11/5/07 - 11/9/07

Chancellor's Challenge. Chancellor Bill Richardson has made the decision to change to a healthierlifestyle. Follow his daily accounts and remarks from nutritionists to help him stay on course.

November 9, 2007

New Age Of Aging

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I have a birthday next week. Turning 63 means I was born in 1944. Things have changed in that six decades. No indoor plumbing in the house I was born in. We didn’t eat out. Three meals a day were cooked at home largely coming from things we raised on the farm. No TV, Internet – only the radio. Yep, we had electricity, thanks to the REA. We actually read books and listened to the radio. I spent many summer evenings listening to my beloved St. Louis Cardinals – win or lose. We weren’t poor. We just didn’t have much money. There is a difference.

The music I listened to growing up is now referred to as “geezer” rock. By the way, the new Bruce Springsteen CD is excellent.

Now, our society is filled with all kinds of gadgets and things. We eat most of our meals outside the home. We are inundated with health-related issues. Everything causes cancer. We over-consume and live in a society filled with abundance. In a recent blog I mentioned some of the obesity issues in England that were in part blamed on their abundant society. We are getting older and fatter in the United States.

Does our advancing age require us to think differently about what we eat and how much we exercise? Everywhere we turn we are given information about health. I like to simply summarize health-related issues into two categories: (1) quality of life, and (2) quantity of life. I see a strong relationship between staying healthy and the quality of my life. If indeed 60 is the new forty (I sure hope so), then many of us that we used to think of as old are really just getting into the prime of life. And, if the data is right, we will live longer – the quantity of life. My goal is to marry the two – quality and quantity. One way to do so is to deal with a healthy lifestyle. Age changes some things. While we deal with the fact that we all age, our lifestyle from a nutritional perspective can be modified to affect both the quality and quantity of our life.

Looking over some of the articles on age-related nutrition, I came across some quick facts. Eat a variety of foods, and consume more calcium, fiber, iron, protein, vitamins A and C, and folacin. Sounds simple enough, except I don’t know what folacin is and if I get any in my diet. Our specialists take into account my age when reviewing the food log. Don’t you just love the fiber commercials on TV?

Our aging body is affected by many things – lifestyle, illness, genetic traits and socioeconomic factors. My mom is 83, still works part-time and has never been sick. I sure hope that many of her genes were passed along to me.

There are a number of quality pieces of information and I strongly suggest that you old geezers like me read them. What I’m trying to do is lower my calorie intake, exercise more (4-4-4), include more fiber and whole grains, consume more dairy products, and take a vitamin supplement designed for the over-50 crowd. Important also is the consumption of more water. We all need to consume more water. The advice above is really quite simple. Eat less, eat a variety of foods, watch the calcium, iron, fiber and certain vitamins. Drink a lot of water and exercise regularly.

From” geezer rock” to “geezer nutrition.” My Cardinals will be back with a vengeance next year. Have a great weekend and get out and exercise.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

“Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” – Jack Benny. Sounds like a great philosophy to adopt at any age.

Healthy eating and being physically active are important at every stage of life. We need the same essential nutrients throughout our lives but the recommended amounts may vary.

Surveys show that older adults may not consume recommended amounts of some nutrients, including calcium, folate, fiber, vitamins D, E, B6 and B12, magnesium, zinc and copper. The Dietary Guidelines provide healthy eating recommendations for people two years of age and older, and include specific key recommendations for older adults.

Folate is a B-vitamin essential for normal cell growth and healthy blood cells. The terms folate, folic acid and folacin are often used interchangeably. Folic acid can prevent 50% to 70% of neural tube birth defects if taken before and during early pregnancy. Folate also plays a role in reducing blood homcysteine levels, which increase risk of coronary heart disease.

The recommended intake for folic acid is 400 micrograms (mcg) each day. Food sources of folic acid are citrus fruits, tomatoes, dark leafy vegetables and grain products. Since 1998, wheat flour has been fortified with folic acid to add an estimated 100 micrograms per day to the average diet.

