follow because it is so structured. But, I do like her guidelines & her recipes are wonderful! 

Here is another point of view. According to¬†the vegan website OneGreenPlanet: What is Clean Eating¬†“In short, clean eating is saying goodbye to excess ingredients and getting back to the basics. Rather than focusing on the banning of foods like a diet does, the clean eating lifestyle focuses on making choices that naturally drive you toward consuming whole, unprocessed, unrefined, honest to goodness foods. Think of it as stepping away from the apple flavored Poptart, moving back to the applesauce, and then eventually back to the apple itself.”¬†Dare I mention the Mediterranean diet here? ūüôā

“Eating clean is among the more prominent buzz phrases being used in nutrition circles. Although you won‚Äôt find a textbook definition of what this means, there are countless ways to put this idea into action. It can be as simple as swapping out ingredients and making small changes or more complex with meal plans and lifestyle choices. For example, If you like to make fruit smoothies, try bumping up your veggies by adding a handful of spinach. Try and progress to multiple handfuls and get to the point where greens are the base of your mixtures. Eating more greens will also help cut down on saturated fat. This is another area where substitutions can reap benefits for body, heart and mind. When preparing salads with a mixture of brightly-colored vegetables, use nutritional yeast instead of cheese. You don‚Äôt have to ditch the desserts; many treats can be prepared with avocados, black beans or sweet potatoes.”

This makes more sense. Make a start by slowly increasing your vegetables & fruits in your meals, thus guiding you towards a balanced, plant based way of eating. Their recipes are simple & tasty. Worth a look.

So what happens when it is taken to the extreme & becomes too restrictive? In the UK, the National Osteoporosis¬†Society did a survey of young peoples diets.¬†The charity surveyed 2,000 adults, including 239 under the age of 25 and 339 aged 25-35.¬†BBC Health:¬†Dairy-free diets warning over risk to bone health¬†“A National Osteoporosis Society survey found a fifth of under-25s are cutting out or reducing dairy in their diet…..The charity’s survey suggests that many young people seek dietary advice from bloggers and vloggers on the internet.”¬†This article is talking about clean eating & becoming vegan.

Unfortunately young people look to the internet for answers rather than professionals, like a dietitian. Being vegan is a big step. Learning about the basic nutritional requirements to maintain a healthy body is a must with any diet but especially one that is restrictive. In this case cutting out dairy.

“A spokeswoman from the British Nutrition Foundation said: “While it’s not necessarily dangerous to cut out dairy from your diet it’s important to ensure you get enough calcium from other sources.”¬†The people surveyed¬†didn’t balance their diet enough to continue to get the calcium needed. This is especially¬†important to younger people who are still developing their bone health. The survey showed that 1/4 of the teens in the UK consume less than 400 mgm of calcium a day. 1000 mgm a day is the minimum requirement for that age group.¬†

“Dairy tends to make the biggest contribution to our calcium intakes and so this needs to be replaced by other sources such as bread, cereal, canned fish, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables as well as choosing dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium.”¬†Check out my topic page for Calcium¬†sources.

I see no risk associated¬†with this idea of eating clean, as long as it is a way of saying that you are going back to the basics of eating a whole food diet. It isn’t a new concept just a new buzzword. We should be grateful, because this means going out to eat will be healthier. A clean sandwich sounds good now!

From Clean Eating Magazine¬†~click on link for more recipes~¬†A Better Monte Cristo Sandwich¬†Ditch the traditional butter-fried Monte Cristo for a healthier, tastier take. Saut√©ed turkey, pear, baby spinach and low-fat Swiss spare the fat but not the flavor”¬†

Serves: 4,  Hands-on time: 15 minutes,  Total time: 15 minutes


  • 1 lb turkey breast scallopine (thinly sliced turkey), cut into 4-oz pieces
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 2 tbsp skim milk
  • Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 slices whole-grain bread
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 4 1-oz slices low-fat Swiss cheese


