Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Eating well?

Two stories published today illustrate the difference between how well people think they eat and how well they really eat.

In Ecuador, Dr Simin Nikbin Meydani examined the diet and health of 350 men and women aged 65+ living in 3 poor neighbourhoods around the capital, Quito. Despite being poor, these people seemed to be eating well, with 33% of the men overweight and 55% of the women overweight.

In reality, their diet was heavily based on white rice, potatoes, sugar and white bread. Foods to provide micronutrients, such as chicken, legumes, fruit and vegetables, were sparse.

Using standard definitions, the team found that 19% of the men and 81% of the women had metabolic syndrome. High levels of C-reactive protein, a marker associated with cardiovascular disease risk, were found in 50% of the population. By analysing diet components, the team was able to tie risk of metabolic syndrome to under-consumption of vitamin C and vitamin E in this population.

The research was published in Public Health Nutrition.

Meanwhile, in the US, a survey of over 1,200 people found that many thought they were eating better than they really were.

53% thought their diet was somewhat healthy, 32% thought very healthy and 6% thought extremely healthy.

However, only 30% ate their 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, only half watched how many sweets they ate and 43% drank at least one can of sugar-sweetened beverage each day.

Of those who said they were at a healthy weight, 30% were clinically in the overweight range, and 35% were obese.

While 81% claimed to be active, the average amount of time spent moderately active was one hour, with a large chunk clocking up 5 hours per day sitting down.

The study was conducted by Consumer Reports.


January 4, 2011 Posted by | Activity, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diet, Fruit, Gender, Health, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Soft drinks, Success, Sugar, United States, Vegetables, Vitamin C - ascorbic acid, Vitamin E, Weight management | Leave a comment

What you should know about SICK fat.

The International Journal of Clinical Practice is running a special section in its December issue covering male health. Dr Harold E Bays, Dr Joseph M Gonzalez-Campoy, and Dr Alan B Schorr, 3 experts in metabolic syndrome and related conditions, have written a reference summary on the topic.

It is called “What men should know about metabolic syndrome, adiposopathy and ‘sick fat’, but it also covers women. So it’s really a summary of adiposopathy, where ‘adiposo’ means fat, and ‘pathy’ means sick or diseased, hence SICK FAT.

The article is free, and quite short, but it is fairly technical.

In simple English, the 3 doctors are suggesting that metabolic syndrome is a rather loose term covering a series of problems that lay people understand better in other terms – high blood pressure, blood fats that are wrong, blood sugar level wrong, type 2 diabetes and increased risk of cardivascular disease (CVD) and other illnesses.

The first key point is that fat is not an inactive store of calories. It has a wide range of hormonal functions essential for human health. So there is ‘good’ fat.

However, visceral fat (that stored around the organs inside the abdomen) can turn from healthy fat into sick fat (adiposopathy). Sick visceral fat does not look like or work like healthy visceral fat. When it turns sick, it churns out a range of inflammatory substances, increases blood pressure and unbalances a range of hormones.

It decreases testosterone levels in men and increases them in women, closing the gender gap. “One of the biochemical consequences of obesity is often a closer approximation of the genders with regard to sex hormone levels.”

There is a quick review of all the major treatments for metabolic syndrome diseases, ranging from exercise and good diet through all the major medications to bariatric surgery (stomach bypass or banding). This shows the impact on blood sugar levels, blood pressure and blood fat profiles work similarly across all.

The experts then discuss which path is wiser – treating the results of sick fat, or curing the sick fat. They concluded “An emerging concept is that the development of antiobesity agents must not only reduce fat mass (adiposity) but must also correct fat dysfunction (adiposopathy).”

They conclude that scientists have known about the disease-causing potential of fat for more than 50 years, but that it is only in the last 10 years that fat has been thought of as being a major active component in the human hormone system.  “Clinicians may find that: ‘A discussion as to how increasing body weight may cause their fat to becomesick,or how losing body weight may cause their fat to becomehealthier, might be better than discussing the diagnostic components defining themetabolic syndrome.’”

