2003 Nutrition News in Review

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The evidence continues to show that diet and lifestyle make a big difference on long-term health.

Take Care of Your Heart
• The Portfolio Diet combined a vegetarian diet, very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, with a relatively high intake of soy protein and high soluble fiber. This diet reduced LDL levels by an average of 35% in one month.
• A very-low-fat, near-vegetarian diet, combined with medication, was shown effective for aggressively treating patients who have advanced cardiovascular disease.
• The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute issued new blood pressure guidelines and 45 million Americans are said to now have prehypertension. Your blood pressure has to be less than 120 over 80 to be normal.
• Another reason to keep an eye on blood pressure is because researchers found that high blood pressure can reduce the blood flow to the brain and cause a more rapid decline in mental function in older adults.

Weight Matters
• The Framingham study found that being overweight at age 40 cuts about 3 years off your life, while if you are obese, you lose 5. Obese smokers lose the most at about 13.5 years off life expectancy. Another study found that if you are overweight early in life, you will lose more years of life than if you gain weight later in life.
• Dr. Atkins passed away this year. He has left behind a diet that is tried by many but pegged with controversy and health problems. A study on children who are put on this diet to prevent seizures clearly found that changes in blood lipids are very disturbing after just 6 months on this diet.
• The more carbohydrates you eat, the more likely you are to have a low BMI, according to a study of more than 10,000 people. Authors concluded, however, that a healthul high-carb diet is not full of sugar and refined grains.
• The South Beach Diet book recommends higher fiber and a lower calorie density than what most Americans eat. But the author makes errors, the most noticeable being that high-fat foods are OK because of their glycemic index. For example, he says that French fries are a better choice than a baked potato (p 54). Foods offered in the beginning of the diet are high in sodium.

Good News
• A new FDA ruling gives manufacturers until January 2006 to disclose the amount of trans fat on Nutrition Facts panels. In the meantime, watch out for foods that contain partially hydrogenated shortening, namely fried foods, high-fat desserts, crackers, cookies, chips and shortening.
• Good news for tea drinkers – drinking tea, especially instead of coffee, may help you lower your cholesterol in addition to boosting your immune system and helping lower the risk for certain cancers.
• Did you know that eating more fish could bring better mental function? Researchers in France found that eating less saturated fat and polyunsaturated vegetable oils but more omega-3-rich fatty acids is good for the brain!

Bad News
• The World Health Organization and Food & Agriculture Organization reported that there are significant health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle and modern diet high in added salt, refined sugars, refined grains and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They project that 2/3 of all deaths will be attributed to the diseases of a modern lifestyle by the year 2020 if current trends continue.

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