Dietetics Blog

Our dietetics students have the chance to publish their blog posts on this site. From challenging the latest fad diets to busting nutrition myths, you'll read posts from students who are broadening their writing and media skills. All posts are reviewed by UGA dietetic interns who play an important mentorship role in guiding the student-authors to promote evidence-based health messages.

What Everyone Should Know About Organic Foods

February 09, 2024

By: Mary Elizabeth Altman

I currently share a kitchen with five college-aged girls and have been witness to countless “grocery store hauls.” These hauls typically showcase the ingredients for new meal ideas and unique grocery store item finds they come across as they try to eat as healthily as possible for as little money as possible. During one show and tell, however, I had a realization that many people simply do not understand what certain food labels mean. My roommate revealed she had “gone completely organic” and was excited about the “healthier” produce and packaged goods she had purchased. So, what is all the hype about organic foods?

What does organic mean?

Organic foods are foods produced without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, sewage-based fertilizers, bioengineering, or radiation (U.S Department of Agriculture 2020). These plants and animals that are grown for food production are raised in a way that mimics how they would thrive naturally in the wild. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that organic produce must be grown in soil that has been free of synthetic farming additives and any non-naturally occurring chemicals for at least three years. These prohibited substances can be found on a list produced by the USDA to maintain their high standards (McEvoy 2020). Organic animal meats must be raised in living conditions that mimic what their natural feeding and grazing behaviors would be (McEvoy 2012).

How are organic foods labeled?

Labeling organic foods can be tricky. Items that meet the following requirements may showcase the USDA certified organic emblem on their packages:

  • Products that are made entirely of 100% certified organic ingredients are labeled as “100% organic” on their packages.
  • Products with 95% of their ingredients being certified organic are labeled as simply “organic.”

The following items may have the word “organic” on their boxes, however they cannot display the USDA certified organic emblem on their packaging:

  • Products that boast labels “made with organic” contain at least 70% certified organic ingredients.
  • Some items may display labels that read “organic ingredients.” These products contain some organic ingredients but these are in quantities of less than 70%.

Are organic products more nutritious?

In short, no! There is currently not enough evidence proving that organic foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods (Dangour et al. 2010). An organic orange has the same benefits of fiber and vitamin C as a non-organic orange. My roommate's “healthy organic meal plan” was mostly cheese and bread. While her ingredients were in fact organic, and neither cheese nor bread are foods to stray from, her meal plan lacked the variety and color that make up a well-rounded diet. Nutrition professionals promote a diverse variety of foods and a balanced eating pattern. Whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables are the building blocks/important parts of a balanced plate.

Bottom line

If you choose to buy strictly organic foods, that is great! Organic foods are generally grown in more sustainable and eco-friendly conditions, but they tend to be pricier than their counterparts. If you wish to eat a healthful and fresh diet while on a budget, organic products may be a little harder to keep on hand. Pursuing health and wellness can also be achieved in the non-organic aisles. What's more, organic does not inherently mean healthy; an organic sweet treat, is still a sweet treat.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Megan Appelbaum, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Dangour AD, Lock K, Hayter A, Aikenhead A, Allen E, Uauy R. Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jul;92(1):203-10. Epub 2010 May 12. PMID: 20463045.

McEvoy M. Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means. United States Department of Agriculture. (2012). Internet: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means (accessed 22 January 2024).

McEvoy M. Organic 101: Allowed and Prohibited Substances. (2020, October 27). USDA. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2020/10/27/organic-101-allowed-and-prohibited-substances (accessed 22 January 2024).

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Labeling Organic Products, 2020. Internet: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling#what%20requirements (accessed 22 January 2024).

United States Department of Agriculture Certified Organic: Understanding the Basics | Agricultural Marketing Service, 2020. https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/organic-basics (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Is it really okay to take medicines with alcohol?

February 09, 2024

By: Tina Brauda

Many people like to drink alcohol to celebrate, have fun, and relieve stress in life. Approximately 60% of adults report drinking alcoholic beverages in the past month (United States Department of Agriculture, 2024). But do you know if it’s really safe for you to be drinking alcohol? According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, alcohol is not recommended for individuals with certain medical conditions or taking medications that may interact with alcohol (United States Department of Agriculture, 2024). The combination of alcohol and certain drugs can pose serious health risks, even in small amounts. Understanding the potential consequences of mixing alcohol with drugs is critical to making smart decisions about your health.

Dangers: taking medications with alcohol

Many common over-the-counter and prescription drugs may interact with alcohol, known as alcohol-medication interactions (Traccis et al., 2022). You may have seen this warning, "Do not drink alcoholic beverages," on the medications you take. This is because alcohol mixed with certain drugs may cause nausea, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, fainting, or loss of coordination. It can also put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, and breathing difficulties. In addition, alcohol can make medications less effective, useless, or even harmful to your body (The National Institutes of Health, 2014). Most alarmingly, nearly 80 percent of people aged 65 and older drink alcohol and take drugs at the same time (Mitchell, 2016). Aging reduces the body's ability to metabolize alcohol, so alcohol remains in the body's system longer. At the same time, older adults are also more likely to be taking one or more medications, increasing the risk of interactions (Mitchell, 2016).

Medications that interact with alcohol

What are some of the more common over-the-counter drugs that can interact with alcohol? Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen are often used to relieve pain and inflammation. If taken with alcohol, they may cause stomach upset. If taken repeatedly over a long period, this can lead to development of stomach ulcers, bleeding in the stomach wall or intestines, and liver damage (Mitchell, 2016). In addition, alcohol interacts with allergy, cold, and flu medicines such as chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine. These drugs can cause drowsiness or dizziness, and alcohol increases their effect. This puts a person at risk of drowsiness and dizziness, potentially leading to falls or other accidents, and also increases the risk of drug overdose (The National Institutes of Health, 2014).

Bottom Line

The intersection of alcohol and drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, requires careful consideration. Individuals should always consult their healthcare provider before mixing substances to ensure they understand the potential risks and side effects. It is also important to read medication labels and follow recommended dosages. Striking a balance between medication and responsible drinking is essential to maintaining physical and mental health. Don't let your family worry, and make smart choices for a safer, healthier lifestyle.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Eden Crain, UGA Dietetic Intern

References  

Mitchell S. 2016. Don't drink alcohol while taking these medications. Internet: https://www.consumerreports.org/drugs/medication-alcohol-dont-mix-these-drugs-and-drink/ (accessed 24 January 2024)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH). Mixing alcohol with medicines. 2014. Internet: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines# (accessed 24 January 2024).

Traccis, F., Presciuttini, R., Pani, P. P., Sinclair, J. M. A., Leggio, L., & Agabio, R. 2022. Alcohol-Medication Interactions: A systematic review and meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Volume 132: 519–541.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov. (accessed 24 January 2024).

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Are Fruits and Vegetables Enough to Meet My Fiber Intake?

February 09, 2024

By: Anna Faye Dupree

What is fiber?

Consuming dietary fiber, the non-digestible component of plant-based foods, is crucial for promoting healthy digestion and bowel movements. Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are excellent sources of fiber, which can be broadly classified into two types: insoluble and soluble. Both types of fiber have positive impacts on health. Insoluble fiber aids digestion and helps prevent constipation by remaining undissolved in water. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, slows digestion, lowers blood cholesterol, and stabilizes glucose levels (Guan 2021). Although it is commonly assumed that people consume sufficient amounts of dietary fiber, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) reveal that more than 85% of adults have a diet deficient in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (2024).

It is important to consume a variety of foods rich in fiber

Getting enough fiber in your diet is crucial, but it is not just about the amount; variety matters, too. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 34 grams (2024). Unfortunately, most people struggle to meet these requirements. Simply relying on one or two sources of fiber is insufficient for meeting daily fiber recommendations. For example, a medium apple contains 4 grams of fiber, so you would need to eat 6-9 apples a day to hit your goal. Similarly, one cup of chopped broccoli contains approximately 3 grams of fiber, meaning you would need at least 10 cups to meet your daily requirements.

Clearly, it is tough to get enough fiber from fruits and vegetables alone, especially if your diet lacks variety. To maintain a healthy diet, including nutrient-dense starches like whole grains and legumes alongside fruits and vegetables is vital. Foods in the vegetable subgroup of lentils, peas, and beans are particularly high in dietary fiber (USDA, 2024). For instance, a 1/2 cup of pinto beans contains 8 grams of fiber, two slices of multigrain bread contain 6 grams of fiber, and a 1/2 cup of chickpeas contains 7 grams of fiber. While fruits and vegetables are important for overall wellness and provide some dietary fiber, you should strive to incorporate a variety of fiber rich foods to meet daily recommendations.

Bottom line

A general tip to boost your fiber intake is to include at least one fiber-rich food into each meal or snack you eat. This can be achieved by swapping white breads, crackers, or cereals for whole wheat options, adding beans to soups or ground meats, and incorporating berries, nuts, and seeds into your meal and snack routines (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2024). Additionally, increasing your fluid intake is essential to help your body process fiber without discomfort. Drinking at least 8 cups of water daily is recommended, though some people may need more (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2024).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Julia Lance, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024. High-Fiber Nutrition Therapy (2022). Internet: https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=4 (accessed 22 January 2024). In: Nutrition Care Manual®.

Guan ZW, Yu EZ, Feng Q. 2021. Soluble dietary fiber, one of the most important nutrients for the gut microbiota. J Clin Med. 26(22):6802.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Internet: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/ (accessed 22 January 2024).

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Is there really a hard limit to protein utilization for athletes?

February 09, 2024

By: Jackson Call

A questioned consensus

You may have heard that there is a limit to the amount of protein that muscles can use for growth while training. The previous scientific consensus held that protein intake should be spaced throughout the day and limited to 20-30 grams at a time to optimize muscle protein synthesis - aka the production of new muscle proteins. It was thought that protein consumed in excess of this would be broken down and used for energy rather than used to build body tissues (Shoenfeld and Aragon 2018). Over the last few years, new evidence has challenged this ideas.

One study that popularized the 20-30 gram limit is a 2013 study (Areta et al., 2013) where 8o-gram doses of protein were broken up in increments of 8 10-gram doses, 4 20-gram doses, or 2 40-gram doses and evenly spaced over 12-hour time span. This study found that consuming protein every 3 hours in the 20-gram dose was optimal for muscle protein synthesis over a 12-hour period. These results led to the belief in some fitness and athletics circles that large doses of protein would not be useful for muscle protein synthesis. In a study released in 2023 (Trommelen et al., 2023), researchers gave participants 25 grams of protein, 100 grams of protein, or a placebo treatment. In this trial, the dose of 100 grams of protein allowed for sustained muscle protein synthesis over the span of 12 hours, while the 25-gram treatment only sustained muscle protein synthesis for 4 hours. This study demonstrated that protein above 30 grams was still used for muscle protein synthesis in the people studied, just over a longer period of time.

How does this apply to you?

Now, what does this mean for the athlete or the casual fitness enthusiast? While more research is needed in larger-scale studies before protein recommendations can officially change for active individuals, an athlete can likely consume more than 30 grams of protein at a time, and it will be used for muscle protein synthesis if needed. The key here is it will only be used for muscle protein synthesis if needed. For casual athletes who consume protein in excess of their needs, benefits to muscle protein synthesis are unlikely.

Bottom line

The new research suggests that athletes with high protein demands, such as long-distance runners, athletes practicing twice daily, collegiate athletes, and bodybuilders, can likely benefit from eating meals with protein content higher than 30 grams, allowing for more meal planning flexibility. For more casual athletes, little will change regarding protein recommendations to support muscle growth and strengthening. Protein consumption among athletes to enhance performance is of great interest to researchers, and more studies are on the horizon. Robust studies in larger groups of people are needed before we will see official changes to the recommendations.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Eden Crain, UGA dietetic intern.

References

Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Ross, M. L., Camera, D. M., West, D. W., Broad, E. M., Jeacocke, N. A., Moore, D. R., Stellingwerff, T., Phillips, S. M., Hawley, J. A., & Coffey, V. G. (2013). Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of physiology, 591(9), 2319–2331.

Gorissen, S. H. M., Trommelen, J., Kouw, I. W. K., Holwerda, A. M., Pennings, B., Groen, B. B. L., Wall, B. T., Churchward-Venne, T. A., Horstman, A. M. H., Koopman, R., Burd, N. A., Fuchs, C. J., Dirks, M. L., Res, P. T., Senden, J. M. G., Steijns, J. M. J. M., de Groot, L. C. P. G. M., Verdijk, L. B., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2020). Protein Type, Protein Dose, and Age Modulate Dietary Protein Digestion and Phenylalanine Absorption Kinetics and Plasma Phenylalanine Availability in Humans. The Journal of nutrition, 150(8), 2041–2050.

Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15, 10.

Trommelen, J., Van Lieshout, G. A., Nyakayiru, J., Holwerda, A. M., Smeets, J. S., Hendriks, F. K., Van Kranenburg, J. M., Zorenc, A. H., Senden, J. M., Goessens, J. P., Gijsen, A. P., & Van Loon, L. J. (2023). The anabolic response to protein ingestion during recovery from exercise has no upper limit in magnitude and duration in vivo in humans. Cell Reports Medicine, 4(12), 101324.

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Does Eating Breakfast Have Benefits?

February 09, 2024

By: Paloma Vega

Introduction

There are many reasons why people choose not to eat breakfast: they might have a low appetite, dislike breakfast foods, do not have time, practice fasting, etc. However, breakfast is important in a person’s energy levels, mood, concentration, nutrient intake, among many other things. These are a few of the many benefits obtained from consuming a well-balanced breakfast to kickstart the day!

Why breakfast?

Skipping breakfast may cause short- and long-term problems related to health and social well-being. Consuming a balanced breakfast improves focus and concentration, as it is difficult to concentrate when a person is hungry. Studies involving school-age children and adolescents have shown a positive correlation between consuming breakfast and cognitive performance, academic achievement, quality of life, well-being, and life expectancy (Lundqvistet et al., 2019). Additionally, skipping breakfast may make it difficult to meet nutrient intakes of fruits, grains, dairy, and protein. Breakfast is a part of the day when nutrient-dense foods can be consumed to increase the intake of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). However, it is important to note that people who consume sugary cereals or foods with empty calories may not receive the same benefits that people who eat nutrient-dense meals; children and adolescents who consume breakfast typically consume more B vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iodine (Giménez-Legarre et al. 2020). Also, breakfast foods typically consist of grains and milk products, which can increase fiber, iron, folate, and calcium intake. Therefore, a person who consumes breakfast is more likely to have a higher nutrient intake compared to someone who does not eat breakfast, which helps prevent nutrient deficiencies. Additional evidence suggests that people who eat breakfast usually consume lower intakes of saturated fats, total fat, and sodium (Gibney et al., 2018).

Individuals who skip breakfast and practice fasting usually do it for many reasons, including weight loss. Fasting or skipping breakfast may help with weight loss in the short term due to reduced caloric intake; however, long-term fasting slows down the body’s metabolism and may make it harder to maintain the weight lost, also known as metabolic adaptation. In other words, once a person decides to increase their caloric intake, they tend to regain most of their weight. This is likely due to a slower metabolism due to muscle loss, hormonal changes, and increased appetite (Busko, 2022).

Bottom line

Although people skip breakfast for many reasons, research shows that those who eat breakfast consume more micronutrients and macronutrients, eat diets richer in fruits and vegetables, and have higher concentration levels and memory, among other benefits. Skipping breakfast in some cases, such as fasting, over time may lead to metabolic adaptation, where metabolism slows down due to weight loss.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed By Sierra Woodruff, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Gibney MJ, Barr SI, Bellisle F, et al (2018). Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative. Nutrients, 10(5), 559.

Giménez-Legarre N, Miguel-Berges ML, Flores-Barrantes P, Santaliestra-Pasías AM, and Moreno LA. (2020). Breakfast Characteristics and Its Association with Daily Micronutrients Intake in Children and Adolescents-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 12(10), 3201.

Lundqvist M, Vogel NE, and Levin LÅ (2019). Effects of eating breakfast on children and adolescents: A systematic review of potentially relevant outcomes in economic evaluations. Food & nutrition research, 63, 10.29219/fnr.v63.1618. https://doi.org/10.29219/fnr.v63.1618

Busko M. “Physiology Fights Back” When People Are Trying to Lose Weight. Medscape. January 27, 2022. Internet: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/967318?form=fpf (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Unveiling the Nutritional Showdown between Wild-Caught and Farm-Raised Salmon

February 09, 2024

Why should we eat salmon regularly?

Salmon is famous for its delicious taste and nutritional value, making it a critical selection for a balanced diet. Packed with essential nutrients, salmon offers a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins (Li et al., 2005). Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon are particularly beneficial for heart health and brain function and reduce inflammation (Washington State Department of Health, 2024). Incorporating salmon into your diet is wise for promoting optimal nutrition and supporting a healthy lifestyle.

In the seafood realm, the debate between wild-caught and farm-raised salmon has sparked conversations among health enthusiasts. Farm-raised salmon display an accelerated growth rate compared to their non-genetically engineered counterparts (FDA, 2023). Understanding these two fish sources' nutritional differences and disparities is crucial for making informed dietary choices.

Opt for omega-3 fatty acids

One of the vital nutritional components that make salmon a prized presence in our diets is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory fatty acids essential for cardiovascular health and brain function. Wild salmon's omega-3 levels are controlled by their plankton diet (a natural omega-3 source), while farmed salmon levels depend on their feed (a blend of plants, grains, and fishmeal). Despite this, farm-raised and wild salmon have comparable omega-3 levels (Washington State Department of Health, 2024).

Consider contaminants

Due to water pollution, contaminants like mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins are often found in wild-caught fish. Wild-caught fish may have varying levels of pollutants depending on their natural habitat (Foran et al., 2005). While raised in controlled environments, farm-raised fish are not exempt from contamination concerns (Sinara et al., 2021). The quality of the water in fish farms and the ingredients in their feed can influence the levels of contaminants found in farm-raised fish.

FDA approval

Before hitting the market for human consumption, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) subjected farm-raised salmon to a rigorous evaluation process to ensure that this genetically modified fish was safe for human consumption. The FDA's safety assessment concluded that genetically modified salmon is safe for human consumption and has a nutrient profile comparable to non-genetically modified salmon. Additionally, the FDA requires farm-raised salmon to carry a label indicating its genetic engineering, which allows consumers to make informed choices when purchasing seafood (FDA, 2023).

Bottom line

The nutrient content between wild-caught and farm-raised salmon is similar. This similarity is positive news for consumers seeking to include more seafood in their diets to benefit their health, as either option could serve as a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins (Li et al., 2005). With ongoing oversight and a commitment to informing consumers, the FDA aims to ensure that this genetically engineered fish contributes positively to our food systems without compromising food safety. Consumers can decide on sustainably sourced fish from the wild or responsibly managed farms to maximize the nutritional benefits while minimizing potential risks.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Julia Lance, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Washington State Department of Health. Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Salmon. Washington State Department of Health. (2024). https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/food/fish/farmed-salmon (accessed 8 February 2024).

Food and Drug Administration. (2023, March 7). Aquadvantage Salmon fact sheet. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/aquadvantage-salmon/aquadvantage-salmon-fact-sheet (accessed 8 February 2024).

