Too much sugar? Even ‘healthy people’ are at risk of developing heart disease

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Healthy people who consume high levels of sugar are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A ground-breaking study from the University of Surrey found that a subject group of otherwise healthy men had increased levels of fat in their blood and fat stored in their livers after they had consumed a high sugar diet. The study, which has been published in Clinical Science, looked at two groups of men with either high or low levels of liver fat, and fed them a high or low sugar diet to find out if the amount of liver fat influences the impact of sugar on their cardiovascular health. The low sugar diet contained no more than 140 calories a day worth of sugar, an amount close to the recommended intake, while the high sugar diet contained 650 calories worth.

After 12 weeks on the high sugar diet, the men with a high level of liver fat, a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), showed changes in their fat metabolism that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. Fat metabolism is the biochemical process by which fats are transported and broken down in the blood, and used by the cells of the body. The results also revealed that when the group of healthy men with a low level of liver fat consumed a high amount of sugar, their liver fat increased and their fat metabolism became similar to that of the men with NAFLD.

Professor of Nutritional Metabolism, Bruce Griffin, said: “Our findings provide new evidence that consuming high amounts of sugar can alter your fat metabolism in ways that could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. “While most adults don’t consume the high levels of sugar we used in this study, some children and teenagers may reach these levels of sugar intake by over-consuming fizzy drinks and sweets. This raises concern for the future health of the younger population, especially in view of the alarmingly high prevalence of NAFLD in children and teenagers, and exponential rise of fatal liver disease in adults.”

Adapted from: A. Margot Umpleby, Fariba Shojaee-Moradie, Barbara Fielding, Xuefei Li, Andrea Marino, Najlaa Alsini, Cheryl Isherwood, Nicola Jackson, Aryati Ahmad, Michael Stolinski, Julie Anne Lovegrove, Sigurd Johnsen, Jeewaka Mendis, John Wright, Malgorzata E Wilinska, Roman Hovorka, Jimmy Bell, Louise E Thomas, Gary Frost, Bruce Arthur Griffin. Impact of liver fat on the differential partitioning of hepatic triacylglycerol into VLDL subclasses on high and low sugar diets. Clinical Science, 2017; CS20171208 DOI: 10.1042/CS20171208

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Use fresh or dried herbs and spices or a salt-free seasoning blend in place of salt when cooking. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to add flavor to cooked foods.

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How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day?

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Protein is incredibly important. If we do not get enough from our diet, our health and body composition suffers. However, there are vastly different opinions on how much protein we actually need. Most official nutrition organizations recommend a fairly modest protein intake. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.

This amounts to:

  • 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man.
  • 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.

Although this meager amount may be enough to prevent downright deficiency, studies show that it is far from sufficient to ensure optimal health and body composition. It turns out that the “right” amount of protein for any one individual depends on many factors… including activity levels, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health. So, what amount of protein is optimal and how do lifestyle factors, such as weight loss, muscle building and activity levels factor in? Let’s find out…

Protein – What Is It and Why Do We Care?

Proteins are the main building blocks of the body. They are used to make muscles, tendons, organs and skin, as well as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve important functions. Without protein, life as we know it would not be possible.

Proteins are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids, which are linked together similar to beads on a string. The linked amino acids form long protein chains, which are then folded into complex shapes. Some of these amino acids can be produced by the body; however, others must come from the diet. The ones we can not produce and must get from our foods are called the “essential” amino acids.

Protein is not just about quantity but also about quality. Generally speaking, animal protein provides all the essential amino acids in the right ratio for us to make full use of them (only makes sense, since animal tissues are similar to our own tissues). If you’re eating animal products ( meat, fish, eggs, or dairy) every day, then you’re probably already doing pretty well, protein-wise. If you do not eat animal foods, then it is a bit more challenging to get all the protein and essential amino acids that your body needs. Most people do not really need protein supplements, but they can be useful for athletes and bodybuilders.

BOTTOM LINE: Protein is a structural molecule assembled out of amino acids, many of which the body cannot produce on its own. Animal foods are usually high in protein, with all the essential amino acids that we need.

Protein Can Help You Lose Weight (and Prevent You From Gaining it in The First Place)

Protein is incredibly important when it comes to losing weight. As we know, to lose weight, we need to take in fewer calories than we burn. Eating protein can help with that, by boosting your metabolic rate (calories out) and reducing your appetite (calories in). This is well supported by science.

