Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are Cheerios Really the Preferred Cereal to Lower Cholesterol?

This is a different format for a Whistle Blog .  Instead of spot- lighting a questionable diet/health  story that appeared in the media this week….I want to illustrate how VERY clever advertising can elevate an average product to a top seller…based on clever presentation.  In that regard, we’ll start The Whistle with factual, credible information about fiber.  The following is the real-deal…….no hype here:

Fiber Friendly Foods
Soluble Fiber vs Insoluble Fiber

Everyone has heard that there are tremendous benefits to increasing the fiber content of their diet.  The daily recommendation is over 25 grams of fiber/day.  As you look at total dietary fiber grams on a label, deduct the listed amount from the 25 grams/day recommendation.  So, a wrap containing 8 grams of fiber would leave you with about 17 more grams/day needed to meet the minimum.   

 Fiber not only promotes health, it also helps reduce the risk for some chronic diseases. For instance, fiber prevents constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. It is also linked to prevent some cancers especially colon cancer as it moves food through the GI tract instead of it sitting in the gut for longer periods of time.  (Unfortunately, many of our foods are exposed to chemicals, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics that were never meant to sit in the GI tract.)  In addition, fiber helps lower LDL cholesterol and  total cholesterol thereby reducing the rise of heart disease. Fiber can also help lower blood sugar spikes as it does not convert to blood sugar and allows food to leave the stomach in controlled amounts .  Fiber is part of the total carb content of a food but does not translate into blood sugar and insulin requirements.

Types of Fiber: Soluble Fiber and Insoluble Fiber

There are two types of  fiber: soluble and insoluble.  Both types go undigested and neither enters the bloodstream.  Although some food companies choose to show the grams of soluble and insoluble fiber separately, both types are very beneficial. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid.  I think of it as a sponge that soaks up and carries waste “out the door” and moves bulk along through the intestines.   Insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact. I think of insoluble fiber as a toothbrush that travels down the intestines cleaning as it moves along. 

Insoluble Fiber

Its Functions: 
Promotes the development of bulkier stool to help prevent constipation.
 Helps balance the pH in the intestines forming a  healthy GI environment and preventing microbes from producing cancerous substances.
Helps move toxins through the colon in less time

Best Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber
Vegetables like green beans and dark green leafy vegetables
Skins from fruit or potatoes
Whole wheat products
Wheat bran, corn bran

Soluble Fiber

Its Functions:
Lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
Helps decrease blood sugar spikes
Binds with fatty acids

Food Sources of Soluble Fiber
Oat bran and oats
Dried beans and peas (legumes)
Flax seed
Psyllium husk
Just a note:

When you are choosing a food based on fiber content, look for total fiber grams.  There is no need to separate soluble or insoluble fiber as they are both very healthful.  And…many foods: oats, oat bran, psyllium husk, and flax seeds are high in soluble and insoluble fiber. 

Now that you have read facts about fiber….let’s take a look at a product that capitalizes on ITS fiber content as it relates to lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease….CHEERIOS

The Cheerios boxes used in advertising  have a banner across the front of the box that reads:  HELPS LOWER CHOLESTEROL.  The presentation of the product is built around how adding Cheerios to a healthy diet will help lower cholesterol and decrease heart disease.  The bowl of cereal is pictured inside the outline of a heart.  Commercials are “heart warming” and show families of young children and their parents or grandparents.  Ask any TV-watching child to point to the box of cereal that tastes great AND is “good” for their parents’ and grandparents’ hearts….and they will automatically point to a box of Cheerios. 

We have been programmed to equate Cheerios with heart health. ….as if there is something very special about the box of cereal that will make us healthier.


But is CHEERIOS really “special” in its ability to lower cholesterol…is it better than other cereal choices?  Or….has a perfect marketing campaign been devised to steer consumers to buy a cereal they “believe” is in their best interest, exclusive of other choices, for heart health? 

From the beginning of this article, you already know that the type of fiber recommended to lower cholesterol is soluble fiber.  With that in mind, I checked out the soluble fiber content of cereals.  The serving sizes of each is comparable:

 1 cup All Bran  “Bran Buds”  = 9 grams soluble fiber

1 packet Weight Control Oatmeal = 4 grams soluble fiber

1 cup Oat Bran Flakes = 3 grams soluble fiber

½ cup dry Oatmeal  =  2 grams soluble fiber

1 cup Fiber One Cereal = 2 grams soluble fiber

1 cup Raisin Bran Cereal = 1.3 grams soluble fiber

1 cup Wheat Chex = 1 gram soluble fiber

1 cup Cheerios = 1 gram soluble fiber

1 packet Oatmeal = 1 gram soluble fiber

In 1 cup of Cheerios, there is 1 gram soluble fiber.  In fact, if you read the small print on their box,  in their advertising, on their website is the notification that it will take 3 servings of Cheerios….3 cups/day…to give you 3 grams of soluble fiber.   This is the amount that might make a small difference in your cholesterol.  In order to get those 3 grams of soluble fiber (the amount that maximally dropped total cholesterol by 7 points)…you need to consume 3 bowls of cereal/day.