Foran JA, Good DH, Carpenter DO, Hamilton MC, Knuth BA, and Schwager SJ. (2005). Quantitative analysis of the benefits and risks of consuming farmed and wild salmon. The Journal of nutrition, 135(11), 2639–2643.

Li D, Siriamornpun S, Wahlqvist ML, Mann NJ, and Sinclair AJ. (2005). Lean meat and heart health. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 14(2), 113–119.

Troian SA, Gottardo FM, and Alves MK. (2021). Presence of Inorganic Contaminants in Farm-Raised Fish and Wild-Caught Fish. UNINGÁ Review, 36(1).

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Milking a Plant for all it is worth! Is it time for cow’s milk to moo-ve over?

February 09, 2024

By: Callie Dellinger

What milk should I buy? 

Within the past few years, various plant-based "milks" have entered the market as an alternative to cow's milk. With the growing number of options, picking milk that best fits your nutrient needs and food preferences can be challenging! In general, there is no right or wrong answer when deciding which milk to include in your everyday eating pattern. Not everything is black and white -- like a cow's spots. So, let's dive into the nutrient facts to gain a better understanding.

Consider calcium content

Plant-based milk alternatives are often made from nuts, legumes, grains, and seeds. Some examples include coconut, oats, flax, rice, peas, and soy. Plant-based beverages can serve as an alternative for individuals with dairy allergies or intolerances. According to MyPlate, examples of dairy products include milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free milk, fortified soy milk, and yogurt (USDA 2024). When determining which foods are considered dairy products, MyPlate evaluates calcium and fat content (USDA 2024). Calcium is vital for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Regularly consuming adequate amounts of calcium (1,000-1,300 mg/day) improves bone health and prevents osteoporosis (USDA 2020). Calcium also helps with muscle movement and nerve communication (NIH 2023). Individuals who do not consume cow's milk or fortified soy kinds of milk need calcium from other sources like canned salmon or sardines with bones, kale, tofu, broccoli, calcium-fortified fruit juices, and cereals. Fortified soy milk is most equivalent in nutrients to cow's milk (USDA 2020).

Protein & vitamin D, yes, please!

In addition to calcium, protein and vitamin D are nutrients to consider when purchasing dairy products. Protein is essential for the structure of our cells and tissues, hormone regulation, digestion, and muscle contraction (Piedmont Healthcare 2024). Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, preventing osteoporosis, and assisting the immune system fight off viruses and bacteria (NIH 2022). Many plant-based milks contain less protein and vitamin D than cow's milk (FDA 2023). To ensure you are meeting your daily protein (71 g/day) and vitamin D needs (600 IU/day), check nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists to help you pick foods that meet your daily nutrient needs (USDA 2020). Some examples, such as salmon and light canned tuna, are excellent sources of protein and vitamin D (USDA 2019). Sunlight helps with vitamin D production; however, dietary sources should be prioritized to meet an individual's daily needs.

Bottom line

Individuals can enjoy plant-based milk alternatives and cow's milk, as they each play an important role in meeting your nutrient needs and food preferences. When selecting these products, consider your specific nutrient requirements, allergies, intolerances, and palate. Certain medications may also require the consideration of plant-based milk products. Reach out to healthcare professionals, such as your primary care provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist, to find the beverage options that will best fit your needs.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Julia Lance, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Piedmont Healthcare. Why is protein important in your diet? Internet: Why Is Protein Important In Your Diet? | Piedmont Healthcare (accessed 5 February 2024).

National Institutes of Health. Calcium Fact Sheet for Consumers. September 14, 2023. Internet: Calcium - Consumer (nih.gov) (accessed 26 January 2024).

National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Consumers. November 8, 2022. Internet: Vitamin D - Consumer (nih.gov) (accessed 5 February 2024).

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dairy. Internet: USDA MyPlate Dairy Group – One of the Five Food Groups (accessed 26 January 2024).

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2020. Internet: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (accessed 5 February 2024).

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Food Sources of Vitamin D. 2019. Internet: Food Sources of Vitamin D | Dietary Guidelines for Americans (accessed 5 February 2024).

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Milk and Plant-Based Milk Alternatives: Know the Nutrient Difference. February 2nd, 2023. Internet: Milk and Plant-Based Milk Alternatives: Know the Nutrient Difference | FDA (accessed 26 January 2024).

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Juice Cleanses: Detox or retox?

February 09, 2024

By: Skylar Smith

Where does the urge to juice stem from?

Juicing is a common method of fasting. A juice fast can last from one day up to longer than one week (Watson, 2023). People are often reaching toward juices as they are touted to cleanse and detox your body. The belief is that the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables will enhance the gut microbiota and “reset” the body. Juice detoxes are also suggested as a weight loss program (National Institutes of Health News in Health 2021).

What does the science say?

Research shows that there is no compelling evidence showing the effectiveness of using detox diets for weight management or “cleansing” the body (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health 2019). When a fruit or vegetable is juiced, you may obtain most of the vitamins and minerals, however you are missing out on the dietary fiber that is lost in the process (Zeratsky, 2023). Ultimately, while you are receiving essential vitamins and minerals, you are losing the key player in gut health.

What are other alternatives?

While juice fasting has benefits such as providing vitamins and minerals, a juice fast is not sustainable as it does not provide protein, fiber, or fats which are all essential for the body’s day-to-day maintenance and processes. The following alternatives are going to preserve the fiber content or provide a supplemental fiber source if you choose to stay with juices. Alternative weight management methods include altering plate composition. Aiming for the MyPlate model, you can follow the one-fourth grains/starches, one-fourth protein/protein alternatives, one-half fruits and vegetables, and a dairy source (United States Department of Agriculture 2022). Whole fruits and vegetables serve as a great source of dietary fiber, which is a key component to promoting gut health and satiety (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021). By shifting the composition of your plate to encompass more fruits and vegetables, you are looking at an equal or higher volume of food, but likely a lower calorie content. You will be left feeling satiated and energized. If you are interested in juicing, aside from these alternatives, consider a smoothie instead. Blending protects the integrity of the fiber. “Meal” smoothies are a great option to have an all-in-one meal. Pair a protein, such as milk or Greek yogurt, with a starch/grain, such as oats or pumpkin puree, with vegetables, such as spinach, fruit of your choice, and a healthy fat, such as peanut butter or avocado.

Bottom line

Fruit and vegetable juices offer many healthful benefits, including vitamins, minerals, natural sugars, and antioxidant properties. However, juicing alone is not enough to provide substantial energy. Pairing juices with well-balanced meals provides sources of carbohydrates, protein, fat, dairy, vitamins, and minerals. Rather to promote health, it is recommended to follow or aim for a balanced eating pattern with day-to-day variation that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate recommendations (myplate.gov).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Skylar Mercer, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021. Fiber Content of Foods (2022). Internet: https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=140 (accessed 26 January 2024). In: Nutrition Care Manual®.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health 2019. “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know. Internet: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know (accessed 26 January 2024). In: National Institutes of Health.

National Institutes of Health News in Health 2021. Do Detox Diets and Cleanses Work? Internet: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2021/12/do-detox-diets-cleanses-work (accessed 26 January 2024). In: National Institutes of Health.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov (accessed 26 January 2024).

United States Department of Agriculture. MyPlate. Version current 2022. Internet: https://www.myplate.gov/ (accessed 26 January 2024).

Watson, S. Do Fasting Diets Work? 2023. Internet: https://www.webmd.com/diet/fasting (accessed 26 January 2024). In: WebMD.

Zeratsky, K. 2023. Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables? Internet: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/juicing/faq-20058020 (accessed 26 January 2024). In: Mayo Clinic.

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What you do not know about dieting apps?

February 08, 2024

By: Emily Belinski

Are these apps helping you hit your goals or doing more harm than good?

While apps that track your health may seem like the perfect solution to help you lose weight, they might not be the right tool for you. Though designed to help you become aware of the calories you consume, they could potentially be dangerous tools that do more harm than good by not advertising the risks associated with using the apps.

Problems with these kinds of “tools”

Tracking apps require you to enter the amount of food you eat, calories you consume, and your weight, which can lead to unhealthy habits (Eikey 2020). For example, focusing on how much you eat can lead to obsessive behaviors, strict diets, and a dependency on the app (Eikey 2020). You may start using the app with good intentions but find yourself obsessing over everything you eat to enter a “good report card.” These small behaviors can lead to permanent changes in how you value yourself by giving weight and body image too much power over your life. Before the app, you may have measured your health on how you felt throughout your day, but now you measure your happiness in terms of calories consumed and the number on the scale.

Although these apps were made to improve your health and decrease chronic disease, the way the apps have you achieve this may not be the safest (Weech et al. 2023). For example, even if you are underweight and weight gain is recommended, the apps will still allow a weight loss goal to be set, which is harmful. This can be risky as it promotes restriction of food and overexercising, which can lead to disordered eating and malnutrition.

Additionally, these apps are not always accurate. For example, users of of one popular app reported having trouble accurately entering the amount of food that they ate into the app (Chen et al. 2019). If you cannot confidently enter these values, you may be eating more or less than you think. Because nutrition advice is based on simple measurements like weight, calories, and movement, logging inaccurate information into the app can lead to inappropriate health recommendations.

Bottom line

Health apps can promote unhealthy weight loss behaviors that have serious outcomes. Instead of using these apps that can result in disordered eating or malnutrition, focus on eating a well-balanced diet that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate recommendations (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020, 2024).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Megan Appelbaum, UGA Dietetic Intern

Resources

Chen J, Berkman W, Bardouh M, Kammy CY, Allman-Fairnelli M. 2019. The use of a food logging app in the naturalistic setting fails to provide accurate measurements of nutrients and poses usability challenges. ScienceDirect 57: 208-216.

Eikey EV. 2020. Effects of diet and fitness apps on eating disorder behaviours: Qualitive study. BJPsych Open 7(5): doi:10.1192/bjo.2021.1011

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 22 January 2024).

United States Department of Agriculture 2024. What is MyPlate. Internet: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/what-is-myplate (accessed 22 January 2024).

Weech M, Fallaize R, Kelly E, Hwang F, Franco RZ, Lovegrove JA. 2023. Nutrition and weight loss apps. ScienceDirect https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-99271-8.00006-1.

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Listen, Can I Venti about Coffee and Cancer?

February 08, 2024

By: Stephanie Robbins

But first, coffee.

We’re all familiar with the saying, “A cup of coffee a day keeps the doctor away,” …or something like that, right?! Besides allowing us to feel more motivated to make it through the day, can coffee offer us additional health benefits as well? The National Coffee Association (2023) reported that 63% of Americans consume more coffee per day than any other beverage. Americans clearly like coffee a latte! With all this coffee consumption, it is no wonder why it is such a hot and steamy topic.

Coffee has been making splashes in the {French} press lately regarding its healthful properties and ability to prevent the development of certain chronic conditions, such as cancer; Americans are thirsty for answers! When deciphering myth versus factual sources, we must sip cautiously. If it seems too fa-brew-lous to be true, it probably is.

Let’s spill the beans

Findings from a study by Gapstur et al. (2017) suggested consuming four or more cups per day is associated with a decreased occurrence of liver cancer by 27%, as opposed to non-coffee drinkers, and drinking 2-3 cups of coffee per day can decrease the risk of developing pharyngeal cancer and cancers of the buccal area as well. Are four cups of coffee a day an excessive amount, though? According to the Food and Drug Administration (2023), 400 mg of caffeine is recognized as a safe amount for healthy adults to fit into their daily diet; this equates to 4-5 cups of coffee per day. Alternate studies have concluded a lowered risk in developing liver cancer and breast cancer in post-menopausal females with modest consumption of coffee daily (2 cups) (Pauwels & Volterrani 2021). Cool beans, right?! Affogato mention how this works. To be honest, the mechanism is still not clearly understood by scientists, but coffee does contain many active ingredients such as chlorogenic acids, cafestol, and kahweol that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can potentially inhibit cancer cell growth (Pauwels & Volterrani 2021). Lastly, a study by Um et al. (2020) expressed that consuming two or more cups of decaffeinated coffee instead of caffeinated coffee was affiliated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

However, many studies show inconclusive results with any statistically and/or clinically relevant significance between coffee intake and the development of certain cancers; continual research on this matter is warranted.

Bottom-line

There are limitations with any self-reported human study; sometimes, subjects can fabricate information that can skew data and results. It is also important to note that lifestyle and other habits, such as cigarette smoking/tobacco use, are probable confounders to take into consideration; smoking and coffee consumption commonly go hand in hand (Pauwels & Volterrani 2021). External factors such as the type of coffee beans, roasting method, and any sugary additives to your joe need to be assessed when analyzing their effect on your health. Coffee may be a miracle for morning brain fog, but it cannot cure cancer.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Adelia “Addie” Nunnally, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Food and Drug Administration 2023. Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much? Internet. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much#:~:text=For%20healthy%20adults%2C%20the%20FDA,associated%20with%20dangerous%2C%20negative%20effects. Accessed January 25 2024.

Gapstur SM, Anderson RL, Campbell PT, Jacobs EJ, Hartman TJ, Hildebrand JS, Wang Y, McCullough ML. 2017. Associations of coffee drinking and cancer mortality in the cancer prevention study-II. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 46: 1477-1486.

National Coffee Association. 2023. Celebrate national coffee day with latest data on America’s favorite beverage. Internet. https://www.ncausa.org/Newsroom/Celebrate-National-Coffee-Day-with-latest-data-on-Americas-favorite-beverage. Accessed January 23, 2024.

Pauwels EKJ & Volterrani D. 2021. Coffee consumption and cancer risk: An assessment of the health implications based on recent knowledge. Med Princ Pract 30: 401-411.

Um CY, McCullough ML, Guinter MA, Campbell PT, Jacobs EJ, Gapstur SM. 2020. Coffee consumption and risk of colorectal cancer in the cancer study-II nutrition cohort. Cancer Epidemiology 67: 101730.

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What’s the Deal with Gluten?

February 08, 2024

By: Samantha Pregel

Gluten-free foods have seen a dramatic increase over the past decade and continue to rise. By 2030, the gluten free market is expected to hit $13.79 billion (Beyond Market Insights, 2023). Many individuals opt to eat gluten-free versions as they believe gluten-free automatically means it is healthier. However, this is not always the case. While there are certain populations who must avoid gluten, like individuals with celiac disease, gluten does not need to be feared.

What is gluten?

First, what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten primarily comprises two proteins, glutenin and gliadin and acts as the glue and provides elasticity (Biesiekierski, 2017). Common gluten-containing products include bread, pasta, cookies, baked goods, and crackers. Gluten can also be hidden in foods like soy sauce, salad dressings, and soups made with a roux.

Who needs to avoid gluten and who does not?

Gluten is indeed harmful to certain populations. One population that needs to follow a strict gluten-free diet is individuals with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the villi in the small intestine when one ingests gluten (Celiac Disease Foundation, 2024). This damage to the villi leads to poor nutrient absorption, fatigue, and indigestion. As of now, the only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Another population that can benefit from following a gluten-free diet is individuals with gluten intolerances or sensitivities. However, gluten does not need to be avoided by all. While the prevalence of gluten-free products has dramatically increased over the years, there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that eating these alternatives will provide any major health benefits compared to their gluten counterparts (Wu et al., 2015).

Nutrient differences in gluten-free and non-gluten-free foods

If you are gluten-sensitive or intolerant or simply want to try out a gluten-free diet, it is important to keep in mind there are some nutrient differences between the two. In general, gluten-free products tend to be lower in protein compared to their gluten counterparts (Wu et al., 2015). In addition, gluten-free diets tend to be lower in fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, folate, sodium, and calcium, while being higher in fat (Taetzsch et al., 2018). Therefore, if you are following a gluten-free diet, keep these nutrients in of mind to ensure you are receiving adequate amounts.

Bottom line

Gluten-free alternatives are all over the grocery store but everyone does not need to jump on this bandwagon, especially since they are more expensive. Following a strict gluten-free diet is the most important for individuals with celiac disease to prevent any internal damage to the small intestine. Gluten-free diets can also be beneficial for those with gluten intolerances or sensitivities. However, if you don’t have any sensitivities to gluten, there is no need to avoid gluten, as gluten-free does not mean that it’s healthier.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary Lazzaro, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Biesiekierski JR. (2017) What is gluten?. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 32: 78–81. doi: 10.1111/jgh.13703.

Beyond Market Insights. “Gluten-Free Products Market Insights Report 2023-2030.” LinkedIn, 12 Oct. 2023, www.linkedin.com/pulse/gluten-free-products-market-insights-report-2023-2030-ieqwf/.

Taetzsch A, Das SK, Brown C, Krauss A, Silver RE, and Roberts, SB. (2018). Are Gluten-Free Diets More Nutritious? An Evaluation of Self-Selected and Recommended Gluten-Free and Gluten-Containing Dietary Patterns. Nutrients, 10(12), 1881. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121881

Celiac Disease Foundation (2024) “What Is Celiac Disease?” celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/ (accessed 8 February 2024).

Wu JH, Neal B, Trevena H, Crino M, Stuart-Smith W, Faulkner-Hogg K, Yu Louie JC, and Dunford E. (2015). Are gluten-free foods healthier than non-gluten-free foods? An evaluation of supermarket products in Australia. The British Journal of Nutrition, 114(3), 448–454. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515002056

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Bias on Frozen Produce - We’ve Got To Let It Go

February 08, 2024

By: Chloe Mullis

How many times have you heard that if it is frozen, then it must not be as “healthy” as fresh? I remember always thinking this when I worked at a fresh produce stand. How could that frozen stuff be as great as the freshly picked, farm-to-table produce? Now that I am older and wiser, I tend to reach for frozen produce due to the price difference and the storage flexibility. At your local grocery store, eleven ounces of fresh blueberries is ~$4.00, while sixteen ounces of frozen blueberries is roughly $2.50. Do you have to give up being “healthy” if you eat frozen produce? Are the nutrients strong enough to overcome the freezer?

Is the nutrient content lost when produce is frozen?

If you are anything like me, I often wonder if it is even worth eating frozen vegetables if no nutrients are present. Luckily, many studies show no noteworthy differences in the vitamins present in frozen versus fresh produce (Li et. al., 2017). When produce is frozen, it can conserve the nutrients present during freezing (Storey and Anderson, 2018). While many marketing campaigns will try to deter you from the frozen produce aisle, stand firm! There are no studies available that have been able to prove that fresh produce has a higher vitamin or nutrient content than its frozen counterpart (Storey and Anderson, 2018).

So, what are the noteworthy differences between fresh and frozen produce? 

An issue with any produce is oxidative degradation, which is the how and why produce goes bad. Oxidative degradation occurs in fresh and frozen vegetables (Bouzari et. al. 2015). Studies show slowed oxidative progression in frozen produce (Bouzari et. al. 2015). Additionally, there has been proof of increased levels of ascorbic acid, which aids in immune system support (Bouzari et. al. 2015). This means frozen produce can last longer without decreased quality and retains the nutrient levels.

Is frozen produce better than fresh?!

Studies have shown that without frozen produce, people would not reach the recommended fruit and vegetable intake (Storey and Anderson, 2018). Since we know the quality is no different, we can easily attain good quality produce, fresh or frozen, to reach our daily fruit and vegetable intake goal of about three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit a day (USDA, 2024). A common concern and misconception with frozen produce is it has higher sodium levels, which has been proven wrong as sodium intake levels were lower in consumers of frozen produce (Storey and Anderson, 2018). Frozen produce is not inferior to fresh.

