1/21/08- 1/25/08


Friday, January 25, 2008

King Cake Quandary

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I am in a real quandary. Mardi Gras is upon us, and the one tradition that permeates south Louisiana and other parts of the world is king cake. Unlike the dreaded fruit cake I talked about earlier, many of these king cakes are tasty. I like the kind with fruit filling. In looking over my meal plan provided by the specialists, I don’t see any reference to king cake. Therefore, I’ve devised a plan to allow all of us to have king cake and stay committed to the nutrition and exercise plan.

First, let’s commit to eating just one piece of king cake – a medium-size piece. If we all decide to do it, then it isn’t cheating. 

Second, given the expected calorie load in a medium-size piece of king cake, we commit to one extra exercise session during the week we eat the piece of cake. Calories in – calories out. Agreed?

Third, we drink skim milk or have a diet soft drink while consuming the king cake to remove the guilt feelings. Oh, I forgot. That doesn’t work, does it? After all, it is total calories consumed versus total calories burned. 

Fourth, eat half the piece of king cake in the morning and save the other half for the afternoon. That way we get to enjoy it all day.

Ever use any of the above rationalizations in making your choices about consuming something? Given all this excuse-building, I suggest the following. I plan to have a nice piece of a fruit-filled king cake and not feel guilty at all. One piece of king cake (notice I didn’t say I was going to eat the entire king cake) will not offset all the good things that my nutrition and exercise plan has done over the past four months. What’s important is our long-term commitment to proper nutrition and exercise. So enjoy a piece of king cake without having to feel you have to defend it to anyone. But, stay committed to the nutrition and exercise program. Life is meant to be lived.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Around this time of year, we often come in contact with king cakes at work, school and home. Traditionally, whoever gets the baby or trinket in the cake has to purchase another king cake; therefore, the cycle of king cake temptation continues.

The chancellor is right. You can have a piece of king cake (have your cake and eat it too). I found that a slice of king cake (1/15 to 1/16 of an entire cake) has anywhere from 320 to 450 calories. A slice of king cake can easily be incorporated into your eating – if you plan for it. Also, by allowing yourself to indulge just a bit, you will not feel deprived and are less likely to overindulge. Remember, no food is completely off limits. Balance and moderation are the secrets to a healthy lifestyle.

Denise Holston


I look forward to how to eat king cake. I already know one way to do; however, it doesn't seem to be working.

Joe Mapes


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Weight Training and Protein

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“Go get on the treadmill four times a week at level 4 for 40 minutes, and plan on doing that for the rest of your life.” Those words have followed me almost daily since I left my doctor’s office last September. The message was simple – exercise and do it consistently. I keep a detailed log of my workout and looked over the first four months of this program. I find that I had recorded 45 workouts since Sept. 1, 2007. That seems to equal out to about three workouts per week. The intensity of the workout has been on target and actually greater than the level 4 for 40 minutes. I will need to add another workout per week to meet the four times per week goal. 

I have not kept up with the light weight training. Given my last DEXA analysis (determining percentage of body fat), it appears to me that while I am losing fat, I am also losing lean muscle. While I want to continue to lose fat, I want to retain the muscle.  Two things seem important – doing some training with weight and increasing the protein mix in my nutrition plan. The research I have done indicates that as weight training is introduced into the exercise routine, consuming more protein in the nutrition program is important. Protein is needed to build muscle. My goal, however, is not to get bigger but simply increase muscle while reducing fat. The specialists will recommend changes in the nutrition and meal planning. I have to add the fourth workout to the week and add some light weight training. 

I plan to consult a personal trainer for a plan for weights. This will help motivate me to go forward and implement the exercises. I had started this last fall but dropped the weight (no pun intended) and focused solely on the walks on the treadmill and outdoors as the weather permitted. Now I’ll go back to the original plan and get things moving. 

Nutrition and exercise when taken together can help all of us meet our goals. I’ll see what progress can be made before the February report of the baseline data.

Tomorrow we will talk about king cake. How do we rationalize having king cake, which I assure you is not found on too many nutrition plans. 

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

During weight loss, we lose body fat and lean muscle. The purpose of lean muscle is to support us, and as we weigh less after weight loss, there is less weight to support. Hence, we lose lean muscle mass as we lose weight. However, if we are on an extreme diet – for example on a very low calorie diet or on a carbohydrate restricted diet – we may also be using lean muscle mass for energy. It is not good to use our lean muscle for energy. Therefore, we need to make sure we are eating adequate amounts of carbohydrates (our main energy source) and that we eat adequate amount of protein.