There is a growing school of thought, based on current research, that for many people, carbohydrate intake drives their LDL cholesterol  and triglycerides up and HDL cholesterol down.   If you look at having 3 cups of Cheerios and non fat milk, you will be adding over 80 grams of carbohydrate to your daily carb intake

I have three comments:  
I am not a believer that any cereal with or without fat free milk will significantly lower cholesterol levels or lessen the risk for heart disease….In fact, I believe adding 3 cups of any cereal to your day significantly increases your carbohydrate intake and can actually increase blood sugar, insulin release that leads to higher LDL cholesterol and triglycerides

I believe there are many sources of soluble fiber , many with much higher amounts than Cheerios…and there is no reason to separate Cheerios as a cereal that will improve your cholesterol or lower risk of heart disease.
  Finally, the person who headed the marketing campaign that spotlights Cheerios as THE cereal that makes your heart healthier…..deserves to be sitting on the beach with an umbrella drink.  Cheers!!!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pink Slime….The Cow is Out of The Bag

Even as the National School Lunch Program rifles through students’ bagged lunches to make certain that what their parents packed for lunch is “approved”….new information shows what is being quietly served on your child’s school lunch tray

PINK SLIME.  The name sounds as bad as it is.  And.. chances are you’ve unknowingly consumed it hundreds of times since it was quietly added to our food supply over 10 years ago. 

McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and many grocery stores have vowed to stop using it (now that the cow is out of the bag).  But….unbelievably, The USDA will continue buying pink slime containing ground beef products to be served to our children as part of the “National School Lunch Program.” 


Let’s talk about pink slime, shall we?

Pink slime is listed on ground beef labels as “lean finely textured beef.”  (That actually sounds healthy, doesn’t it?).  What is it?  An ammonia treated burger extender made from fatty left over meat trimmings, beef scraps, cow connective tissues…the parts of beef that were once used in dog food and cooking fat. 

The process involves heating the scraps to about 100 degrees F and spinning them to remove most of the fat.  What’s left is connective tissue and assorted as sundry none- fat scraps.  The slimy product is sprayed with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, formed into blocks or chips, and frozen.  See, it turns out that the waste products are more highly apt to contain E.Coli and Salmonella so that handy spray of ammonia helps kill the bacteria.  Does ammonia show up on the label for this meat product?  No, the FDA allows the ammonia to be labeled as an undisclosed “processing agent.”  What a tangled web we weave……

It is estimated that at least 50% of our ground beef supply contains pink slime.

This year, the USDA has contracted to buy 111.5 MILLION pounds of ground beef for the National School Lunch Program.  About 7 MILLION pounds of “lean finely textured beef” will be among those pounds.  And, even though fast food restaurants and grocery stores won’t be using the product, the USDA will give the School Lunch Program the option to use the pink slime burgers or purchase non-pink slime containing burgers. 

Why would a school choose the pink slime burgers?  They are less expensive and cost saving, of course!  The idea that school children are being served this beef “product” without their parent’s knowledge but with the full consent of the USDA and National School Lunch Program is beyond me.

Despite the ammonia spraying, E.Coli and Salmonella are still found in the “lean finely textured beef.”  Hence, outbreaks of E.coli that have still caused recalls of tons of beef in the past 10 years.  And the strains of E.coli are more deadly than ever:

Why is E.Coli such a concern these days?  I don’t remember hearing about it years ago.  Well, the answer lies in the very large demand for beef.  E.Coli originates from the digestive tracts of cattle.  Cattle are meant to be fed grass..but due to demand, farms skip the grazing and feed the cattle a daily intake of antibiotic treated grain.  Grain is not the appropriate food for cattle.  The manure produced by the cattle ends up seeping into the ground and water supply.  (That’s how mass E.coli happens regarding vegetables).  Healthy animals are fed so many antibiotics that E.Coli and salmonella are developing resistance to them.

The FDA must make a ruling on a lawsuit brought last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council to decide if routinely feeding healthy farm animals antibiotics constitutes a threat to humans.  It’s a bet that the very strong meat and drug industries will put the pressure on the FDA to keep antibiotic dosing in effect.
So…The process of heating and spinning the left over trimming, connective tissue, etc to form a low fat paste that could be sprayed with ammonia to kill its higher than typical E.Coli content could “extend” burger making it cheaper for fast food industries and groceries and the USDA to purchase for the National School Lunch program.  All this done without the public’s knowledge.  And now, when even fast food and grocers are willing to say “no more”…the USDA continues to say YES to pink slime for our kids.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Skinny on Liposuction: Is surgically vacuuming away unwanted fat cells the fast and final answer to finally losing unwanted body fat?

Catherine is a very attractive woman.  She arrived for her appointment with her shiny blonde hair in a chic chignon; she wore a black turtleneck top, figure flattering slacks, and black suede pumps.  Her “look” showed she paid attention to detail in her understated yet well chosen accessories and smart use of make-up.  Catherine was a woman whose appearance mattered very much to her, and it showed.