Bottom line

In conclusion, we can eat frozen fruits and vegetables with the assurance that there is no nutrient loss compared to fresh produce. While having a mix of fresh and frozen is beneficial, if only frozen is attainable for you, it is an excellent option and not a lesser alternative. Frozen produce lasts longer, retains nutrients, and is often cheaper at the grocery store. Sounds like a win to your wallet and your health to me!

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed By Claire Hawkins, UGA Dietetic Intern

References: 

Bouzari A, Holstege D, and Barrett DM. (2015) Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: A comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 63 (3), 957-962.

Li L., Pegg RB, Eitenmiller RR, Chun J, and Kerrihard AL. (2017). Selected nutrient analyses of fresh, fresh-stored, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 59, 8-17.

Storey M and Anderson P. (2018). Total fruit and vegetable consumption increases among consumers of frozen fruit and vegetables. Nutrition, 46, 115-121.

United States Department of Agriculture (2024). MyPlate Fruit Group. Fruits and Vegetables. One of the Five Food Groups. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/fruits (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Is late-night snacking the root of your weight gain?

February 08, 2024

By: Ellie Getchell

Is what you see on Instagram and TikTok confusing you?

Do you see nutrition claims on social media and question if the posts are true? Influencers, oftentimes without the educational background or credentials, post their thoughts about nutrition and what works for them. Let’s be real, their advice seems great but causes a great deal of misinformation. A recent trend is discussing whether late-night snacking is causing weight gain and whether stopping this one habit will help you lose weight. After seeing this content, you may wonder if you should stop snacking after dinner, if certain foods okay to eat before bed, or how late you can eat without causing weight gain.

What do studies show?

A sweet or salty treat is many people’s favorite part of their nighttime routine, and many think eliminating this will help them reach their weight loss goals. However, this is not the case. Data suggest that negative health outcomes are not from snacks consumed at night if they are high in vitamins and minerals, lower in calories, or only a carbohydrate, fat, or protein (Kinsey & Ormsbee, 2015).

Research studies have shown negative health outcomes in populations that consume most of their calories late at night (Kinsey & Ormsbee, 2015). It becomes problematic when continual mistimed meals interrupt a person’s circadian rhythm, an internal sleep cycle, because the body cannot rotate through sleep cycles as easily while digesting food (Boege et al., 2021). When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it leads to several consequences: eating more than normal, less physical activity, or higher blood sugar (Potter et al., 2016). The CDC recommends avoiding late-night meals because these can cause heartburn and affect blood sugar levels throughout the night (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).

Because research indicates potential negative effects from consuming high amounts of calories at night, it is important to pay attention to what foods you are eating before bedtime.

Bottom line

If you find yourself craving food at night, I advise you to examine the meals you eat earlier in the day. Are they balanced meals with carbohydrates, proteins, and vegetables? Are you eating three balanced meals daily with snacks in between, or fewer than this? How hungry are you before you eat a meal? Are you satisfied after?

If you enjoy a snack before going to bed, I recommend choosing something small, enjoyable, and packed with vitamins and minerals. If you are concerned about weight gain from late-night snacking, consider making these small changes: eat several meals daily when hungry, eat until satisfied, and choose nutrient-dense snacks before bed.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Skylar Mercer, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Boege, H. L., Bhatti, M. Z., & St‐Onge, M. (2021). Circadian rhythms and meal timing: impact on energy balance and body weight. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 70, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2020.08.009.

Kinsey, A. W., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2015). The health Impact of nighttime Eating: Old and new Perspectives. Nutrients, 7(4), 2648–2662. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7042648.

Potter, G. D., Skene, D. J., Arendt, J., Cade, J., Grant, P. J., & Hardie, L. J. (2016). Circadian rhythm and sleep disruption: causes, metabolic consequences, and countermeasures. Endocrine Reviews, 37(6), 584–608. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2016-1083.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep for a good cause. (2022, July 28). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-sleep.html (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Juice cleanses: do they actually work?

February 08, 2024

By: Amy Yepifantsev

Overview

Juice cleanses have become popular in the media, but what are they all about? These diets consist of consuming only fruit and vegetable juices for several days to aid in weight loss and “detoxify” the body. The weight loss results from caloric restriction since fruits and vegetables are often low in calories. Detoxification, on the other hand, cannot be done through food intake. Our bodies are equipped with organs and systems that clear any toxins that we come into contact with. Although these systems can be supported by nutritional interventions, consuming certain foods will not clear toxins (Tufts University, 2023).

Is there hope?

A study following twenty individuals found significant weight loss following a three-day juice cleanse. This weight loss was maintained for two weeks after the cleanse. This trial focused on the gut microbiome and found that this diet has significant effects on the composition of the intestinal microbiota, which aids in digestion and immune support. The bacteria associated with high body weight decreased, while those associated with low body weight increased. Despite these promising results, researchers concluded that more studies must be done to fully understand the connection between the microbiome and weight loss (Henning et al., 2017).

Negative side effects

When the body enters starvation mode, metabolism slows down to utilize every calorie it receives. This is why it is common to see people gain back the weight they lost following a highly restrictive diet (Benton & Young, 2017). In other words, highly restrictive diets are not sustainable for long periods of time. Another potential issue is that certain fruits/vegetables commonly found in juices can interact with medications. For example, a woman who went on a grapefruit juice cleanse started experiencing negative side effects and was admitted to a hospital. The practitioners found that the grapefruit juice was interfering with her antipsychotic medication and mimicking an overdose (Cinderella et al., 2021). Grapefruit is just one example, but there are other known food and drug interactions that could pose a threat. Lastly, this type of restrictive diet can promote unhealthy eating behaviors, such as an eating disorder. If a person were to complete a juice cleanse and be satisfied with the results, they may potentially continue limiting their caloric intake to a point that becomes unhealthy (Bóna et al., 2018).

The bottom line

When deciding if juice cleanses are worth trying, the consequences outweigh the potential benefits. There is little evidence to suggest that juice cleanses help with long-term weight loss and no evidence to show that they “detoxify” the body. Going on a juice cleanse can slow your metabolism, negatively affect your medications, and promote unhealthy eating behaviors. Adding 100% fruit or vegetable juice to your diet is a great way to increase your intake, but it is dangerous to solely consume juices for days at a time.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you sift through messages that promote health versus hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org/find-a-nutrition-expert.

Reviewed by Sierra Woodruff, UGA Dietetics Intern

References

Benton, D., & Young, H.A. (2017). Reducing calorie intake may not help you lose body weight. Perspect Psychol Sci 12(5), 703–714. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617690878

Bóna, E., Forgács, A., & Túry, F. (2018). Potential relationship between juice cleanse diets and eating disorders. A qualitative pilot study. Orvosi hetilap 159(28), 1153–1157. https://doi.org/10.1556/650.2018.31090

Cinderella, M. A., Morell, B., & Munjal, S. (2021). Grapefruit Juice Cleanse Mimicking Quetiapine Overdose: Case Report and Review of Literature. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 41(6), 690–692. https://doi.org/10.1097/JCP.0000000000001469

Henning, S. M., Yang, J., Shao, P., Lee, R. P., Huang, J., Ly, A., Hsu, M., Lu, Q. Y., Thames, G., Heber, D., & Li, Z. (2017). Health benefit of vegetable/fruit juice-based diet: Role of microbiome. Scientific reports 7(1), 2167. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-02200-6

Ruxton, C. H. S., & Myers, M. (2021). Fruit Juices: Are They Helpful or Harmful? An Evidence Review. Nutrients 13(6), 1815. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13061815

Tufts University. (2023, April 24). Is a “Juice Cleanse” Right for You? https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/is-a-juice-cleanse-right-for-you/

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Gluten-Free Diet – Is it Really for Everyone?

February 08, 2024

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a medical condition where the body has an immune response when gluten is eaten (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2014). Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and malt (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2024a). When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it can cause damage to their small intestine (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2024a). The treatment for this condition is removing gluten from the diet, known as the gluten-free diet (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2024b). You may have seen people without celiac disease use the gluten-free diet as a weight loss or diet-improvement tool on social media, but it is not all that it is hyped up to be.

Why can’t just anyone eat gluten-free?

The limited choice of food products in the gluten-free diet usually makes people consume more excess proteins, fats, and sugar (Saturni et al., 2010). Removing gluten from your diet without a medical reason can decrease fiber consumption because the composition of many gluten-free foods is starches and refined flours with low content fiber for more palatability (Diez-Sampedro et al., 2019). During refinement, the outer layer of grain, containing most of the fiber, is removed (Saturni et al., 2010). People may also be at risk of deficiencies in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, B12, and vitamin D, which must come from food sources (Diez-Sampedro et al., 2019). These compenets of the gluten-free diet without proper education and diagnosis can have negative effects on overall health, such as increased risk for obesity and coronary heart diseas (Saturni et al., 2010). Therefore, before choosing to eliminate gluten from your diet, talk to a medical professional to see if it is right for you.

What should you do if you are trying to eat healthier?

If you are trying to eat healthier, following the Dietary Guidelines of Americans (DGA) is a great place to start. The DGA advises what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and help prevent chronic disease (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). It is made for all life stages and those who are healthy (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). You can read the DGA here: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Megan Appelbaum, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024a. Celiac Disease Nutrition Therapy (2023). Internet: https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=162 (accessed 23 January 2024). In: Nutrition Care Manual®.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024b. Celiac Disease: An Introduction. Internet: https://www.eatright.org/health/health-conditions/celiac-disease/celiac-disease-an-introduction (accessed 23 January 2024).

Diez-Sampedro Ana, Olenick Maria, Maltseva Tatayana, Flowers Monica. 2019. A Gluten-Free Diet, Not an Appropriate Choice without a Medical Diagnosis. J Nutr Metab. 2019:2438934.

Evidence-based Practice Center Systematic Review Protocol Project Title: Diagnosis of Celiac Disease. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 2014.

Santurni Letizia, Ferretti Gianna, Bacchetti Tiziana. 2010. The Gluten-Free Diet: Safety and Nutritional Quality.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 25 January 2024).

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The Squeeze on Wellness Juices

February 08, 2024

By: AnnaLisa Hutchinson

Since their creation, wellness juices have been in demand as a “cure-all” beverage choice. People make wellness juices by juicing fruits or vegetables (often using a juicer or blender) and discarding the fibrous pulp, skin, and seeds through straining. Sometimes, spices such as black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper, or even white or apple cider vinegar are added. Many people consume supplementary wellness beverages as part of a cleanse or to address some physiological problem. But what does the science say?

The Detox Hoax

Detoxification is the process in which the body transforms toxins into an excretable format. The term detox is often used to promote wellness juices and their benefits. Contrary to popular belief, wellness juices cannot detox the body. The liver, kidneys, and colon play an integral role in toxin elimination so the body can function optimally. Rather than viewing foods or wellness juices as detoxifying, incorporate plenty of fluids, high fiber, and fermented foods that support the body’s natural detoxifying physiology (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024a).

Breaking Down the Nutrition of Wellness Juices

Wellness juices lack some essential components that fruits and vegetables can provide. Typically, wellness juices consist of simple carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Wellness juices are also high in natural sugars, which can spike blood glucose, and a significant reason for this is the lack of fiber. Fiber helps reduce the spike in blood glucose, increases feelings of satiety, and reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024b). Moreover, the nutritional potency of fruits and vegetables is often found in pulp, seeds, or skin of produce, and nutrient retention decreases after juicing (Bhardwaj et al.  2022).

Wellness Juices and Weight Loss

Promoting wellness juices for weight loss is the primary reason the trend is so successful since they are so low in calories. According to the USDA (Food Data Central 2024), a typical wellness juice contains around 70 calories. When used as a meal replacement or as part of a cleanse with no other nutrients provided, it could cause a severe calorie deficit. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that the average adult consume over 1,800 calories per day to sustain physiological functions (United States Department of Agriculture 2020). Just because there is an initial weight loss doesn’t mean that the weight loss is sustainable. When consuming wellness juices, it is vital to consume sufficient energy daily.

The Real Squeeze

Wellness juices are built on a surface of ideals. Wellness juices don’t detox the body, provide sufficient energy or essential nutrients, or support sustainable weight loss. Instead of making or buying that juice or starting that trendy new cleanse, nourish your body with foods full of fiber, carbs, protein, and healthy fats. (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed By Quadarius Whitson, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024a. What’s the Deal with Detox Diets?. Internet: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/diet-trends/whats-the-deal-with-detox-diets (Accessed 24 January 2024). In. Eat Right®.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library 2024b. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Version Current 2015. Internet: https://www.andeal.org/vault/2440/web/JADA_Fiber.pdf (accessed 24 January 2024).

Good DJ. Appendix. 1st ed. In: Good DJ, ed. Practical Metabolic Nutrition: A Systems Approach to Vitamins and Minerals. Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt Publishing, 2017: 253-299

Bhardwaj, K., Najda, A., Sharma, R., Nurzyńska-Wierdak, R., Dhanjal, D. S., Sharma, R., Manickam, S., Kabra, A., Kuča, K., & Bhardwaj, P. (2022). Fruit and Vegetable Peel-Enriched Functional Foods: Potential Avenues and Health Perspectives. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/8543881

United States Department of Agriculture Food Data Central 2023. Vegetable & Fruit  Juice. Internet: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2039836/nutrients (accessed 25 January 2024).

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 24 January 2024).

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Moo-ve Past the Myth: The Truth About Dairy and Mucus

February 08, 2024

By: Holly Cothern

Time to bust another nutrition-related myth! Many people believe that eating dairy products can cause or contribute to a cold by producing mucus. Before pointing fingers at the cows, check out the facts below as we unravel the relationship (or lack thereof) between dairy and mucus production.

Does Milk Cause Mucus?

No! Milk and other dairy products do not cause an increase in nasal secretions, upper or lower respiratory congestion, or cough (Wüthrich et al., 2005). Still, some parents fear that dairy consumption can cause respiratory distress for children with asthma. Not to fear: Evidence shows that drinking cow’s milk does not lead to symptoms such as bronchial inflammation or bronchial congestion in asthmatic or non-asthmatic children (Koren et al., 2020). Although some people may notice what feels like a thick liquid coating their mouth and throat after drinking milk, this sensation is just the milk mixing with saliva and is only temporary (Arney & Pinnock, 1993)

Is Dairy Okay to Eat When You Have a Cold? 

Yes! In fact, consuming dairy during a cold or flu is encouraged given the nutritional properties of milk: it is an excellent source of vitamin B12, vitamin B2, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, and vitamin D, and provides the body with carbohydrates, fat, and protein (Górska-Warsewicz et al., 2019). Consuming probiotic-fermented dairy products has also been shown to be protective against respiratory tract infections, so consider grabbing your favorite probiotic dairy products like low-fat yogurt or kefir the next time you are grocery shopping this flu season! (Rashidi et al., 2021).

The Bottom Line

Don't let the old fable that dairy causes phlegm discourage you from drinking milk. Rest assured, there is no evidence linking dairy to mucus production. If you are not lactose-intolerant or allergic, pasteurized dairy products are safe to drink, whether you have the flu or are perfectly healthy! If you happen to catch a cold, grab a glass of milk or a cup of probiotic yogurt to support and nourish your body while you’re sick. Research indicates that consuming dairy may help protect against inflammation (Nieman et al., 2021). Remember that milk alone cannot fight off or prevent a cold or the flu. Following recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate is a great way to achieve a balanced and healthful diet (learn more at www.myplate.gov).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you sift through messages that promote health versus hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Eden Crain, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Arney, W. K., & Pinnock, C. B. (1993). The milk mucus belief: Sensations associated with the belief and characteristics of believers. Appetite, 20(1), 53–60. https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.1993.1005

Górska-Warsewicz, H., Rejman, K., Laskowski, W., & Czeczotko, M. (2019). Milk and Dairy

Products and Their Nutritional Contribution to the Average Polish Diet. Nutrients, 11(8), 1771. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081771

Koren, Y., Armoni Domany, K., Gut, G., Hadanny, A., Benor, S., Tavor, O., & Sivan, Y. (2020). Respiratory effects of acute milk consumption among asthmatic and non-asthmatic children: A randomized controlled study. BMC Pediatrics, 20(1), 433. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-020-02319-y

Nieman, K. M., Anderson, B. D., & Clfelli, C. J. (2021). The Effects of Dairy Product and Dairy

Protein Intake on Inflammation: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 40(6), 571–582. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2020.1800532

Perdijk, O., van Splunter, M., Savelkoul, H. F. J., Brugman, S., & van Neerven, R. J. J. (2018). Cow’s Milk and Immune Function in the Respiratory Tract: Potential Mechanisms. Frontiers in Immunology, 9, 143. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00143

Pinnock, C. B., Graham, N. M., Mylvaganam, A., & Douglas, R. M. (1990). Relationship between milk intake and mucus production in adult volunteers challenged with rhinovirus-2. The American Review of Respiratory Disease, 141(2), 352–356. https://doi.org/10.1164/ajrccm/141.2.352

Rashidi, K., Razi, B., Darand, M., Dehghani, A., Janmohammadi, P., & Alizadeh, S. (2021).

Effect of probiotic fermented dairy products on incidence of respiratory tract infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Nutrition Journal, 20(1), 61. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-021-00718-0

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Biting Back: The Unpalatable Truth Behind the Carnivore Diet

February 08, 2024

By: Abbi Haley

What is the "Carnivore Diet"?

The "carnivore diet” is very controversial in the medical professional community and is based almost entirely on animal products, excluding most plant-based foods (Lennerz 2021). So, forget the fruits; this restrictive diet only allows followers to eat meat, fish, and animal products like eggs or dairy.

Are there any benefits to this diet?

Some influencers report that this diet makes them feel better and "healthier." In trials investigating the effects of the carnivore diet, adults consuming the diet reported few adverse effects and high satisfaction (Lennerz 2021). However, another study reported switching out their red meat consumption for plant-based protein had favorable changes in their blood cholesterol levels (Guasch-Ferre 2019). The long-term effects of the carnivore diet are unknown, but health professionals are concerned that the diet may lead to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (Schmidt, 2023).

So, what is a better alternative?

A well-balanced diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is a great place to start. USDA’s MyPlate is a helpful resource to ensure you are including all the major food groups in your meal. A typical meal should include fruits, vegetables, grains, and a protein source. Including whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, and lean proteins, such as chicken, seafood, beans, and tofu, can help create a balanced meal. Similarly, the Mediterranean diet, recognized by the World Health Organization as a healthy eating plan, focuses on vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, such as olive oil and lean meats, allowing for more flexibility when planning your meals (Mayo Clinic, 2023). Remember that including variety is essential in maintaining a healthy diet, which is why many of these restrictive diets are not great options for long-term health.

Bottom line

Overall, many diets that you see on social media are not recommended by health professionals and can lead to negative health outcomes. Any diet that restricts entire food groups and is not sustainable for the long term is most likely not nutritionally balanced or optimal for your health. A diet that is well-balanced and fits your lifestyle is the best option.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary McKennon Pierce, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Guasch-Ferré, M., Satija, A., Blondin, S. A., Janiszewski, M., Emlen, E., O'Connor, L. E., Campbell, W. W., Hu, F. B., Willett, W. C., & Stampfer, M. J. (2019). Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Red Meat Consumption in Comparison With Various Comparison Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Circulation139(15), 1828–1845. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.035225

Lennerz, B. S., Mey, J. T., Henn, O. H., & Ludwig, D. S. (2021). Behavioral Characteristics and Self-Reported Health Status among 2029 Adults Consuming a "Carnivore Diet". Current developments in nutrition5(12), nzab133. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzab133

Mayo Clinic Staff 2023. Mediterranean diet for heart health. Internet: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801 (accessed 26 January 2024).