MyPyramid provides a pattern for healthy eating to provide essential nutrients and emphasizes eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber and calcium-rich foods.

Beth Reames


November 8, 2007

Gender Issues

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I am about to step off into quicksand with today’s blog. Are men and women different when it comes to nutrition, weight loss and body fat? I’ll try to summarize what I have found so far. Because the subject of this blog is a man and because I’ve had some comments from women about the blog, I wanted to address our unique differences.

First, men are slower. I realize that is not a revelation to the women readers. Slow, yes, but slow in the conversion of omega-3 fatty acids to longer fatty acids in the body than women. You get these omega-3 things in ground flaxseed, coldwater fish, canola oil, soybeans, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and eggs. One article noted that seafood is a good source, especially coldwater fish and algae. I don’t plan to add algae to my diet anytime soon.

Men tend to add more belly fat (abdominal adipose tissue). Abdominal adipose tissue sounds letter than belly fat, doesn’t it? Belly fat indicates a greater health risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and hypertension. Postmenopausal women have the same risk as men.

Thus far, men are slower and fatter, especially in the belly area. You can draw your own judgment about our fatness in the head!

Women have a lower resting metabolic rate than men. This means that women expend less energy resting than men. Does that occur because when women are resting, we men have to run around doing things for them? Seriously, men have a higher tendency for coronary heart disease than women. The difference is mainly because of HDLs, which tend to be higher in women.

Women have higher percentages of body fat and store more of their fat in the glutei-femoral region, whereas men have more abdominal adipose tissue (belly fat).

So what does all that mean when it comes to nutrition planning and exercise? I found an excellent article by Kathleen Zelman entitled, “Are the sexes really different when comes to losing weight?” Some of her comments include:

  • Men love their meat, and women love the carbs.
  • Women tend to be knowledgeable about nutrition and calories whereas men don’t think much about it.
  • Both men and women get good results when a healthy breakfast is added to their diet.
  • Men are larger and have more muscles than women. This works in the man’s favor in keeping fit. But, women can even the odds by adding some strength training to their exercise routine.
  • Women still do most of the meal preparation, which often means they do most of the shopping. Both of these activities increase the opportunity for nibbling. You know what I mean.

The bottom line is there are some differences. Men and women should do some research and recognize those differences and tailor their nutrition and exercise plans to address their specific goals.

Next we will discuss the age issues. Is it really harder to lose weight when you get older?

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

There are several differences between men and women when it comes to metabolism and nutrition. As the chancellor mentioned, men have a slower rate of conversion of omega-3 fatty acids to longer chain fatty acids in the body than women, most likely because of estrogen effects. What does that mean nutritionally? Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are a precursor of compounds that control many physiological functions in the body such as promoting bone formation. They are neuron-protective and anti-clotting, and they have been shown to prevent cancer cells from growing. Omega-3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory compared to omega-6 fatty acids, another family of long-chain fatty acids that we get from the diet. This might explain in part the higher incidence of chronic disease risk in men. Because of all these important functions, it is important to consume adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids that are obtained from seafood, flaxseeds (linseeds), mustard seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, walnuts and other nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

Where men and women store body fat is also different and contributes to many of the significant differences in chronic disease risk. Studies show that fat stored around the middle (apple shape) increases the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, compared to fat stored around the hips (pear shape). The regional differences in fat storage are due to differences in sex hormones, with androgens promoting fat to be stored around the middle while estrogens promote fat storage around the hips.

Several studies through the years have looked at differences in resting metabolic rate in men and women. Women have less muscle mass. They have higher fat mass and they are less active than men. These differences and hormonal effects lead to the difference in resting metabolic rate. This does not mean that women should give up and throw in the towel when it comes to weight loss. It might make it harder to lose weight, but the same energy equation holds true for men and women. If intake is less than expenditure, there will be weight loss. The weight loss might just be less and take a little longer. Even so, results can vary greatly among individuals. Lean muscle mass is more active tissue than fat mass, and weight training is an excellent way for women to build muscle mass and increase their metabolic rate.