Protein at around 25-30% of calories has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 80 to 100 calories per day, compared to lower protein diets. However probably the most important contribution of protein to weight loss, is its ability to reduce appetite and cause a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake. Protein is much more satiating than both fat and carbs. In a study in obese men, protein at 25% of calories increased feelings of fullness, reduced the desire for late-night snacking by half and reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60%.

In another study, women who increased protein intake to 30% of calories ended up eating 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks, just by adding more protein to their diet. However,  protein doesn’t just help you lose, it can also help prevent you from gaining weight in the first place.

In one study, just a modest increase in protein from 15% of calories to 18% of calories reduced the amount of fat people regained after weight loss by 50%. A high protein intake also helps to build and preserve muscle mass, which burns a small amount of calories around the clock. By eating more protein, you will make it much easier to stick to whichever weight loss diet (be it high-carb, low-carb or something in between) you choose to follow.

According to these studies, a protein intake around 30% of calories may be optimal for weight loss. This amounts to 150 grams per day for someone on a 2000 calorie diet. You can calculate it by multiplying your calorie intake by 0.075.

More Protein Can Help You Gain Muscle and Strength

Muscles are made largely of protein. As with most tissues in the body, muscles are dynamic and are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. To gain muscle, the body must be synthesizing more muscle protein than it is breaking down. In other words, there needs to be a net positive protein balance (often called nitrogen balance, because protein is high in nitrogen) in the body. For this reason, people who want a lot of muscle will need to eat a greater amount of protein (and lift heavy things, of course!!!).

It is well documented that a higher protein intake helps build muscle and strength. Also, people who want to hold on to muscle that they’ve already built may need to increase their protein intake when losing body fat, because a high protein intake can help prevent the muscle loss that usually occurs with dieting. When it comes to muscle mass, the studies are usually not looking at percentage of calories, but daily grams of protein per unit of body weight (kilograms or pounds). A common recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, or 2.2 grams of protein per kg. Numerous studies have tried to determine the optimal amount of protein for muscle gain and many of them have reached different conclusions.

Some studies show that over 0.8 grams per pound has no benefit, while others show that intakes slightly higher than 1 gram of protein per pound is best. Although it is hard to give exact figures because of conflicting results in studies, 0.7-1 grams (give or take) per pound of body weight seems to be a reasonable estimate. If you’re carrying a lot of body fat, then it is a good idea to use either your lean mass or your goal weight, instead of total body weight, because it’s mostly your lean mass that determines the amount of protein you need.

BOTTOM LINEIt is important to eat enough protein if you want to gain and/or maintain muscle. Most studies suggest that 0.7 – 1 grams per pound of lean mass (1.5 – 2.2 grams per kg) is sufficient.

Other Circumstances That Can Increase Protein Needs

Disregarding muscle mass and physique goals, people who are physically active do need more protein than people who are sedentary. If you have a physically demanding job, you walk a lot, run, swim or do any sort of exercise, then you need more protein. Endurance athletes also need quite a bit of protein, about 0.5 – 0.65 grams per pound, or 1.2 – 1.4 grams per kg.

Elderly people also need significantly more protein, up to 50% higher than the DRI, or about 0.45 to 0.6 grams per pound of bodyweight. This can help prevent osteoporosis and sarcopenia (reduction in muscle mass), both significant problems in the elderly. People who are recovering from injuries may also need more protein.

BOTTOM LINEProtein requirements are significantly increased in people who are physically active, as well as in elderly individuals and those who are recovering from injuries.

Does Protein Have any Negative Health Effects?

Protein has been unfairly blamed for a number of health problems. It has been said that a high protein diet can cause kidney damage and osteoporosis. However, none of this is supported by science.

Although protein restriction is helpful for people with pre-existing kidney problems, protein has never been shown to cause kidney damage in healthy people. In fact, a higher protein intake has been shown to lower blood pressure and help fight diabetes, which are two of the main risk factors for kidney disease. If protein really does have some detrimental effect on kidney function (which has never been proven), it is outweighed by the positive effects on these risk factors.

Protein has also been blamed for osteoporosis, which is strange because the studies actually show that protein can help prevent osteoporosis. Overall, there is no evidence that a reasonably high protein intake has any adverse effects in healthy people trying to stay healthy.

BOTTOM LINE: Protein does not have any negative effects on kidney function in healthy people and studies show that it leads to improved bone health.

How to Get Enough Protein in Your Diet

The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. They have all the essential amino acids that your body needs. Plant protein options include quinoa, legumes and nuts.

