Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Healthy Halloween: An Oxymoron?

Don't eat too much junk on Halloween.

"You're a buzzkill Cris!"

"It's only once per year, lighten up!"

"Everything in moderation"

The average Halloween haul can easily be well over 1000 calories.  One serving of Hershey's Kisses (9 pieces) is 200 calories.  Is that bad?

Not really.  Trick-or-treaters are likely to burn off several hundred calories walking door to door to gather loot, add a few more calories burned if the haul gets heavy.

So if we did a straight calories in - calories out comparison using a moderate consumption of candies versus the calories blown off collecting those candies, you may see no excess intake of calories, but probably too many of the days calories coming from processed surgery candies.

Does that really happen?  Or are kids, and adults for that matter eating more calories in candies than they burned off getting the candies?

Yes.  It doesn't end on Halloween day though.. we usually sneak a few candies prior to Halloween, you know.. to warm up a little.  The days following the big haul we gradually chip away at the pile of sugar, fat, and sodium (and artificial colours/ flavours) that make up the tasty treats.

For the naysayers out there who like to make extreme interpretations of what I say, I am not suggesting that we all lock ourselves in a room with treadmill on Halloween and completely abstain from eating any candies at all.  I'm saying let's be a little more cerebral and less blinded by tradition.  Enjoy Halloween, but maybe put less into thinking that all the reward is in the over-consumption of crap.

Think about this.. is there any day of the year that places as much commercial and personal emphasis on promoting, anticipating, and feeling rewarded from eating healthy or simply living healthy?

Nope.  Not one day.. ever.

All we have are holidays and festive times that celebrate overeating, and always overeating things are not that healthy to begin with, even in moderate amounts.

So where's the "everything in moderation" there?  The "buzzkill" is obesity, type two diabetes, coronary artery disease and cancer.

No, you don't drop dead of cancer from eating some candy on Halloween.  I didn't say that.

Over the years we're alive though, the repeated celebration of overeating and emphasis on feeling rewarded via pigging out adds up.  That's why more of our population is overweight every year, and those who are overweight are more overweight.

What can be done?

Collect less loot on Halloween.  Celebrate getting together with friends and family, doing the costume thing, and trick or treating.

If your loot pile is really big, throw out half or more.  That's right.. throw it in the garbage. It isn't wasteful to throw out the junk food, it's WAIST-FULL to eat it.

Associate non-rewarding ill-health effects with over-doing it, but don't totally freakout about it, it won't harm us to eat some candy treats.

Selection:  Lot's of words in the ingredients label? Give stronger consideration to tossing it.

See if you can have some fun guessing the calorie content of the candies.  Go online to the candy makers website and see what the number really is.  Use the actual calorie count to help establish how quickly the calories add up and where to draw the line.

Avoid dipping into the bag while out trick or treating.  Save all the junk to the end, dump it all on a table to take a look at what you have, and pick out a few of your favorites and enjoy those.  Save a few for the next few days, but don't try to lengthen out the rations.. why prolong over consuming junk food?  Give yourself 3 days or so of picking at leftovers, then trash the rest.

Thinking of what to hand out at the door?  Why not hand out toys? A study that looked at kids sense of reward from receiving a toy or candy on Halloween showed that when given a choice kids were just as likely to choose toys as candies.  Cut down the junk, add some toys.

Choose healthier snacks like low fat granola bars and pure chocolates.

Overeating doesn't have to be the main focus of reward on Halloween.  Enjoy the festivities, eat a little less..

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gut Bacteria Help Cancer Fighting Properties Of Broccoli

A new study shows that gut bacteria in the lower intestine can help release sulforaphane, the active ingredient in broccoli that has a protective effect effect against prostate cancer.

Just 3 to 5 servings per week of broccoli have measurable anti cancer affects.

Eat your broccoli :-)

Glucoraphanin hydrolysis by microbiota in the rat cecum results in sulforaphane absorption - Food & Function (RSC Publishing)

Use Nutrition Labels To Make Healthy Choices

A new campaign by Health Canada intends on helping Canadians get more utility from food nutrition fact boxes on packaged foods.

If a nutrient is 5% or less of its %Daily Value, it's "a little".  If the value is 15% or above, it's "a lot".

I would shoot for a standard that's higher than that though.  Although the cumulative value of many foods throughout the day certainly adds up, you may not achieve the value you need 15% at a time.

