Category Archives: Fish

What’s Our Preferred Fuel?

Dr. Jay Wortman has been thinking about whether our bodies prefer to run on carbohydrates (as a source of glucose) or, instead, on fats.  The standard American diet provides derives about half of its energy from carbs, 35% from fats, and 15% from proteins.  So you might guess our bodies prefer carbohydrates as a fuel source.  Dr. Wortman writes:

Now, consider the possibility that we weren’t meant to burn glucose at all as a primary fuel. Consider the possibility that fat was meant to be our primary fuel. In my current state of dietary practice, I am burning fat as my main source of energy. My liver is converting some of it to ketones which are needed to fuel the majority of my brain cells. A small fraction of the brain cells, around 15%, need glucose along with a few other tissues like the renal cortex, the lens of the eye, red blood cells and sperm.Their needs are met by glucose that my liver produces from proteins. The rest of my energy needs are met with fatty acids and these come from the fats I eat.

Dr. Wortman, who has type 2 diabetes,  in the same long post also writes about oolichan grease (from fish), an ancestral food of Canandian west coast First Nations people. 

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Fat in Diet, Fish

What About Fish?

"Waiter, I didn't order sushi!"

Darya Pino over at Summer Tomato recently wrote about eating fish:  health aspects, which are best to eat, shopping, and sustainability.  I recommend it to you, even though I don’t agree with everything.  For instance, I think in general the risk of mercury contamination is overblown.  [I know that’s little consolation for those few who have suffered mercury poisoning from fish.]

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Maybe Diet Prevents Alzheimer Dementia After All

I blogged about a study by Gu et al on April 30, 2010, that found significantly lower incidence of Alzheimer dementia in people in Manhattan who followed this dietary pattern:

  • relatively high consumption of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous  vegetables
  • relatively low consumption of poultry, red meat, butter, and high-fat dairy

About the same time, a National Institutes of Health expert panel pooh-poohed the possibility that diet had any effect one way or the other on Alzheimer’s

Why does this matter?  Five million U.S. adults have Alzheimer dementia already, and it’s going to get much worse over the coming decades.

A June, 2010, issue of Journal of the American Medical Association has a commentary by two doctors (Martha Morris, Sc.D., and Christine Tangney, Ph.D.), experts in the field of nutrition.  Here’s their explanation of the NIH panel’s negative findings:

Many of the inconsistencies among studies of dietary factors can be attributed to the complexity of nutrition science and the omission of nutrition expertise in the design and analysis of both epidemiological and randomized controlled trials.

Morris and Tangney think the findings of Gu et al are valid, confirming prior studies showing benefit to diets high in vitamin E (from food) and low in saturated fat from animals.  They point out that the animal foods may simply be displacing beneficial nutrients in other foods, rather than directly causing harm.

Until we have further data, anyone at risk for Alzhiemer’s may be better off following the dietary pattern above, or the Mediterranean diet.  The two are similar.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclaimer:  All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status.  Always consult your personal physican before making any dietary or exercise changes. 

Reference: Morris, M., & Tangney, C.  Diet and Prevention of Alzheimer Disease.  The Journal of the American Medical Association, 303 (2010): 2,519-2,520.    doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.844

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Filed under Dairy Products, Fat in Diet, Fish, Fruits, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, Vegetables

Longevity Components of the Mediterranean Diet

According to Greek researchers, the components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to longer lifespan are:

  • moderate alcohol consumption
  • low consumption of meat
  • high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and legumes

The following didn’t seem to contribute much, if any:

  • cereals (the grain of a grass such as wheat, corn, oats)
  • dairy products
  • fish and seafood

Investigators at the University of Athens examined the Greek portion of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) and Nutrition, which included 23,349 men and women free of diabetes, cancer, and coronary heart disease at the outset.  Food habits were documented by questionnaire. 

The focus of this particular study was death rates over an average follow-up of 8.5 years.  Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet ranged from minimal to high, as would be expected. 

As with numerous other studies of the Mediterranean diet, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower chance of death. 

My Comments

The lack of benefit from fish is unexpected.  I have no explanation.  A preponderance of evidence elsewhere suggests fish consumption helps prolong life via lowered rates of heart disease.

Alcohol can be dangerous, of course.  Some people should not partake, ever.     

For people with diabetes who wish to avoid the carbohydrate load in cereals and dairy products, you don’t need to worry much about cutting those out of an otherwise Mediterranean-style diet.

Steve Parker, M.D. 

Reference:  Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al.  Anatomy of health effects of the Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort studyBritish Medical Journal, 338 (2009): b2337.  DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2337.

