Friday, August 8, 2008

Obesity Plagues the South

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Whissie makes his Internet debut today. I took him for a walk last evening. He almost hyperventilates when I mention walk and reach for his leash. Of course, because of his short stride, his enthusiasm wears off after a block or so. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

An interesting cartoon in the local paper today depicts an overweight man reading the paper and saying, “Louisiana ranks fourth in obesity.” His companion in the cartoon responds with, “Is that really so bad since we rank first in good food?” Yes, our food is wonderful. But, that should not be an excuse for our problems with obesity. As I noted yesterday, we make too many poor choices in the selection and preparation of foods. Couple that with a lack of discipline in portion control, and you have a recipe for disaster. We can enjoy all the wonderful Louisiana cuisine. We just need to be smarter about it.

The obesity issue plagues the South. I just returned from a conference where some of the other land-grant universities were reporting on their states’ activities. I heard more than one talk about the obesity issue and programs that they were implementing to combat this problem. I have to say that our approach to inform the public exceeds what some others are doing. The obesity issue is real, and we must all fight the causes so that we don’t have to pay for the cures.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back with you on Monday.

Chancellor and dog

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist's Response

You have probably heard the term “it takes a village to raise a child.” The same phrase can be applied to the fight against obesity but with different wording. There is not just one solution to the problem nor can one person or one entity solve it. Public-private partnerships and collaborations have been shown to be one of the key factors in the fight. Because my specialty area is in childhood obesity, I will focus on collaborative efforts with schools.

Because it is estimated that more than 55 million children attend public and private schools in the United States, schools have been identified as a key component to the prevention of childhood obesity. To further support this concept, in 2004, the federal government enacted the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which requires all school systems participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program to establish and implement school wellness policies by the 2006 school year. The Louisiana Legislature passed a law that requires public schools to provide students in kindergarten through 6th grade with a minimum of 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Schools have been identified as ideal environments for population-based interventions directed at children and youth for several reasons:

• Almost all children are in school for a considerable period of time.

• Children from all risk groups can derive some benefit.

• Targeting all children avoids stigmatizing some.

Nutrition and physical activity are compatible with the education mission because studies have shown that adequately nourished, physically active children perform better cognitively than those who are not physically active and/or under or over nourished.

Smart Bodies is one of the AgCenter’s child wellness programs that is the result of a public-private partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, which is the charitable subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. Smart Bodies is a comprehensive nutrition education and physical activity program designed to help promote child wellness. Smart Bodies integrates classroom activities with hands-on learning to teach elementary school children how to build strong bodies and develop active minds.

Smart Bodies consists of three components: 1) the Louisiana Body Walk, an interactive exhibit representing the human body, 2) the OrganWise Guys, characters that educate and encourage children to practice healthy habits, and the 3) Take 10! curriculum, which is a classroom-based nutrition education and physical activity program. Visit the Smart Bodies Web site.

 Denise Holston


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hold Back on Fries, Fatty Meats, Soda

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A recent study published by the American Dietetic Association discussed the dietary intake of Americans. As you might guess, we as a group are not doing too well in our consumption of foods by food groups. Not only are we falling short in most food groups, the nutritional content of the item being consumed is lacking. For example, does fried okra count as a veggie?

Most of our vegetable consumption is from starchy vegetables such as potatoes. And, we fry a lot of those potatoes. We don’t eat a lot of dark green vegetables and, in general, are not making passing grades in vegetable consumption and preparation of vegetables.

We are doing a little better with fruit. A little over half of our fruit consumption is from whole fruit (nonjuice), which is consistent with dietary guidelines. Our favorite fruits are apples, pears and bananas. Nationwide, citrus and berries were only a small part of the total.

We do not a have a good track record in the meat and bean group (protein). Meat is about 40 percent of that group. Our favorites – burgers, franks, bacon, ribs and cold cuts – were about half of the meat intake. The skinny is that because we like a lot of these high-fat meats, it is difficult to keep calorie and fat content in the diet low. We don’t eat a lot fish, nuts, legumes and seeds. Soy intake is very low. About 60 percent of dairy comes from fluid milk.

Our discretionary calories come from fat and sugar. Sound familiar? And more than half of those sugars come from beverages – most of which is sweetened carbonated beverages.

Enough of the stats. The conclusion is that we spend a lot of time talking about the food groups but do not spend enough time educating the public about appropriate choices within the food groups. There is a difference in a piece of fried fish and one broiled (if you don’t dump some high-fat dressing on the broiled fish).

As you plan your meals, give some thought to the groups and, more importantly, to the preparation and selection of the foods in each group. Tomorrow we will have that long-awaited picture of Whissie. We had to go through his agent and make sure that his hair was combed and agree to supply ample doggie treats while he was out in the hot sun posing for us.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist's Response

Several studies over the years have assessed the dietary intake of Americans. Each one seems to show we are not consuming an adequate amount of vegetables and fruits, but we overconsume foods such as French fries and sweetened beverages. This seems to be the case again in the latest survey called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a large national study on food intake of the American public aged 12 to older than age 60 years.

According to the study, vegetable intake was derived almost entirely from starchy and other vegetables. Potatoes – cooked, fried and as chips – made up more than 70 percent of starchy vegetables. We did not consume nearly enough dark green vegetables, orange vegetables or legumes. Likewise, consumption of whole grains was far below the recommendation that half or more of grain servings come from whole grains. Breakfast cereals and yeast breads were the main sources of whole grains. Rice and popcorn contributed only a small percent of whole grain intake. Our fruit intake was closer to the recommended 2 cups a day. Meat is popular, but we also consumed a lot of fatty meats such as burgers and sausage. Despite information about the health benefits of consuming fish, our intake of fish was low as was our intake of nuts, seeds and legumes.