Americans tend to consume plenty of protein, and it is not a nutrient of concern. But the trend to eat low carbohydrate diets can be a concern. Although we need to eat less calories to lose weight, we still need a proper mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins for our bodies to function optimally, even during the weight loss period. A good mix is to make sure that about 60-65 percent of energy comes from carbohydrates, preferably complex carbohydrates, about 15 percent of energy comes from protein and 20-30 percent of energy comes from fat. Maintaining this mixture of macronutrients assures that we have adequate energy (carbohydrates and fats) for physical activity and that we can maintain and build lean muscle mass when we exercise (protein).

As we exercise and build muscle with weight training, we use protein for those functions. Weight training is excellent for both men and women to maintain muscle mass as we age. We lose muscle mass as we age, and we tend to become more sedentary. Weight training can help maintain and build lean muscle mass, which gives us more energy. We feel stronger. Weight training helps maintain balance and maintain bone mass in both men and women, which reduces the risk for osteoporosis. If you have not done any weight training before, consult your doctor and start slowly. There can be serious injuries from training too much too soon.

Read “Weight Training Guidelines” from the American College of Sports Medicine.

Heli Roy

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Coffee, Tea and Health

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I once heard that three things are certain – death, taxes and kudzu. For many of us there is a fourth – our morning coffee. I have to have a cup of coffee early in the morning. And, like many of you, I go to great lengths to make sure I get that cup of coffee. Coffee, a newspaper and a little quiet time are just meant to go together early in the morning. I usually don’t have more than two cups and seldom drink any coffee later in the day or evening. I have friends, however, who start early and drink coffee throughout the day. Is that too much of a good thing for a healthy lifestyle? 

Scouring the Internet, I found a lot of stuff about coffee and health and even more about tea, especially green tea. It seems there is a lot of information about the impact of coffee and hypertension. An acute intake of coffee and caffeine increases blood pressure. What is an acute amount? I hope my two cups don’t qualify as acute. After all, I had to give up donuts for a healthier lifestyle. Then I found an article on coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes. The conclusion of this article supports the hypothesis that habitual coffee consumption is associated with a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes. As with all these articles, they conclude that more research is needed. 

My layman analysis of the coffee situation is as follows:  First, one or two cups a day will not cause harm for most of us. Second, consult your doctor for additional advice on coffee consumption. Like anything, too much of something you enjoy can become harmful whether it is an acute amount or a habitual amount. The specialist below will give you some additional details. I still plan to have my 1-2 cups tomorrow morning.

Tea presented an even more interesting subject as I searched the literature. I found that there are a lot of teas out there, green tea being just one of them. Like many of you, I grew up on iced tea. It was cheap and easy to make and tasted pretty good. Now all you hear about is green tea. What is green tea? In one article I found that green tea is one of four types of tea – green, white, black and oolong. White tea is the least processed form of tea, and black tea leaves are fermented. Green tea leaves are steamed, not fermented, and hence preserve more of the polyphenols.

Green tea is given a lot of press as having a beneficial effect on chronic diseases – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, microbial disease and neurodegenerative diseases (aging, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s). It seems those polyphenols in green tea are potent antioxidants, which reduce the free radical damage to cells and prevent the oxidation of LDL. Preventing the oxidation of LDL particles inhibits the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Hence, green tea is believed to be linked to lower risk of heart disease. The specialist will give you even more information. After reading this stuff about green tea, I may just have to start drinking a little myself. I especially noted that reference to aging. 

Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about coffee consumption and green tea. Seriously, I suggest you read more about coffee and tea and make adjustments as needed for a healthier lifestyle. I plan to add a little green tea to the nutrition plan.

Tomorrow let’s talk about weight training and proteins.  

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

As the chancellor said, a little coffee is good but more than two cups can have negative effects. That is actually what the research says. The polyphenols in coffee are good and can ward off diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, but we only need about two cups for the maximum benefit and then the negative aspects of coffee weigh against the positive aspects. Coffee was one of the first ergogenic aids used by athletes to improve performance and is the most commonly used drug in the world. The caffeine in coffee increases an athlete’s endurance, strength and accuracy. It improves mental performance such as alertness and concentration, and it reduces fatigue. It improves performance during prolonged athletic activities such as endurance running. However, coffee can also reduce the elasticity of the blood vessel walls, and that is linked to increased risk of heart disease. In a research study, people who drank more than two cups of coffee a day showed decreased blood vessel elasticity. If one has reduced blood vessel elasticity and high blood lipids, that can be a real concern in terms of heart disease risk. Caffeine in coffee can increase heart rate, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, flushing and GI disturbances. High doses can result in diarrhea, mania and disorientation.