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Filed under Alcohol, Dairy Products, Fish, Fruits, Grains, Health Benefits, legumes, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, olive oil, Vegetables

Does Diet Influence Risk of Stroke?

Harvard researchers suggest that our food consumption does indeed influence our risk of suffering a stroke.  This matters since stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Scientists looked carefully at 121 different studies—published between 1979 and 2004—on the relationship between dietary factors and stroke.  High blood pressure is a major modifiable risk factor for stroke, so it also was considered.  Dietary factors included fats, minerals, animal protein, cholesterol, fish, whole grains, fiber, carbohydrate quality, fruits and vegetables, antioxidants, B vitamins, and dietary patterns.

I quote their conclusions:

Diets low in sodium and high in potassium lower blood pressure which will likely reduce stroke risk.

Consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, folate, and fatty fish are each likely to reduce stroke risk.

A prudent or traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern, which incorporates these individual dietary components as well as intake of legumes and olive oil, may also prevent stroke.

Evidence is limited or inconsistent regarding optimal levels of dietary magnesium, calcium, antioxidants, total fat, other fat subtypes, cholesterol, carbohydrate quality, or animal protein for stroke prevention.

A diet low in sodium, high in potassium, and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereal fiber, and fatty fish will likely reduce the incidence of stroke.

Take Home Points

The article abstract does not address the optimal intake amount of these various foods, vitamins, and minerals.  That’s probably not known with any certainty.

The traditional Mediterranean diet incorporates many of these stroke-preventing foods.  The Advanced Mediterranean Diet helps people lose weight while teaching how to eat Mediterranean-style.

The very low-carb Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet includes these stroke-preventing foods and minerals, except for whole grains and a tendency to be low in potassium.  The KMD is high in total fat and animal protien, and potentially high in cholesterol; this study indicates those issues are nothing to worry about in terms of future strokes.

I’ll use articles such as this to recommend long-term food consumption for followers of any future Diabetic Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Ding, E.L, and Mozaffarian, D.  Optimal dietary habits for the prevention of stroke. Seminars in Neurology, 26 (2006): 11-23.

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Filed under Fish, Fruits, Grains, Health Benefits, legumes, Mediterranean Diet, olive oil, Stroke, Vegetables

Diabetes + Overweight and Obesity = Diabesity

Mark Hyman, M.D., blogged about diabesity at the Huffington Post December 24, 2009.  He defines diabesity as a problem with glucose regulation associated with overweight and obesity.  The glucose physiology problem ranges from metabolic syndrome to prediabetes to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

“Diabesity” has been in circulation for a few years, but hasn’t caught on yet. 

What interested me about his blog post was that he advocates the Mediterranean diet as both therapeutic and prophylactic.  To quote Dr. Hyman:

The optimal diet to prevent and treat diabesity includes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocados, and omega-3 fats
  • Modest amounts of lean animal protein including small wild fish such as salmon or sardines

This is commonly known as a Mediterranean diet.  It is a diet of whole, real, fresh food. It is a diet of food you have to prepare and cook from the raw materials of nature.  And it has broad-ranging benefits for your health.

Food for thought, no doubt. 

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Hyman, Mark.  The diabesity epidemic part III:  Treating the real causes instead of the symptoms.  The Huffington Post, December 24, 2009

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Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Fish, Fruits, Grains, legumes, nuts, Overweight and Obesity, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Top 10 Diabetes Superfoods

The American Diabetes Association has published a list of  Top 10 Diabetes Superfoods.  They share a low glycemic index and provide key nutrients, according to the ADA.  Click the link for details.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • beans
  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • citrus fruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • berries
  • tomatoes
  • fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • fat-free milk and yogurt

Regular readers here know I have no problem generally with regular or high-fat versions of dairy products.  An exception would be for people trying to lose weight while still eating lots of carbohydrates; the low- and no-fat versions could have lower calorie counts, which might help with weight management.

But compare non-fat and whole milk versions of yogurt in the USDA nutrient database.  One cup of non-fat fruit variety yogurt has 233 calories, compared to 149 calories in plain whole milk yogurt.  The “non-fat” version  reduced the fat from 8 to 2.6 g (not zero g) and replaced it with sugars (47 g versus 11 g). 

Unfortunately, your typical supermarket yogurts are low-fat yet loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup that impede weight loss.

Nevertheless, this superfoods list may give us some guidance in design of a Diabetic Mediterranean Diet.  Except for “fat-free,” everything else on the list is a component of the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet.  “Fat-free” is a modern invention and not necessarily an improvement.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Dairy Products, Fish, Fruits, Glycemic Index and Load, Grains, Health Benefits, legumes, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, Vegetables