Discretionary calories are extra calories that can be consumed in the form of fat or sugar when our intake from the food groups is met for our calorie level. More than half of the added sugars (51 percent) were derived from beverages, including a more substantial contribution from sweetened carbonated beverages (37 percent). Consumption of added sugars was estimated to have increased 14.5 percent between 1994-1996 and 1999-2002.

We could improve our diets by consuming low-fat dairy products such as reduced fat or nonfat milk, reduced fat cheeses and yogurt, and by choosing leaner types of meat. We could choose more fish, and add more variety to our vegetable intake by consuming more dark green and orange vegetables. Americans are not consuming an adequate amount of whole grains. Substituting brown rice for white rice in casseroles and mixed foods will increase whole grain intake without changing the flavor of the food. Some whole grain products have a stronger taste than refined products, such as breads, but a taste for them can be developed over time. Whole grain products also have a different texture. Most of the ready-made breakfast cereals are made with whole grain and are a good source of dietary fiber.

Heli Roy


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It’s All About Math

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The 10-month profile contains good news and not-so-good news. First, the not-so-good news. Weight gain of about 3+ pounds over the past two months. Unacceptable! I will not even bore you with my excuses. More on this later. The good news! Total cholesterol remains lower at 172 (down from 180 on the past profile), HDL was 45, LDL was 101 (down from 115), and the LDL/HDL ratio was 2. I am still averaging 3-4 workouts per week and have increased the duration from 40 minutes to 50-60 minutes.

Given the weight gain and the good blood profile numbers, it appears that I’m making good choices about nutrition but consuming too many calories. I know that my rigorous travel schedule for the past six weeks has contributed to that situation. But I accept responsibility that I am eating too much in general. That is simple enough to fix. I must get back on track with the 2,200 calorie per day plan.

I am pleased with the blood report indicating that I have been able to reduce my total cholesterol and maintain that level, and I am seeing signs that the bad cholesterol, LDL, is declining. Recall, that when I started the program, the total cholesterol was 206 on one test and 199 on another one or borderline high. The LDL was 143 on one test and 135 on another one, which is high. My HDL has remained in the 42-45 range, which is acceptable.

To summarize the first 10 months: The nutritional and exercise lifestyle changes have resulted in weight loss and improved blood chemistry. However, to meet my goals of weight reduction, I have to maintain a consistent exercise program and adhere more strictly to the nutrition plan with emphasis on the total number of calories consumed while making smart choices about the nature of those calories.

Two months to go on this program – but a lifetime of commitment to nutrition and exercise.

Bill Richardson


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Eat Slower, Consume Less

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I eat too fast! I mean really fast. So fast at times that my body consumes too much food before it knows I ate too much. That sounds like something that Yogi would say, doesn’t it? There is a body of research that indicates eating slowly may actually allow you to eat less.

When you think about fast eating, it makes sense that you might eat too much. Normal people stop eating when feeling full. But if you are just plowing the food into your mouth like I do, your brain might not tell you you’re full until it’s too late. So, eat slower and let your body guide you through to a good meal. And by eating slower you might actually allow your mouth the time to gauge the taste of the food.

Some guidelines for me to follow and that you might find helpful in trying to eat slower are these:

  • Take smaller bites.
  • Pause between bites.
  • Chew thoroughly.

You might find that you consume less and get full, too. I’m going to practice this at lunch today to see if I can slow down and enjoy more while eating less.

Tomorrow I’ll have the results for the DXA and blood profile. We will discuss the progress or lack thereof and chart out the plans for the final 60 days of the program.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist's Response

If you recall, Mother always told us to slow down when eating. We were told to put our fork down between bites. Today we tend to eat in a hurry because we only have a few minutes, or we eat while doing something else such as watching TV. Eating is not the main focus anymore. I remember being told that it takes 20 minutes for the signal to reach from our stomach to our brain that we have eaten something and that if we just slow down, we would eat less. This seems to hold true. A publication in the recent Journal of the American Dietetic Association titled “Eating Slowly Led to Decreases in Energy Intake within Meals in Healthy Women” supported that notion.

Eating slowly has been used as one of the weight management tools in weight loss programs. Slower eating has been hypothesized to allow satiation to register before too much food is consumed. When we eat, chemical and physiological signals are released. The chemical signals travel to our brain and tell the brain satiety centers that we have had something to eat. The signals are different depending on whether we have eaten carbohydrates or fats. Other signals are physiological. Our blood sugar level rises as we digest and absorb food, and that alone signals satiety. Our stomach also distends as we eat and that also signals satiety.

An interesting study of the time effect on satiety was conducted with 30 healthy women who had no chronic diseases. They could eat as much as they liked, but under one condition. They had to pause between bites, they used a small spoon, and they were told to chew their food while counting to 20 or 30. Under the other condition, they used a large spoon, and they were instructed to consume the food quickly. The researchers found that the slow meal duration was about 21 minutes longer. There is the magic number of 20 minutes that we were told before. The subjects consumed considerably less food during the slow meal than during the quick meal, yet they felt more satiated. Under the slow condition they consumed more water. The combination of small bites, pauses between bites and thorough chewing resulted in considerably decreased eating rate. While they ate more food under the fast condition, they were less satiated. The meals were equally palatable.

Results of this study seem to support the idea that the feedback from ingested food takes at least 20 minutes to develop, and this delay is independent of the amount of food eaten. Slower eating actually resulted in decreased food intake.

If we deprive ourselves and we are extremely hungry, we tend to eat rapidly and more calories than normal. Therefore, it is a good idea not to skip meals and to eat slowly to prevent overeating.

Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:31 AM
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