Diet and Maternal Death Rate

August 11, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Dietary Patterns, Obesity

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When it comes to global statistics, there are many metrics where the US shines. Our life expectancy is exceptional, literacy rates are laudable and relatively few people die from communicable disease.

But the US maternal death rate is on the rise, and that’s a concern when you consider it is occurring in the wealthiest nation in the world.

A new analysis published in the August 8 online edition of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that between 2000-2014, the nation’s maternal death rate rose by almost 27%. In 2000, 19 women for every 100,000 live births died during or within 42 days following pregnancy. By 2014, this number increased to 24 deaths in every 100,000 live births.

For comparison, with the 2014 numbers, the US ranks 30th on a list of 31 countries who report this type of data to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Mexico is 31st.

Researchers didn’t speculate on the cause for the increase in this particular analysis. But the increasing age of women at time of childbirth coupled with higher rates of obesity and co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease certainly doesn’t help.

Health professionals agree that obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight is important prior to conception. Consuming a well-balanced diet, a daily prenatal vitamin and staying physically active within individual limits is key to a healthy pregnancy. Avoiding harmful agents such as tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs are also imperative.

For more information about having a healthy pregnancy, check out this page from

Bugs for Breakfast?



Bugs probably aren’t big when it comes to your favorite foods. While the typical Western diet typically eschews anything bug-related in our diet, many parts of the world actually embrace eating insects.

Entomophagy is the name given to the practice of eating insects. And it’s a common occurrence in other cultures. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people and more than 1,900 species have reportedly been used as food.

Now why would anyone want to eat bugs? Well for one, they are a great source of protein in areas where other animal products are not as readily available. Bugs contain other micronutrients and because they themselves are lean, bugs are low in fat and saturated fat.

Insects have a “high feed conversion efficiency” meaning they require relatively little feed compared to their body weight. They emit fewer greenhouse gases and less ammonia than cattle or pigs and of course they take up less land than the grazing animals we typically eat.

In 2013 the FAO published Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. The authors state that, “insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science to improve human food security worldwide.”

The most commonly consumed insects are:

  • Beetles (31%)
  • Caterpillars (18%)
  • Bees, wasps and ants (14%)

Other bugs that become food include grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, cicadas, termites, dragonflies and flies.

In the US, this niche-market is gaining steam. You can buy cricket-flour infused energy bars (in 3 flavors!) from Chapul. Or, for an extra dollar, add insect protein to your Mama Bird’s Granola order.

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge on eating bugs, maybe a beautiful book of eating insects is more for you. Noted food and photojournalists Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio published Man Eating Bugs: the art and science of eating insects – a conversation starter for any coffee table collection!

Regardless of your inklings about insects, don’t count them out as a valuable source of affordable nutrients, that may be a beneficial food shift for our planet.

Eating a la Mediterranean? No need to hold the fat!

July 19, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Dietary Patterns, Fat

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A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that a healthy diet is one that can contain a lot of fat.

This large systematic review looked at the Mediterranean diet and selected adherents who had no restrictions on their fat intake. It turns out that an eating pattern of this type can reduce risk for breast cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease when compared to other diets.

There’s no clear definition of exactly what constitutes a Mediterranean diet. The diet is plant-forward with minimal amounts of animal foods, an emphasis on fish, whole foods, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and avocados. There is moderate amount of red wine and importance placed on enjoying foods with others.

For more information about the Mediterranean diet and its potential health benefits, check out the Oldways Mediterranean Diet page available here.

Raw Cookie Dough? Don’t Do It

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Are you a raw cookie dough fan? Maybe the temptation to treat yourself on what will eventually become a cookie conjures up memories of your mom warning you not to. Well guess what? Mom was right. Raw cookie dough is a no go, and it’s not why you think it is.

Most people assume that the raw cookie dough danger stems from its raw egg ingredients that could harbor Salmonella. And while it’s true that raw or undercooked eggs can house this pathogen, it’s actually the flour that may be doing more harm.

Flour comes from grain, and grains are not treated to kill bacteria prior to their inclusion in foods. Grazing animals who relieve themselves on certain grain crop could have their waste product eventually worked into your food supply.

Normally, a “kill step” like baking or broiling would kill potentially harmful pathogens – but you are avoiding that step if and when you consume raw cookie dough.

The US Food and Drug Administration reports that dozens of people have reported becoming ill from a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 that can be traced back to raw flour consumption.

So when it comes to raw cookie dough – be sure to steer clear.

In addition to ditching raw cookie dough, the FDA also recommends that consumers avoid eating raw cake batter, cake mix or any other raw baked good batter.

For more FDA food safety information, click here.