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023, July 15). Mediterranean diet for heart health. Mayo Clinic.

Schmidt T. 2023. A meat-only diet is not the answer: Examining the carnivore and Lion Diets. Mayo Clinic Press. Internet: https://mcpress.mayoclinic.org/nutrition-fitness/a-meat-only-diet-is-not-the-answer-examining-the-carnivore-and-lion-diets/

United States Department of Agriculture 2024. MyPlate. Internet: https://www.myplate.gov (accessed 26 January 2024).

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Is WaterTok the Key to Hydration?

February 08, 2024

By: Hannah Jackson

From peach rings to ocean water, many tasty and exciting flavored water recipes have flooded the TikTok space. The promoters of flavored water have claimed it has improved their hydration status much more than regular water and has aided in weight loss. This all sounds very exciting, but how accurate are these claims? And are flavor packets and skinny syrups beneficial for hydration?

What is WaterTok Anyway?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women consume 9 cups of water daily and men consume 13 cups (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2022). These recommendations are the starting point, but needs vary depending on the person. Regardless, these numbers seem daunting. Because of this, there are several “life hacks” on how to get in those daily cups without getting bored. The latest craze is WaterTok, a TikTokers community that flavors water and shares its recipes. Such recipes include sugar-free liquid or powdered flavorings and syrups. While these fun drinks can aid your hydration status for those who never consume water, they are not a replacement for unflavored water.

But it's Water, Right?

Too much of anything can have adverse effects, and flavored water is no different. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin have no nutritional value but can cause adverse effects on consumers. High-sugar alcohol consumption can have serious adverse effects, including gastrointestinal discomfort, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes (Harvard School of Public Health, 2023). These are far from the claims influencers often promote, but the risks are real. Remember this before refilling your 64oz tumbler with bubblegum water three times in one day.

How Do I Know if I’m Dehydrated?

If you are unsure of your hydration status, check your urine. Healthy individuals can use urine color and odor as markers of hydration. If your urine is dark and odorous, this is a sign of dehydration (Mayo Clinic, 2023; Pang et al., 2021). If your urine is pale yellow with no odor, you are likely well hydrated! If your urine is perfectly clear, dialing back the water consumption might be a good idea (University of Maryland Medical System, 2024). What you eat and drink can change color and odor, so stay in tune with your body. It will tell you what it needs.

I HATE Water - What Now?

If you're not ready to commit to plain water, don't fret. There are other ways to flavor your water in ways your body will enjoy. Adding fresh or frozen fruit to water packs a sweet punch to keep you reaching for your glass. Remember your veggies - cucumber and celery are other refreshing options. Also, adding herbs such as rosemary and thyme can provide a new and unique flavor to water. If you're interested in learning more but need help figuring out where to start, MyPlate.gov has plenty of great recipes!

The Bottom Line

WaterTok, unfortunately, is not going to solve your hydration and weight loss goals. There is still room for flavored water in your diet in moderation. Too much may cause adverse effects that can last long term. Check your urine color and odor to ensure you are hydrated and not overconsuming flavored waters. So, you don't have to ditch your cotton candy water altogether, but remember your good friend, plain H2O.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Quadarius Whitson, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How Much Water Do You Need? June13, 2022. Internet:  https://www.eatright.org/health/essential-nutrients/water/how-much-water-do-you-need (accessed January 23, 2024).

Harvard School of Public Health. Low-Calorie Sweeteners. July 2023. Internet: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/ (accessed January 23, 2024).

Mayo Clinic. Urine Color. January 10, 2023. Internet: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urine-color/symptoms-causes/syc-20367333  (accessed January 23, 2024).

Pang, M. D., Goossens, G. H., Blaak, E. E. (2021). The Impact of Artificial Sweeteners on Body Weight Control and Glucose Homeostasis. Frontiers in Nutrition, 7, 598340 https://doi.org/10.3389/funt.2020.598340.

University of Maryland Medical System. Top Reasons Sugar Alcohols May Not Be A Good Sugar Substitute. Internet: https://health.umms.org/2022/02/24/sugar-alcohols/#:~:text=The%20safe%20recommended%20intake%20of,to%20spikes%20in%20blood%20sugar (accessed February 8, 2024).

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Revealing the Truth About Red Meats

February 08, 2024

It is a common belief that people should avoid red meat due to its potential to harm one’s health. While there is some evidence that suggests that red meat could lead to the development of cancer, it has only been true when consumed in large amounts (Farvid et al. 2021). Believe it or not, consuming red meat can be a part of a healthy diet when consumed in the recommended amounts.

Are Red Meats Harmful When Consumed?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), plays a significant role in identifying what causes cancer in humans (World Health Organization, 2023). Upon evaluation, the World Health Organization (2023) experts place potential cancer-causing items into the following groups:

· Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans

· Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans

· Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans

· Group 3: Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity in humans           

Red meats are classified as Group 2A, meaning that based on limited evidence, the WHO classifies them as probably carcinogenic to humans. This type of classification has limited evidence showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing cancer. WHO also announced that consuming red meat has not been proven to cause cancer (World Health Organization, 2015).

Choosing Lean Red Meats

Despite the numerous articles persuading people to avoid red meats, many reliable sources guide the consumption of red meats in moderation (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020) inform the public of the need to consume nutrient-dense foods, including proteins. The DGA (2020) further details the importance of proteins and advises consumers it is suitable to consume red meats in lower amounts.

What are the Health Benefits of Consuming Red Meats?

Lean red meats hold several nutrition-related benefits, including containing eight essential amino acids and being a source of highly bioavailable protein, meaning the body can use this protein (Wyness, 2016). Lean red meats contain other macronutrients such as fats and micronutrients such as iron and magnesium (Wyness, 2016).

So, how much red meat is safe to consume? According to the World Cancer and Research Fund International (2022), one should consume no more than three portions of red meat per week, equivalent to about 12-18 ounces of cooked weight.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, red meat, specifically lean red meats, can be a great addition to one’s diet if consumed in moderation. Grocery stores offer various choices of lean red meats, such as round steaks, top sirloin, and lean ground beef, so do not be afraid to keep these in mind when thinking about what to cook for dinner!

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Quadarius Whitson, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Farvid, M. S., Sidahmed, E., Spence, N. D., Mante Angua, K., Rosner, B. A., & Barnett, J. B. 2021. Consumption of red meat and processed meat and cancer incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European journal of epidemiology, 36(9), 937–951.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 24 January 2024).

World Cancer Research Fund International. Limit Red and processed meat. 2022. Internet: https://www.wcrf.org/diet-activity-and-cancer/cancer-prevention-recommendations/limit-red-and-processed-meat/#:~:text=Dietary%20goal,%2C%20if%20any%2C%20processed%20meat (accessed 24 January 2024).

World Health Organization. Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs. 2023. Internet: https://monographs.iarc.who.int/agents-classified-by-the-iarc/ (accessed 5 February 2024).

World Health Organziation. Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat. 2015. Internet: https://www.iarc.who.int/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Monographs-QA_Vol114.pdf (accessed 24 January 2024).

Wyness L. 2016. The role of red meat in the diet: nutrition and health benefits. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(3), 227–232.

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“What I eat in a day” content? Inspiring or harmful?

February 08, 2024

By: Lilli Garner

“What I eat in a day” (WEIAD) videos - popular on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok - have existed for a while and have grown in popularity in recent years. These videos can serve as fun recipe and lifestyle inspiration for viewers. On the other hand, many influencers do not provide the disclaimer that the video is just a snapshot of their life and that their normal diet varies, which can create unrealistic expectations for viewers.

Comparison and its Issues

While social media can be a great way to connect with others, it can also make self-comparison easier. Studies have linked social media as a plausible risk factor for developing an eating disorder (Dane and Bhatia 2023). In other words, WIEIAD content has the potential to pose a threat to viewers. For instance, imagine you are an individual struggling with body image and disordered eating. You are scrolling through your YouTube recommend page, and you see yet another viral influencer showing their toned body in the thumbnail of a video titled, “What I eat in a day.” You may see this video and think well, if I just eat what she is eating, I can look like that, too. In reality, many factors go into how an individual looks and their nutritional needs, such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment. WIEIAD content reinforces the idea that "clean" eating leads to a healthy body type that is desirable and worthy of moral virtue (Topham and Smith 2023). This type of content can even plant seeds of doubt in individuals who are not initially dissatisfied with their bodies; individuals already eating a sustainable diet may feel the need to change unnecessarily to become more like the influencer they are watching. What's more, the majority of these influencers do not have the education or credentials to be offering health or wellness advice.

A Different View

Humans learn by watching others; by watching how much and what another individual is eating, we begin to feel differently about our own consumption in comparison (Polivy 2017). This behavior can be problematic if the videos are promoting a restrictive diet. On the other hand, this human behavior could be helpful for those who struggle with restrictive eating (Polivy 2017). For instance, if the viewer is undereating, a WIEIAD video showing a content creator eating medium to large portions may influence the viewer to increase their portions. In other words, a WIEIAD video could actually play a role in moving an individual away from their restrictive habits. Another positive take on WIEIAD content is that watching a WIEIAD video may make individuals feel less alone during their meal times and inspire them to cook and explore more with their own food.

Bottom Line

Proceed with caution when exploring WIEIAD content. It can be harmful to sensitive populations such as adolescents and individuals already struggling with body issues and disordered eating habits. Take some time to evaluate your relationship with food and body image before clicking play, and ensure that the creator you are watching promotes healthy, non-restrictive eating habits.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Skylar Mercer, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Dane A, Bhatia K. The social media diet: A scoping review to investigate the association between social media, body image and eating disorders amongst young people. PLOS Glob Public Health. 2023 Mar 22;3(3):e0001091. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0001091. PMID: 36962983; PMCID: PMC10032524.

Polivy, J. What’s that you’re eating? Social comparison and eating behavior. J Eat Disord 5, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-017-0148-0

Topham, J., & Smith, N. (2023). One day of eating: Tracing misinformation in ‘What I Eat In A Day’ videos. Journal of Sociology, 59(3), 682-698. https://doi.org/10.1177/14407833231161369

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Is Fresh Produce Always Best?

February 08, 2024

By: Leah Capomaccio

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is a set of evidence-based recommendations for nutrition and physical activity designed by health professionals (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). The DGA recommends that most Americans eat at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables per day, also called the “5-a-day” recommendation. While meeting this recommendation may seem daunting, frozen produce can be a money- and time-saving option. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be purchased prechopped or whole, and fruit or vegetable medley options can provide a variety of flavors and nutrients. Given these potential health and financial benefits, why aren’t people taking advantage of frozen produce options?

Myth: Frozen Produce is “less nutritious”

A common misconception that keeps people from buying frozen fruits and vegetables is that they are lower in quality, less nutritious, and more processed than fresh fruits and vegetables. According to a study conducted by the American Chemical Society, after processing and storage, most frozen fruits and vegetables have the same, if not more, nutrient content compared to fresh produce (Bouzari et al. 2015a). Nutrients like magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and fiber were well preserved between fresh and frozen options (Bouzari et al. 2015b). Additionally, it is important to look at nutrition labels for added sodium or saturated fats that may be added to some frozen produce products so that you can make informed choices when meeting the DGA’s 5-a-day recommendation.

Find Fruits and Vegetables that Fit You!

The most important aspect of picking fruits and vegetables is that they fit your needs and food preferences. Fresh and frozen produce options are equally nutritious and can both be used to meet the DGA’s 5-a-day recommendation. With this in mind, purchase produce that you enjoy! If you prefer the taste of roasted fresh vegetables compared to frozen, purchase the fresh vegetable options. If eating fresh fruits before they expire is difficult, purchasing frozen fruits may be an alternative that reduces food waste and saves money–all while meeting your nutrition goals. Pro Tip: Wash, cut, and freeze any remaining fresh fruits or vegetables before they expire for nutritious smoothies and soups!

Bottom Line

The misconception that frozen produce options are less nutritious than fresh produce is false. Research shows fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have similar amounts of vitamins and minerals. Frozen produce tends to maintain those nutrients for longer periods compared to fresh produce options. Eating various fruits and vegetables is best to meet the DGA’s 5-a-day recommendation and your nutrient needs; whether they are fresh or frozen is up to you!

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Julia Lance, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2015a Jan 28;63(3):957-62.

Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Mineral, fiber, and total phenolic retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2015b Jan 28;63(3):951-6.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 22 January 2024).

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Plant versus Animal Protein: Which one should you choose?

February 08, 2024

By: Ella Bennett

The Facts

Many believe that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet or avoiding all animal-based products is the best way to go. However, do you ever think of what you miss out on when skipping over animal-based proteins? In total, there are twenty amino acids, or building blocks, that make up proteins. Nine of these are known as “essential amino acids” because the body cannot make them on its own, and they must come from the diet. These amino acids are needed for the body’s muscle growth and repair and energy and hormone production. Consuming enough amino acids throughout the day is important, and depending on the food source, the amino acid levels may differ. Amino acids are found in much smaller amounts in plant proteins (soy products, nuts, beans) when compared to animal proteins (chicken, beef, milk). Essential amino acids from animal sources are more digestible, available in higher amounts, and easier to use in the body when compared to plant proteins (Day et al., 2022).

The Myths

While vegetarian diets play a role in lowering the risk of heart disease, can lower cholesterol, and are high in fiber, the diet is not a cure-all for other diseases or conditions. Evidence-based research studies show a link between low-fat, high-fiber diets and a lower risk of heart disease, but that does not mean this diet will prevent other diseases like cancer, stroke, or Alzheimer's disease. One study found no difference between vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets when trying to prevent or reduce the risk of strokes, cancer, or other diseases (Jabri et al., 2021). Vegetarian diets can be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease, but eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and visiting your primary care physician are all needed to reduce the risk for disease and stay healthy.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, we all need to eat what is best for our mental and physical health. A plant-based diet might be a good alternative if eating animal-based proteins conflicts with these reasons. Make sure you get enough plant protein by focusing on food variety. For example, beans and rice or peanut butter and whole grain toast are balanced plant-based options. To incorporate more plant-based proteins into your non-vegan diet, try switching out chicken or beef once or twice per week with beans, nuts, or soy products. A well-rounded diet of various fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains is essential to maintain your health goals and prevent disease (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Megan Applebaum, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Day, L., Cakebread, J.A., Loveday, S.M. 2022. Food proteins from animals and plants: differences in the nutritional and functional properties. Trends in Food Science and Technology 119:428-442.

Jabri, A., Kumar, As., Verghese, E., Alameh, A., Kumar, An., Shahzeb Khan, M., Khan, S.U., Michos, E.D., Kapadia, S.R., Reed, G.W., Kalra, A.. 2021. Meta-analysis of effect of vegetarian diet on ischemic heart disease and all-cause mortality. American Journal of Preventative Cardiology 7.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 25 January 2024)

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Sipping to Slumber: Tart Cherry Juice for Restful Nights

February 08, 2024

By: Rachel Gibbs

In the pursuit of a restorative night’s rest, many have begun to swap out their melatonin gummies for a glass of tart cherry juice. Previously, tart cherry juice has been known for its anti-inflammatory benefits for athletes and their recovery, but recent recognition of its melatonin content has led people to choose this sleep aid. But are the supposed sleep benefits of tart cherry juice a myth, or does it truly work as a sleep elixir? Let’s delve into the comparison between tart cherry juice and melatonin, exploring whether this beverage should primarily be recognized for its anti-inflammatory effects or if it stands its ground as a contender in the realm of sleep aids.

The Research

Within the athletic world, tart cherry juice has been proposed to enhance exercise recovery by reducing pain and inflammation (Levers et al. 2015). For the general population, tart cherry juice has gained traction as a sleep aid after research has shown that supplementation increased time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency (Sinclair et al. 2022). The reason for these results is that there is a component in tart cherries that helps reduce how our body reacts to inflammation. From here, it is thought that reduced inflammation can improve disordered sleep (Losso et al. 2019).

Effectiveness

Can tart cherry juice really replace my melatonin supplement? The answer depends on dosage. One study showed that the amount of melatonin in 100g of cherries was equal to 0.135 micrograms, with the recommended dosage of melatonin between 0.5 and 5 mg (Losso et al. 2019). Breaking this down, there is a significantly smaller concentration of melatonin in tart cherry juice. Therefore, the sleep benefits of tart cherry juice are from a combination of other compounds rather than the melatonin content alone (Losso et al. 2019).

What to Watch Out For

Even though the concentration of melatonin in tart cherry juice is much lower than a melatonin supplement, it is more natural than hypnotic medications. This means that the likelihood of developing immunity to its effects or experiencing adverse side effects, commonly associated with full-dosage supplements, is reduced. For instance, taking a large dose of melatonin has the potential to interfere with other medications, therefore leading to mild side effects such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting, or nausea (Auld et al. 2017).

Bottom line

At the end of the day, there are a number of factors affecting sleep quality and how easily someone falls asleep. This means that melatonin consumption, in the form of a supplement or within tart cherry juice, is not a catch-all fix. Being conscious of what could be impacting your sleep health is the first step to improve sleep, leaving the use of melatonin as a resource rather than depending solely on it.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Skylar Mercer, UGA Dietetic Intern

References:

Auld F, Maschauer EL, Morrison I, Skene DJ, Riha R. 2017. Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders. Sleep Med Reviews 34: 10-22.

Levers K, Dalton R, Galvan E, Goodenough C, O’Connor A, Simbo S, Barringer N, Mertens-Talcott SU, Rasmussen C, Greenwood M, Riechman S, Crouse S, Krieder RB. 2015. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 16:12:41.

Losso JN, Finley JW, Karki N, Liu AG, Pan W, Prudente A, Tipton R, Yu Y, Greenway FL. 2019. Pilot Study of Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. Am J Ther. 25(2): 194-201.

Sinclair J, Bottoms L, Dillon S, Allan R, Shadwell G, Butters B. 2022. Effects of montmorency tart cherry and blueberry juice on cardiometabolic and other health-related outcomes: a three-arm placebo randomized controlled trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health 19 (9): 5317.

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Can your healthy gut microbiome treat depression?

February 08, 2024

By: Aria Volpe

What exactly is gut health, and why is it important?

The gut microbiota is a complex interplay of living microbes in the intestines that are involved in the metabolism, immunity, and the overall health of its host (that’s us!). Our microbiome plays a key role in developing and maintaining our immune system– basically, our body’s way of fighting off harmful substances– and can even influence the development of chronic diseases (Hills et al, 2019). Recent studies show that diet profoundly outweighs other factors, like a person’s genes, that contribute to the overall function and makeup of their gut microbiota (Hills et al., 2019). This is good news for you and me because this means that the choices we make in our day-to-day eating can shape how healthy our gut will be. Our intestines are home to 10 to 100 trillion microbes– about 10 times more than the total number of human cells in our bodies (Hills et al., 2019). We rely heavily on the "good" bacteria in our gut to provide layers of protection against getting sick, but the health of our microbiota is responsible for so much more.

