Monday, September 24, 2012

What's making news in nutrition this month?

Reading Food Labels Could Keep you Thinner

A recent study showed women who read food labels weighed nearly 9 pounds (4.5kg) less than women who didn't read labels. The results showed reading labels played a role in reducing obesity, especially among women.
So next time you pick up a product in the supermarket, read the label! Pay particular attention to the total energy (calories/kilojoules), saturated fat and sugar. A general rule of thumb is to aim for saturated fat <2g/100g and sugar <15g/100g. The energy depends on whether it is a meal or snack. Try and choose snacks with <200 calories per serve (and be sure to stick to 1 serve!).

A good reason to go to bed early

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed significant evidence that inadequate sleep is contributing to obesity, through affecting appetite-regulating hormones. The Canadian Obesity Network has included adequate sleep in its new set of obesity management tools for physicians. No longer is achieving a healthy weight just about healthy eating and exercise; but it is also about getting enough sleep. What a great excuse to hit the sack early tonight!

Eating Well During Pregnancy Reduces Baby's Obesity Risk

Research is showing that obesity likely begins in the womb. A study recently showed that  babies born to mothers who followed a low fat diet during pregnancy (13% calories from fat) could better metabolise fat and glucose. Babies born to mothers who ate a high fat diet had worse metabolism. This alterered metabolism was irrespective of whether the mother was a healthy weight, overweight or obese. This means that even if you are overweight and pregnant; your baby isn't destined to a life of obesity. The food choices you make during pregnancy DO weigh heavily on your baby's future metabolism.
The interesting fact about this study was that the low fat diet (13% calories from fat), is far lower than the 20-35% generally recommended for health and well-being. The study did not differentiate between healthy or unhealthy fats. Watch this space! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

To fish oil or not to fish oil?

I have had questions left, right and centre recently from friends, family and clients regarding fish oils. In particular, people are interested to know:
1. To fish oil or not to fish oil?
2. How much should I take?
The simple answer to question 1 is YES. Whether you suffer from chronic disease such as heart disease; have risk factors such as high triglycerides; suffer from chronic arthritis, eczema, depression or ADHD; or are just looking to optimise your nutrition - you should take fish oil. The answer to question 2 is a bit more complex. How much fish oil you should take is very individual.  
Fish oils are often associated with improving heart health, but the benefits are far greater than just a healthy ticker. Fish oils can also help brain function, reduce joint pain and arthritis and help keep skin healthy. For general health and well-being, it is recommended everyone consume 500mg EPA + DHA daily.
What does 500mg EPA + DHA look like?
  • Consume 150g oily fish 2-3 times a week
    • For example, 150g serve Atlantic salmon (1976mg EPA + DHA) + 80g canned salmon (1072mg EPA + DHA) + 80g canned tuna (386mg EPA + DHA) = 3434mg EPA + DHA per week OR 490mg per day
  • See table below for amounts of EPA + DHA in foods
  • As you can see; it is quite difficult to get 500mg EPA + DHA daily unless you are consuming oily fish such as salmon and sardines twice weekly. If you have increased omega-3 requirements, it is very difficult to get enough through food alone
  • 1-2 fish oil capsules (depending on how concentrated it is)

Most fish oil capsules are 1000mg, of which varying amounts are the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Many supplements contain, on average, 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA, a total of 300mg per capsule. So, always check the EPA and DHA content of your supplements and choose one with higher quantity of EPA and DHA. In general, most people will need to take 2 capsules per day of most fish oil capsules.

If you have heart disease, aim for a minimum of 1000mg EPA + DHA daily. If you have high triglycerides, aim for a minimum of 1200mg daily (up to 4000mg as indicated by your health professional or GP). If you suffer from osteoarthritis or joint pain, aim for a minimum of 3000mg daily.  
What about krill oil?
The omega-3s in krill oil are packaged differently from fish oils, in the form of a phospholipid that is easier for the body to absorb. Because of its higher absorption rate, people need to take less capsules to achieve desired health benefits.