Fighting hunger, one can at a time

Fighting hunger, one can at a time

Click on the link to see my project grant with People’s Liberty:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwkckBMX4es0dkdMOU5YTWNhMDg/view

 

As a dietitian, I am profoundly passionate about issues surrounding food insecurity- the inability to have regular access to safe, nutritious food.  Although I didn’t grow up impoverished, per se, my parents were products of the Depression Era, and with 4 siblings, we didn’t waste a thing.  I witnessed the result of food insecurity when I worked at the VA Medical Center, in Guatemala where my second daughter was born and in Cincinnati at my girls’ school.  Many don’t know that Cincinnati ranks SECOND in the US for childhood poverty.  And poverty is the main cause of malnutrition.

Malnutrition not only stunts growth, but also affects learning and the ability to earn a good living for years to come.  Children who are malnourished are less prepared to enter the workforce and earn less money than their nourished peers.  It is an issue that affects developed nations and neighbors in our own backyards.

About a year ago on the eve of my 50th birthday, I was honored to receive a People’s Liberty Grant for $10,000 to install 10 mini food pantries in low income/food desert neighborhoods around the city. Taking on a project like this was no easy feat!  But I am so excited and proud of the work I did with a small team and the help of People’s Liberty.

If you see an old Enquirer box decorated like R2D2 on Colerain Ave, you have seen my work in progress.  The other pantry locations can be found here: https://facebook.com/peoplespantrycincy

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Donate to the Free Store Food Bank.  Their dollars fund several projects throughout the city and they have better buying power.
  2. Participate in food drives at work, church or school.  Your donations help those in need.
  3. Ask your dentist or Gyn office for donations for toiletries.  These items cannot be obtained on food stamps and are desperately needed by families.
  4. Keep some canned goods in your car to stock our pantries. Canned beans, tuna, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, soup or extra toiletries are always needed.  Donate things you, yourself would eat or use.  Love your neighbor as yourself.
  5. Don’t waste food!  Buy what you need and eat it. If you have perishable food to donate, check out: https://ampleharvest.org 

For more information on People’s Liberty: https://peoplesliberty.org 

Drop the food cop attitude

Drop the food cop attitude

As a mom of two girls growing up in a weight-obsessed society, I can’t tell you how nervous I am of them developing eating disorders.  Whether we notice or not, our kids are taking notice of our self talk and food choices.  They overhear us say, “Ugh, my pants are too tight”, or “time to get on a diet”.  The last thing they need, is for us to food shame them when they make a less-than-healthy choice for a snack or when packing their lunch.  If you didn’t want them to eat something, why is it in your pantry to begin with?  FOOD IS FOR EATING!  My philosophy is that any food can be part of a healthy diet.  Our food should not be punishment or used for reward.  The more food shaming we do, the more likely our kids are to sneak food, feel guilty about food and potentially develop eating disorders.

 

The article below is a great reminder of why we need to just shut up when it comes to our kids’ food habits.  Like mom used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

 

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2017-10-09/the-trouble-with-food-policing-in-schools

Live more by eating less

Live more by eating less

Several studies have shown that being overweight or obese is linked with risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  Even a 5-10% reduction in weight can prevent the development and aid in the control of hypertension and diabetes as well as lowering blood cholesterol. 1 Beyond trimming your weight and waistline, there’s an even more important benefit to reducing calorie intake.  New research out of Duke University in Durham suggests that biological aging can be stalled with calorie restriction.  Biological aging, according to the study author Daniel Belsky, is “the gradual and progressive deterioration of systems in the body that occurs with advancing chronological age”.  Belsky believes if biological aging can be slowed, it may help to prevent or delay chronic age-related illnesses and disabilities.2

 

The scientists at Duke University in Durham evaluated a total of 220 subjects over 2 years-145 who reduced calorie intake by 12% compared with 75 controls who did not limit calorie intake. The average biological age of both groups was close to 38 years.  Readings that included total cholesterol, blood pressure and hemoglobin levels were used to calculate biological age.2

 

In the calorie-restricted group, biological age increased by an average of .11 years each year compared to .71 years in the control group, over a two year follow up. This was statistically significant according to the researchers.  Previous studies have shown that calorie restriction slows aging in worms, flies and mice.  This was the first human study to test if calorie restriction can reduce measured biological aging in a randomized control study.  The authors believe this study can serve as a model for developing and testing treatment designed to copy the effects of calorie restriction to delay or prevent debilitating diseases.2

 

In 2014, the Obesity Society put out an official statement to raise awareness of the availability and consumption of energy-dense food contributing to weight gain and obesity.  Foods high in energy include high sugar foods like soda, ice cream and high calorie desserts as well as fried foods, large servings of meat and full fat cheese.  A diet containing foods rich in nutrients such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and low-fat dairy products can help support weight management efforts.  The Obesity Society urges companies to test and market products that are lower in calories that will help consumers with weight management. The position paper can be found at: http://www.obesity.org/publications/energy-density-of-foods-influences-satiety-a-total-caloric-intake.htm. 3

 

References:

1.    Klein, Samuel. Effects of Moderate and Subsequent Progressive Weight Loss on Metabolic Function and Adipose Tissue Biology in Humans with ObesityCell Metabolism, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.02.005

2.    Belsky, Dan W., Huffman, Kim, Pieper, Carl, Shalev, Idan, Kraus, William. Change in the Rate of Biological Aging in Response to Caloric Restriction: CALERIE Biobank Analysis.  J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci glx096. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx096 Published:22 May 2017

3.    Shu Wen Ng, Barry M. Popkin. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation PledgeAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2014; 47 (4): 520 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.05.030

When eating is not an option

When eating is not an option

Eating is by far one of life’s greatest pleasures and one that we take for granted on a daily basis.  Think of how exciting it is when your baby takes his or her first bite of food or when you experience a delicious food for the first time.  Eating is so important to living.

