300th Issue Celebration: The Latest Developments in Health, Nutrition & Fitness

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Latest News

Nutrition Breakthroughs Over The Last Two Years

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

developments health nutrition fitness celebrationIn the six years that I have been publishing “Health Tips From The Professor,” I have tried to go behind the headlines to provide you with accurate, unbiased health information that you can trust and apply to your everyday life. The 300th issue of any publication is a major cause for celebration and reflection, especially when its publication coincides with the first day of a brand-new year – and “Health Tips From The Professor” is no different.

I am dedicating this issue to reviewing some of the major stories I have covered in the past 100 issues. There are lots of topics I could have covered, but I have chosen to focus on three types of articles:

  • Articles that have debunked long-standing myths about nutrition and health.
  • Articles that have corrected some of the misinformation that seems to show up on the internet on an almost daily basis.
  • Articles about the issues that most directly affect your health.

 

What Diets Are Best For Weight Loss?

developments health nutrition fitness diet weight lossSince this review is being written in January, let’s start with some of the articles about diets and weight loss. I have covered the effectiveness of the Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, DASH, vegetarian, and Vegan diets for both short and long-term weight loss in my book “Slaying The Food Myths,”  so I won’t repeat that information here. Instead, I will cover the popular Whole 30 Diet. I will also address the value of DNA tests in predicting which diet is best for you when it comes to weight loss.

I reviewed the Whole 30 Diet this past January. There is a lot to like about this diet, but some things to dislike as well. Here is a brief summary:  Because it is a very rigid diet, it is excellent for short-term weight loss. What is less clear is whether it is good for weight maintenance or is even healthy over the long term. For more details, check out my article The Whole 30 Diet.

As for DNA testing, my recent article, Can Genetics Predict Which Diet is Best for You, in Health Tips From The Professor reviewed a study that looked at the value of DNA tests at predicting whether a low carb or low fat diet would be better at helping you lose weight. The article made some interesting observations about the relative value of low-carb and low-fat diets for weight loss. However, the most important conclusion of the study was that DNA testing was of no value at predicting whether a low-carb or low-fat diet would be the best weight loss strategy for you.

 

Can Diet Influence Long-Term Health Outcomes?

developments health nutrition fitness diet long termThis topic was a major focus of “Slaying The Food Myths.”

Let me start with a quiz:

Hint: The answer is slightly different in each case, but these are all whole-food, primarily plant-based diets. If you have forgotten the details, you may wish to check these articles out.

Here are some articles that didn’t make it into the book:

The answer to each of these questions appears to be yes. If any of these are a concern for you, you’ll want to read the corresponding article.

 

Food Controversies And Your Health

developments health nutrition fitness food controversiesI discussed a lot of food controversies in “Slaying The Food Myths,” but here are a few that didn’t make it into the book.

 

Junk Foods And Your Health

developments health nutrition fitness junk foodsI discussed sugar myths and pointed out that artificially sweetened foods were no better for you in “Slaying The Food Myths.”  Here are some other topics that may be of interest.

 

Myths That Supplements Are Worthless

developments health nutrition fitness supplements mythsIn my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths” I showed that many of the claims that supplements were either worthless or dangerous were simply myths kept alive by the pharmaceutical/medical industry and “Dr. Strangelove’s” nutrition blogs. For example, in my book I listed clinical studies that have disproved claims that:

  • Soy causes breast cancer
  • Methylfolate is required for everyone with MTHFR deficiency
  • Folic acid causes colon cancer.
  • Vitamin E and selenium cause prostate cancer.
  • B6 and B12 cause lung cancer in men.
  • Calcium supplements cause heart disease.

Just to name a few. However, new studies suggesting that supplements may be ineffective keep emerging, and each study is ballyhooed by the pharmaceutical/medical industry and the media. Let me update you with my reviews of studies that have been published since my book was written.

However, before I do that, let me put the controversies into perspective by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the clinical studies behind the headline. I have written two articles on that topic in the past two years.