  1. In a small bowl, season turkey with 1 tsp oil, oregano, salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey and sauté until light golden at edges and fully cooked throughout, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg whites and milk. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Set aside.
  4. Spread about 1 tsp (adjust to taste) Dijon mustard on 1 side of each bread slice and place, Dijon side up, onto a flat work surface. Layer equal parts spinach, pear and turkey onto 4 slices of bread. Top each stack with 1 slice cheese and another slice of bread, Dijon side down, pressing gently.
  5. In a medium nonstick sauté pan, heat remaining tsp oil over medium heat.
  6. Using a spatula, carefully dip 1 side of a sandwich into egg mixture (egg mixture should go about halfway up the bread slice when immersed). With your hand on the top of the sandwich and spatula underneath, carefully flip to immerse the other side in egg, then gently transfer to hot pan. Sauté sandwich, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes total. Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Nutrients per sandwich: Calories: 420, Total Fat: 7 g, Sat. Fat: 2 g, Omega-3s: 160 mg, Omega-6s: 1,270 mg, Carbs: 34 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 53 g, Sodium: 750 mg, Cholesterol: 105 mg

TIP: Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and use it to transfer dipped sandwiches to sauté pan.

From the magazine:¬†Clean Eating Recipes¬†Check out the latest Clean Eating recipes¬≠‚Äďfeaturing whole, unprocessed foods‚Äďto help you stay on track from morning till night. From gluten-free dishes to clean vegetarian recipes,¬†we‚Äôve got loads of meals¬†that are low in calories and sugar but high in protein, essential nutrients and healthy fats ‚Äď like our Hungarian chicken polenta recipe, our cheesy butternut squash bake recipe, and our decadent chocolate pudding recipe. Trust us, eating clean recipes like these will help keep you on track.”

¬†Now when you are asked what kind eating style you follow, you can say; “clean eating the Mediterranean¬†way!” Until next week…Mary ūüôā


Strengthening Your Immune System

We recently added a new educational page on the San Diego Cancer Research Institute website:¬†Current Integrative Research & News.¬†“With all the new and exciting Integrative Medicine research and news out there, SDCRI has decided to start sharing any relevant and interesting articles that we discover.”¬†

The first article we shared was¬†Cancer Is Partly Caused By Bad Luck, Study Finds.¬†This article is very important.¬†“Cancer can be caused by tobacco smoke or by an inherited trait, but new research finds that most of the mutations that lead to cancer crop up naturally…. Science agrees that 40% of cancers are preventable. The rest, according to this study, are mutations of the cells that are caused by random error.¬†“… 66 percent of the total mutations are random, about 29 percent are due to the environment and the remaining five percent are due to heredity.”¬†

Why am I sharing¬†this on our nutrition¬†site? Because the article suggests that 66% percent of cancers are not your fault, which is good to know, but it also says that there was nothing you could do to change the outcome. The article should give you some peace of mind knowing that the Snickers bar you succumbed to while pursuing the ultimate healthy lifestyle didn’t cause your cancer. It simply was not your fault. Does this mean¬†that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t necessarily help?¬†

Every person is unique. Each of us has a medical history to some degree. This medical history has an impact on your immune system. A compromised immune system opens up your risk of other opportunistic diseases & maybe even that cell that went crazy & has become cancerous. Having a healthy lifestyle may not change the crazy cell mutation but it can prevent other medical issues & it can strengthen your immune system. 

We tend to think of medical terms as being one entity & having one definition. For example cancer. Cancer is an umbrella term for many kinds of cell mutations that act differently, effect different parts of the body & respond to different treatments. The same for immune system. The article below explains it very well. “Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity” or otherwise boost the health of your immune system. Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease. Demonstrating whether an herb ‚ÄĒ or any substance, for that matter ‚ÄĒ can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. Scientists don’t know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.”¬†To understand how to strengthen your overall immune system the following article is a must read.

The Harvard Medical School Publication website published this comprehensive article: How to boost your immune system: Tips to fight disease and strengthen immunity Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.¬†Funny how this pops up on every list ūüôā¬†I like what the author says under “What about diet”:¬†Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Healthy immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment.”
  • Exercise regularly.¬†For those of you in treatment¬†experiencing fatigue, this could be walking to your mailbox once a day.¬†
  • Maintain a healthy weight.¬†A healthy weight for you.
  • Control your blood pressure. Stress reduction therapies can help to lower your blood pressure:¬†Yoga, mindfulness meditation, support groups & art for example.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
  • Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.

Continue reading the article, click here, for even more detailed information.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Eating Well During Cancer site has several links to helpful articles. Here are two of them that would enhance your healthy lifestyle goal.