Potatoes: Friend or Foe?

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If you’re trying to eat right, you almost never go wrong with eating more fruits and vegetables.

But what’s the deal with potatoes? They’re a starchy vegetable, with more calories and a higher glycemic index than most of their vegetable counterparts. Potatoes often get a bad rap, but don’t spurn your spuds just yet…

Potatoes on Parade

First, some context. Potatoes are in the spotlight this week due to a study published in the British Medical Journal that found potato eaters have higher rates of hypertension (high blood pressure).

The study looked at over 187,000 subjects from 3 US cohort studies and found that, “higher intake of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes and French fries was independently and prospectively associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension…”

So are potatoes to be passed off as a hypertension causing tuber? Not so fast.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, more than 50 percent of potatoes sold in the US are to processors who turn them into things like hash browns, processed mashed potatoes and French fries. We’re not talking healthy serving sizes of roasted pure potato here. These are convenience foods with significant amounts of added fat…and salt.

And that’s where the hypertension piece comes in – the most processed food you eat, the more sodium you consume, and the higher your risk of blood pressure can be.

Potassium and Blood Pressure

Potatoes on their own actually have the potential to LOWER blood pressure. That’s because they contain potassium, an essential mineral that works to reduce elevated blood pressure. Potassium is found in most fruits and vegetables (albeit in higher quantities in potatoes, bananas, and tomatoes). And it’s these same foods – fruits and vegetables – that are also naturally low in sodium. The combination of low sodium and high potassium intake from fruit and vegetables can work to help lower your blood pressure.

The kicker is what you do with foods like potatoes that really matter. If you are more likely to eat your potatoes as French fries, of course your risk of high blood pressure will go up. Even baked and boiled potatoes were associated with higher BP risk….but keep in mind there’s a greater than 50 percent chance those potatoes were processed with added fat and salt.

At the end of the day, the more whole, intact foods you can eat, the better for your health. Stay away from foods that come in packages and keep your added salt and fat to a minimum. And when it comes to picking potatoes, steer clear of the chips, fries and other processed versions.


Fertility and Diet

April 30, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Biotechnology, Obesity


It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. According to the National Infertility Association, about 30% of infertility can be attributed to female factors, 30% to male factors, 20% is unexplained and 10% is caused by a combination of problems in both partners.

While there are many potential causes of infertility, weight may play a role. Women who are very thin or obese are less likely to conceive than those who are in a healthy weight range.

According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 12% of all infertility are a result of a woman weighing either too little or too much. Too much body fat results in overproduction of estrogen and too little body fat leads to underproduction of estrogen. Both result in hormonal changes in the body that disrupt ovulation and reduce likelihood of conception.

When it comes to fertility and diet, ASRM states that there is no evidence to support diet changes in women with a healthy body weight (body mass index 19-25) who have regular periods.

There are however a few dietary considerations that may be linked to infertility, regardless of BMI:

  • A diet high in mercury (found in seafood)
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day in women)
  • Heavy caffeine intake
  • Recreational drug use

If you are considering pregnancy, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake and avoiding smoking and recreational drugs are the dietary considerations that you should be making. To learn more about fertility take the Fertility Myths quiz from

Does Your Shape Matter More Than the Number on the Scale?

April 29, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, General, Weight management

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For individuals struggling with overweight and obesity, focusing on body mass index (BMI) or the number of the scale may be the wrong health indicators.

An emerging body of literature suggests that an older measurement, the waist-to-hip ratio may be more valuable when assessing the impact of weight on health.

A new study published in the journal Obesity found that participants with a high waste-to-hip ratio had a higher risk of heart attack.

People with a high waist-to-hip ratio are often described as being “apple” shaped. Apple shaped individuals hold fat around their important vital organs. This type of fat leeches into the bloodstream easily and causes a negative effect on cholesterol and other blood fats.

The World Health Organization states that a healthy waist-to-hip ratio is less than 0.9 for men and less than 0.85 for women. It is important to note that there are no particular exercises you can do to reduce fat in one particular area of your body. “Spot reducing” does not work; rather, cardiovascular and strength building exercises can help convert fat to muscle and lower overall body fatness. For tips on calculating your own waist-to-hip ratio, click here.

How Does Your Daily Water Intake Rate?

April 27, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Dietary Patterns


Ever wondered exactly how much water per day you should be drinking?

Well the truth is, there is no hard and fast rule about an exact amount of water that each individual needs. You hear recommendations like, “Drink 8 cups of water a day” or “Aim for 2 liters of water per day”, but those guidelines have no evidence based foundations and aren’t a perfect fit for all people.