  • In “Are Clinical Studies Misleading?”  I discuss the reasons why the same kind of clinical studies that work well for determining the efficacy of drugs are ill suited for determining the efficacy of supplements.
  • In “None Of Us Are Perfect”  I point out that clinical studies are based on averages, and none of us are average. What worked for most participants in the study, might not work for you. Conversely, even if a supplement did not work for the average participant in a study, it might work for you.

With that in mind, lets look at some recent studies that have made the headlines.

 

Omega-3s And Heart Disease Risk

developments health nutrition fitness omega 3 heart diseaseI covered this topic in detail in my book. However, four recent studies have been published since the book was written. One of the studies declared that omega-3s were worthless at reducing heart disease risk. The other three studies were much more positive, although you wouldn’t know that from some of the headlines in the media.

The bottom line is that evidence for a beneficial effect of omega-3 supplements on reducing heart disease risk is becoming much stronger, although you probably won’t hear that from your doctor or the media. If you want to know how much and what kind of omega-3s are optimal, you will want to read my articles.

 

Vitamin D: Myths Versus Truth

developments health nutrition fitness vitamin d mythsTwo recent studies have been published questioning the importance of vitamin D supplementation. The first study claimed that vitamin D supplementation was ineffective for maintaining healthy bones in the elderly. If you believed the headlines, the second study showed that vitamin D was ineffective at reducing both heart disease and cancer. If you read the paper, you discovered that the authors did show benefits of vitamin D at preventing cancer deaths in the general population and reducing cancer risk in high risk groups. However, both studies suffered from some serious flaws that limited the ability of the studies to clearly demonstrate the benefits of vitamin D supplementation.

  • You will find my analysis of the vitamin D and bone health study in “Are Vitamin D Supplements Worthless?”
  • You will find my analysis of the vitamin D, heart health, and cancer study in “The Truth About Vitamin D.”
  • In “Does Vitamin D Reduce Cancer Risk?” you will find my review of another major clinical study that concluded vitamin D does reduce cancer risk. That study also shows why it has been so difficult for other studies to demonstrate a clear benefit of vitamin D at reducing cancer risk.

 

The “Dark Side” Of The Food Supplement Industry

developments health nutrition fitness dark side of food supplement industryI covered the dark side of the supplement industry in great detail in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths.” Here are a few more examples that have crossed my desk since the book was written:

 

What Does The Future Hold?

I have just touched on a few of my most popular articles in the list I gave you above. You may want to scroll through that list to find articles of interest to you that you might have missed. If you don’t see what you are looking for, just go to https://www.healthtipsfromtheprofessor.com and type the appropriate term in the search box.

In the coming year, you can look for more articles debunking myths, exposing lies and providing balance to the debate about the health topics that affect you directly. As always, I pledge to provide you with scientifically accurate, balanced information that you can trust. I will continue to do my best to present this information in a clear and concise manner so that you can understand it and apply it to your life.

If you have other topics that you would like me to cover, please click on the link below to enter your suggestions in the comment box.

Final Comment: You may wish to share the valuable resources in this article with others. If you do, then copy the link at the top and bottom of this page into your email. If you just forward this email and the recipient unsubscribes, it will unsubscribe you as well.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Can Plant-based Diets Be Unhealthy?

Posted September 10, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

plant-based diets vegetablesPlant-based diets have become the “Golden Boys” of the diet world. They are the diets most often recommended by knowledgeable health and nutrition professionals. I’m not talking about all the “Dr. Strangeloves” who pitch weird diets in books and the internet. I am talking legitimate experts who have spent their life studying the impact of nutrition on our health.

Certainly, there is an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the claim that plant-based diets are healthy. Going on a plant-based diet can help you lower blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol and triglycerides. People who consume a plant-based diet for a lifetime weigh less and have decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

But, can a plant-based diet be unhealthy? Some people consider a plant-based diet to simply be the absence of meat and other animal foods. Is just replacing animal foods with plant-based foods enough to make a diet healthy?

Maybe not. After all, sugar and white flour are plant-based food ingredients. Fake meats of all kinds abound in our grocery stores. Some are very wholesome, but others are little more than vegetarian junk food. If you replace animal foods with plant-based sweets, desserts, and junk food, is your diet really healthier?