  • The Cancer-Nutrition Link:¬†Eating a balanced diet means primarily choosing minimally processed and natural foods. In addition, drinking plenty of water and choosing plant-based or lean protein (fish, low-fat dairy, lean meats) is part of a balanced diet.¬†A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be 100% plants or vegan, but it can be if you wish. The goal is for a majority of the foods you are eating to come from plants. These foods include bright, colorful fruits and vegetables. But they can also include other foods, such as spices, herbs and seasonings, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, and legumes.”
  • Why a Balanced, Plant-Based Diet Is Good for Your Health:¬†“Good nutrition also plays a critical role during cancer treatment and needs to be an important part of your overall treatment plan. The foods you eat have an impact on your health on a daily basis, from increasing your energy level to supporting your immune system. Eating a healthy, minimally processed, plant-based diet not only benefits your overall health, but can also help you manage symptoms during treatment and promote survivorship.”

An article in Time: Health, published 3 years ago, is relevant to our topic today.¬†¬†Processed Food Hurts Your Immune System‚ÄĒAnd Your Kids’ Too¬†Society’s over-indulgence on foods full of sugar, salt and fat may be ruining our immune systems, a new study says.¬†A study published in Nutrition Journal ¬†looked at the impact the Western diet and lifestyle has on people’s immune function. It found that the large number of calories in processed and fast food may lead to health problems such as increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.”¬†

Whether or not your particular cancer could have been avoided or not is no longer an issue at this point. What is an issue is your immunity. Rather than focusing on why you have cancer, focus on building a strong immune system. The solution to strengthening your immunity is to move towards a healthy lifestyle. 

As we have discussed in nearly every post; make one change at a time. Rather than trying to replace what you consider “bad habits”, add healthy habits. When you make & focus on positive changes you will find the “bad habits” disappearing on their own. Give it a try!¬†

Added Resources & Recipes:

For you smoothie lovers, here is an addition to my post, Cholesterol & Cholesterol Fighting Foods ; information about lowering your cholesterol & smoothie recipes to help in that endeavor: Lower Your Cholesterol With These 7 Smoothie Recipes  I want to thank Jennifer Pelegreen, editor of  Easy Healthy Smoothie , for bringing their site to my attention.

Another website brought to my attention by Natasha Goins, the content editor, is:  positivehealthwellness Check out their healthy recipes!

Passover begins Monday, April 10th. Here are some interesting recipes that were in a couple of newsletters I received: Healthy Paleo Passover Recipes & The Nosher website with Passover recipes that are also vegetarian.

Until next week…Mary ūüôā

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Really Linked to Diabetes?

The gluten-free diet seems to be in the news every week. There is even a new medical term for those who avoid gluten, PWAG’s;¬†people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. According to Joseph Murry, M.D., a celiac disease researcher at the Mayo Clinic, 3.1 million Americans are PWAG’s.¬†

Dr. Murry & colleagues¬†published a study in January this year. The study’s objective:¬†“To investigate the trends in the prevalence of diagnosed celiac disease (CD), undiagnosed CD, and people without celiac disease avoiding gluten (PWAG) in the civilian noninstitutionalized US population from 2009 to¬†2014.”¬†This study has led to discussions as to why PWAGs are avoiding gluten & is this trend causing nutritional deficiencies.¬†¬†

The Washington Post article about this study,¬†Why the ‚Äėgluten-free movement‚Äô is less of a fad than we thought¬†, states that the researchers really didn’t expect the results they saw. At the time, they didn’t think to ask the participants why they were avoiding gluten. The number of people with Celiac disease has decreased but the number of people avoiding gluten has increased, tripling between 2009 & 2014. ¬†Whatever the motivations of the PWAGs, Lebwohl said, he‚Äôs hopeful that their growth will spark more discussion of the complex questions that still surround gluten intolerance. As hot as gluten-free has gotten in the past 10 years, the research behind non-celiac gluten sensitivity remains ‚Äútremendously uncertain. “The science is in its infancy still,‚ÄĚ Lebwohl said. ‚ÄúWe need to take these patients seriously in order to nail down their problems.‚Ä̬†This is a very good article for those of you who are gluten sensitive.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It causes bread and other baked goods to feel stretchy when worked with; especially when kneaded. After being baked it gives the products a chewy texture.

What is Celiac Disease? ¬†from the Celiac Disease Foundation:¬†“When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. The only treatment currently for celiac disease is a strict, gluten-free diet. Most patients report symptom improvement within a few weeks, although intestinal healing may take several years.”¬†Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease.

