For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 14, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

My heart goes out to those affected by the shooting this morning in Newton, Connecticut.

This week the food industry can’t handle the truth, false memories can make you feel more full or hungry, and why vegetables may be good for bone health.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week


What inspired you this week?

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Is Drinking Alcohol Healthy Or Dangerous?

by | Jul 23, 2012
Rocket Bar Wine

Photo by Mr. T in DC

“I’ve always wondered what the scientific perspective of alcohol consumption is. I have been doing some research but the actual effects of it on the body range from beneficial to cancerous.”

The clinical science on alcohol consumption is vast and diverse. It’s easy to find studies that demonstrate the benefits of alcohol, but it is equally common to find research showing its dangers. Sorting through the data is not trivial, and getting the right answer from news reports is virtually impossible.

Let’s start with the facts:

1. Alcohol is addictive

Alcohol addiction is one of the most well-understood and dangerous risks of drinking. A propensity for addiction can run in families, but can affect anyone who drinks in excess. None of the health benefits of alcohol can negate the destruction caused by addiction, and anyone who drinks should be careful to avoid this terrible condition.

2. Alcohol damages the liver

Alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver and can cause severe damage when consumed in large quantities. Liver damage can usually be reversed if alcohol consumption stops.

3. Alcohol is associated with breast cancer (sort of)

Drinking is weakly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This is likely because alcohol increases aromatase activity in the human body, which increases estrogen production. Estrogen imbalance is a known cause of breast cancer. However, the association between drinking and breast cancer is negated by sufficient folate intake. Folate or folic acid is a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and legumes (and fortified foods). In other words, a healthy diet protects against alcohol induced breast cancer risk.

4. Alcohol protects against mortality from heart disease

Drinking alcohol reduces your risk of dying from a heart attack by preventing blood clotting. This effect is not limited to red wine, all spirits elicit substantial protection. The association appears to be dose-dependent, meaning that the more you drink the more protection you get. HOWEVER, you start raising your risk for the above mentioned problems with every additional drink per day. For men the ideal dosage is 2 drinks per day, for women it is 1 drink per day.

5. Alcohol raises good HDL cholesterol

Moderate drinking also reduces your risk of getting heart disease in the first place by raising beneficial HDL cholesterol without raising LDL cholesterol. Low HDL is a serious problem in America, and alcohol could be a significant benefit for some people. Here are other ways to raise your HDL cholesterol.

6. Red wine may slow aging

Aging research has been revolutionized by the discovery of a compound in red wine called resveratrol. Resveratrol has been shown to slow aging substantially in several model organisms. Though the effect in humans is still unknown, red wine is associated with many benefits that seem to go above and beyond the benefits of alcohol in general.

7. Red wine may protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Several studies have shown that red wine is associated with a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s Dementia, a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 90. The mechanism of action is unclear, but the benefits may be linked to the effect of red wine on fatty acids in the blood (raising the good stuff), or by slowing the aging process itself.

8. Alcohol causes accidents and behavioral problems

Even relatively safe levels of drinking can be deadly when combined with poor decision making. If you do choose to drink alcohol, always be sure that you’re in a safe environment and can get help if you need it. Being safe sometimes, or even usually, is simply not good enough.

There are plenty of good reasons to avoid alcohol if you choose, and many of the benefits can be garnered by simply increasing the amount or intensity of your daily physical activity.

However, the evidence is pretty clear that moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks per day) can improve health and may be an important component of a healthy lifestyle. This is even true for those who pick up the habit later in life.

And last but certainly not least, some of the best times of my life have been over a drink with friends. And I guarantee you most of us aren’t thinking about our heart health while enjoying a great bottle of wine. As long as you consider safety first, never forget that smiling is one of the healthiest things you will ever do.

Here’s a fun question: what’s your favorite drink??

Originally published July 28, 2010.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love Of Food

by | May 11, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

A scary new link between BPA and breast cancer, a fascinating new discovery about HDL and how one simple habit can help you live 6 extra years.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomatoGoogle+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Soy: Good or Evil? – Episode 10 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Jul 28, 2011

Last week we talked about the pros and cons of eating soy including it’s role in breast cancer and it’s affect on the, errr, manly arts.

As always, show notes are below.

July 19, 2011 | Tonight on Summer Tomato Live we’re discussing soy. Some say it prevents cancer, others think it promotes it, and some claim it’s evil for causing man boobs. We’ll get to the bottom of these issues and more today during the show.

Join us at 6:00pm PST to learn about how soy affects your health and what to do about it.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

See you soon!