Tea, however, has received a lot of attention by researchers in recent years. A component in tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been researched extensively for its effect on physiology and chronic diseases. EGCG is a component of green, black, white and oolong teas, but the amount varies. White tea, which is the least processed form of tea, has the highest concentration of EGCG. Then comes green tea. Black tea has the least. EGCG is a potent antioxidant and has been found to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals can cause the initiation and development of chronic diseases. EGCG has been found to reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

EGCG is also useful for preventing obesity. Laboratory animals fed a high-fat diet together with green tea, or its component EGCG, were not as obese as those animals that had the high-fat diet without the supplemental tea. It was found that EGCG prevents fat absorption in the intestinal track. It prevents fat synthesis and increases fat metabolism. And as an antioxidant, it helps preserve blood lipids such as LDL.

If you are use to drinking black tea, it also has EGCG in it, just not quite the same amount as green tea. Green tea tastes different than black tea. You may not like it at first. It may take you several tries to get used to it. However, it is an excellent alternative to other drinks.

Heli Roy


As an overweight adult who is seeking a teaching degree at LSU, I have great concern about the children in public schools. Many children are deprived of the chance to be physically active. Recess is short, and P.E. teachers are rotated from school to school. Some middle schools have cut out recess and hold the students in the gym where they sit and are allowed to eat junk food snacks. Why then should we expect anything less from the generation who thinks playing video games is cool? Why should we expect little children to know how to go outside and play? To play outside until dark, to use their imagination – those were the "good ole days." In honor of Dr. King, I Have A Dream…

Lisa Phelps


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dangerous Link to Diabetes

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The numbers are staggering. No, not the Super Bowl hype or the LSU national championship celebration, but the link between obesity and diabetes. As you can read below, 90 percent of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight. As we have discussed in this blog, losing weight is difficult for most of us and extremely difficult for many others. Yet, simple reductions in weight, coupled with a little moderate exercise, we can produce over a 50 percent reduction in diabetes. 

Diabetes is a complex issue that affects many of our citizens. For many of those affected or in that pre-diabetes phase, exercise and weight reduction can help. The incidence of diabetes in preteen and teens is epidemic. As one reader commented, even something as simple as walking your pet can help. I promised you that I was going to write my legislator, and this week is the right time for that letter. As the agenda for the legislative session is taking shape, let’s challenge our elected officials to assist us in addressing the obesity and diabetes problem in our state – especially in teens.

The AgCenter will redouble its effort through the 4-H program to educate teens about the issues with diabetes. Our camping and other leadership activities will help with not only education but also exercise. 

Working together we can make a difference.

I want to thank Mayor Holden for yesterday’s guest blog. I appreciate his commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles. 

Do you drink a lot of coffee and or tea? We will explore that tomorrow.

Read "Obesity Surgery Found Effective in Treating Diabetes" in the Jan. 22 New York Times.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Nearly 9 out of 10 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes are overweight. Losing some weight can help overweight individuals prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and help those who already have diabetes better manage their disease.

Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s inability to make enough or properly use insulin. It is the most common form of the disease accounting for 90 percent of diabetes. Go to the American Diabetes Association site for more information about type 2 and the other types of diabetes.

Before developing diabetes, most people have pre-diabetes, which is higher than normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. The recent Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study showed that people with pre-diabetes can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diets and increasing their levels of physical activity. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in body weight, produced a 58 percent reduction in diabetes. Although the DPP also showed that some medications may delay the development of diabetes, diet and exercise worked better.

Nearly 21 million children and adults – 7 percent of the population – in the United States have diabetes, and another 54 million people are at-risk. About 41 million people in the United States, ages 40 to 74, have pre-diabetes.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, approximately 208,000 adults or seven percent of adults in Louisiana have been diagnosed with diabetes.