All of this being said, there really is not a need for most people to actually track their protein intake. If you’re just a healthy person trying to stay healthy, then simply eating quality protein with most of your meals (along with nutritious plant foods) should bring your intake into an optimal range.

What “Grams of Protein” Really Means

This is a very common misunderstanding. Grams of protein indicate the grams of the macronutrient protein, not grams of a protein containing food, such as meat or eggs. For example, an 8 ounce serving of beef weighs 226 grams, but it only contains 61 grams of actual protein. A large egg weighs 46 grams, but it only contains 6 grams of protein.

What About The Average Person?

If you’re at a healthy weight, you do not lift weights and you do not exercise much, then aiming for 0.36 to 0.6 grams per pound (or 0.8 to 1.3 gram per kg) is a reasonable estimate.

This amounts to:

  • 56-91 grams per day for the average male.
  • 46-75 grams per day for the average female.

Educate yourself on the current research regarding protein intake and your lifestyle! Are you eating enough? Or do you need less? Or do you need more? Be good to your body!

Adapted from:  Kris Gunnars, BSc Authority Nutrition 

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Make a move! Take the stairs, park a few blocks away or anything else you can do to take extra steps to get where you need to go.

Daily Inspiration 

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Break 5 habits

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Changing habits, especially ones you’ve had for many years, isn’t easy. But breaking these five unhealthy habits can make a difference in your weight, so I encourage you to eliminate them for two solid weeks! Challenge is on!

  1. No TV while eating — and only as much as you exercise.
    Studies show that watching TV — or any other “screen time,” such as computer use — is a driver of weight gain. You aren’t moving, and there’s a good chance you’re also sipping or nibbling on something. So spend only as much leisure time watching TV — or in front of any screen — as you spend exercising. That way, you’re breaking the bad habit of mindless eating and adding the good habit of being more active.
  2. No sugar — except what’s naturally found in fruit.
    If you want something sweet, eat fruit. Otherwise, stay away from sugar and sweetened foods, including table sugar, brown sugar, honey, jam and jelly, candy, desserts and soda. Alcohol also counts as a sweet. Keep in mind that many artificially sweetened foods like candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream and yogurt can still pack lots of calories. Relying on fruit to satisfy your cravings is a healthier, lower-calorie habit.
  3. No snacks except fruits and vegetables.
    Common snacks typically have a lot of calories and little nutritional value. If you’re hungry between meals, eat only fruits and vegetables and nothing else. Snacking on healthy fruits and vegetables a couple of times a day can help you manage your weight. Stock your home with a variety of ready-to-eat vegetables and fruits.
  4. Moderate meat and low-fat dairy.
    Limit total daily consumption of meat, poultry and fish to 3 ounces — the size of a deck of cards. If you consume dairy products, use only skim milk and low-fat varieties, and consume them in moderation — about two servings daily. Full-fat dairy products contain saturated fat that can raise your cholesterol. Even lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry have some saturated fat and cholesterol and can be high in calories.
  5. No eating at restaurants. 
    Eating out is associated with weight gain. The tantalizing sights and smells of a restaurant, deli counter, bakery display, food court or concession stand entice you with high-calorie menu items and large portions.

Changing habits is challenging, but with confidence and the right strategies, you can succeed. And remember: Your immediate goal is to stick to these changes for only two weeks.

Tip of the Day

Stay on track with small changes! Continue to make small changes to what you eat and how you move. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, swap a glass of juice for a piece of whole or cut fruit, and add an extra vegetable to dinner. Over time these small changes will add up!

Daily Inspiration 

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Weight-loss goals: Set yourself up for success

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Well-planned goals can help you convert your thoughts into action. Here’s how to create successful weight-loss goals. Weight-loss goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Realistic, well-planned weight-loss goals keep you focused and motivated. They provide a plan for change as you transition to a healthier lifestyle.

However, not all weight-loss goals are helpful. Unrealistic and overly aggressive weight-loss goals can undermine your efforts. Use the following tips for creating goals that will help you reduce weight and improve your overall health.

Focus on process goals

Goals for weight loss can focus on outcomes or the process. An outcome goal — what you hope to achieve in the end — might be to lose a certain amount of weight. While this goal may give you a target, it doesn’t address how you will reach it. A process goal is a necessary step to achieving a desired outcome. For example, a process goal might be eating five servings of fruits or vegetables a day, walking 30 minutes a day, or drinking water at every meal. Process goals may be particularly helpful for weight loss because you focus on changing behaviors and habits that are necessary for losing weight.