Keep saturated fats, sodium, and trans fats %DV low, and important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, fibre, vitamin C, and vitamin A high.

Go to Health Canada's new website to learn more.  Use the interactive tools.

% Daily Value

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eating The Right Foods Protects Against Disease

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have demonstrated that diet "high in antioxidants, low-GI foods (i.e. slow release carbohydrates), omega fatty acids, wholegrain products, probiotics and viscous dietary fibre", reduced cholesterol by 33%, blood lipids by 14%, high blood pressure by 8%, and a risk marker for blood clots by 26%.  Memory and cognitive function were also increased.

"Examples of foods eaten were oily fish, barley, soy protein, blueberries, almonds, cinnamon, vinegar and a certain type of wholegrain bread"

Researchers stressed that a combination of healthy foods is better than focussing on one food to deliver health benefits.  The idea is that the variety of plant chemicals from several foods is more protective than nutrients from specific foods in isolation. 

Right foods aid memory and protect against disease - Lund University

More Muscle Mass Means Longer Life For Kidney Disease Patients

A new study finds that dialysis patients with more muscle mass in their upper arm were 37% less likely to die during the 5 year study (792 subjects).  Study authors suggest more research to discover exactly what role more muscle mass has in preserving life of kidney disease patients.

Those with more muscle mass also scored higher on mental health tests.

Possible future recommendations may be to include mass building resistance training or drugs to preserve and increase lean muscle in kidney disease patients, and to decrease the risk of sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle mass).  Physical inactivity and poor nutrition are causes of sarcopenia.

Mid-Arm Muscle Circumference and Quality of Life a... [Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010] - PubMed result

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting to the heart of holiday eating

Overeating just one time, like at Thanksgiving dinner, alters hormonal balance that leads to more overeating.

Ghrelin, an appetite stimulating hormone produced in the stomach, is increased when our stomach is emptied, and decreases after eating, but when we overeat, the next time ghrelin is released it's released in greater quantities.   This makes us feel more hungry than we usually do.

Leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone produced primarily by fat cells, increases as we eat letting us feel satiated (full and satisfied).  Blood levels of leptin are proportional to body fat; more body fat = more leptin.

How does that work?  If leptin decreases appetite, and the more fat we store the more leptin we have, shouldn't we feel less hungry as we gain weight, and automatically feel like eating less?

That makes perfect sense and is why researchers wanted to create a leptin based obesity drug.  Didn't work.

Turns out the brains leptin receptors become desensitized to loads of leptin being released.

Ghrelin and leptin counter act each other well so long as we don't become overweight.  Being overweight alters the way these hormones work causing us to feel more hungry and feel less satisfied from eating, prompting us to eat more to get that satisfied feeling.

OK, but I'm not going to become overweight from eating one meal, so this doesn't affect me.

In addition to the chronic effect on these hormones from being overweight, the same effect occurs short term after just one high calorie meal.

For up to 72 hours after one high calorie meal the two hormones gang up on your brain causing you to feel unusually hungry the next day. Overeating stimulates us to continue overeating.


Short on sleep?  Less than 6 hours sleep causes more ghrelin to be produced: not getting enough sleep makes you feel more hungry than you actually are.

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving dinner?

Eating a large meal in the evening interferes with sleep quality and decreases sleep time.  Now there are two known influences on increased ghrelin production occurring simultaneously: Overeating and not getting enough sleep.

Can't deny it tastes great while we eat it.  I know I'll enjoy the family Thanksgiving dinner tonight.

So how do we have our cake and eat it too?

The most difficult challenge is not generating the short term will power to eat a little less, it's a long term project that involves a lot of cognitive practice.

It's important to teach ourselves to feel satisfied from eating portions that are healthy.  When we attach a huge reward association with mega overeating we will of course feel deprived when that reward is taken away.

OK.. long term change for how I look at food and feel rewarded from it.  Got it.

So what about tonight? I don't have the luxury of completing that long term goal in the next 8 hours.