Gluten sensitivity, according to the Beyond Celiac website,¬†“has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease.¬†

Gluten sensitivity shares many symptoms with celiac disease. However, according to a collaborative report published by Sapone et al. (2012),¬† individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity have a prevalence of extraintestinal or non-GI symptoms, such as headache, ‚Äúfoggy mind,‚ÄĚ joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. Symptoms typically appear hours or days after gluten has been ingested, a response typical for innate immune conditions like non-celiac gluten sensitivity.¬†Internationally, Celiac researchers have decided that the correct term to use is gluten sensitivity not gluten intolerance. They are one & the same.

The latest research has suggested that a gluten-free diet is linked to developing type 2 diabetes. I have cited several articles about this in the Resources below.

There is a link between the auto-immune disorder, celiac disease & type 1 diabetes. This is because type 1 diabetes is also an auto-immune disease & is genetically similar to celiac. People with type 1 should be tested for celiac disease. There is not an increase in type 2 diabetes with celiacs. Type 2 is not auto-immune in nature. You can read more about this here: Diabetic Living: Gluten and Diabetes: Is There a Connection? 

So, what is all this new fuss about? Do you remember the Nurses Health Studies 1 & 2? From the Nurses Health Study¬†website:¬†“The Nurses’ Health Studies are among the largest prospective investigations into the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women.¬†

Starting with the original Nurses’ Health Study in 1976, the studies are now in their third generation with Nurses’ Health Study 3 (which is still enrolling male and female nurses) and count more than 275,000 participants. Learn about the history of the Studies.

Due to their unique strengths, including regular follow-up of study participants since 1976 and repeated assessment of health and lifestyle factors, the studies have played an instrumental role in shaping public health recommendations. Also, the studies’ investigators are leaders in developing and evaluating questionnaire-based methods to assess a variety of factors, such as diet, physical activity, and adiposity.”

It is from these studies that the supposed link between gluten-free diets & type 2 diabetes is based. The problem with this is that none of the participants in the groups from the 70’s & 80’s, were aware of the gluten-free idea. The trend came along much later. An article in Popular Science:¬†Gluten-free diets are not actually linked to diabetes¬†clarifies this.¬†“People who eat low gluten diets are at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, according to results presented on Thursday at the American Heart Association Meeting. It‚Äôs crucial to point out here that these researchers weren‚Äôt looking at people on gluten-free diets. The researchers were only studying associations between eating less gluten and getting diabetes. Their study size was massive‚ÄĒ199,794 people‚ÄĒbecause they looked at data from three of the largest long-term studies in the United States: the Nurses‚Äô Health Study, the Nurses‚Äô Health Study II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These studies have been following hundreds of thousands of medical professionals for decades, gathering data of all kinds about their lifestyles and overall health, with the intention of understanding more about disease risk. That gives scientists a plethora of data to figure out what lifestyle factors make you more likely to get particular diseases.

When these studies began in the ‚Äė70s and ‚Äė80s, though, gluten-free diets weren‚Äôt a thing. They were a thing if you were among the less than one percent of people with celiac disease, but beyond that most people had never even heard the word ‚Äúgluten.‚ÄĚ So instead the researchers had to estimate gluten intake based on the study participants’ answers to questionnaires about their diet, and then look to see how many people who ate low or high gluten diets ended up with type 2 diabetes. To be clear: there was no data in this study about people who totally abstained from gluten. None. This study was not about gluten free diets, it was about low versus high gluten consumption as estimated from surveys taken mostly at a time when gluten free food options were few and far between. And most importantly, it cannot say anything about gluten free diets because it did not study anyone actually on a gluten free diet. It can say that eating less gluten is unlikely to decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, but that’s pretty much it.”¬†We also have to remember that the people in the study were self reporting what they ate. The downside is that some of them couldn’t remember how many grapes or oranges or slices of bread they ate that day & answered to the best of their knowledge. Not always accurate.

In an article from¬†Health Line:¬†Low-Gluten Diet May Be Linked to Diabetes Risk¬†the subject of fiber was raised:¬†“Smith is not alone in suggesting a possible link between type 2 diabetes and a low-gluten diet could in fact be due to restricted fiber intake.¬†Susan Weiner, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, holds a similar view on the research.