Set SMART goals

A good goal-setting strategy is the SMART goal checklist. Be sure that your weight-loss goals — whether a process goal or an outcome goal — meet the following criteria:

Specific: A good goal includes specific details. For example, a goal to exercise more is not specific, but a goal to walk 30 minutes after work every day is specific. You’re declaring what you will do, how long you will do it, and when you will do it.

Measurable: If you can measure a goal, then you can objectively determine how successful you are at meeting the goal. A goal of eating better is not easily measured, but a goal of eating 1,200 calories a day can be measured. A goal of riding your bike is not measurable. A goal of riding your bike for 30 minutes three days a week is measurable.

Attainable: An attainable goal is one that you have enough time and resources to achieve. For example, if your work schedule doesn’t allow spending an hour at the gym every day, then it wouldn’t be an attainable goal. However, two weekday trips to the gym and two weekend trips might be attainable. If a particular type of exercise, such as running, is physically too difficult for you, then running every day would not be an attainable goal.

Realistic: For most people, a realistic outcome goal is losing 5 to 10 percent of their current weight. Process goals must also be realistic. For example, a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist can help you determine a daily calorie goal based on your current weight and health. Setting an unrealistic goal may result in disappointment or the temptation to give up altogether.

Trackable: Goals are best achieved if you keep a record of your progress. If you have an outcome goal of losing 15 pounds (7 kilograms), record your weight each week. If your goal is to eat 1,400 calories a day, keep a food diary. Keeping track can help you evaluate your progress and stay motivated

Long-term and short term-goals

Long-term goals help you focus on the big picture. They can shift your thinking from simply being on a diet to making lifestyle changes. However, long-term goals may seem too difficult or too far away. You may benefit from breaking down a long-term goal into a series of smaller, short-term goals.

If your outcome goal is to lose 15 pounds (7 kilograms) in three months, you may break it down into separate goals for each month, perhaps 7 pounds (3 kilograms) for the first month and 4 pounds (2 kg) for each of the last two months because early weight loss is often faster. An example of a process goal might be to walk 30 minutes a day. If you currently don’t walk regularly at all, you may want to walk 15 minutes a day for two weeks and then add five minutes to your walk each week.

Allow for setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Everyone who successfully makes changes in his or her life has experienced setbacks. It’s better to expect them and develop a plan for dealing with them. Identifying potential roadblocks — a big holiday meal or office party, for example — and brainstorming specific strategies to overcome them can help you stay on course or get back on course.

Reassess and adjust your goals as needed

Be willing to change your goals as you make progress in your weight-loss plan. If you started small and achieved success, you might be ready to take on larger challenges or you might find that you need to adjust your goals to better fit your new lifestyle.

Adapted by: Mayo Clinic Staff

Tip of the Day

Top it off with dairy! Looking for alternate ways to add more dairy into your diet? Try adding low-fat plain yogurt as a topping to a baked potato or sprinkle reduced-fat cheese on top of chili.

Daily Inspiration

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Preventing Relative Energy Deficiency in Young Female Athletes

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It can start innocently enough. A young female athlete pushes herself harder than usual, training intensely to gain a competitive edge. While this increased output naturally requires consuming more calories to meet the total demands of training and recovery-not to mention growth and development-her diet does not change. The result is a condition known as “relative energy deficiency in sport,” or RED-S.

Coined by an expert panel convened by the International Olympic Committee, RED-S is a more comprehensive term that builds on the condition known as the “female athlete triad” to describe an energy deficiency gap that results when energy intake is insufficient to support activities of daily living, growth, health and functioning. This syndrome affects bone health, menstrual function, metabolic rate, immune system function, protein synthesis, cardiovascular health and psychological health. While more common in females, RED-S also affects young male athletes. RED-S can develop when there is pressure to change eating habits, especially in sports with an emphasis on appearance, low body weight and endurance. A desire to “eat healthy” or lose weight in hopes of improving athletic performance can increase susceptibility to willful food restriction and rigid dieting.

Girls simply may not understand how their energy needs translate into daily food choices. An eating disorder does not have to precede the development of RED-S, though some level of psychological factors can be present before, as well as after the syndrome develops. Regardless of the starting point, serious short-term and long-term health consequences can occur in young female athletes who develop RED-S.