  • Drink a couple cups of water within 15 to 20 minutes before dinner.  This will result in needing less food to feel full.
  • One heaping plate of Thanksgiving food is between 1000 and 2000 calories. The average person only needs 500 calories at a meal.  Keep total calories in mind.
  • Fill your plate less.  Hmm.. maybe "fill" is the wrong word here.  Whatever you put on your plate, make sure you can still see the plate.
  • Most veggies are low calorie but have bulk, and excellent nutrient density.  Put more veggies on the plate; go ahead.. make half your plate all veggies!
  • Careful with the calorie dense veggies like potatoes, only a 1/4 plate here.
  • And yes, the turkey and ham only need occupy about 1/4 of the plate, and no, making that 1/4 plate 5 cm high doesn't count.
  • Serve buffet style.  Studies show when we have large serving dishes on the table we eat at, we tend to serve ourselves more.
  • Use smaller plates.  Simple, and it works.
  • Careful with dessert.  The calories in dessert can often be as much as one plate of dinner. Sure tastes great, but does cause us physical harm, and you know the next day you'll regret eating so much.  So have desert, but teach yourself to be satisfied with a healthy amount.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Noise at work hammers heart

"Get a hearing aid!".. "Hugh?.. Get marmalade?  What are you saying?"

We normally associate too much exposure to noise with hearing loss.. add cardiovascular disease to that.

Studies are now showing a clear relationship between chronic exposure to noise in the workplace and  increased risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, and heart attack.

The response is greater in smokers.

How does noise do this?  Research did not find increases in fats or cholesterol in the blood, but did find chronic noise exposure increased blood pressure, specifically diastolic blood pressure without increased systolic pressure, called independent diastolic hypertension (IDH).  Systolic pressure is measured when the heart pumps, diastolic is between beats when the heart relaxes.

It's thought that chronic noise exposure is stressful, resulting in constricting blood vessels.

Noise study

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sports Drinks Associated With Healthy Living, But Not Differentiated From Pop

Physically active people are more likely to consume sports drinks, and in general sports drinks are perceived as being "healthy".

In fact most sports drinks are not very nutrient dense, and aren't meant to be.  Sports drinks are meant to be used during prolonged physical activity, but I'm sure the manufacturers don't mind if you consume them casually, and not just during prolonged exercise.  It's easier to sip a sports drink from a water bottle than eat a banana while playing hockey, jogging or cycling, and the sports drinks that have around 6% carbohydrate solution have been shown to be absorbed the best (energy gets to your muscles quickly).

How do you know if the sports drink you choose has about 6% carbs?  Easy.. there will be around 6 grams of carbohydrate for every 100ml of sports drink; this information will be on the nutrition label. 

The association of health with sports drinks has lead to a concern that many will opt for a sports drink instead of a pop thinking that they're making a healthy choice.  While many sports drinks are less calorie dense than pop (but some are the same), consuming extra sugar calories unnecessarily is not a great choice.

Once physical activity is longer than 45 to 60 minutes carbohydrate replacement becomes important in order to continue performing.. otherwise you'll run out of gas.

If you're not exercising for long periods then sports drinks have no real purpose.  If you're looking for a healthy snack, you're better off with an orange, apple, banana etc (which are also far cheaper!).

There are no studies showing consuming vitamin water is superior to good nutrition, or is of any added benefit with good nutrition.  There are studies showing that vitamins are absorbed better from foods than from pills.  

It seems strange to look towards vitamin water to try and get vitamins, when eating a single carrot (super cheap) will provide far more absorbable vitamin A than vitamin water will, ditto for vitamin C from an orange. 

Use sports drinks for sports, avoid consuming extra the sugar calories when you're not active enough to require the extra calories.

Social Rejection Slows Heart Rate

You've been dissed, and for a few moments you feel like there's a weight on your chest.  You're feeling the physiological response of how the body deals with being rejected.  

In a study where subjects were shown pictures of people they don't know, then asked to guess whether or not that person may or may not reject them, the heart rate of subjects decreased when rejected, and decreased even more when unexpectedly rejected.. that is.. when subjects guessed that a person would not reject them, but then did, heart rate decreased more and took longer to recover to normal.

In related research it was found that those with low self esteem experienced higher levels of "social pain" and those with high self esteem consistently overestimated the number of times they would be accepted.  Additionally those with high self esteem had less change in the areas of the brain that process acceptance and rejection, showing that if you have high self esteem you'll have a positive outlook that helps protect you from feeling the social pain from rejection.

How do we use this info to help us?

Exercise the old axiom, "don't worry, be happy", and for sure, think positive things about yourself :-)