The only notable omissions from an excellent round-up are – why visceral fat turns sick in the first place – and – whether there is a smarter or faster way to cure sick fat than simply overall weight loss.

Our recent articles on fructose (in the form of pure fruit drinks) and sugar-sweetened beverages suggest that both dump in more fructose than the body can handle at one go. This suggests one trigger for making it sick, and one way to cure it faster, though this is unlikely to be the only cause/cure.

Click here for a full copy of the article by the 3 doctors.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Adiposopathy - sick fat, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Diet, Exercise, Gastric banding, Health, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, High blood pressure, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Soft drinks, Success, Weight management | Leave a comment

Comfort food or sex v stress.

Scientists in the US have been investigating how comfort eating or sex reduces the effects of stress by looking at the brains of rats.

Dr Yvonne M Ulrich-Lai gave some rats access to sweetened water for 2 weeks while controls did not get this ‘comfort’ food. Then the rats were stressed to determine the response pattern within the brain. Rats which got the sweetened water showed less stress response (e.g. heart rate) than the controls. And they explored more in a new environment and interacted more when they met unknown rats.

First, there were technical advances in knowledge, when a part of the brain called the basolateral amygdala was found to be key in the process. If this part was missing, the sugar did not cut the stress response.

More interestingly, the stress reduction of the sugary water was long lasting. Even a week after it was stopped, the stress reduction effects were still working. This finding explains why cutting out comfort eating is so difficult. It’s brain-training, remodelling the system to cut stress.

A further key finding was that saccharin also cut stress, although with less effect than sugar. And sweetener dumped directly into the rats’ stomachs did not cut stress, which means actually tasting the sweetener is important. So it’s not simply about calories.

Finally, rats gives access to sexually-receptive partners showed the same amount of reduction of stress as those on the sugar-sweetened water.

So sweet foods cut stress on a par with sex, by remodelling the brain in a manner that is long lasting.

Next time you enjoy a can of sugar sweetened drink, think of it not as enjoyment, but as stress reduction. Or as a long-lasting rewiring of your brain.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Brain, Diet, Health, Soft drinks, Stress, Success, Sugar | 2 Comments

Fructose v gout.

Two years ago, Dr Hyon K Choi reported in the British Medical Journal that fructose raised the risk of gout in men. Now, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Choi has reported the same findings in women.

Gout affects around 5% of women in their 70s, and rates of gout have been rising in the US, nearly trebling between 1977 and 1996.

This increase corresponds with an increase in fructose consumption in sweetened soft drinks and fruit juices. These drinks contain large amounts of fructose, the only carbohydrate known to increase uric acid levels in humans, leading to gout.

It has been shown that the increase in uric acid for a given load of fructose is higher in people prone to gout or with a history of high uric acid than it is in the general population.

Emerging evidence is linking gout to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart attacks and premature death.

For this study, Dr Choi used the Nurses Health Study, which provided detailed information on the diet of 79,000 women from 1984 to 2002.

Known risk factors for gout include alcohol consumption and body mass index (BMI), while dairy is protective. Dr Choi stripped these out to look at the impact of other factors.

Compared to drinking less than one drink/month, women drinking 1 drink of sweetened soft drink had a 74% higher risk of getting gout, and on 2 or more servings/day the risk was increased by double this (140%). When looking at juice (which has natural fructose) the risk was 41% up for 1/day, and 140% up for 2/day. The drink sizes here are 6oz, while a standard US/UK drink size is 12oz/33cl.

As with the study in men, diet soft drinks did not increase the risk of gout.

Some media reports named orange juice as a culprit, but Dr Choi’s full report shows that this came from the simple fact that much more orange juice was being consumed than apple juice or other fruit juices. The fructose content of most fruit juices is quite similar to that of orange juice, so should lead to the same effect.

