Nu­tri­tional sci­ence has changed much in the last 25 years

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - CARA ROSENBLOOM

A FRIEND of mine is try­ing to lose weight and wanted to check whether her strate­gies were sound. She said she counts ev­ery calo­rie, avoids nuts be­cause of the high fat con­tent and snacks only on sug­ary (but fat­free!) foods. Was she on track?

If that con­ver­sa­tion took place in 1993, she’d get ku­dos for her nu­tri­tion knowl­edge. But those bits of wis­dom are badly out­dated. Nu­tri­tional sci­ence changes quickly, and knowl­edge that was gleaned from a 25-year-old nu­tri­tion text­book needs to be re­freshed.

Here’s how nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion has changed over the years and why it’s im­por­tant to keep up.

I re­mem­ber the on-cam­pus break­fast I ate most of­ten in 1994 – a huge New York-style bagel with noth­ing on it. We all be­lieved that “fat makes you fat,” so but­ter, cream cheese and peanut but­ter were off-lim­its. Fat­free foods were deemed bet­ter for health, so nuts, seeds and av­o­cado were frowned upon. A low-fat, high­carb diet was the rec­om­mended ap­proach for weight con­trol and good car­dio­vas­cu­lar health.

Check your menu. If you are still eat­ing pasta with­out olive oil or bread with­out peanut but­ter, you’re do­ing your­self a dis­ser­vice. Fat should not be feared. Cer­tain fats, es­pe­cially from nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish and av­o­cado, are ben­e­fi­cial for heart health and weight con­trol, and can help re­duce the risk of de­vel­op­ing Type 2 di­a­betes.

My nu­tri­tion text­book from 1995 says “fruc­tose does not cause prob­lems of high blood su­gar for peo­ple with di­a­betes”. Fruc­tose nat­u­rally oc­curs in fruit, and it’s fine in small doses. But in the 1990s, fruc­tose was heav­ily used as a sweet­ener for pro­cessed foods be­cause we thought it was health­ier than white su­gar. Re­mem­ber Frook­ies, the fruc­tose-sweet­ened cook­ies for peo­ple with di­a­betes? Yikes.

It turns out that ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of fruc­tose – mostly as high-fruc­tose corn syrup – has been linked to in­sulin re­sis­tance and Type 2 di­a­betes, so it’s not good for di­a­bet­ics af­ter all. Too much fruc­tose is also as­so­ci­ated with meta­bolic syn­drome, obe­sity and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Fruc­tose from fruit is fine, but high con­sump­tion of fruc­tose in the form of sweet­en­ers is not rec­om­mended – whether you have di­a­betes or not.

We now recog­nise that calo­ries from soda, candy and other treats de­liver su­gar but of­fer no vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, fi­bre or pro­tein.

That’s dif­fer­ent from calo­ries from veg­eta­bles, legumes or fish, which pro­vide nu­tri­ents in ev­ery bite.

If you still count calo­ries but don’t con­sider much else, con­sider mak­ing an ap­point­ment with a di­eti­tian to learn why nu­tri­ent-dense foods are a bet­ter op­tion.

My dorm room was stocked with Snack­well’s cook­ies, gummy bears and Snap­ple – all of my fat-free (and guilt-free!) plea­sures.

These fat-free foods are loaded with su­gar. That didn’t seem to be a prob­lem, be­cause I was taught that su­gar causes den­tal cav­i­ties but is be­nign oth­er­wise.

I brushed twice daily, so no harm done, right?

Fast-for­ward to 2017, and a new story emerges. Re­cent stud­ies link ex­cess su­gar con­sump­tion – es­pe­cially from sweet­ened bev­er­ages – to an in­creased risk of obe­sity, Type 2 di­a­betes, de­men­tia and heart dis­ease. Su­gar is not as blame­less as we once thought and should be lim­ited. The Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion rec­om­mends no more than six tea­spoons of added su­gar per day for women and nine tea­spoons for men. One 16-fluid-ounce Snap­ple has 10 tea­spoons.

Weight loss was ex­plained very sim­ply in nu­tri­tion school: You’ll lose weight by cut­ting calo­ries from food and in­creas­ing calo­ries burnt through ex­er­cise. That’s it – just eat less and move more. Obe­sity was blamed on lazi­ness and over­con- sump­tion.

Now we know that obe­sity is more com­plex than that. It in­volves ge­net­ics, phys­i­ol­ogy, ac­tiv­ity level, en­vi­ron­ment, diet and so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus. Plus, re­searchers are heav­ily study­ing how obe­sity re­lates to hor­mones such as lep­tin and ghre­lin, which are not even men­tioned in my 1990s text­books. In 2017, we aim to treat obe­sity as a dis­ease and not lay blame on the peo­ple who have it. And we still don’t have all the an­swers to the weight con­trol rid­dle.

● In fact, we don’t have a lot of an­swers about nu­tri­tion, which is con­sid­ered a rel­a­tively new sci­ence. Reg­is­tered di­eti­tian Cara Rosenbloom is pres­i­dent of Words to Eat By, a nu­tri­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany spe­cial­is­ing in writ­ing, nu­tri­tion ed­u­ca­tion and recipe devel­op­ment. She is the co-au­thor of Nour­ish: Whole Food Recipes Fea­tur­ing Seeds, Nuts and Beans. – The Wash­ing­ton Post

Fruc­tose from fruits and veg­eta­bles is the ideal way to go in your diet.

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