How Does it Affect Mood?

Outside of supporting our immune system and microbial health, a healthy gut microbiome has been found to positively affect mood, behavior, and even sleep. Nerve endings in the gut travel up to the central nervous system (CNS) and can ultimately contribute to our mood (Appleton, 2018). The ability of the gut and brain to communicate with each other is known as the “gut-brain axis,” and mental health disorders, such as depression, run parallel with the state of health of this axis. Studies show that maintaining or restoring the body’s normal state of gut microbiota helps in the prevention and therapy of mental health disorders (Liang, 2018). In short, our diet can help balance the microbiota in our gut in order to positively impact our brain health.

The Bottom Line

While eating in a way that supports the growth of beneficial gut flora can lift our mood, our diet should not be a replacement for depression treatment that someone may receive from consulting with a healthcare professional. How exactly can someone eat to support their gut health? In general, eating a nutritionally balanced diet with enough fiber is essential in maintaining a healthy gut, and, in particular, foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut, can also support the “good” bacteria in your gut (Zhang, 2022). With this being said, there is no quick fix or magical food that will cause your gut to cure depression, but a diet that promotes a healthy gut certainly doesn’t hurt in supporting your mood.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Tianli Wang, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Appleton J. 2018. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. NIH: 1-9

Hills R, Pontefract B, Mishcon H, Black C, Sutton A, Theberge C. 2019. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. NIH: 1-4

Liang S, Wu X, Hu X, Wang T, Jin F. 2018. Recognizing Depression from the Microbiota Gut Brain Axis. NIH: 1-6

Zhang P. 2022. Influence of Foods and Nutrition on the Gut Microbiome and Implications for Intestinal Health. NIH: 1-3

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Artificial Intelligence: Are Artificial Sweeteners Dangerous?

February 08, 2024

By: Noah Mewborn

What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners (AS) are commonly found on store shelves to sweeten various foods and beverages, but what exactly are they? The Food and Drug Administration (2023) has approved six artificial sweeteners: acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and advantame. These complicated names have been swapped out for recognizable ones, such as saccharin, which are commonly found on restaurant tables in packets next to the sugar. At their core, artificial sweeteners are chemical compounds that taste sweet but have no nutritive value to the human body (Sharma et al., 2016).

Can artificial sweeteners be dangerous?

Artificial sweeteners were initially discovered in the late 1800s, and controversy over the safety of consuming them has existed for just as long. A common concern over the consumption of artificial sweeteners is whether or not they can cause cancer. In a literature review of artificial sweeteners’ role in cancer, researchers found no relationship between AS and cancer (Yan et al., 2022). There are conflicting views on the safety of prolonged consumption of AS; however, the consensus is that these sweeteners are generally safe in quantities that humans typically consume.

Are artificial sweeteners a healthy alternative for me?

Several studies have linked the consumption of artificially sweetened alternatives to preventing weight gain when compared to sugar-based equivalents. In a systematic review of AS on the metabolism in youth populations, researchers concluded that children consuming artificially sweetened snacks and food at mealtimes often ate fewer calories compared to children who ate sugar-equivalent products (Brown et al., 2010). The reduced caloric intake, in turn, helped to prevent weight gain. In an article published by the World Health Organization (2023), a new view suggests that consuming AS are not effective for weight loss and might lead to the development of Type II Diabetes (2023). Overall, results on the health benefits of AS are inconclusive.

Bottom Line

All in all, there is a need for more research regarding the safety of AS in the human body. There is conflicting information surrounding these sweeteners, but the general consensus among researchers is that AS are safe unless consumed at high levels. The acceptable daily intake limit on AS by the FDA is set to only 1% of the value shown to have no adverse effects on consumers (Sharma et al., 2016). This means you would need to consume nine 12-oz cans of a popular diet soda per day over an extended period before AS would cause harm. This same philosophy holds true with any food consumed in excess. When choosing what to consume, the best references come from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020) and MyPlate (United States Department of Agriculture, 2024). These tools were developed with peer-reviewed scientific research to create a balanced, healthful lifestyle for all ages.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Claire Hawkins, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Brown R, Banate M, Rother K. 2010. Artificial Sweeteners: A systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. IJPO 5(4):305.

Food and Drug Administration. Aspartame and Other Sweeteners in Food. Version current 2023. Internet: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/aspartame-and-other-sweeteners-food (accessed 26 January 2024).

Gardener H, Elkind M. 2019. Artificial sweeteners, real risks. Stroke 50(3):549-551

Sharma A, Amarnath S, Thulasimani M, Ramaswamy S. 2016. Artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute: Are they really safe? Indian Journal of Pharmacology 48(3):237-240.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 26 January 2024).

United States Department of Agriculture 2024. What is MyPlate? Internet: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/what-is-myplate (accessed 26 January 2024).

World Health Organization. WHO advises not to use non-sugar sweeteners for weight control in newly released guideline. Version current May 2023. Internet: https://www.who.int/news/item/15-05-2023-who-advises-not-to-use-non-sugar-sweeteners-for-weight-control-in-newly-released-guideline (accessed February 2024).

Yan S, Yan F, Liu L, Li B, Liu S, Cui W. 2022. Can Artificial Sweeteners Increase the Risk of Cancer Incidence and Mortality: Evidence from Prospective Studies. Nutrients 14(18):3742.

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Matcha tea: Will it give you superpowers?

February 08, 2024

By: Lindsey Reynolds

Many people around the world start their day with a type of caffeinated beverage. Caffeine is a stimulant that acts to “wake up” the body and is typically consumed in the morning. Countries vary with their preferred beverage; for example, the British typically enjoy tea, while Americans prefer coffee. A type of green tea called matcha has reached peak popularity, not only in its country of origin but worldwide. This traditional Japanese ceremonial beverage has been recognized as a superfood. There are swarms of people who now order the drink from coffee shops and tea rooms. However, what is it, and why is it a superfood?

What is matcha?

Although having unique properties is a characteristic of any tea, matcha’s process is standalone. Matcha is made from leaves of a bush that must be grown in almost complete shade. The plant is also harvested when relatively young and processed with the utmost care (Devkota et al., 2021). As it is cared for so delicately, the drink maintains a characteristically vibrant green color that contrasts with the dull brown of coffee drinks. Another unique aspect of this beverage is that the tea leaves are consumed in powder rather than removed via a tea bag. This allows the beverage to maintain a high concentration of nutrients (Koláčková et al., 2019).

Will it give you superpowers?

No, matcha’s green color is not radioactive and will not give you superpowers, but it does contain multiple benefits for your health. It has high levels of antioxidants, maintained by the shade the plant is grown in. These antioxidants protect the body’s cells from free radical damage, which can potentially induce cancer (Zeb, 2020). Matcha tea also contains a vitamin C concentration roughly two times more than other tea drinks (Koláčková et al., 2019). Many of its biologically active components are more concentrated, giving matcha a considerable advantage over other caffeinated beverages. Also, some evidence supports that matcha can slow weight gain if individuals consume a high-fat diet (Sokary et al., 2023).

Are all matcha teas the same?

It is essential to consider that commercial tea production can offset the health benefits. Fast, casual coffee shops produce a matcha latte that contains high amounts of sugar. There is considerable evidence that high-sugar beverages can be linked to obesity and other chronic diseases later in life (Pereira, 2006). Just because the drink is green does not automatically make it healthy!

Bottom Line

Matcha is a non-bitter, highly concentrated, and uniquely prepared tea. The plant is delicately cared for from the time it is planted to when it is processed and can provide a variety of antioxidant properties to those who enjoy it. It is not a miracle drink, but it can fit into an otherwise healthy eating pattern as a delightful alternative to a morning coffee or an afternoon treat.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Adelia Nunnally, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Devkota, H. P., Gaire, B. P., Hori, K., Subedi, L., Adhikari-Devkota, A., Belwal, T., Paudel, K. R., Jha, N. K., Singh, S. K., Chellappan, D. K., Hansbro, P. M., Dua, K., & Kurauchi, Y. (2021). The science of matcha: Bioactive compounds, analytical techniques and biological properties. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 118, 735–743. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2021.10.021

Koláčková, T., Kolofiková, K., Sytařová, I., Snopek, L., Sumczynski, D., & Orsavová, J. (2019). Matcha tea: Analysis of nutritional composition, phenolics and antioxidant activity. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 75(1), 48–53. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-019-00777-z

Pereira, M. (2006). The possible role of sugar-sweetened beverages in obesity etiology: a review of the evidence. Int J Obes 30 (Suppl 3), S28–S36. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803489

Sokary, S., Al-Asmakh, M., Zakaria, Z., & Bawadi, H. (2023). The therapeutic potential of matcha tea: A critical review on human and animal studies. Current Research in Food Science, 6, 100396. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crfs.2022.11.015

Zeb, A. (2020). Concept, mechanism, and applications of phenolic antioxidants in foods. J Food Biochem. 2020 Sep;44(9):e13394. doi: 10.1111/jfbc.13394.

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“Drink milk for strong bones.” – What if it’s not that simple?

February 08, 2024

By: Gracie O'Neal

Most of us are told as kids, "Drink your milk to get strong bones." This statement refers to the calcium and vitamin D in cow's milk. Calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients that support bone health, but they're not the only nutrients critical for the skeleton (Thomas et al., 2016). Athletes, specifically, should pay close attention to their bone health because their rigorous training puts them at risk for bone injuries and low bone mass (Sale et al., 2019).

What impacts athlete bone health?

Bones are constantly broken down and reformed throughout life through a process called bone turnover (Burch et al., 2014). Various factors impact bone turnover, including energy, carbohydrate, and protein intake (Sale et al., 2019). Without enough carbohydrate, protein, and energy availability, bone breakdown can occcur as well as an impaired ability to reform bone (Mountjoy et al., 2023; Thomas et al., 2016). In other words, if adequate amounts of energy, protein, and carbohydrates are not consumed, this negatively impacts the skeleton. 

Specific micronutrients affecting bone turnover are calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorous (Thomas et al., 2016). Vitamin D is significant because it helps with calcium absorption and maintains adequate calcium and phosphorous levels needed to build and strengthen bones (United States Department of Agriculture, 2024). Therefore, calcium itself is essential for bones, but Vitamin D intake is also vital.

Why is it important to prioritize bone health?

It is essential for athletes to prioritize bone health because of the long-term impacts on bone mass and strength. Bone mineral is accumulated until the age of 30 years when peak bone mass - the maximum amount to be attained - is reached, and 90% of bone mass is acquired by age 20 years (Sale et al., 2019). Many young athletes tend to neglect bone health, and it’s challenging to offset these impacts once the formative years have passed (Sale et al., 2019). Therefore, it is vital to prioritize bone health during adolescence and into young adulthood.

Bottom line

We are not getting the complete picture if we only address certain nutrients like calcium and vitamin D because there are a variety of factors that impact bone. Athletes should know all the factors that impact bone health early in their career to prevent life-long consequences, such as osteoporosis. It is crucial for athletes to consume an overall, well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs and supports their bone health (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by: Adelia Nunnally, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Burch J, Rice S, Yang H, et al. Systematic review of the use of bone turnover markers for monitoring the response to osteoporosis treatment: the secondary prevention of fractures, and primary prevention of fractures in high-risk groups. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library, 2014. Chapter 1, Background. Internet: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK261650/

Mountjoy, M., Ackerman, K. E., Bailey, D. M., Burke, L. M., Constantini, N., Hackney, A. C., Heikura, I. A., Melin, A., Pensgaard, A. M., Stellingwerff, T., Sundgot-Borgen, J. K., Torstveit, M. K., Jacobsen, A. U., Verhagen, E., Budgett, R., Engebretsen, L., & Erdener, U. (2023). 2023 International Olympic Committee's (IOC) consensus statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDs). British journal of sports medicine57(17), 1073–1097. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2023-106994

Sale, C., & Elliott-Sale, K. J. (2019). Nutrition and Athlete Bone Health. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)49(Suppl 2), 139–151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01161-2

Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics116(3), 501–528. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006

United States Department of Agriculture, 2024. MyPlate: Dairy. Internet: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/dairy (accessed 25 January 2024)

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf (accessed 24 January 2024).

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Boost or Bust? Does Apple Cider Vinegar Actually “Boost” Your Metabolism?

February 08, 2024

By: Tessa Weidner

If you have been on any social media platform in the past few years, you have probably seen people raving about the miraculous effects of apple cider vinegar. Whether in the form of gummies, mixed with warm lemon water, or straight shots of apple cider vinegar, this fad has taken over the internet with claims of metabolic improvement. While claims of “boosting” metabolism sound amazing, are they too good to be true? Does drinking apple cider vinegar have scientifically proven benefits in regards to metabolism? Let’s dive in and find out. 

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Vinegar has been a worldwide popular household ingredient for decades. Apple cider vinegar is one of the most common types of vinegar. It is made from the fermentation of apples and is used for its flavoring and preservative qualities (Hadi et al., 2021). The sugars are turned into ethanol cider which is then converted into acetic acid (Launholt et al., 2020). 

Presumed Benefits 

Most of the claims online indicate that consuming apple cider vinegar can positively affect metabolism and lead to weight loss. However, one study concluded that supplementing with apple cider vinegar does not increase energy expenditure (Cobb et al., 2021). Other presumed benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar that have been of interest to researchers include lowering blood glucose levels and lipids. Improvements in lipid profiles and glycemic parameters would be beneficial in the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Multiple studies have been conducted looking into these benefits, and their results found that apple cider vinegar supplementation significantly decreased total cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, and HbA1c concentrations (Hadi et al., 2021). 

Is it Safe?

While there could be potential benefits of apple cider vinegar as described above, there have been reports of adverse effects as well. Some studies involving apple cider vinegar have highlighted its effect on teeth showing that large quantities can damage the enamel, create a bleaching effect, and cause dental sensitivity. Changes in bowel movements and increased burping and flatulence have also been reported (Launholt et al., 2020). In order to avoid or minimize these adverse effects, it is advised to add apple cider vinegar to food or dilute it with water before drinking (Launholt et al., 2020). 

Bottom Line

Whether consuming apple cider vinegar improves metabolism remains unknown. Some studies have shown potential benefits to frequent consumption of apple cider vinegar; however, they are limited. Most of the existing studies were performed on animals, and while they might have seen positive results, it does not mean the same results would be seen in humans. Therefore, before definitive claims can be made that apple cider vinegar improves metabolism, more long-term human studies are needed. In the meantime, you can include small amounts of apple cider vinegar in recipies or as a salad dressing if you enjoy the taste.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Header photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Reviewed by Tianli Wang, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Cobb, K. M., Chavez, D. A., Kenyon, J. D., Hutelin, Z., & Webster, M. J. (2021). Acetic Acid Supplementation: Effect on Resting and Exercise Energy Expenditure and Substrate Utilization. International Journal of Exercise Science, 14(2), 222-229. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8136602/

Hadi, A., Pourmasoumi, M., Najafgholizadeh, A., T. Clark, C. C., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2021). The effect of apple cider vinegar on lipid profiles and glycemic parameters: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 21. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-021-03351-w

Launholt, T. L., Kristiansen, C. B., & Hjorth, P. (2020). Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: a systematic review. European Journal of Nutrition, 59(6), 2273–2289. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02214-3

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Are plant-based milks healthier than cow’s milk?

February 08, 2024

By: Jessica Harris

Plant-based "milk" alternatives increased in popularity around 2010 due to a rise in diagnoses of lactose intolerance, perceived healthiness, and increased concern for sustainability. Plant-based milk soon became widely known to the general public for being a healthier option than the traditional cow’s milk that had been consumed for many years. However, are the common plant-based milks, such as soy, almond, and oat milk, really healthier than cow’s milk?

Cow's Milk

In order to compare products, it's important to first consider the nutrient composition of cow's milk. A serving of cow’s milk contains 103 calories, 8 grams of protein, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and 305 mg of calcium.

Soy Milk

Soy milk contains 8 grams of protein, the highest of all plant-based alternatives and the most similar to cow's milk in protein composition, 95 calories, and 205 mg of calcium (Vanga and Raghavan 2017). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists fortified soy milk as the only comparable alternative to cow's milk (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). If you are trying to consume more protein in your diet, incorporating soy milk can be a great option.

Almond milk

Almond milk is another widely known milk alternative. It gained its popularity because it has fewer calories than soy milk. A serving of almond milk has approximately 35 calories and only 2 grams of protein; however, the calcium content of almond milk (330 mg) is fairly similar to cow's milk (Vanga and Raghavan 2017).

Oat milk

Many people will opt for oat milk in their smoothies or morning coffee because it is known for its creamy texture. Oat milk contains an estimated 2 grams of protein, which is lower than cow's milk, and approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates (Yu et al. 2023). The average amount of calcium in oat milk is similar to cow's milk at around 300 to 400 mg.

Bottom Line

If you choose to drink plant-based milk alternatives instead of cow's milk for the lower calories and fat content, nutty flavor, or environmental concerns, it's important to ensure that you are getting enough nutrients that might be missing, such as protein, calcium, and vitamin B12. Soy milk is the closest in nutrient composition to cow's milk and can benefit individuals who do not get enough protein in their diet, such as vegetarians or vegans. Fortification with vitamins and minerals can vary among plant-based milk products, so be sure to check the nutrient facts label before purchasing. Ensure you are acquiring any missing nutrients from other food sources, or speak to your healthcare provider or registered dietitian if you are curious about taking dietary supplements to meet your needs.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org

Reviewed by Mary McKennon Pierce, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 8 February 2024).

Vanga SK and Raghavan V. How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow's milk? J Food Sci Technol. 2018 Jan;55(1):10-20.

Yu Y., Li X., Zhang J., Li X., Wang J. & Sun B. (2023). Oat milk analogue versus traditional milk: Comprehensive evaluation of scientific evidence for processing techniques and health effects. Food chemistry: X19, 100859.

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Breaking News: Fad Diets are OUT

February 08, 2024

By: Anna Nguyen

Do you know what REALLY grinds my gears? Fad diets. It angers me when I see a fad diet trending on social media platforms or being promoted by unqualified individuals. As obesity and other chronic health conditions become more prevalent worldwide, we must promote sustainable and evidence-based dietary strategies for weight loss. Fad diets certainly do not fall into that category.

What is a fad diet anyway?

Fad diets are popular diets that promote significant weight loss. Several characteristics differentiate fad diets from healthy, balanced diets: promises of rapid weight loss, absence of physical activity recommendations, promotions of short-term changes, focus on one type of food or elimination of a food group, not being sustainable long-term, questionable nutritional adequacy, and lack of scientific evidence to support claims (Tahreem et al. 2022). Individuals want the simplest and quickest solutions to weight loss but don’t often stop to think if these diets are sustainable or why they even want to lose weight in the first place. Fad diets are an easy answer to weight loss, which is what makes them so appealing.

What is the issue with fad diets?