‚ÄúMy initial thought is that people who restricted gluten [also] restricted fiber from whole grains as well in their quest to limit their gluten intake,‚ÄĚ Weiner told Healthline.¬†‚ÄúAdditionally, if they ate cake, crackers, and cookies which were gluten free without looking at carbohydrates or calories, that could have caused an increase in weight associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The cause is not conclusive, but this seems likely.‚Ä̬†When gluten-free became a trend, companies added fat, sugar & salt to make their processed products more palatable. Gluten-free, yes, healthy, no.¬†

Of those who participated in the study, individuals who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, which is considered a protective factor against the development of type 2 diabetes. Weiner says it is important those who follow a gluten-free diet ensure they are not eating too much processed food.

‚ÄúWhen folks go ‚Äėgluten free‚Äô for reasons other than a legitimate reason such as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, they often purchase processed gluten-free foods such as cookies, crackers, and chips. These foods have low nutritional value, pack on calories, and are low in fiber,‚ÄĚ she told Healthline.¬†‚ÄúThe health consequences of following a gluten-free diet composed primarily of processed foods can lead to weight gain and detrimental long-term consequences associated with low fiber intake,‚ÄĚ she said.”¬†I agree with this idea. I think it is a good explanation for the link. Eating a gluten-free diet can be easy but you must plan in advance. You need to make sure you are getting adequate fiber intake & that you are not eating a lot of processed foods.¬†

Based on the research so far, I would say that there is no direct link between gluten-free diets & type 2 diabetes. The link appears¬†to be the lack of fiber & weight gain due to processed foods. This would be the same outcome with any “unbalanced diet”. I would recommend that no matter what diet you are following, you make sure that you get the recommended daily allowance of fiber & limit the processed foods.¬†

I found this article from¬†Gluten-Free & More: The Gluten-Free Quick-Start Guide,¬†useful for beginners.Here’s a simple overview of the gluten-free (GF) diet. We want to provide you with a list of gluten-free and glutenous foods to get you started on your journey without wheat. Keep in mind that not all areas of the diet are as clear-cut as portrayed by this guide, which is intended to be used as a safe and temporary survival tool until you can obtain additional information. Understanding these dietary requirements, however, will enable the newly diagnosed to read labels of food products and determine if a product is gluten-free.¬†Products do not have to carry the Gluten-free sticker. Read the labels.

Eating Well:¬†Starting a Gluten-Free Diet: A Beginner’s Guide¬†is another useful site. There are also links to recipes¬†at the bottom of the page.¬†Maybe eliminating gluten-containing foods just helps you feel better‚ÄĒsomething the estimated 18 million Americans who suffer from gluten sensitivity can attest to. No matter what your reasoning, starting a gluten-free diet the right way can keep you happy, healthy and satisfied.¬†The author states that 18 million people suffer from gluten sensitivity but didn’t provide a source for the figure. She did site a Gallup Pole:¬†One in five Americans say they try to eat gluten-free foods, while one in six avoid gluten altogether, according to a 2015 Gallup¬†poll.

Surprisingly, it’s similar to a traditionally healthy diet‚ÄĒfew fancy foods required. Fill up your plate with naturally wholesome gluten-free foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, fish and lean meat, says Begun. “This is what dietitians recommend makes up the majority of your diet whether you’re gluten-free or not,” she says.¬†And if you love your grains, you can still eat them. “So many people think that gluten-free means no grains at all, but there are so many great gluten-free options out there,” says Begun. Rice, millet, quinoa and buckwheat are just a few examples. Today, you can easily find gluten-free pasta made from corn, quinoa or beans.”¬†You can eat a Mediterranean¬†diet with a few substitutions to make it gluten-free. I like that ūüôā

I must admit that the gluten-free craze has irritated me from the start. I could not understand why so many people jumped on this band wagon. My main concern has always been that the adherents to this diet would be nutrient & fiber deficient¬†if it wasn’t planned correctly.¬†

Many people I know do have problems with gluten, and eating a low gluten diet has helped their symptoms. They didn’t need to be on a strict gluten-free diet to see improvements. They continued to eat a plant based diet with few processed foods, but limited the amount of gluten they ate. I also found it interesting that when traveling to other countries these same people reported no problem eating breads, pastas & grains with gluten.¬†

Why are more people sensitive to gluten now? There are quite a few ideas regarding that question but no research to back them up so far. A subject for another time.

I saw this on Facebook & thought it was appropriate to share this week. From Sunset:¬†30 outstanding ways to cook beans¬† Often overlooked as a boring old staple, beans (and their little cousins in the legume family, lentils) can be downright fantastic when cooked with respect and imagination.”

Until next week…Mary ūüôā