Most health practitioners agree that the best way to regulate your water intake is to keep an eye on the color your urine. If your urine is light yellow or close to clear, then you are well hydrated. If it tends more towards dark yellow or orange, then you need to drink up!

A recent analysis of national data shows that the both males and females in the US consume on average, slightly more than the amount of water recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Males consume an average of 117 ounces (about 15 cups) while females drink 93 ounces (about 12 cups) per day.

The problem with most people’s water intake is that it’s not from straight water. Of those national numbers, about 30% of total water consumed by males was plain water with 34% for women. The rest of the water values are made up of water from other foods (which is fine) and drinks (which probably isn’t). Most drinks that aren’t straight water are likely to be beverages that have added sugar.

If you’re looking to make the wise water choice, you don’t need anything fancy. Despite recent concerns about water supply in some areas, most municipal tap water sources are entirely safe. There’s no need to buy fancy vitamin-enhanced waters because these provide the types of vitamins that we all already get enough of and they contain added sugars.

If plain old drinking water isn’t your bag, spice it up by adding citrus like lemon or lime or cucumber for some added flavor. The proliferation of countertop carbonation machines makes it possible for you to add bubbles to water without sugar or calories.

However you prefer to pour your beverages, aim to make water the mainstay of your drink decisions. Avoid drinks with added sugars or vitamins and keep an eye on the color of your urine as your personal guide to optimal hydration.

Turning the Truth Inside Out – The Reality about Popcorn

April 8, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Uncategorized


As a consumer we trust that the food products we are buying are safe for ourselves and our families. However, there may be less than desirable ingredients in one of your favorite snack foods. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little popcorn as a quick snack or evening treat. It always seems to hit the spot and provides a light snack packed with fiber and whole grains. In fact, one ounce of popcorn provides almost 4g of fiber to help you feel fuller longer. But beware, if you are not air-popping this tasty treat yourself the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Microwavable varieties of popcorn, such as Jiffy Pop or Jolly Time, contain toxic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), cell damaging diacetyl (DA), and heart harming trans-fats. PFOA is the same toxic substance that is used on Teflon pots and pans. This chemical is used in many microwavable brands to line their bags which protects from oil leakage and provides non-stick sides that produce a perfectly popped product. However, according to Emory University scientists, this toxin has been associated with both kidney and testicular cancer in individuals who work or live near PFOA plants.

Also toxic to your body, DA is the butter flavoring chemical which has been found to break down cell layers that protect an extremely vital organ, your brain! What’s more, if consumed in larger quantities for a long period of time, DA can also cause a respiratory disease known as “popcorn lung”. In fact, one consumer who ate two bags of microwaveable popcorn daily for 2 years was awarded $7 million by the manufacturer after developing this condition.

Finally, trans-fats are oils that have been artificially partially hydrogenated and are known to increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL). Trans-fats also increase you risk of developing heart disease and stroke and have been associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One serving of microwavable popcorn contains 3g trans-fat which is almost 200% over the recommended daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Not to mention trans-fats are typically the second ingredient listed on the ingredient list of most packaged popcorn. Yuck!

So grab this deceiving delectable and pop it in the trash. Buying just the kernels and making your own popcorn recipe will be better for your body and your long term health.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.

A Vegan Diet May Help to Fight Global Warming

April 1, 2016 Edited by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Dietary Patterns, General, Meat


Did you know that switching to a diet free of meat, dairy, and eggs saves 50% more carbon emissions than driving a Prius. Imagine choosing a diet that is not only healthy and tastes great but helps to protect our planet. The first study to look at a plant-based diet and estimate both its health and climate impact supports the idea of moving toward the elimination or reduction of meat in the diet. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights the fact that what we choose to eat greatly impacts the global environment and our personal health. Choosing a diet that provides less meat and more fruits and vegetables could help to prevent 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050 and substantially decrease planet-warming emissions.

Oxford researchers modeled the effects of four different diets: A diet in which no guidelines are adopted; one that follows minimum global guidelines, a vegetarian diet, and a vegan diet. They found that in a world where everyone consumed a vegan diet 8.1 million fewer people would die due to complications from chronic disease per year, and food-related emissions contributing to climate change would be cut by an astonishing 70%. This was compared to a 29% decrease in emissions from a diet following dietary recommendations and a 63% reduction from a vegetarian diet.

What’s more, if the population were to adopt more vegan-based eating habits the countries that would have the greatest impact are the developed nations due to higher rates of meat consumption and obesity. Raising animals for food now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass, in addition to using almost 80% of deforested land in the amazon as cattle pasture. So next time you are reaching for a meat-based protein do your body and the planet a favor and try substituting soy instead, as producing just one pound of meat compared to one pound of soy requires 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.