Many popular fad diets choose a particular food or food group to either harp on or highlight. For example, the ever-popular ketogenic diet promotes minimal carbohydrate intake and instead encourages high fat intake. Diets like the carnivore and lion diets eliminate essentially all carbohydrate consumption and promote only protein intake. Fad diets that promote the elimination of whole food groups can lead to many nutrient deficiencies. On the other hand, consuming an increased amount of certain food groups, such as fat or protein, can lead to an increased risk of health issues. One study found that after following a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, participants were at higher risk of developing kidney stones (Tahreem et al. 2022). Long-term practice of the keto diet is associated with increased all-cause mortality, insulin resistance, risk of cardiovascular disease, increased cholesterol, worsened kidney functions, and nutrient deficiencies (Anderson 2023). Setting aside all of the health concerns associated with fad diets, they are also very restrictive and unsustainable, making them difficult to adhere to in the long run. Extreme food restrictions can lead to episodes of binge eating, which can then leave an individual feeling guilty, so they decide to restrict again, thus creating a dangerous cycle. Researchers have found that over 80% of lost weight is regained five or more years after individuals stop practicing these diets (Hall and Kahan 2018). This can cause disappointment and low self-esteem and may lead the individuals back to the dieting world (hence the term “yo-yo dieting”).

So, what diet actually works?

There is no “one size fits all” miracle diet. Following a healthy and balanced eating pattern based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, along with incorporating physical activity, has been effective in helping individuals lose weight and maintain it. Individuals should focus on consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products while limiting the consumption of saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium (United States Department of Agriculture 2020).

Bottom line

It is important to recognize that fad diets are not an effective way to lose weight and maintain it, and perusers of the internet should be wary of anyone who claims that fad diets are the answer to their weight loss prayers. When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary Lazzaro, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Anderson K. 2023. Popular fad diets: An evidence-based perspective. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 77:78-85.

Hall KD and Kahan S. 2018. Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. Med Clin North Am 102(1): 183-197.

Tahreem A, Rakha A, Rabail R, Nazir A, Socol CT, Maerescu CM, Aadil RM. 2022. Fad Diets: Facts and Fiction. Front Nutr 9:960922.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 5 February 2024).

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Ashwagandha, the World’s Latest Mental Wellness Trend

February 08, 2024

By: Danielle Wadley

Brain-mood health supplements are trending with the growing emphasis on mental wellness among younger generations. Young consumers are seeking healthier lifestyles due to concerns regarding their mental health, spurring the use of the newly trendy supplement ashwagandha. The dietary supplement is commonly used for conditions including stress, cognitive disorders, insomnia, and anxiety. In this post, the safety and efficacy concerning the use of the supplement will be presented.

Efficacy - Stress, Anxiety, & Sleep

Several clinical trials, including a double-blind trial conducted at the University of Colorado, suggest that Ashwagandha extracts may aid in stress and anxiety reduction. The study reported that participants had improved energy levels, enhanced sleep quality, heightened mental clarity, and a sense of calm after consuming 700mg of Ashwagandha extract per day. (Baker et al., 2022). Although descriptions of stress were comparable in both groups, participants taking the supplement were more likely to describe their stress as manageable compared to those taking a placebo.

A review found a small but significant effect of ashwagandha on improving sleep, particularly in participants with insomnia (Cheah et al., 2021). Additionally, the National Library of Medicine notes ashwagandha’s potential effectiveness for anxiety in some people when taken orally (National Library of Medicine 2023).

Safety

Safety is of the utmost concern when considering taking any dietary supplement, and caution should always be utilized when using any supplement. Many clinical trials describe that ashwagandha has been well tolerated by participants for up to ~ three months of use (National Library of Medicine 2023). However, there is a lack of evidence on the safety of longer-term ashwagandha use over multiple months or years. There are reports of mild side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, upset stomach, and loose stools (Tandon and Yadav 2020). Additionally, there have been a few reports of serious side effects associated with ashwagandha use, such as adverse effects on liver function and acute liver injury (Björnsson et al., 2020).

Bottom Line

Despite the emerging interest in using the supplement for many purposes, there is not enough reliable information to say whether it may be helpful. The efficacy and safety of long-term ashwagandha use over an extended period of time for stress, sleep, and anxiety remain unknown (National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements 2023). More research must be conducted to determine the long-term implications of ashwagandha use and its safety and effectiveness for any specific health benefit. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to ask questions and discuss the use of dietary supplements and what is best for your overall individual health!

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Tianli Wang, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Baker, C., Kirby, J. B., O’Connor, J., Lindsay, K. G., Hutchins, A., & Harris, M. (2022). The Perceived Impact of Ashwagandha on Stress, Sleep Quality, Energy, and Mental Clarity for College Students: Qualitative Analysis of a Double-Blind Randomized Control Trial. Journal of Medicinal Food, 25(12). https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2022.0042

Björnsson, H. K., Björnsson, E. S., Avula, B., Khan, I. A., Jonasson, J. G., Ghabril, M., Hayashi, P. H., & Navarro, V. (2020). Ashwagandha‐induced liver injury: A case series from Iceland and the US Drug‐Induced Liver Injury Network. Liver International, 40(4), 825–829. https://doi.org/10.1111/liv.14393

Cheah, K. L., Norhayati, M. N., Husniati Yaacob, L., & Abdul Rahman, R. (2021). Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 16(9), e0257843. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257843

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements 2023. Ashwagandha: Is it helpful for stress, anxiety, or sleep? Internet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Ashwagandha-HealthProfessional/#en17 (accessed 23 January 2024).

National Library of Medicine 2023. Ashwagandha. Internet: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/953.html (accessed 23 January 2024).

Tandon, N., & Yadav, S. S. (2020). Safety and clinical effectiveness of Withania Somnifera (Linn.) Dunal root in human ailments. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 255(10). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2020.112768

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Will Casein Protein Before Bed Result in a Leg Up in the Gym?

February 08, 2024

By: Grant Thomson

It is well understood that both protein and exercise are required for muscle growth. After an intense workout, muscles need adequate protein during recovery in order to be able to grow and strengthen. Does the type of protein you consume and the timing of intake matter when you're trying to build muscle in the gym?

What is casein protein?

Two proteins can be derived from dairy products: whey and casein; foods high in these proteins include milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Whey protein is one of the most common supplements on the market, overshadowing casein protein, with good reason. Whey protein is digested quickly and easily, being processed by the body in approximately three hours, resulting in a greater rise in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, in the blood (Antonio et al., 2017). On the other hand, casein takes twice as long to be broken down, at around seven hours (Antonio et al., 2017). Because of this difference, the idea spread around the gym community is that consuming casein protein before sleep will give you a “leg up” in muscle growth and strength. It is believed that because casein is a slower-digesting protein source, it will be present in the body throughout the duration of a night’s sleep, which is the most essential part of muscle recovery.

A game changer?

It turns out this idea is not unfounded. On the surface, whey protein is a preferred protein source, given that higher amino acid levels lead to greater muscle protein synthesis - aka the production of new muscle proteins (Dela Cruz & Kahan, 2021). The quick digestion of whey protein is most helpful to muscles when it can immediately be used, especially before or after exercise. On the other hand, while sleeping, not as much protein is utilized by the muscles, which is where casein’s slow digestion can provide an advantage. The peak of whey’s muscle protein synthesis is higher, but casein protein has a higher average peak muscle protein synthesis over a longer period of time (Dela Cruz & Kahan, 2021). However, this does not mean that casein consumption is the game-changing strategy for those looking to put on muscle. On average, while casein protein consumption does result in a higher rate of muscle protein synthesis, that does not directly translate to increases in muscle growth and size, as these can differ from person to person (Reis et al., 2020).

Bottom line

Adequate protein consumption spread throughout the day, regardless of the sources, is a reliable method to meet protein goals and increase muscle mass (Dela Cruz & Kahan, 2021). While casein may have some properties that help to maximize muscle growth, a diet consisting of regular protein consumption throughout the day will deliver the best result. Whatever protein sources you like to eat to help you reach your goals are the best sources for you.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary Lazzaro, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Peacock C, Silver T. 2017. Casein protein supplementation in trained men and women: Morning versus evening. Int J Exerc Sci 10(3): 479–486.

Dela Cruz J & Kahan D. 2021. Pre-sleep casein supplementation, metabolism, and appetite: A systematic review. Nutrients 13(6): 1872.

Reis C, Loureiro L, Roschel H, da Costa T. 2020. Effects of pre-sleep protein consumption on muscle-related outcomes — A systematic review. J Sci Med Sport 24(2):177-182.

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Is Your “Gut-Feeling” Right About Prebiotic Sodas?

February 08, 2024

By: Caitlin Peeler

Prebiotic sodas are a current trend craze seen around TikTok and are being promoted through social media and 'health influencers.' These sodas are depicted as a healthy alternative to soda and provide gut-beneficial prebiotics. As tasteful and beneficial as they may seem: are these truly healthy or are they too good to be true?

So, what is a ‘prebiotic’?

In simple terms, a prebiotic is a source of fiber that is “food” for our gut bacteria (Davani-Davari et al. 2019). Prebiotics provide many intestinal health benefits through the regulation of bowel movements, strengthening the gut’s barrier, and reduction of harmful bacteria (Slavin 2013).

So, is a ‘Prebiotic Soda’ Healthy?

A prebiotic soda on its own will not make a person healthy, but it can serve as a 'healthier' sugar alternative to full-sugar sodas if they fit into your budget. A standard can of prebiotic soda costs anywhere from $3 to $5 per can and contains approximately 5g of added sugars, compared to a conventional soda that is priced at $0.50 to $2.00 per can and has about 65g of added sugars. As prebiotic sodas tend to contain a lower amount of sugar, it is still important to watch the intake of added sugars in the diet overall and limit these to 10% of one’s daily dietary intake, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025).

Are the amounts of prebiotics provided by these sodas even enough to make health impacts/effects on the consumer? To address this question, the amounts of prebiotics in the soda and whether this amount reaches the threshold to make health changes need to be determined.

There is no current dietary intake recommendation provided for the consumption of prebiotics. However, “most prebiotics require oral dosages of 3 grams [of prebiotics] per day to confer a benefit” (ISAPP 2020). Most prebiotic sodas have a range of ~5-9 g of prebiotics/fiber sources, reaching the amount that could be considered beneficial. Be sure to check the nutrient facts labels to see the amounts of prebiotics, as well as other ingredients, listed.

Bottom Line

Prebiotic sodas can be included in a well-balanced diet. Depending on the brand, these sodas can provide a lower-sugar alternative to ‘conventional’ sodas if they fit into your budget. If you choose to drink prebiotic sodas, it is still important to watch added sugar intake, as excess intake can lead to health risks, diabetes, and obesity (Vartanian et al 2007). Including prebiotics in the diet can improve overall health, bowel, and immune function. Naturally occurring prebiotics are found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and seeds, and in other products like yogurt. If you don’t consume enough of these foods, prebiotic sodas can help fill this gap.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary Lazzaro, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, Seifan M, Mohkam M, Masoumi SJ, Berenjian A, Ghasemi Y. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019 Mar 9;8(3):92. doi: 10.3390/foods8030092. PMID: 30857316; PMCID: PMC6463098.

Prebiotics - International Scientific Association for Probiotics and prebiotics (ISAPP). International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics ISAPP RSS2. (2022, July 6). https://isappscience.org/for-scientists/resources/prebiotics/#:~:text=Most%20prebiotics%20for%20the%20gut,includes%20dietary%20sources%20of%20prebiotics.

Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr 22;5(4):1417-35. doi: 10.3390/nu5041417. PMID: 23609775; PMCID: PMC3705355.

Vartanian LR, Schwartz MB, Brownell KD. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Public Health. 2007 Apr;97(4):667-75. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.083782. Epub 2007 Feb 28. PMID: 17329656; PMCID: PMC1829363.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 26 January 2024).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 28). Get the facts: Added sugars. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/added-sugars.html.

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Does a “mocktail” really help you catch some much needed zzzs? 

February 08, 2024

By: Lillian Grant

Let's talk juice!

Recently, a sleepy time “mocktail” has been trending on various social media platforms advertising that tart cherry juice and magnesium may be the solution to nighttime restlessness. Tart cherry juice was initially studied in athletes, specifically examining the effects on recovery (Chung et al., 2022). More recently tart cherry juice has been suggested to promote better sleep. Tart cherry juice has many nutritional benefits, one being its high melatonin content, a hormone produced in your brain that helps you fall asleep (Pigeon et al., 2010).

Why magnesium?

The next ingredient in this "mocktail" is magnesium powder. Magnesium is a natural mineral found in foods and in dietary supplements. It regulates many systems in the body, such as muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation (NIH, 2022). Since magnesium can regulate central nervous system excitability, it helps the brain and other organs stop firing rapid signals, aiding in relaxation (Abbasi et al., 2012). People are adding it to their sleep “mocktail” to allow their body to relax, providing a restful sleep.

So... does this "mocktail" work?

As much as we would love this simple "mocktail" to help us fall asleep, it is not entirely practical. Studies have shown that in older adults who suffer from insomnia, consuming tart cherry juice is an effective treatment and there was an increase in not only sleep time but also sleep efficiency (Losso et al., 2018). Although some studies have shown that older adults who took tart cherry juice did have improved sleep, the amount of improvement was relatively small (Pigeon et al., 2010).

Bottom line

This "mocktail" may taste good and might help you go to sleep, but it is not a claim that has yet been well supported by evidence.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary McKennon Pierce, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161–1169.

Chung, J., Choi, M., & Lee, K. (2022). Effects of Short-Term Intake of Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice on Sleep Quality after Intermittent Exercise in Elite Female Field Hockey Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(16), 10272.

Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., Yu, Y., & Greenway, F. L. (2018). Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. American journal of therapeutics, 25(2), e194–e201.

Pigeon, W. R., Carr, M., Gorman, C., & Perlis, M. L. (2010). Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of medicinal food, 13(3), 579–583.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2024). Office of dietary supplements - magnesium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ (accessed 8 February 2024)

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In or Out: Dietary Supplements

February 08, 2024

By: Olivia McMickle

Time to Face the Truth

Many people make resolutions to get healthier and fitter at the start of a new year. Taking dietary supplements is a common approach to achieving this goal, with up to 80% of Americans taking at least one of over 85,685 available (Traver, 2023). However, many people do not research properly before making a purchase and may end up buying a product that is not the best option for their health.

A common misconception is that all supplements available on the market are safe and effective, but this is false. In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) stripped the FDA of its ability to enforce drug-like control requirements, leaving the FDA underfunded (Traver, 2023). As a result, supplements do not require proof of benefit and disclosure of risk (Cleaveland Clinic, 2020). Consumers are at greater risk of harm, and it is unclear whether the supplements they buy are safe and work.

Tips and Tricks

Below are some tips to help you when purchasing supplements:

  1. Always ask your doctor if you have questions about whether a supplement is right for you.
  2. Look for third-party testing products. This is when an independent organization reviews the product to make sure it meets certain standards.
  3. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. A single supplement cannot make you lose weight or debloat!

If you are thinking about trying a dietary supplement that you're not familiar with, it's important to keep in mind that you should try adding certain types of food to your diet first. It is best to improve your diet before taking supplements, as vitamins and minerals are most effective when they come from food (Solan 2023). Most importantly, consult with your doctor to determine whether you need dietary supplementation and how to find the right one for you.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2024, there are four essential nutrients that you need. Below are the nutrients and the food sources that contain them (Solan 2023):

  1. Calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg/day)
    • plain, nonfat yogurt
    • low-fat or soy milk
    • cooked spinach
    • tofu
  2. Potassium (4,700 mg/day) *less for people with impaired kidney function
    • lima beans
    • baked potatoes with skin
    • cooked acorn squash
    • banana
    • tuna 
  3. Dietary fiber (at least 28 g/day)
    • shredded wheat cereal
    • popcorn
    • white cooked beans
    • berries
  4. Vitamin D (600 to 800 IU/day)
    • salmon
    • canned light tuna
    • unsweetened soy milk
    • nonfat plain yogurt
    • 100% fortified orange juice

Bottom Line

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Claire Hawkins, UGA Dietetic Intern      

Cleveland Clinic. Supplements: They’re Not as Safe As You Might Think. March 2020. Internet: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/supplements-theyre-not-as-safe-as-you-might-think (accessed 25 January 2024).

Health & Nutrition Letter 2022. Dietary Supplement Myths You Need to Know. Internet: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/vitamins-supplements/dietary-supplement-myths-you-need-to-know/ (accessed 23 January 2024).

Solan M. 2023. 4 Essential nutrients- are you getting enough? Harvard Men’s Health Watch. (accessed 4 February 2024).

Traver NA. 2023. Dietary Suspects: Extracting the truth from dietary supplements with a standardized federal testing seal. Vol. 55 Issue 3, p767-811. 45p (accessed 25 January 2024).

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Eating Disorders Are About More Than Food!

February 08, 2024

By: Stephanie LaCava

When faced with the knowledge that someone is struggling with an eating disorder (ED), what comes to mind? It is common for people to assume that EDs solely pertain to food and eating limitations. However, the reality is that they can have diverse impacts on those affected. EDs are rising, with a lifetime prevalence rate of 3.3 to 18.6% for females and 0.8 to 6.5% for males (Tan et al., 2023).

The Development of Eating Disorders

EDs are severe mental health conditions that greatly affect a person's physical, social, and psychological well-being. These conditions are typically characterized by disruptions in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions (Guarda, 2023). EDs can have severe consequences on both physical health and quality of life, and they also take a significant toll on mental health. When we think about EDs, we often focus solely on food - whether it is restricting the amount we eat or engaging in a cycle of binging and purging. However, addressing EDs requires us to consider the mental health impact as well. The current medical definitions of EDs emphasize external factors such as parental and cultural pressure around diet and weight, as well as past traumatic experiences that could trigger certain behaviors commonly associated with having an ED (Weir, 2016).

Psychological Impacts and Treatments

The three most common types of EDs are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Anorexia is characterized by abnormally low body weight, a fear of gaining weight, and self-starvation; however, a person in a larger body may also suffer from anorexia. Bulimia is often associated with a binging-purging cycle, with individuals using alternating diets or consuming low-calorie "safe foods" while binging on higher-calorie "forbidden" foods. This binge is typically followed by purging. Binge eating disorder involves consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time and feeling out of control around food. This is similar to bulimia but is usually not followed by purging (Guarda, 2023).

Addressing EDs often involves addressing co-occurring mental health concerns. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are frequently accompanied by personality disorders. In contrast, binge eating disorder is often linked to anxiety and depression. A comprehensive study of over 36,000 individuals found that these three disorders were frequently accompanied by a variety of mental health conditions, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and alcohol and drug use disorders (Tan et al., 2023). Therefore, treating EDs requires attending to mental health concerns as well.

Bottom Line

It is essential to understand that EDs impact individuals beyond just their food intake. If someone exhibits signs, seeking care from experts is essential, such as registered dietitians who specialize in disordered eating and mental health professionals like psychiatrists or psychologists. Receiving the necessary support can make a significant difference in improving and even saving lives. UGA students can request a visit with a registered dietitian or medical provider through the University Health Center. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders offers peer support, a treatment directory, as well as a helpline: https://anad.org.

When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Quadarius Whitson, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Guarda A. (2023). What are Eating Disorders? American Psychiatric Association. Internet: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders (accessed 4 February 2024).

Tan E, Raut T, Khanh-Dao Le L, Hay P, Ananthapavan J, Lee Y, Mihalopoulos C, et al. (2023). The Association Between Eating Disorders and Mental Health: An Umbrella Review. J Eat Disord 11, 51. Internet: https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-022-00725-4#citeas (accessed 23 January 2024).

Weir K. (2016). New Insights on Eating Disorders. APA 47(4): 36. Internet: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/04/eating-disorders (accessed 23 January 2024).

