Nutritional Health

Nutrition Tidbits

My office holds clinical meetings once a month. At these, my colleagues and I discuss interesting journal articles, new clinical recommendations, and what we call “clinical pearls.” Clinical pearls are interesting pieces of information or take-home messages that any one of us may have picked up at a recent conference. Last night, I shared some clinical pearls I picked up at the annual Nutrition and Health Conference hosted by the University of Arizona, and I thought some of you may also be interested.

These tidbits are bullet point notes taken from a variety of topics, including obesity, fasting, chocolate, cancer prevention, and the microbiome.

Exercise: Boys are more active than girls. Gender disparity for physical activity starts at age 9, so girls should be encouraged to engage in physical play starting at 6-8.

Nutrition: 1/3 of US children eat fast food daily. 48% of US food dollars are spent on eating out. So when you do eat out, the choices you make matter. Studies show that if menus offer healthier sides (broccoli in lieu of fries) as the default option, kids make healthier choices. As parents, we can provide the default option, even if the menu doesn’t do so. We can do this at home and when we eat out. We can also role-model (for our kids, spouses, parents).

Fasting: There is a lot of interest in the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Probably the best outcomes are in those who fast every other day, but that type of fasting is not sustainable for the general public. I surely could not eat solely on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays without headaches, irritability and failure to comply! One more sustainable form of intermittent fasting is a lengthy daily fast between dinner and breakfast, something like 14 hours. Ideally, that would mean eating a hearty breakfast around 8, a light lunch and a lighter dinner by 6pm, leaving a 14-hour gap until breakfast again. This is something many of us can more readily strive for, and the health benefits (lower inflammatory markers, improved glycemic control and more) are appealing.

Water: Since 1976, our water systems are required to limit 91 chemicals, yet we have 90,000 registered chemicals in the United States. Now even microplastics and non-stick chemicals have been found in our water supply. So what can we do? Certainly, I recommend avoiding drinking from plastic water bottles. You can filter your water, and if you have the means, you can install a reverse osmosis water filtration system. These can cost around $250.00 but are superior filtration systems.

Red Meat: Reduce or eliminate your red meat intake. Red meats are associated with cancer risk. This is inconvenient. Even in teen girls, red meat intake is proportionally associated with future breast cancer risk.

Chocolate: Chocolate is not a health food, but it is better than candy. To get the suggested benefits of the flavanols in chocolate, you would have to eat a ton of chocolate. And the sugar and saturated fat would outweigh any health benefit from the flavanols. People are studying these chemicals in a concentrated pill form. Meanwhile, flavanols are present in fruits. Chocolate covered strawberries may be our big winner here.

Your gut: Feed it well. Your gut bacteria have pretty much been established by the age of 3. However, how you treat them helps your body thrive. Eating real foods (not processed in a factory), exercise, and even sleep all keep your guts healthy. And when your gut is healthier, so is your immune system and your brain. A little more information on this is here.

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