The Effects of RED-S

First, bone health is a major concern as girls build 60 to 80 percent of their lifetime bone mass by age 18. When preteen and teenage girls restrict their eating, body systems important to bone growth may shut down. Restricted diets also can be low in calcium and vitamin D, which contributes to poor bone formation. If RED-S continues without being addressed, poor bone growth can lead to stress fractures and even early osteoporosis, in which bones become fragile and more likely to break.

Another concern is reproductive development. Important markers of insufficient energy and resulting low estrogen levels are delayed menstruation and irregular or missed cycles. Other potential effects of RED-S include increased risk of injury, decreased endurance and muscle strength. Additionally, it can reduce response to training, decrease coordination, impair judgment and increase irritability and depression — results that no athlete wants to have happen. The good news is correcting RED-S does not mean a sacrifice in athletic performance. In fact, it should result in an improvement in athletic performance.

Parents can play a significant role in preventing RED-S. First, educate your daughters on the energy demands of their training and the interconnected relationship of proper nutrition, bone health and menstruation, as well as risk of injury and impaired training from insufficient consumption. Second, keep an eye out for weight loss, changes in menstruation and changes in mood. Finally, create a supportive environment in which girls can consume three meals and one to three snacks per day. Even missing one meal on a regular basis can result in an energy deficit. Make sure your daughter has a regular breakfast and packs or eats a full lunch at school. Many girls train after school, and an easily digested snack prior to practice can provide energy for training. Good snack choices include an energy bar, cereal, crackers, banana, fruit and fruit juice, pretzels, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Adapted from: Monique Ryan, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

Tip of the Day

Stock up! Stock up on frozen or canned veggies next time you spot a sale. Having some on hand makes it quick and easy to add veggies to meals.

Daily Inspiration 

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Weight Control More Important than Exercise

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A new study suggests that weight control is more important than exercise for health. Researchers at Sweden’s Umea University evaluated the weight and aerobic fitness levels of 1.3 million 18-year-old Swedish men, then followed them for an average of 29 years. Although aerobic fitness reduced the overall death rate, the benefits of exercise were reduced in obese individuals, and normal-weight individuals who were not aerobically fit had a 30 percent reduced risk of mortality, compared with obese individuals who were aerobically fit. The results suggest that both weight control and exercise are beneficial, but that weight control may be more critical for long-term health.

Hogstrom G, Nordstrom A, Nordstrom P. Aerobic fitness in late adolescence and the risk of early death: a prospective cohort study of 1.3 million Swedish men. Int J Epidemiol. Published online December 20, 2015.

Tip of the Day

Get your calcium and Vitamin D! Calcium and Vitamin D are especially important for growing bones! Make sure children are getting enough of these nutrients by serving low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.

Daily Inspiration 

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Train Low, Compete High?

“Training low” (with low carbohydrate stores) and “competing high” (with muscles fully loaded with glycogen) as a means to enhance competitive performance is receiving attention from coaches, elite athletes, and researchers alike. A 2005 study (Hansen, A) with untrained subjects suggests that training with depleted glycogen stores can enhance adaptive muscle responses to conditions that might occur at the end of a competitive event. Training low might also reduce reliance on limited glycogen stores. The study conducted (Hanson, A) showed that when subjects “competed” with loaded glycogen stores, they performed better. These results have raised questions and controversy. If you restrict your carbohydrate intake during training, you will become unable to train hard, and that can hurt your athletic ability. Sports dietitian Louise Burke PhD of the Australian Institute of Sports suggests inserting a few “training low” sessions into the training program where the focus is on making “aerobic” gains. You would want to target the sessions in the week where quality, intensity, or techniques are not as important.

You can train low by having either low blood glucose or low muscle glycogen; both scenarios can happen during a second training session in a day. Note: Adding caffeine to a “low” training session can enhance power by about 9%, but this still does not match the power generated by fully glycogen-loaded muscles plus caffeine. Training low is not much fun. For most ordinary mortals, staying well fueled on a daily basis is a smart investment. Suggestion? Fuel your muscles on a daily basis with quality grains, fruits and vegetables. By being well fueled, you’ll be able to work hard and enjoy improving your performance.

Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition 

Tip of the Day

Like fast food? Keep in mind super-sized meals bring super-sized calories. Those “super-sized” or “biggie” fast food restaurant meals might only cost a little more, but they are not your best choice. Double the portion equals double the calories. For example, a double burger with large fries and large soft drink might have 1500 calories. The single burger, small fries and small soft drink give you about 620 calories. Research shows that the more food that is in front of you, the more you will eat. So always skip the super-sized meals. If you can’t bear to pass up the deal, order one super-sized meal, and share it with a friend.

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