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Hungry? Should I Eat Before or After I Hit the Gym?

February 08, 2024

By: Lili Rokosz

Got a busy schedule and need to get in an early morning workout, but stumped with the question of should I or should I not eat beforehand? There are many differing opinions on the Internet about the benefits of both fasted and fed exercise and the effects it has on your body. So, let's look into both of them!

Exercise in a Fasted State

When you wake up and head off to the gym without stopping to eat, you are in your “overnight fasting period.” This ‘fast’ means there are lower levels of insulin in your blood and higher levels of adrenaline. This means that when you perform aerobic exercise, things like running, cycling, stair stepper, swimming, your body will use more fat as an energy source compared to when your body is in a fed state (Vieira et al., 2016). However, this only seems to be the case when the aerobic exercise is done at a low-to-moderate intensity. The body starts using more carbohydrates as an energy source at higher intensities (Vieira et al., 2016).

Exercise in a Fed State

When you wake up and make yourself a yummy breakfast before heading out the door on a run or to the gym, you may be setting yourself up for success. Studies show that consuming low-to-moderate amounts of carbohydrates prior to exercise has been shown to increase the ability of performing aerobic conditions compared to those who are fasted (Aird et al., 2018). Exercising in a fed state has also been shown to improve performance for longer (greater than 60 minutes) aerobic exercise compared to fasted state (Aird et al., 2018).

What Does This All Mean?

The question of whether to eat or not comes down to what your goals and desires are in the gym. If you are really focused on performing lower intensity, shorter workouts for burning fat then maybe you should try going to the gym fasted. However, if you are more concerned with performance and keeping up your body’s ability to exercise for over an hour, you should be fueling your body and eating beforehand. Whichever one you pick, don’t forget that your body needs and deserves proper fueling, so take advantage of resources like MyPlate (www.myplate.gov) to ensure you are meeting your body’s dietary needs!

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Adelia Nunnally, UGA Dietetic Intern

Resources

Aird TP, Davies RW, Carson BP. Effects of fasted vs fed-state exercise on performance and post-exercise metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018 May;28(5):1476-1493. doi: 10.1111/sms.13054. Epub 2018 Feb 23. PMID: 29315892.

Correia JM, Santos I, Pezarat-Correia P, Minderico C, Mendonca GV. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Specific Exercise Performance Outcomes: A Systematic Review Including Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020 May 12;12(5):1390. doi: 10.3390/nu12051390. PMID: 32408718; PMCID: PMC7284994.

Vieira AF, Costa RR, Macedo RC, Coconcelli L, Kruel LF. Effects of aerobic exercise performed in fasted v. fed state on fat and carbohydrate metabolism in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2016 Oct;116(7):1153-1164. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516003160. Epub 2016 Sep 9. PMID: 27609363.

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The Truth Behind Low-Carb Diets

February 08, 2024

By: Libby Wunderlich 

When it comes to weight loss, carbohydrats (or carbs) have always received a bad rap. The underlying fear is that this macronutrient can cause fat gain since it is often associated with “junk foods.” However, many people do not understand the difference between refined and unrefined carbs and how they are essential for energy and human development. It is vital to educate the public on differentiating which carbs to include in the diet and the portions needed to maintain optimal health (Ludwig et al., 2018). 

Can we link carbohydrates to disease?

People may link carbohydrate consumption with obesity, heart disease, and many other health issues; however, studies have shown that there is no direct correlation. In fact, the increased percentage of total energy intake in carbohydrates does not increase the odds of one developing obesity (Sartorius et al., 2018). One study showed that consuming a low-carbohydrate diet, <47% energy, was more positively associated with obesity and being overweight than a standard diet (Merchant et al., 2009). In addition, a diet that includes unrefined carbohydrates has positively affected gut microbiome composition and function (Faits et al., 2020). Therefore, it is essential to understand portion sizes, the types of carbs to add to your diet, and how to avoid eliminating carbs altogether.

How much carbohydrate should I eat?

There is no perfect answer for how many carbohydrates one should consume to maintain weight loss, but it continues to be a work in progress. Carbohydrates should take up 45-65% of your daily calories, about 130 grams (USDA, 2020). To reach this goal, you should meet these needs through 2 cups of fruit daily, 2 ½ cups of vegetables, 6 ounce grains, and 3 cups of dairy daily (USDA, 2020). The best carbohydrates for maximum energy are legumes, whole fruits, and minimally processed grains, such as brown rice and quinoa (Ludwig et al., 2018). It is important to note that although fried potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, are associated with weight gain, it is okay to treat oneself occasionally!

Bottom line

You do not have to cut out the foods you enjoy to keep off weight. Instead, focus on eating everything in moderation and continue to make informed decisions by reading nutrition labels and differentiating between refined and unrefined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a must to live a long, happy life! 

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you sift through messages that promote health versus hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at https://www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Sierra Woodruff, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Faits T, Walker ME, Rodriguez-Morato J, Meng H, Gervis JE, Galluccio JM, Lichtenstein AH, Johnson WE, Matthan NR. Exploring changes in the human gut microbiota and microbial-derived metabolites in response to diets enriched in simple, refined, or unrefined carbohydrate-containing foods: a post hoc analysis of a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Dec 10;112(6):1631-1641.

Ludwig DS, Hu FB, Tappy L, Brand-Miller J. Dietary carbohydrates: role of quality and quantity in chronic disease. BMJ. 2018 Jun 13;361:k2340. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2340.

Merchant AT, Vatanparast H, Barlas S, Dehghan M, Shah SM, De Koning L, Steck SE. Carbohydrate intake and overweight and obesity among healthy adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1165-72.

Sartorius K, Sartorius B, Madiba TE, Stefan C. Does high-carbohydrate intake lead to increased risk of obesity? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2018 Feb 8;8(2):e018449.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Feeling Tingly After Pre-Workout?

February 08, 2024

By: Yahaira Cuevas-Nunez

Have you ever wondered why you might feel tingly after consuming pre-workout? Most people either use pre-workout because they want to feel the tingling side effect or avoid pre-workout because they hate the tingling feeling. Beta-alanine is an ingredient in pre-workout known for producing a tingling sensation. It is one of the most popular pre-workout ingredients, appearing in at least 48% of the top-selling multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements (Jagim et al. 2019). In this post, you will learn that consuming pre-workout does not always cause this feeling. We will cover the function beta-alanine has on the body, potential side effects, and general recommendations for use.

What Is Beta-Alanine, and What Function Does It Have in The Body?

Beta-alanine is an amino acid found in meats such as poultry and fish. Your body uses beta-alanine to produce the compound carnosine, which is in large concentrations in skeletal muscle and facilitates exercise performance (Trexler et al., 2015). When you perform physical activity, your body produces lactic acid, which reduces muscle force and causes tiredness. Carnosine reduces the buildup of lactic acid by buffering changes in the muscle pH, reducing muscle fatigue, and maintaining force production. Therefore, because consuming beta-alanine can increase muscle carnosine levels, it may play a role in optimizing physical performance (Artioli et al., 2010).

How Much Is Enough?             

Research suggests beta-alanine is needed in a loading dosage to increase carnosine concentrations. For example, a dosage of 4-6 grams per day for a minimum of 2 weeks results in a 20-30% increase in carnosine (Trexler et al., 2015). While we do not know the exact optimal loading dosage needed in an indiviual, we do know that a loading phase can take ~4 weeks to increase levels of carnosine (Trexler et al., 2015). For individuals who do not consume beta-alanine as a supplementat regularly and decide to take a single large dosage, it has been shown to give a side effect of paraesthesia (i.e., tingling). Paraesthesia is experienced when individuals consume over 800 mg (Trexler et al., 2015). Therefore, individuals should stay below the 800 mg dosage when choosing a pre-workout to avoid paraesthesia. More research is needed to explain why this occurs, but it is hypothesized that beta-alanine activates a receptor on sensory neurons, and it is likely that the activation results in paranesthesia (Trexler et al., 2015).

Bottom Line

To conclude, research supports that consuming beta-alanine is beneficial, safe, and capable of enhancing performance during high-intensity exercises (Artioli et al., 2010). To this day, no evidence supports that the tingling sensation is harmful. Studies have shown that the tingling will disappear within 60-90 minutes after consuming a supplement with beta-alanine (Trexler et. al., 2015).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Eden Crain, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Artioli, G. G., Gualano, B., Smith, A., Stout, J., & Lancha, A. H., Jr (2010). Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 42(6), 1162–1173.

Jagim, A. R., Harty, P. S., & Camic, C. L. (2019). Common Ingredient Profiles of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplements. Nutrients, 11(2), 254.

Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Stout, J. R., Hoffman, J. R., Wilborn, C. D., Sale, C., Kreider, R. B., Jäger, R., Earnest, C. P., Bannock, L., Campbell, B., Kalman, D., Ziegenfuss, T. N., & Antonio, J. (2015). International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2024). Office of dietary supplements - dietary supplements for exercise and athletic performance. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-Consumer/ (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Debunking Detox Diets: What Does Science Say?

February 08, 2024

By: Julia Bailey

What are detox diets?

Detox your body! Get rid of toxins and chemicals! Lose weight! All these statements are made by supporters of diets that claim to “detox,” or remove toxins the body (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2022). While some people use detox diets as a method of losing weight, others use these diets in hopes of removing toxins from their body and improving their health.   Supporters of the detox diet, however, fail to address that the human body already has the capability to detox without using any extreme diet practices (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2022). When our bodies naturally create toxins through digestion of food or are exposed to other toxins like alcohol, they are removed through normal processes like sweating and urinating (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2022). Even though toxins can sound scary, a healthy body is well equipped to handle them, no trendy diet required.

In what ways do detox diets seem successful?

From a weight loss standpoint, it is possible that short-term weight loss will occur with these detox diets (Klein and Kiat 2014). You may see weight loss from the considerable decrease in calories as well as laxative ingredients that are recommended as part of detox diets (Klein and Kiat 2014). However, as with all restrictive diets, the weight is either gained back quickly or is challenging to lose in the first place (Klein and Kiat 2014).

Bottom Line: What does the science say? 

While there is evidence for some vitamins and minerals being beneficial to the body’s natural detoxification systems, there is no evidence that any kind of low-calorie or laxative diet benefits the process (Klein and Kiat 2014). Low-calorie diets can be dangerous, as they decrease energy that our bodies need for everyday activities (Klein and Kiat 2014). Diets high in laxative ingredients can also be dangerous. Many nutrients can be lost by using laxatives, and overdoses of laxatives can occur (Klein and Kiat 2014). Despite health claims, detox diets are not helpful, and following a balanced diet that meets energy needs is the safest and simplest way to benefit your health.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org

Reviewed by Megan Appelbaum, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2022. What’s the deal with detox diets? Internet: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/diet-trends/whats-the-deal-with-detox-diets (accessed 25 January 2024).

Klein AV, Kiat H. 2014. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Jour of Human Nutr and Diet: 675-686.

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Body weight: a useful measure of health?

February 08, 2024

By: Madeleine Zeiler, MPH

The role of excess body fat on chronic disease

When linking chronic diseases to “overweight” and “obesity,” what we’re really talking about is the influence of excess body fat on our health. Excess body fat around the internal organs is linked to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and kidney disease. This is because the accumulation of excess body fat, called adipose tissue, results in increased inflammation (Cleveland Clinic, 2022; Jung & Choi, 2014).

Measures of health

When we measure health, body weight may not be as useful a measure as body fat percentage (BF%). Body Mass Index (BMI), calculated from height and weight, can estimate body composition, but it does not take into account the role of race, ethnicity, and build on body composition (Wells & Shirley, 2016). BMI falls into four categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese (CDC, 2022). The cut off points for these categories were changed in 1998 to reflect the guidelines of the World Health Organization, which were based on the recommendations of the International Obesity Task Force, a working group funded by pharmaceutical companies including Roche and Abbott, the makers of anti-obesity drugs (Moynihan, 2006). Because of the change in cut offs, millions of Americans became “overweight” overnight, and therefore eligible to be prescribed weight loss medications. Suspicious? I’d say so.

Weight on health

The number on the scale is related to only a handful of the chronic diseases related to “obesity:” osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases (excess weight puts stress on joints), gastroesophageal reflux disease (excess weight leads to increased abdominal pressure), and sleep apnea (excess weight, particularly around the neck, can lead to the collapse of the upper airway, interrupting breathing) (Jehan et al., 2017; King et al., 2013; UChicago Medicine, 2024).

Tools that measure BF% for people whom body fat reduction is medically necessary may be more useful than tools that simply measure weight. These tools include calipers (a tool that measures skinfold thickness, providing an estimate of the amount of fat beneath the skin) or scales that are able to conduct bioelectrical impedance analysis (a method of estimating BF% by sending a low-level electrical current through the body). Before any measures to reduce body fat are taken, patients should consult with a registered dietitian, as they are trained in interpreting your individual results.

Bottom line

All in all, body size is an imperfect measure of health, and we must acknowledge that one can be both fat and healthy (Duncan, 2010).

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Sierra Woodruff, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Cleveland Clinic. (2022, June 13). Obesity: Causes, Types, Prevention & Definition. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11209-weight-control-and-obesity (accessed 8 February 2024).

Duncan, G. E. (2010). The “fit but fat” concept revisited: population-based estimates using NHANES. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7, 47.

Jehan, S., Zizi, F., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Wall, S., Auguste, E., Myers, A. K., Jean-Louis, G., & McFarlane, S. I. (2017). Obstructive sleep apnea and obesity: implications for public health. Sleep Medicine and Disorders : International Journal, 1(4), 00019.

Jung, U. J., & Choi, M.-S. (2014). Obesity and its metabolic complications: the role of adipokines and the relationship between obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 15(4), 6184–6223.

King, L. K., March, L., & Anandacoomarasamy, A. (2013). Obesity & osteoarthritis. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 138(2), 185–193.

UChicago Medicine. (2024, January 1). GERD and obesity. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/conditions-services/esophageal-diseases/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease/gerd-and-obesity (accessed 8 February 2024).

Wells, J. C. K., & Shirley, M. K. (2016). Body composition and the monitoring of non-communicable chronic disease risk. Global Health, Epidemiology and Genomics, 1, e18.

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Is It Really Sugar Free?

February 08, 2024

By: Catherine Sigman

Let’s be honest, while most of us understand that too much sugar can be bad for our health, we often don’t realize how frequently we consume it. The grocery store can often feel chaotic, like a sales conference with each food package advertising claims that you really don’t understand. Labels such as “sugar free” or “reduced sugar” seem like a healthier alternative, but what do these claims really mean?

The Food and Drug Administration defines sugar claims as follows:

“Sugar free” or “zero sugar”

  • Contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving

“No added sugar” or “without added sugar” 

  • No amount of sugar or any ingredient containing sugar (such as jam, jelly, or concentrated fruit juice) was added during processing

“Reduced sugar” or “less sugar” 

  • Contains at least 25% less sugar compared to 100 grams of the referenced food (MSU Extension, 2022)

What actually counts as a sugar?

Sugars typically fall into the category of “naturally occurring sugars” or “added sugars”. Naturally occurring sugars are present in food before processing. Usually, this includes sugars such as fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, and maltose (Johns Hopkins, 2022). Added sugars are sugars added to food during processing. These often include sucrose, dextrose, syrups, honey, and sugar from concentrated fruits (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2023).

Where things Get Complicated:

Sugar substitutes exist in their own category of sweeteners because they taste sweet but do not actually contain sugar or significant calories. To understand, sugar substitutes are divided into three sub-categories: artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and novel sweeteners.

  • Artificial sweeteners are chemically produced sugar substitutes. There are currently six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners on the market in the US: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose, and advantame (Shum, 2021). These sweeteners don’t contain calories, because they are not absorbed in the intestine and metabolized as energy. In the past, artificial sweeteners have been a recommended sugar substitute for those monitoring their blood glucose levels or weight, but some research has suggested artificial sweeteners might pose health hazards (John Hopkins, 2022). Unfortunately, much more research is needed to form a conclusive answer.
  • Sugar alcohols are also created synthetically, although typically derived from naturally occurring sugars in fruits or vegetables (John Hopkins, 2022). These sweeteners do provide calories, but fewer than regular sugar because of the way they are absorbed. Unfortunately, this absorption process has been shown to result in gas, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea in some people (Hermann, 2017). Examples of sugar alcohols include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, arabitol, glycerol, isomalt, lactitol, and maltitol (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2021).
  • Novel Sweeteners are derived from natural sources like plants. These are not a significantly large source of calories and generally don’t lead to weight gain or blood sugar spikes (John Hopkins, 2022). Unlike other sweeteners, they also typically contain more beneficial nutrients. Currently, the FDA recognizes stevia, monk fruit, and thaumatin as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2023).

Bottom Line

Although always listed in the ingredients, sugar substitutes are not considered when calculating the “total sugar” or “added sugar” values listed on the nutrition label because they don’t provide a significant source of calories. Still, many believe the myth that when they are buying products with labels such as “sugar free”, they are avoiding artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and novel sweeteners as well, which is usually not the case. Whether or not one chooses to consume natural sugar, added sugar, or sugar substitutes, one should always be mindful of moderation.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary Lazzaro, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Hermann, J. R. (2017, July 1). Dietary Sugar and Alternative Sweeteners - Oklahoma State University. OSU Extension. https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/dietary-sugar-and-alternative-sweeteners.html (accessed 8 February 2024).

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022, November 15). Facts about sugar and sugar substitutes. Health. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/facts-about-sugar-and-sugar-substitutes (accessed 8 February 2024).

MSU Extension. (2022, July 15). Sugar Label Claims. MSU Extension Agricultural Literacy. https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/sugar-label-claims (accessed 8 February 2024).

Shum, B., & Georgia, S. (2021). The Effects of Non-nutritive Sweetener Consumption in the Pediatric Populations: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What We Need to Learn. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 12.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2023, June). How Sweet It Is: All About Sweeteners. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-sweet-it-all-about-sweeteners®. (accessed 8 February 2024).

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2023, August). Added Sugars on the Nutrition Facts Label. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-facts-label/added-sugars-nutrition-facts-label. (accessed 8 February 2024).

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, October). Nutrition Facts Label: Sugar Alcohols. https://ccesaratoga.org/resources/food-label-sugar-alcohols (accessed 8 February 2024).

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Low Fat Products in Exchange for Low Quality Ingredients?

February 08, 2024

By: Maggie Hartman

One thing remains true in today's society: fad dieting is all the rave. There is always controversy over which diet is most effective or which will cause quick weight loss. No matter the diet, there is always an end goal of selling a message, a company, or a product.

What is a low-fat diet and when did it become popular?

Low-fat became the idolized diet beginning in the late 1970s when the McGovern Report recommended that Americans reduce fat consumption and incorporate increased complex carbohydrates to combat many of the common chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease (Nguyen et al., 2016). These complex carbohydrates are less likely to spike your blood sugar and contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that your body needs to fuel itself (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). The overarching idea is that low-fat products will save you in the fat content department but is not as simple as it seems.  When fat is removed, something must take its place to keep the product appearance and taste similar to the original. The question then arises: what is being substituted for the fat?

What makes low-fat products different?