But what happens when you, a family member, friend or colleague can’t physically eat or doesn’t eat enough calories to maintain normal biologic functions?  Would they simply starve to death over time?  The answer is complex and often ethical in nature.

 

All of us need food and water in varying amounts to survive.  If you’ve ever had to fast for 8-12 hours for a blood test or for religious reasons, you recognize that it’s not exactly a picnic to go without food.  It’s short term and you forget about it.  But what happens when you can’t eat for a prolonged time due to medical reasons?

 

Say for example, your mom has a stroke and she can’t swallow safely.  Or your uncle is diagnosed with intestinal cancer and he can’t digest food appropriately.  What happens next?  In the case of a stroke, she may need to be fed “artificially” through a feeding tube until she can eat safely on her own. Tube feeding helps prevent or treat malnutrition and keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning. Without a functioning gut, intravenous feeding may be indicated.  This type of nutrition therapy is called nutrition support and can be used in any age and population.

 

Feeding tubes come in various shapes and sizes.  They can be used short term (< 4 weeks) or placed surgically for longer use.  The short-term type is called an enteroflex tube and is usually placed in the person’s nose.  It goes down the esophagus and into the stomach or duodenum (first section of the small intestine).  Dietitians work with doctors to come up with a feeding plan including the formula, amount and rate that the person will receive to prevent or treat malnutrition.  Long term tubes can be placed in the stomach or small intestine if a person is not expected to eat for a longer period of time (or God forbid, never again).  Tube feeding can be done in a hospital, residential home or personal home.  Formulas can be basic or highly specialized, depending on the person’s medical condition.  Each contains carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals to meet the RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for all nutrients.

 

In individuals whom cannot digest or absorb food appropriately (non-functioning gut) a type of nutrition support called TPN may be used.  TPN stands for Total Parenteral Nutrition and is provided through an IV catheter that is typically placed in the person’s subclavian vein (large neck vein) or through a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) in their arm.  TPN contains carbs, fat and protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements in the form of dextrose, IV lipid and amino acids that are provided directly into a person’s bloodstream.  This type of nutrition is typically used for at least 1 week, but can be used longer if needed based on a person’s medical condition and function of their gut.  TPN is very specialized and requires a pharmacist, nurse, dietitian and doctor to monitor.

 

For more detailed information on nutrition support, check out https://www.nutritioncare.org/

Your food, your mood

Your food, your mood

Are you a bit depressed?  You’re not alone.  With the rate of depression in the US almost doubling in a decade, researchers have been busy looking for causes and treatments.  When many countries with a low rate of depression were found to have several dietary patterns in common, researchers started looking more closely at the role food may play in fighting depression.

 

Scientists found that populations that consumed diets with large amounts of fatty fish were less effected by depression.  How fish-based diets protect against depression isn’t understood but its thought that the omega-3 fatty acids may make it easier for some brain chemicals to pass through cell membranes and positively impact mental status.

 

Uridine, a compound known as a nucleoside, may provide the materials needed to speed up these chemical reactions. Studies found that when omega-3 fatty acids were combined with uridine they had the same effect on laboratory animals as an antidepressant medication.

 

Below is a list of foods that studies have shown may be effective in reducing depression:

 

  1. Amino acids. Low levels of serotonin are thought to be a cause of depression.  Researchers know that the amino acid, tryptophan is needed to make serotonin.  Several studies have found that depression is decreased by a diet high in tryptophan.   Eat foods high in protein – beans, eggs, fish and turkey. Bananas also contain tryptophan.
  2. B vitamins. Studies have shown that people suffering from depression tend to have high levels of homocysteine (a protein) combined with low levels of folic acid (a B vitamin).  Homocysteine levels can be reduced by B vitamins – niacin, folic acid, B6 and B12.  A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains can help you get more B vitamins.  B12 is only found in animal foods, so include eggs, low fat dairy and lean meat in your diet as well.
  3. Complex carbohydrates, fruit & vegetables. These high fiber foods will be broken down more slowly to produce a steady source of sugar to be used by your brain.  Simple sugars or a diet high in processed carbohydrates is broken down quickly and causes blood sugar levels to go up and down quickly.  These quick changes have been found to increase the symptoms of depression.  Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole wheat or whole grains (bread, pasta, rice, etc).
  4. Omega-3 fatty acids. The low rate of depression found in countries that eat high levels of fish combined with several clinical studies have led researchers to conclude that eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can be protective against depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, & sardines), flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil.
  5. Uridine-containing foods.  Researchers found that when uridine was combined with omega-3 fatty acids, a positive impact on depression was realized at lower doses.  Foods that contain uridine are sugar beets, sugar cane, molasses made from sugar beets or sugar cane, tomatoes, and organ meat.

 

The research linking foods and their effect on depression is still new and more studies are needed.  Including these foods in your diet is not a substitute for what is recognized as effective medical treatment for depression – medication and psychotherapy.  However, many medical providers believe that combining effective medical treatment with a healthy diet that includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, uridine, B vitamins and tryptophan should not cause any harm and who knows, and just may help.

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