Show notes:

Relevant links:

Probiotics and Fermented Foods – Episode 6

Seaweed, salt and iodine – Office Hours (it’s in there I swear)

Cholesterol Explained

Chinese food safety issues

Healthy Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Miso

Soy sauce

Someone asked during the show how this advice applies to soy sauce. Turns out there are 2 different methods of brewing soy sauce. The traditional way is fermented and has the same attributes as fermented soy products mentioned in the episode. The other method creates the sauces by hydrolyzing soy, which creates a number of unwanted byproducts including MSG and potentially some carcinogenic chemicals. The Wikipedia article on soy sauce is very informative.

Breast cancer

Meta-analysis of soy intake and breast cancer risk

Soy isoflavones consumption and risk of breast cancer incidence or recurrence: a meta-analysis of prospective studies

Epidemiology of soy exposures and breast cancer risk

Soyfood intake in the prevention of breast cancer risk in women: a meta-analysis of observational epidemiological studies

Prostate cancer

Soy consumption and prostate cancer risk in men: a revisit of a meta-analysis

What about demasculizing men?

One of the biggest fears men have about eating soy is the possibility of phytoestrogens demasculizing men, creating sexual dysfunction, infertility and the dreaded man boobs.

Indeed, there have been several studies in rodents suggesting that soy can interfere with reproductive pathways and fertility. However, human and monkey studies show that most men have no need to fear soy.

Acute exposure of adult male rats to dietary phytoestrogens reduces fecundity and alters epididymal steroid hormone receptor expression.

Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis

Soybean isoflavone exposure does not have feminizing effects on men: a critical examination of the clinical evidence

Dietary soy protein containing isoflavonoids does not adversely affect the reproductive tract of male cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis)

Hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction associated with soy product consumption

Osteoporosis

Soy isoflavone intake inhibits bone resorption and stimulates bone formation in menopausal women: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Effect of long-term intervention of soy isoflavones on bone mineral density in women: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Heart disease

Soy protein effects on serum lipoproteins: a quality assessment and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled studies

Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Relation between soy-associated isoflavones and LDL and HDL cholesterol concentrations in humans: a meta-analysis

The effect of soy protein with or without isoflavones relative to milk protein on plasma lipids in hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women.

Association of dietary intake of soy, beans, and isoflavones with risk of cerebral and myocardial infarctions in Japanese populations: the Japan Public Health Center-based (JPHC) study cohort I.

Notably, this was not convincing enough for the American Heart Association

A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Nutrition Committee of the AHA

Thyroid issues

If you have moderate hypothyroid issues, it may be prudent to restrict your soy intake to low levels.

The effect of soy phytoestrogen supplementation on thyroid status and cardiovascular risk markers in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study

Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature.

Impact of flavonoids on thyroid function

Memory/cognitive effects of soy

High Tofu Intake Is Associated with Worse Memory in Elderly Indonesian Men and Women

Borobudur revisited: soy consumption may be associated with better recall in younger, but not in older, rural Indonesian elderly.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 16, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

If you are certain milk is good for you, please read the Los Angeles Times article explaining why it may be time to reconsider. There’s also good news this week about the benefits of green tea, exercise, vitamin D and fish oil. I love good news!

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love of Food

by | Jul 3, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

There are a ton of interesting articles and news stories out this week, and unfortunately I did not have room here to include a favorite recipe. See below for instructions on how to find a comprehensive list of my reading recommendations.

There are some heavy topics here, but all are worthy of your full attention. For balance, I posted several contradictory articles to make it clear that these issues are not simple and clear cut. Anyone who claims otherwise is not thinking hard enough.

If you would like to see more of my favorite articles each week or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious, and share with me your favorites as well.

Submissions of your own best food and health articles are also welcome, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am currently accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any healthy eating and exercise tips.