In general, most Americans exceed their daily recommended limits for added sugars sodium, and saturated fat, hence the implementation of low-fat products (National Institution on Aging, 2022). Low-fat products tend to lack key nutrients such as fiber and protein and will typically increase carbohydrate count to offset the decrease in fat. In addition, findings from a comparison study found that the low-fat and non-fat versions of products have an increased amount of sugar content, especially within salad dressings. (Nguyen et al., 2016). With the rise of fad dieting, weight loss products are rolling off the line. Some of these commodities, being low-fat and high carb, have the potential to increase your risk of developing heart disease or pancreatitis due to elevation of fat stored in your blood (Schuchmann, 2023). When comparing low fat products to their regular counterparts, a lot of nutrients differ. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that regular whole milk vanilla frozen yogurt (3-4% fat, ½ c) contains 104 calories, while fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt (<1% fat, ½ c) contains 100 calories (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2024). One of the most popular low-fat food selections is yogurt. Dannon yogurt has a non-fat vanilla and a whole milk vanilla version of their product. The low-fat product has a higher sugar content (15 grams vs 22 grams), higher sodium (70 mg vs 90 mg), and a higher carbohydrate content (20 grams vs 22 grams) (ConscienHealth, 2017).

Bottom line

When considering buying low-fat products, it is important to consider what else is being impacted. Most processed, low-fat versions of food can sneak in added sugars or carbohydrates in exchange for a lower fat content. Be cautious of the nutrition label and know that just because it is low-fat, it does not mean that is more nutrient dense or lower in calories.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Mary McKennon Pierce, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

ConscienHealth. Yogurt Shedding Sugar to Keep a Healthy Halo. 23 January 2017. Internet: https://conscienhealth.org/2017/01/yogurt-shedding-sugar-to-keep-a-healthy-halo/ (accessed 5 February 2024).

Cleveland Clinic. Carbohydrates. 2021 Internet: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15416-carbohydrates (accessed 5 February 2024)

National Institute for Aging 2022. How to Read Food and Beverage Labels. 8 February 2021.Internet: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/healthy-eating-nutrition-and-diet/how-read-food-and-beverage-labels (accessed 24 January 2024).

National Institute of Health 2024. Fat-Free Versus Calorie Consumption. Internet: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/shop_fat_free.htm#content (accessed 24 January 2024).

Nguyen PK, Lin S, and Heidenreich, P. (2016). A systematic comparison of sugar content in low-fat vs regular versions of food. Nutrition & Diabetes6(1), e193. https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2015.43

University of Chicago Medicine. Is Full-Fat Food Better For You Than Low-Fat or Fat-Free Food. 18 July 2023. Internet: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/gastrointestinal-articles/which-are-healthier-low-fat-or-full-fat-foods#:~:text=By%20eating%20low%2Dfat%20products,oil%20and%20salmon%20—%20are%20ideal. (accessed 24 January 2024).

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Exercise Precaution with Exercise Preworkout

February 08, 2024

By: Tristan Forbes

Preworkout supplements are sold in many forms, like powders and liquids, to improve strength and endurance during a workout. They often contain compounds like caffeine and protein (Harty et al. 2018). They are popular with many athletes, from casual to serious competitors, and people in their fitness journey wonder if they should start taking them too. Preworkout supplements have been shown to benefit exercise performance (Collins et al. 2017), but it is important to know the risks and how to consume preworkout supplements safely.

What are the risks?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not investigate supplements for safety before people start using them; they only investigate when there are complaints or incident reports. Supplements may contain dangerous amounts of certain ingredients (Harty et al. 2018). The FDA cautions that there is an increase in dietary supplements containing dangerously high amounts of caffeine (Food and Drug Administration 2018). Additionally, consuming caffeine late in the day increases your risk of poor sleep quality (National Institutes of Health 2022).

How do I consume them safely?

To make sure preworkout supplements are safe, look for tests done by organizations like the National Sport Foundation and United States Pharmacopeia that test products for safe consumption. People should also check that the caffeine amount is safe. The FDA recommends 400 milligrams of caffeine as a limit to avoid anxiety and heartburn (U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2023). If you plan to take a caffeine-containing preworkout supplement, consider moving your workout to earlier in the day so your sleep quality is not affected. You may also consider other sources of caffeine and energy, such as black tea or quickly-digested foods like clementines and pretzels. Caffeine has been shown to improve exercise and physical performance for the majority of people (Guest et al. 2021), so eating foods containing caffeine could be helpful.

Bottom Line

In summary, people can benefit from taking preworkout supplements that have been shown to improve performance in athletics. However, any supplement can be dangerous, so it is important to read labels indicating third-party testing to ensure that they are safe. People taking supplements should still consume a healthy diet that contains a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy (National Institutes of Health 2022). People should also consider natural sources of caffeine and energy versus taking a supplement with unknown risks.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Joan Song, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Collins PB, Earnest CP, Dalton RL, Sowinski RJ, Grubic TJ, Favot CJ, Colette AM, Rasmussen C, Greenwood M, Kreider RB 2017. Short-Term Effects of a Ready-to-Drink Pre-Workout Beverage on Exercise Performance and Recovery. Nutr 9(8):823.

Food and Drug Administration 2018. Highly Concentrated Caffeine in Dietary Supplements: Guidance for Industry. https://www.fda.gov/files/food/published/Guidance-for-Industry--Highly-Concentrated-Caffeine-in-Dietary-Supplements-DOWNLOAD.pdf (accessed 25 January 2024).

Guest NS, VanDusseldorp TA, Neslon MT, Grgic J, Schoenfeld BJ, Jenkins NDM, Arent SM, Antonion J, Stout JR, Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Goldstein ER, Kalman DS, Campbell BI 2021. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18(1):1.

Harty PS, Zabrieskie HA, Erickson JL, Molling PE, Kerksick CM, Jagim AR 2018. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15(1):41.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2023. Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much? Internet: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much (accessed 25 January 2024).

National Institutes of Health 2022. Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance. Internet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-HealthProfessional/ (accessed 25 January 2024).

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Is the Vegan Diet the Best Dietary Approach?

February 07, 2024

By: Marco Giraldo

Most people want to follow a healthy lifestyle to be healthy or to look good, but selecting the best diet plan can be challenging. The vegan (plant-based) diet is one eating plan you might choose to follow. Fruits and vegetables are essential daily, but is a plant-based diet the best choice? And should we avoid animal-based foods? Are there nutrients we might lack from consuming a vegan diet?

What is a vegan diet?

The vegan diet is a type of vegetarian eating pattern that avoids animal-based products, including dairy and eggs (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2024). People might choose to go vegan for moral, religious, and environmental reasons or because they have heard a plant-based diet will benefit their health. However, studies show that avoiding animal products for health reasons does not necessarily decrease disease risk or improve weight loss (Turner-McGrievy et al. 2023).

What are the health effects of vegan diets?

Plant-based diets contain essential nutrients, such as vitamins B, C, E, iron, fiber (helpful for digestion), and antioxidants (protective against cancer). This type of eating pattern can protect against heart disease because it encourages eating more beans, fruits, and vegetables and avoids red, processed meat (Luszczki 2023).

Are there any disadvantages to a vegan diet?

A vegan diet may be low in protein (Connolly et al. 2023) and calcium, which can cause bone health problems. Other nutrients that may be low include omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats for heart, eye, and brain health), vitamin D (important for bone health), vitamin B-12 (important for blood health), and iron (the body absorbs iron more easily from animal-based foods) (Luszczki 2023).

Bottom line

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a variety of nutrient-dense foods to promote health, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, oils, and protein foods (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). A plant-based eating pattern can be considered healthy as long as it includes enough of the nutrients (like protein), that are found in meats, eggs, dairy, and fish. With careful planning, protein can be obtained from plant-based sources, such as beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

If you are concerned that you are not meeting your nutritional needs on a vegan diet, reach out to a registered dietitian for guidance on selecting appropriate foods and if taking a dietary supplement is necessary. When navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Joan Song, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. Vegetarian Nutrition and Disease Prevention (2022-23) Version current 2023. Internet: https://www.andeal.org/topic.cfm?menu=5271&cat=6250 AL (andeal.org) (accessed 24 January 2024).

Connolly, G.; Hudson, J.L.; Bergia, R.E.; Davis, E.M.; Hartman, A.S.; Zhu, W.; Carroll, C.C.; Campbell, W.W. Effects of Consuming Ounce-Equivalent Portions of Animal- vs. Plant-Based Protein Foods, as Defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on Essential Amino Acids Bioavailability in Young and Older Adults: Two Cross-Over Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients 2023, 15, 2870. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15132870

Luszczki E, Boakye F, Zielinska M, Bartosiewicz A, Oleksy L, Stolarczyk A. Vegan diet: nutritional components, implementation, and effects on adults’ health. Front. Nutr. 2023. https://doi.org/10/3389/fnut.2023.1294497 

Roussell, M., Hill, A., Gaugler, T. et al. Effects of a DASH-like diet containing lean beef on vascular health. J Hum Hypertens 28, 600–605 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/jhh.2014.34

Turner-McGrievy GM, Wilcox S, Frongillo EA, et al. Effect of a Plant-Based vs Omnivorous Soul Food Diet on Weight and Lipid Levels Among African American Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(1):e2250626. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.50626

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-20259th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 24 January 2024).

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To Eat or Not to Eat: Is Intermittent Fasting More Effective than Calorie Restriction?

February 07, 2024

By: Eli Whitaker

The History of Fasting

Fasting is choosing to abstain from food for a short time. It is an ancient and well-established practice for many cultures throughout history. Many world religions have a fasting component integrated into their practices. Islam, maybe most famously, has Ramadan, where participants cannot eat during the day and will only eat after the sun has set, which some research shows can be beneficial to one’s metabolic health (Tsitsou et al. 2022). In today's world of abundant food, the idea of not eating might seem odd, but it's a concept worth exploring. Recently, fasting has returned to a more prominent position in the zeitgeist of the age in the form of intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is using fasting as a tool to improve one’s health, usually in the form of reducing fat mass or improving metabolic function, meaning losing weight or better using the food you eat. Many proponents claim that it is a miracle cure for weight loss and diabetes, but there is more to it than that. To intermittently fast, you have to abstain from eating anything with calories for a period of time that you set. It seems like a very simple process, but it can be difficult, considering most people have eaten three meals per day for most of their lives. Theoretically, fasting seems like it would be effective, but let us compare it to normal calorie restriction.

Calorie Restriction Versus Intermittent Fasting

The most common method of losing weight is by going on a diet. Many of us have done it, and many of us have been successful, others not so much. This is what is called calorie restriction, cutting out a portion of your daily caloric intake every day to slowly and consistently lose weight. One study found that intermittent fasting produced similar results to calorie restriction in terms of weight loss for those with a normal BMI, but a more potent effect in those with obesity (Zhang et al. 2022). Another study found that the two methods produced similar results, but participants with type II Diabetes displayed improved glycemic control (Welton et al. 2020). This means that those with type II Diabetes could better control their blood sugar when intermittent fasting, but it is always recommended to speak with your doctor first before trying intermittent fasting. Although these results sound promising, there still needs to be more research done on intermittent fasting to truly understand its effects on weight loss and improving health.

Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting may work for you, or a typical diet may be better, as they show similar results. It really depends on what method you can stick with consistently without any issues popping up. The ultimate goal is to improve your health, so choose whichever one works for you.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Tianli Wang, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Tsitsou S, Zacharodimos N, Poulia K-A, Karatzi K, Dimitriadis G, Papakonstantinou E. 2022. Effects of Time-Restricted Feeding and Ramadan Fasting on Body Weight, Body Composition, Glucose Responses, and Insulin Resistance: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients 14:4778.

Welton S, Minty R, O’Driscoll T, Willms H, Poirier D, Madden S, Kelly L. 2020. Intermittent fasting and weight loss. Can Fam Physician 66:117–125.

Zhang Q, Zhang C, Wang H, Ma Z, Liu D, Guan X, Liu Y, Fu Y, Cui M, Dong J. 2022. Intermittent Fasting versus Continuous Calorie Restriction: Which Is Better for Weight Loss? Nutrients 14:1781.

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Heart Sings for Red Wine: Is Red Wine Really Good for Your Health?

February 07, 2024

By: Lindsey Sewell

Health Risks

Can a glass of red wine a day keep the doctor away? Many people might have heard that red wine is good for heart health. However, it is also known that too much alcohol consumption can have harmful effects on the body. According to the CDC, binge drinking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2024). The CDC also highlights that overconsumption of alcohol can lead to many diseases such as cancer, liver disease, and heart disease. Scientific data seem to disagree with opinions on red wine and heart health.

Other Factors

The American Heart Association clears the confusion of alcohol consumption being a cause of better heart health, due to a lack of research between the two. However, wine and a lowered risk of dying from heart disease are related (American Heart Association, 2019). This association could be from many factors. It could be that wine drinkers are more likely to have healthier diets such as the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet that could lead to a longer life, regardless of consuming one or two glasses of red wine every night (American Heart Association, 2019).

The Good

Red wine is also rich in antioxidants, which have positive effects on the body (Lombardo et al. 2023). However, antioxidants can also be found in other food sources such as blueberries and peanuts (American Heart Association, 2019). It is important to understand that many factors play a role in heart and overall health, and is related to the nutrition in alcoholic beverages.

Bottom Line

Alcohol can either have a beneficial or harmful effect. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended that alcohol consumption be limited to one drink or less per day for women, and two drinks or less per day for men (United States Department of Agriculture, 2024). So, before you decide to drink red wine, consider eating blueberries or peanuts. And if you do decide to drink red wine—remember that moderation is key.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Joan Song, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

American Heart Association (2019). Drinking red wine for heart health? Read this before you toast. Internet: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/05/24/drinking-red-wine-for-heart-health-read-this-before-you-toast (accessed 22 January 2024).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024). Excessive alcohol use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Internet: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/alcohol.htm (accessed 22 January 2024).

Lombardo, M., Feraco, A., Camajani, E., Caprio, M., & Armani, A. (2023). Health effects of red wine consumption: a narrative review of an issue that still deserves debate. Nutrients, 15(8).

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 22 January 2024).

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Apple Cider Vinegar: Fat Burner or Phony?

February 07, 2024

By: Katie Tomlinson

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

So, what exactly is apple cider vinegar? Apple cider vinegar is made from the chemical change of apples and contains high amounts of acetic acid (Launholt et al. 2020). You have probably heard that apple cider vinegar is a magic fat burner. For years, people have taken spoonfuls of it or mixed it with water to drink daily, hoping for quick and easy fat loss. But is apple cider vinegar a weight loss shortcut, or is it just another myth?

Does Apple Cider vinegar actually burn fat?

There is not enough evidence to support the claim that apple cider vinegar burns fat. Even though some studies suggest that apple cider vinegar results in fat loss, they do not say that patients who experienced weight loss simultaneously followed a calorie-restricted diet and increased their exercise (Solaleh et al. 2018). It can be argued that the weight loss resulted from the high amounts of acetic acid irritating the digestive tract, causing acid reflux and reducing appetite (Launholt et al. 2020). Damage to teeth is another possible harmful effect of regular apple cider vinegar consumption (Launholt et al. 2020).

Alternatives to promote healthy and sustainable fat loss!

“Quick fix” fad diets and “cure-all” products should be avoided because they are usually based on misinformation and biased evidence (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021). Instead, healthy and sustainable weight loss can be achieved through diet and lifestyle changes. For weight management, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2021), recommends a general healthful diet focused on increased fruit and vegetable intake to improve overall nutrition and promote long-term results. Additionally, 200-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week is optimal for weight management (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021). If further assistance is needed, seek personalized nutrition therapy from a medical professional to explore a diet low in calories, carbohydrates, or fats according to your personal needs (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021).

Bottom Line

There is not enough evidence to prove that apple cider vinegar burns fat and directly promotes weight loss. In fact, daily intake of concentrated apple cider vinegar could have negative health effects. Instead, diet and lifestyle changes are the best way to achieve safe and long-term weight loss.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Joan Song, UGA Dietetic Intern

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2021. Overweight and Obesity: Nutrition Intervention. Internet: https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/topic.cfm?ncm_category_id=1&lv1=272986&lv2=275050&lv3=275060&ncm_toc_id=275060&ncm_heading=Nutrition%20Care (accessed 4 February 2023). In: Nutrition Care Manual®.

Atoosa S, Nima H, Solaleh K, and Zohreh A. 2018. Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on Weight Management, Visceral Adiposity Index and Lipid Profile in Overweight or Obese Subjects Receiving Restricted Calorie Diet: A Randomized Control Trial. Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 43, 2018, pp. 95-102.

Launholt T, Hjorth P, and Kristiansen C. 2020. Safety and Side Effects of Apple Vinegar Intake and its Effect on Metabolic Parameters and Body Weight: A Systematic Review. European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 59, no. 6, 2020, pp. 2273-2289.

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Might as Well Eat Candy: Is Fruit Too High in Sugar?

February 07, 2024

By: Sara McCarthy

Fruit has long been touted as a staple in a healthful diet. Still, it only takes a little digging on social media to find influencers, wellness advocates, and even some practitioners who advise against including fruits in one's diet. Bananas and grapes are particularly under siege, with some commentators going so far as to suggest that eating these fruits is equivalent to eating candy. In a world that is increasingly prioritizing dietary advice from our phones over physicians, where does the truth lie?

Fruit Facts

As with most aspects of a healthy diet, context matters when discussing the sugar content in fruit. Fruit is a valuable source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients. This is particularly important, as fewer than 10% of citizens of most Western countries ingest adequate amounts of dietary fiber and whole fruits (Dreher 2018). The fructose in fruit causes a low blood glucose response, and when fruits are consumed in their whole form, their fiber further helps to slow down the absorption of the sugars in fruit. In fact, Ren et al. (2023) found that an increase in fruit consumption reduced fasting blood glucose in patients with diabetes.

Sweet Life

This is in contrast to the added sugars in many candies. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy intake daily, as these added sugars generally contain energy without providing any additional nutritional benefit (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). Additionally, a study by DiNicolantonio and Berger (2016) concluded that added sugars even reduce lifespan and negatively impact quality of life and that an effort should be made in the United States to reduce the inclusion of added sugars in prepackaged food and beverages in order to slow the current rate of consumption.

Bottom line

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, about 80% of the U.S. population does not meet daily fruit recommendations and would benefit from increasing their fruit intake (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). Fruit is a vital component of a healthful diet, provides nutritional benefits that candy products do not, and has been found to have a minimal or even beneficial effect on blood glucose. Consumers should prioritize fruit consumption as part of a balanced diet and should be wary of anyone attempting to fear-monger the public regarding the healthfulness of fruit.

When it comes to navigating nutrition messages, recommendations for individuals are specific and vary based on age, medication use, and diagnosed health conditions. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you sift through messages that promote health vs. hype. To find an RDN, use the Find a Nutrition Expert tool at www.eatright.org.

Reviewed by Claire Hawkins, Dietetic Intern

References

DiNicolantonio J, Berger A. 2016. Added sugars drive nutrient and energy deficit in obesity: A new paradigm. Open Heart 3(2):e000469.

Dreher ML, 2018. Whole fruits and fruit fiber emerging health effects. Nutrients 10(12):1833.

Ren Y, Sun S, Su Y, Ying C, Luo H. 2023. Effect of fruit on glucose control in diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of nineteen randomized controlled trials. Front Endocrinol 2023; 14: 1174545.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Version current 2020. Internet: http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov (accessed 22 January 2024).

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