Heli Roy


November 7, 2007

Obesity On The Bayou

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What does Vermont have in common with Louisiana and Mississippi? Very little when it comes to health of the general population of these states. Since 1990, Vermont has moved from 16 in the rankings to No. 1. What characteristics stand out in Vermont’s rise to a No. 1 health ranking?

  • Low rate of preventable hospitalizations.
  • Ready access to prenatal care.
  • Low percentage of children in poverty.
  • Ready access to primary care.
  • Low prevalence of obesity.

The obesity word just keeps coming up in anything that you read regarding health, doesn’t it?

If it were not for Mississippi, we would be dead last. When I read the bottom 10, I noted they were all southern states, with the exception of Oklahoma. Isn’t it about time we move ahead of the other southern states in something other than football? I plan to contact my local elected representative and senator and ask them to make health care, including childhood obesity, a priority in the next legislative session. If all of us do the same, maybe they will get the message. If Vermont can move up 16 spots, why can’t we?

IBM – Big Blue – has started a program to address the obesity of the children of its employees. The company is putting in place an incentive program to reward employees who sign their children up for a 12-week diet and exercise training program. Also, Nationwide Better Health, a unit of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., started an obesity management program that involves using health coaches to provide individualized advice to employees of client companies.

We are looking into an aggressive wellness program for the LSU AgCenter. A committee has been appointed. If you have ideas and suggestions, please let me know. Anything that Big Blue can do, perhaps we can do better.

Here is a 3-minute story from last night’s CBS News about a weight-loss incentive program imposed by the Benton County, Ark., government. View “Forced to be fit at work?

Are men and women different? This is not a rhetorical question. Tomorrow I’ll offer some insights into our differing nutritional needs.

Bill Richardson


On behalf of the LSU Faculty Senate, I congratulate and applaud you for your creative decision to maintain a blog. Your exploration of the blogsphere sets an example for those who would probe unusual or innovative applications of educational technology.

Your web presence gives the administration a more human and accessible face. If only other members of the LSU administration had the courage to enter the "coliseum of free and public debate" in such a charming and courageous way!

Kevin L. Cope
President, LSU Faculty Senate


November 6, 2007

Excellent Progress

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The blood results taken after one month of my lifestyle change are in. My total cholesterol went from 206 down to 167. That’s a 39-point drop in one month. The triglycerides dropped from 104 to 78. My HDL went from 42 to 37. The bad cholesterol, LDL, went from 143 down to 114. If this were an exam, I’d have to give myself a high passing grade. All these data points are now well within the good range.

The blood work when viewed beside data reported earlier – a BMI of 30, down from 32.5, a drop in the percentage of body fat, a 12-pound weight reduction and a loss of 2.5 inches in the waist – point to the positive effects of better nutrition and consistent exercise. If I needed any motivation to continue this pattern, a quick review of these baseline data should be all the inspiration I need.

I was reading in the national media over the weekend about the relationship between nutrition and exercise and the risk of cancer. The results were staggering. Simply put, managing one’s weight, sensible nutrition and getting quality exercise dramatically reduce the risk of many cancers. Was it Pogo who once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”?

The next two months pose some challenges. First, there’s the American holiday of Thanksgiving – also known as how much can I eat over one long weekend? Then we have another holiday at the end of the year where we eat a lot again only with adult beverages added. We will discuss this week how to approach those holidays and start January 1 making resolutions we can keep.

October mission accomplished! Bring on November!

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

The drop in blood lipids was dramatic and clearly reflects what diet can do! Blood lipids fall when there is weight loss and when the total dietary fat intake falls. The total cholesterol is now below 200, or within desirable range. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is the protective lipoprotein and a higher value indicates more protection. A value of 60 or above is considered protective against heart disease. How do you increase HDL levels? The key factors are exercise, soluble fiber, decreasing trans fatty acids, increasing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and quitting smoking. Any kind of aerobic exercise results in an increase in HDL levels, whether it is walking, jogging, bike riding, working on the yard. The goal is an increased heart rate for 30 minutes or more.

