Sailing The Atlantic

5 10 2011

Please check out our latest piece published in The Atlantic, exclusively at:

Atlantic Article


Grains of Truth

5 11 2010

Fret not, fearless reader. Like Indiana Jones we’ve been digging up some interesting facts to share. Although we often speak to using less refined items like whole grain in place of refined all white flour and sugar, the data on the benefits from replacing these items with less adulterated products can be a bit tricky to find.

Previously we have spoken to the high risk type of fat deposition called VAT, or visceral adipose tissue. This is a preferential deposition of fat around the belly area, known as “belly fat.” This type of fat deposition is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular complications, diabetes and metabolic syndrome development. For those adults who regularly consume whole grain options as opposed to refined white flour choices, VAT was approximately 10% lower. Those who ate 3 or more whole grain servings and consumed 1 or less servings of refined grains per day achieved this benefit according to a recent study from Tufts University[i]. “For example, a slice of 100 percent whole-wheat bread or a half-cup of oatmeal constituted one serving of whole grains and a slice of white bread or a half-cup of white rice represented a serving of refined grains”, noted Nicola McKeowan, a co-author of the study. This study was published in The American Journal of Nutrition and examined over 2,800 men and women aged 32 to 83. The study looked at smoking history, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, percentage of calories comprised of fat, and physical activity routines and found the whole grain consumption benefit independent of these other factors. Interestingly, the benefit was lost if more than several daily servings of refined choices was consumed-even with 3 or more whole grain choices.

And while eating a diet rich in fish has demonstrated multiple health benefits, a recent study found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements alone were ineffective in reducing the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published in the November issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.[ii]A study of 402 patients showed no benefit in terms of memory decline between those taking supplements and those not. There were no adverse events in those taking supplements. Unlike a recent study looking at Vitamin E which suggested that taking Vitamin E not only did not reduce stroke risk, but may make it worse[iii]. The study published in The British Medical Journal failed to demonstrate any reduction in overall stroke risk for those taking Vitamin E. Those who suffered a stroke while taking Vitamin E had a 22% increased risk of a more severe type of stroke (hemorrhagic). There was a small (~10%) in non-hemorrhagic stroke. The authors conclude that “(g)iven the relatively small risk reduction of ischaemic stroke and the generally more severe outcome of haemorrhagic stroke, indiscriminate widespread use of vitamin E should be cautioned against.”

Eat simply and fresh, live well and simply.

[i] (HealthDay, 2010)

[ii] (Quinn, et al., 2010)

[iii] (Schurks, Glynn, Rist, Tzourio, & Kurth, 2010)

Out of Context

30 08 2010

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A recent study from the Netherlands[i] prospectively looked at the value of omega 3 fatty acids in patients who recently had a heart attack. Most of the previous recommendations showing benefit had come from smaller studies and a large meta-analysis suggesting a 20%-36% risk reduction for animal derived omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids can be obtained from animal sources (principally marine) where they are found in the form of n−3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Plant sources are primarily found as n−3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and their benefit has been of borderline significance.

The study looked at over 4500 men and women aged 60-80 over a four year period. They were given placebo margarine, an EPA-DHA enriched margarine, a ALA enriched margarine or an EPA-DHA and ALA enriched margarine. There was no benefit to adding the omega 3 fatty acids to margarine, although there was a trend toward benefit in women receiving ALA enriched margarine. In looking specifically at diabetics subgroup, there appeared some benefit, especially with the EPA-DHA.

The authors conclude that the lack of benefit may be due to the composition of the study group, new treatments and medicines that reduce the benefit of omega 3 fatty acids and thus make it difficult, statistically, to show a protective effect, or there simply was no benefit. An additional possibility is that by taking the omega 3 fatty acids “out of context”, additional and necessary compounds that work with these molecules were not present. Much in the same way that many studies have shown health benefits for populations consuming moderate amounts of wine, yet studies with large doses of isolated anti-oxidants have, for the most part, not demonstrated the same level of benefit. Despite that, the conclusion consistently reached is that it is the effect of these anti-oxidants that are responsible for the benefit.

So as words taken out of context can lose their intended meaning, nutrients taken out of context can lose their benefit. Eat them as nature intended, take them in context, and most of all, enjoy.

[i] (Kromhout, Giltay, & Geleijnse, 2010)