While the answer to that question seems obvious, very few studies have asked that question. Most studies on the benefits of plant-based diets have compared population groups that eat a strictly plant-based diet (Seventh-Day Adventists, vegans, or vegetarians) with the general public. They have not looked at variations in plant food consumption within the general public. Nor have they compared people who consume healthy and unhealthy plant foods.

This study (H Kim et al, Journal of the American Heart Association, 8:e012865, 2019) was designed to fill that void.

 

How Was The Study Done?

plant-based diets studyThis study used data collected from 12,168 middle aged adults in the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study between 1987 and 2016.

The participant’s usual intake of foods and beverages was assessed by trained interviewers using a food frequency questionnaire at the time of entry into the study and again 6 years later.

Participants were asked to indicate the frequency with which they consumed 66 foods and beverages of a defined serving size in the previous year. Visual guides were provided to help participants estimate portion sizes.

The participant’s adherence to a plant-based diet was assessed using four different well-established plant-based diet scores. For the sake of simplicity, I will include 3 of them in this review.

  • The PDI (Plant-Based Diet Index) categorizes foods as either plant foods or animal foods. A high PDI score means that the participant’s diet contains more plant foods than animal foods. A low PDI score means the participant’s diet contains more animal foods than plant foods.
  • The hPDI (healthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “healthy” plant foods. A high hPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) and low in animal foods.
  • The uPDI (unhealthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “unhealthy” plant foods. A high uPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) and low in animal foods.

For statistical analysis the scores from the various plant-based diet indices were divided into 5 equal groups. In each case, the group with the highest score consumed the most plant foods and least animal foods. The group with the lowest score consumed the least plant foods and the most animal foods.

The health outcomes measured in this study were heart disease events, heart disease deaths, and all-cause deaths. Again, for the sake of simplicity, I will only include 2 of these outcomes (heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths) in this review. The data on deaths were obtained from state death records and the National Death Index. (Yes, your personal information is available on the web even after you die.)

 

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

plant-based diets reduce heart deathsThe participants in this study were followed for an average of 25 years.

The investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years and compared people with the highest intake of plant foods to people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods. The results were:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

What Else Did The Study Show?

The investigators made a couple of other interesting observations:

  • The association of the overall diet with heart disease and all-cause deaths was stronger than the association of individual food components. This underscores the importance of looking at the effect of the whole diet on health outcomes rather than the “magic” foods you hear about on Dr. Strangelove’s Health Blog.
  • Diets with the highest amount of healthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of carbohydrates, plant protein, fiber, and micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Diets with the highest amount of unhealthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of calories and carbohydrates and lower intake of fiber and micronutrients.

The last two observations may help explain some of the health benefits of plant-based diets.

 

Can Plant-Based Diets Be Unhealthy?

plant-based diets unhealthy cookiesNow, let’s return to the question I asked at the beginning of this article: “Can plant-based diets be unhealthy?” Although some previous studies have suggested that unhealthy plant-based diets might increase the risk of heart disease, this study did not show that.

What this study did show was that an unhealthy plant-based diet was no better for you than a diet containing lots of red meat and other animal foods.

If this were the only conclusion from this study, it might be considered a neutral result. However, this result clearly contrasts with the data from this study and many others showing that both plant-based diets in general and healthy plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths compared to animal-based diets.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

There is one other subtle message from this study. This study did not compare vegans with the general public. Everyone in the study was the general public. Nobody in the study was consuming a 100% plant-based diet.

For example:

  • The group with the highest intake of plant foods consumed 9 servings per day of plant foods and 3.6 servings per day of animal foods.
  • The group with the lowest intake of plant foods consumed 5.4 servings per day of plant foods and 5.6 servings per day of animal foods.

In other words, you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet.

 

The Bottom Line

A recent study analyzed the effect of consuming plant foods on heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths over a 25-year period.

When the investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

A more subtle message from the study is that you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet. The people in this study were not following some special diet. The only difference was that some of the people in this study ate more plant foods and others more animal foods.

For more details on the study, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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