Adding soluble fiber to the diet increases HDL. Soluble fibers are found in oats, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Eating these foods helps reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. For best results, eat at least two servings a day.

It is important to eliminate trans fatty acids, which have been shown to be worse than saturated fat in heart disease risk. Trans fatty acids are present in prepared foods such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies. You can find out if the food has trans fatty acids if the label states "partially hydrogenated vegetable oils." Trans fatty acids not only increase LDL cholesterol levels, they also reduce HDL cholesterol levels. Removing them from your diet will almost certainly result in a measurable increase in HDL levels. The food label now lists trans fatty acid content, and many manufacturers have started eliminating trans fatty acids from their foods.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) should fall below 100, so it is still slightly above optimal. The measures taken to increase HDL will also reduce LDL levels. In addition, adding seafood to the diet (omega-3 fatty acids) can decrease LDL levels.

The amount of weight loss the chancellor had in one month is not typical. Some individuals can lose a lot of weight and others struggle with a few pounds. However, the energy equation works: if intake is less than expenditure, the result is weight loss. A slower weight loss combined with exercise will result in more fat loss and maintenance of lean body mass.

Heli Roy


November 5, 2007

Organic Analysis

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The phrase organically grown has become prevalent in many media and advertising campaigns for various foods. Like many of you, I notice these labels. While I think I know what organically grown means, I wanted to find out more. I found good basic information on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Alternative Farming Systems Information Center Web site. The particular page I read was titled, What is organic production?

Here’s what I learned:

  • Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that emphasizes minimal use of off-farm inputs.

  • Organic is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Act.

  • Organic agricultural practices cannot ensure products are completely free of residues.

  • Organic food handlers, processors and retailer adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural production.

The rest of this Web site goes into greater detail about organic production.

I buy some organically grown vegetables. I find the quality to be good, although in some cases you pay more. Now that I have a clearer understanding of the meaning of the term organically grown, I can better ask questions so that I know that I am getting a truly organically grown product rather than one simply advertised as “organic.”

While I like some organic foods, I have little concern about foods not grown organically. I know that the AgCenter’s educational program in agriculture in Louisiana emphasizes the use of best management practices (BMPs). These BMPs are aimed at reducing use of off-farm inputs and thereby reducing residues that might affect the food supply and our waterways. I feel very good about the quality of the food supply. Therefore, my nutrition plan uses both organically grown items and other production systems. I look for quality and price.

I’ll have the results of the one month blood test tomorrow to discuss with you. We can then look at the total baseline data after one month and discuss any modifications in the nutrition plans as needed.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Going organic is a matter of personal preference – and perhaps your pocketbook. Organic foods differ from conventional foods in the way they are grown and processed. Most organic food costs more than conventional food products because of differences in farming practices and lower crop yields. No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious or safer than conventionally grown food. Read “Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?” from the Mayo Clinic.

In the past, there were no standards for using the term "organic." In 2002, the USDA set national standards for the use of the term "organic." Now, consumers buying organic products produced in the United States or imported from other countries can be assured that the foods are produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic farmers are required to follow certain soil and water conservation methods and rules about the humane treatment of animals. However, even though the USDA now certifies organic food, it doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious. Read more about the National Organic Program.

Foods meeting these standards may display the "USDA Organic Seal." This seal tells you a product is at least 95 percent organic.

Look for the word "organic" and the USDA Organic Seal on single-ingredient foods, such as a piece of fruit or meat, and foods with more than one ingredient, such as cereals.

We are fortunate in the United States to have access to a nutritious and safe food supply.

Whether choosing conventional or organic foods, consumers should choose nutritious foods from MyPyramid and read nutrition labels to make wise selections to maintain an overall healthy diet.

Beth Reames

2/10/2009 1:16:32 AM
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