November 12, 2010 Posted by | Alcohol, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Gout, Health, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, Metabolic syndrome, Soft drinks, Success | 1 Comment

Sugared drinks v diabetes.

Dr Frank B Hu and 5 colleagues in N America have found that sugar-sweetened drinks, even at a low level, are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. This effect is independent of any impact the sweetened drinks have on weight or on total calorie consumption. Further, it kicks in at levels as low as 1 to 2 standard size drinks per day.

The research team combed medical literature for good quality studies, in order to combine them. They found 8 studies of sugar-sweetened drinks and type 2 diabetes, covering 311,000 people, and 3 studies for metabolic syndrome, covering nearly 20,000 people.

From these they calculated that 1 to 2 sweet drinks per day, compared to less than 1 per month, raised the risk of type 2 diabetes by 26% and metabolic syndrome by 20%. One drink was a standard 12 oz size in the US, which is slightly larger than the 330 ml size in Europe. They found the result was dose-dependent, so more soft drinks increased both risks.

They concluded “In addition to weight gain, higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.” 

The full research paper shows that the sweetening component has quite different effects depending on whether it is fructose, glucose or an artificial sweetener. However, in the form of an added sweetener at this magnitude all have undesirable health effects.

The paper also references other research to show that the preferred US sweetener, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup, a 55/45 mix of fructose and glucose) and the standard European sweetener (sucrose, a 50/50 mix of fructose to glucose) both increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes through not only weight gain but through other paths. These extra paths include increased dietary glycemic load leading to insulin resistance, beta-cell disruption and inflammation. Further problems are hypertension and an increase in visceral fat (bad fat).

These findings dovetail neatly with recent research that there are good carbs and bad carbs.That report is here.

As soft drinks increase visceral fat, and both increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, this may explain why US adults have larger waist sizes than their UK equivalents, and also twice the rate of diabetes. That report is here.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Diabetes, Diet, Frank B Hu, Glycemic index, Health, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Soft drinks, Success, Sugar, UK, United States, Waist circumference, Weight management | Leave a comment

Fructose intolerance?

At a meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, two doctors have reported that in children with frequent unexplained abdominal pain the reason is often fructose intolerance. The solution, a low-fructose diet, had the bonus of cutting excess weight in many cases.

Dr Daniel Lustig and Dr Bisher Abdullah examined 245 children aged 2 to 18 with chronic abdominal pain which could not be explained with known medical conditions. A 1990 study of women with irritable bowel syndrome had implicated fructose intolerance or malabsorption, so the doctors carried out a simple test. The patients were given a dose of fructose and their breath was tested for hydrogen.

Just over half (54%) tested positive, so they were referred to a dietician. Of those referred, two thirds had complete resolution of symptoms, with a strong link between sticking to the low-fructose diet and reduction of problems.

Many of the kids were overweight or obese when first seen by the doctors, and a side advantage was significant weight loss on the low-fructose diet.

Fructose appears naturally in fruit, some vegetables and honey. It is also present in sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), which are common in packaged food.

According to Dr Lustig “The challenge is finding those foods with low fructose and still maintain a healthy nutritional balance that patients will adhere to, especially teenagers”.

While Dr Abdullah noted “The principal culprit in many cases was fructose-sweetened soft drinks. The human body was not designed to handle that much fructose”.

There was no information on whether cutting out fructose-sweetened drinks alone made an improvement.

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Diet, Health, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, IBD, Obesity, Soft drinks, Success, Sugar, Weight management | Leave a comment

Soft drinks v diet.

The Sugar Bureau has managed to get a press release on research by Prof Jeya Henry and Viren Ranawana widely circulated, along with the following quote from Prof Henry “It has been suggested that sugars provided in liquid form encourage ‘passive over-consumption’ of energy from food, but this study shows that the body does compensate in the short term.” Quite a neat trick since that’s not what was found.

47 young adults were given a standard breakfast, followed 3 hours later by a drink, then 1 hour later by a free choice lunch.