For a moment, my mind returned to the labwork that was spread out on the desk between us.  I remember seeing her elevated glucose, high total and LDL cholesterol, and I knew she took medication for blood pressure.  I didn’t expect to see a woman with a figure like this to match those labs.  Quite frankly, I expected my 68 year old female patient to be overweight, a little out of shape, and in need of a weight loss program, STAT. 

She sat down and looked in my eyes.  “I know you must be wondering why I’m here.”  (I own a private practice in medical nutrition therapy specializing in weight loss, metabolic syndrome, pre diabetes and type 2 diabetes). “ My friends can’t believe I’m seeking help from a dietitian…I mean look at me, right?”

I remember thinking….you do look great, but your labs absolutely need improvement…..so  I let her continue.  What Catherine did next shocked me.  She stood up, unzipped her slacks, let them drop to the floor.  She lifted her top and showed me that under her “Spanx” camisole….on her upper back…was a roll of fat.  She faced me and next pointed to a distinct roll of fat…way up under her breasts, and a much more pronounced roll at  the top of her thighs.  It was honestly very weird to look at….very unnatural deposits of fat in very unusual places.    It was hidden under her spandex…. but it WAS there….and quite noticeable.

Thankfully, I already knew that Catherine’s  lab work proved she had Metabolism B.  Millions of people have Met B and are over-producers of insulin (a fat gain hormone).  Those with Met B typically have progressive issues with fatigue, focus/concentration, midline fat stores, mild depression, irritability, carb craving as well as progressively increasing glucose, lipids, and blood pressure.  Catherine had the labs and many of the symptoms but did not “appear” to have the body to match those labs…until she showed me what was going on underneath. 

Her eyes  began to tear up as she spoke.  “I’ve had several procedures in recent years to banish this fat.  I resorted to surgery only after the fasts, cleanses, starvation diets, liquid diets, medically supervised diets, WW, Jenny Craig failed me.  I exercised daily, had a personal trainer…did all I could do….but nothing got rid of the belly fat, the muffin top.”   In desperation, I decided to have liposuction. The surgeon suggested I try to lose the belly fat before the surgery, but it was impossible.  I was thrilled when the surgery was over….he had removed pounds of fat from my tummy and muffin top…my major problem areas”

In the case of liposuction, fat cells are “sucked” out of the body….think of a small vacuum tube inserted through small laparoscopic incisions removing fat cells as the surgeon directs its placement.  Fat cells are removed from the area of the liposuction.  Interesting thing about fat cells….when they are removed, they don’t grow back and replace themselves.  Once they are removed, they are removed.  That almost sounds too good to be true, right?  Catherine couldn’t diet or exercise away the fat, but she could have it removed once and for all.  Sounds promising right?

Not so fast….While  it’s true that fat cells don’t increase in number or replace themselves if they are removed.  But…it’s also true that fat cells will increase in size when we gain weight and decrease in size when we lose weight.  Catherine mistakenly thought her liposuction effectively removed the bane of her existence…the roll of fat round her middle. Gone gone and gone.

Well, no no and no.  As time progressed, Catherine began to notice the area directly above and directly below the area that had undergone lipo suction was getting larger.  At first she thought it was a figment of her imagination, but over time…it was obvious.

Time passed, Catherine returned to the plastic surgeon who recommended a little “clean up.”  When Catherine returned home after her second liposuction, she assumed she had finally won the battle of the bulge.  Unfortunately, the story did not end there.  As time passed, the scenario repeated itself.   After one more lipo AND a tummy tuck……Catherine was now in my office.  A 68 year old woman with an odd roll of fat directly under her breasts, on her upper back, and on her upper thighs.

Here’s the important message about liposuction and fat regain.  Millions of people have Metabolism B.  Met B is a hormonal imbalance of the fat gain hormone, insulin.  Insulin attaches itself to receptors on fat cells so they can store blood sugar.  I know that Catherine has Met B from her medical history: high glucose, high LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure as well as low HDL cholesterol, low Vitamin D.  She makes excess insulin that makes her fatter around the middle.  When fat cells are removed, the excess insulin moves on to other fat cells and opens them for storage.  So….as fast as her fat cells were removed, her insulin found another place to connect!

The issue wasn’t in removing fat cells, it was and always will be in controlling her insulin! 

I taught Catherine a diet program that works directly on balancing her insulinHer fat stores began to shrink in size and her glucose, lipids, blood pressure , and Vitamin D normalized.  When I next saw her (8 weeks later) she still looked F A B U L O U S …as always….but she was also on the road to losing her “problem” fat and regaining her health and well-being.

Sometimes the answer IS too good to be true…..in this case…..the answer is in a change in diet/lifestyle to match a particular type of metabolism.  Try this before you begin a series of ineffective liposuctions.
Read more on Metabolism B at : www.themetabolismmiracle.com.