African Americans have the highest prevalence of diabetes, with a nine percent diagnosis rate, compared to five percent of Hispanics and six percent of the white population.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with pre-diabetes reduce their weight by 5 percent to 10 percent and participate in some type of modest physical activity for 30 minutes daily.

Healthy eating is important for managing diabetes. Tips from the American Diabetes Association for making healthful food choices include:

  • Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Try picking from the rainbow of colors available to maximize variety. Eat non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans with meals.
  • Choose whole grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with stir-fry or whole-wheat spaghetti with pasta sauce.
  • Include dried beans (like kidney or pinto beans) and lentils in meals.
  • Include fish in meals 2-3 times a week.
  • Choose lean meats like cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin" such as pork loin and sirloin. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
  • Choose non-fat dairy such as skim milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat cheese.
  • Choose water and calorie-free diet drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats that can be high in saturated and trans fats. Remember that fats are high in calories. If you're trying to lose weight, watch your portion sizes of added fats.
  • Cut back on high calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes, and full-fat ice cream.
  • Watch portion sizes. Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain.

The LSU AgCenter’s Diabetes Education Awareness Recommendations Program and Smart Portions Healthy Weight Program provide information on healthful eating, physical activity recommendations and lifestyle habits. For information about these programs or about eating healthfully using MyPyramid , contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish.

Beth Reames


Monday, January 21, 2008

Guest Blogger- Mayor-President, Kip Holden

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As the Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish, I have an overwhelming desire to make a positive impact on the future of our community.  One specific way I would like to do this is by improving the overall awareness of health issues affecting our children and encourage them to live healthy lives.  

Last year, I was given an incredible opportunity to serve as the Chairman of the National League of Cities, Council for Youth Education and Families. This organization’s mission is to provide resources and initiatives for municipal leaders to help make positive changes in the quality of life for children, youth and families. While serving with this council, I have seen the national issue of healthy living, as it is related to obesity, and hope to be able to influence communities and citizens to learn the importance of this issue and its effect on their lives.

Childhood obesity rates have climbed from 4 percent in 1971 to 17 percent in 2004.  Recent studies have shown that nearly one-third of elementary school-age children are either overweight or considered at risk, and that the obesity rate for preschool children through age 19 has doubled. I believe this has been a result of the decline in education of nutrition and the importance of regular physical activity. 

As a child, I was active with my local track team. The National Health Interview study released information that 61.5 percent of children between nine and 13 do not participate in any type of organized physical activity and more than 22 percent do not participate in any free-time physical activities. It is very important that as parents and role models, we set an example and encourage daily physical activity. If we instill this in their lives now, they are more likely to continue these good habits as adults, passing them on to their children. 

As an adult, I know the importance of living a healthy life. I work hard to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, to ensure that I am able to perform in a demanding world. I hope that each of you will look at your health habits and discuss them with your children.  


Nutritionist’s Response

Mayor Holden has always supported the programs we offer here in East Baton Rouge Parish and elsewhere in the state. We offer healthy lifestyle programs for both adults and youth. Our programs concentrate on teaching healthy eating and exercise plans to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases.

Our Smart Choices adult curriculum encourages healthy eating based on MyPyramid. It encourages eating sensible portions of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein foods. It includes lessons on increasing physical activity and on money management and food safety.

Our adult Smart Portions Healthy Weight Program focuses on lifestyle changes to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It covers fad diets, eating out, physical activity, menu planning, nutrients and self-esteem.

Our youth curriculum teaches basic nutrition and healthy lifestyles in schools across the state. Our agents and nutrition educators in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and Family Nutrition Program offer lessons on nutrition, food safety and physical activity. The lessons are all based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid, and they concentrate on teaching children about increasing fruits and vegetables and choosing whole grains.

Another in-school program we offer across the state is Smart Bodies, a 12-week nutrition education program that culminates with a visit by the Body Walk exhibit. It is an excellent program to increase awareness of good nutrition, and one that children remember.

We also conduct our 4-H Youth Development program in every parish. 4-H is the largest youth organization in the world. It is national as well as local. Our programs focus on science, engineering and technology, healthy lifestyles and citizenship.

This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Louisiana. Since 1908, Louisiana’s youth have been given opportunities to become positive, productive, capable and compassionate citizens in their communities. During 2008, more than 218,000 youth and more than 9,000 volunteers will celebrate the centennial with numerous events across the state.

As we look to the future, we see 4-H continuing to develop individuals and teach life skills.

Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:39 AM
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