The control drink was a calorie-free fruit drink. The other 3 all had 150 calories – semi-skimmed milk, orange juice or sugar-sweetened fruit juice (juice sweetened with table sugar).

Men adjusted so that total calories (drink plus lunch) was the same no matter which drink they had.

Women reacted differently.

According to The Sugar Bureau press release “women demonstrated a trend for greater energy intake following the three caloric drinks compared to the control.”

According to the research abstract in this month’s Appetite, females showed an increased total energy intake following the sugar-sweetened fruit juice compared to the control.

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Diet, Gender, Health, Jeya Henry, Soft drinks, Success, Sugar, Viren Ranawana, Weight management | Leave a comment

Diet soft drinks in pregnancy.

This came out in late June but seems to be doing the rounds again as the research is now published in print.

Dr Thorhallur I Halldorsson followed 60,000 Danish women in pregnancy and found the greater the intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks the greater the rate of pre-term delivery (before 37 weeks).

The team checked on naturally sweetened soft drinks and found no increased risk. This suggests something in the artificial sweetener is the reason.

The team also ruled out other reasons linked to pre-term birth, including smoking and body mass index.

Women who drank one or more diet sodas per day were 38% more likely to deliver before 37 weeks. At 4 or more per day, thr risk went up to 78%.

Drinking artificially sweetened diet soft drinks was more likely to increase risk of early preterm (before 32 weeks) and moderately preterm delivery than late-preterm delivery.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Diet, Health, Pregnancy, Soft drinks, Success, Thorhallur I Halldorsson | Leave a comment

Sugared drinks v weight gain.

Prof Marie Reid of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, has published the results of a study into what happens when overweight women (BMI 25-30) add sugared drinks to their diet.

The trial ran for 4 weeks and the women added to their consumption one litre of either a sucrose sweetened drink or an artificially sweetened control.

The sucrose drink contained 20% of average daily baseline consumption, while the artificial sweetener added very little.

Those on sucrose increased total calorie intake at the start, but by 5% rather than 20%, compensating by reducing other consumption.

By the end of the 4 weeks their total calorie consumption dropped to match the artificial sweetener group.

There were no effects on hunger or mood.

In 2007, Prof Reid published a similar study which used normal weight women (BMI under 25). Again, there was no impact on appetite or mood, but total calorie intake averaged an extra 10% over the period for those on the sugared drinks.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | BMI - body mass index, Diet, Marie Reid, Soft drinks, Success, Weight management | 1 Comment

Cancer, fructose, HFCS.

Dr Anthony Heaney has found that pancreatic cancer gets fuel from both fructose and glucose, in two quite different pathways. This suggests that blocking one of the pathways might cut the risk of cancer.

The results came from experiments with human cancer cells in Petri dishes, but should apply in real life.

It is likely that the twin pathway finding applies to other cancers as well.

That’s the science. Then there is the press release from the University of California Los Angeles.

The source of fructose in the Western diet is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a corn-based sweetener that has been on the market since about 1970. HFCS accounts for more than 40% of the caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages, and it is the sole sweetener used in American soft drinks.

Between 1970 and 1990, the consumption of HFCS in the US has increased over 1,000%, according to an article in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“I think this paper has a lot of public health implications,” Heaney said. “Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of HFCS in our diets.”

HFCS is typically 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Sucrose – table sugar – is broken down by the stomach to its components – 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Fructose is the natural sweetener in honey and fruit.

Europe consumes almost no HFCS, and sweetened soft drinks are made with sucrose. Europe is far from obesity-free or cancer-free.

A recent study of UK consumption over the last 20 years found total sugar consumption per person was unchanged. Table sugar and sugar from cakes and biscuits had declined, while sugar in soft drinks had made up for this.

If you want to cut your risk of obesity or cancer, cut the empty calories of sweetened soft drinks, whether they are HFCS (US) or sucrose (Europe).

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Anthony Heaney, Cancer, Diet, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, News, Obesity, Soft drinks, Success, Sugar | 1 Comment