For The Love of Food

  • You. Need. Fat. <<I love Michelle’s (@MPfennighaus) perspective on dietary fat in this article. Just this week I’ve fielded a ton of questions and confusion about fat. I love oils, and so should you. (The Daily Balance)
  • Eating Animal Fat May Lead to Pancreatic Cancer <<Just in case you were thinking about going crazy Atkins-style after that last article, remember that not all the news is good about certain kinds of fat. This study just shows an association (not causation) of animal fat and pancreatic cancer, but moderation is usually a good idea. (HealthDay)
  • Horizon organics alert: here comes “natural” <<B.S. of the week Seems like Dean Foods is bent on ruining all the biggest organic products. First Silk Soy Milk, now Horizon. Apparently they want to charge you organic prices for foods that aren’t certified organic (aka conventional). Don’t fall for it. (via @marionnestle at Food Politics)
  • This just in: Vegetarian diets are fine <<Looks like the American Dietetics Association has finally issued a bill of approval on vegetarian diets. Not sure what took them so long. Personally I don’t have much of an opinion on the vegetarian thing. Sure it can* be healthier than a typical Western diet (*see next 2 articles), but if health is your concern you have more options as an omnivore. No matter what food religion you subscribe to, vegetables are the cornerstone of any healthy diet. (Los Angeles Times)
  • How High Carbohydrate Foods Can Raise Risk For Heart Problems <<Yes, refined carbohydrates are the real culprit in heart disease, not fat. (ScienceDaily)
  • Metabolic Syndrome May Make Breast Cancer More Likely <<Metabolic syndrome, also caused by carbohydrates, increases risk for breast cancer. (HealthDay)
  • Dear Mark: Freezer Essentials <<Those of you living in states that aren’t California may want to start stocking your freezer now, before your farmers markets close up for the winter. Mark Sisson offers some tips on how to make that dream a reality. (Mark’s Daily Apple)
  • Don’t be Fooled by Healthy Food Imposters <<I pick on Diets In Review a lot for being completely full of crap, but I like to give credit where credit is due. Finally some good advice about fake health food from an otherwise irresponsible publication. (Diets In Review)
  • It’s Time to Learn From Frogs <<One of the most important articles I’ve read in weeks. This is a fantastic piece in the New York Times about why we should stop being naive about the impact of environmental toxins (especially endocrine disruptors) on our lives.
  • Soy isn’t affecting men’s hormone levels…but something is <<Another important piece on the impact of hormones on human development. Looks like soy isn’t the problem some people (not me) thought it was. (Nutrition Data)

What great articles did you read or write this week? Leave your links in the comments.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Should Doctors Recommend Wine To Patients?

by | Jan 15, 2009

Today I have an article out in Synapse called “Wine May Increase Heart Healthy Fats in the Blood.” I am making an executive decision that it is too science-y for this blog, so instead I would like to open a discussion about how doctors should treat information like this.

For you uber-nerds (like me), here is the PubMed link to the original paper.

Let’s start with some excerpts from my article:

  • Moderate alcohol consumption has long been known to be protective against mortality from coronary heart disease, but the biological mechanism of this effect is unknown. A new analysis suggests that drinking wine may alter the composition of healthy fats in the blood, mimicking the beneficial effects of seafood consumption and conferring protection against heart disease.”
  • “The beauty of this finding is that the improvement in fatty acid profile from wine consumption seems to be clinically relevant. Based on the current consensus, small dietary changes in fatty acid consumption have a large clinical effect, so a 38% to 50% increase in EPA levels among moderate wine drinkers is noteworthy. Similar levels of improvement in lipid profiles from studies of fish consumption have shown considerable benefit for cardiovascular outcome.”
  • “Thus, the present finding may offer dietary intervention as a possible method of cardiovascular protection, particularly when combined with increased omega-3 consumption.”
  • “In the present study, the difference between participants in the low fatty acid group who did not drink and those in the high fatty acid group who drank the most was an 83% increase in blood EPA, a change associated with a 50% to 75% reduced risk of heart attack. Such a dramatic difference represents a useful alternative to fish consumption for those who may not have access to seafood for whatever reason.”
  • “Thus, increasing both dietary omega-3 fatty acids and wine consumption may be helpful to protect against cardiovascular events. Plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in walnuts, soy, flax and canola oils, and one gram per day is the current recommendation for heart protection. “Moderate” alcohol intake is one glass per day for women and two for men.”

From a clinical perspective, the evidence that alcohol provides a tremendous protection against mortality from heart disease is undeniable. It is thought to work by both raising good HDL cholesterol and reducing blood clotting.

This effect is not limited to red wine, all spirits elicit substantial protection.

Despite these benefits, there are also a number of obvious reasons to avoid alcohol, particularly excessive consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with addiction, liver disease, stroke and can cause accidents and other behavioral problems.

Notably, benefits similar to those seen with alcohol can be conferred by increasing exercise amount or intensity.

If you want to experience the benefits of alcohol you need to use it in moderation, which is 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men, or possibly slightly more. More than one drink per day for women is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, however this effect is attenuated by sufficient folate intake.

Doctors have been recommending increasing exercise for decades, but only a small percentage of the population makes an effort to get enough to make it as valuable against heart disease as alcohol. Also, there is a large population of individuals that have physical ailments that prevent them from performing vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

But to this day the American Heart Association–the same agency that recommended the low-fat, high-carb diet that many argue actually promotes heart disease–refuses to recommend moderate alcohol consumption. The basic tenet of their argument is that alcohol is not necessary because heart protection can be achieved in other ways, and the risks outweigh the benefits.

Is this right? I’m not so convinced.

Do you think doctors should discuss the potential benefits of alcohol with their patients? Should the AHA change their recommendation?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,