Friday, February 26, 2010

Toxins in our food may play a role in neurobehavioral problems

Recent research shows 45 percent of high-fructose corn syrup in commercial food products contains mercury, a known toxin, Dr. Anne Kelly told a group of medical professionals in Peoria.

"We have an estimated 10,000 new chemicals in the environment and no idea what the effect is on children," she said. "With this multitude of chemicals, the reality is we don't know what we're dealing with."

Kelly, president of Nutrition Ignition Inc. and former faculty member in general pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, was in Peoria recently as part of the Methodist Center for Integrative Medicine grand rounds presentations.

"There is no longer any doubt environmental toxins are accumulating in the soil, water, fish and humans," she said. "There is a strong link between high-fructose corn syrup and obesity."

Mercury exposure also has been linked with neurological learning disorders including autism, she said.

Kelly and other physicians are looking beyond genetic factors to account for the rapid increase in children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders and examining the role of diet and environmental toxins.

Their findings are alarming.

Last year, two U.S. studies found that nearly half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury. On average, American adults consume about 12 teaspoons daily of high-fructose corn syrup, but teens and other high consumers take in up to 80 percent more than that.

"Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be an additional source of mercury never before considered," Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said in a prepared statement after the studies were released.

In her own practice, Kelly has helped children by eliminating chemicals from their environments and their diets.

She has found that some of the triggers for children with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are cow's milk, wheat, MSG, artificial food coloring, preservatives, fried foods and packaged foods.

"I grew up in Illinois on a farm near Pontiac. The cow's milk I grew up on is different from what's in grocery stores today," she said, referring to the growth hormones, antibiotics and husbandry practices used on the majority of commercial dairy farms today.

"Parents of kids with autism report their children are hyper-sensitive to toxins," Kelly said.

"A small group of kids with chronic medical problems are developing multiple allergies. The gut plays a big role in how kids grow and develop."

Another finding has shown children with ADHD are low in certain essential nutrients including zinc, Vitamin D, iron, magnesium and serotonin, she said, noting they also commonly have deficiencies of B12, omega 3 and iodine.

Children with better diets are better equipped to deal with toxins.

"With lead poisoning, children with better diets have better outcomes neurologically," she said, noting that children's ability to detoxify chemicals from their bodies may be a factor in who develops autism and who does not. "These detoxification enzymes need vital nutrients."

While DDT, a powerful insecticide, has been outlawed, it has been replaced with more water soluble chemicals that contaminate ground water, she said, citing a study that found 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cords of newborn children.

"Children are born polluted," she said. "We see an explosion of inflammatory issues with the esophagus and stomachs. Are these food allergies or allergies to the chemicals in food?"

Besides working with children and their parents, Kelly is working with teachers to alter nutritional strategies in schools.

She is an advocate for health care reform that would allow physicians to be more innovative and track long-term outcomes. She compared the current health care system in this country with auto insurance, which only pays for repairs, not maintenance.

Public health departments in this country are structured to track infectious diseases and outbreaks of food poisoning, she said, but we need public health departments to look at toxins in the environment and neurodevelopmental problems in children.

Kelly concluded: What is the simplest first step we can take? Eliminate artificial food coloring and sweetened sodas and juices and drink more water.

"Kids have forgotten how to drink plain water," she said.

Kelly also advises parents to eliminate plastic in the kitchen and get back to glass.

"The overarching message is diet makes a difference in neurobehavioral problems and there are simple steps we can take immediately," she said. "The potential is huge to improve outcomes."

Clare Howard can be reached at 686-3250 or

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fear Factor

While most people are eager—even desperate—to lose weight, some overweight dieters are actually uncomfortable with morphing into a thinner version of themselves, either because they fear the process of losing weight or the result itself. "There are a number of conscious and subconscious reasons why a person who is overweight finds security in extra pounds or unhealthy lifestyle habits," says Lisa Sasson, M.S., an associate professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University in New York, New York. If you think you might be a little too comfortable at an unhealthy weight, or are actually fearful of succeeding on a diet, read through these common reasons that can keep you from beginning the journey. Figuring out what could be holding you back will benefit not only your physical health, but your emotional life as well.

You don't want to change your lifestyle

It's true: Losing weight and keeping it off involves permanent change, and you may not want to change a thing about your eating and lifestyle habits right now, thank you very much. Maybe you'd rather watch The Office than be at the gym. Perhaps you're bored of bland-tasting veggies. In fact, the unfamiliar makes you anxious, and losing weight is all about the unknown, right? Wrong. You don't have to make drastic changes in order to succeed at losing weight. In fact, extreme diets that have you eating only seaweed, exotic tree nuts, and unpronounceable fruits aren't sustainable. Taking your existing diet and lifestyle habits and tweaking them is a much friendlier—and more successful—strategy.

You don't want to give up the emotional comfort you find in food

There's nothing else that can quell a case of the blues like your beloved cheesecake or everything-on-it-nachos. The thought of not having something sweet, gooey, and/or cheese-y to turn to when the going gets rough keeps you tethered to your list of go-to comfort foods. Unfortunately, you're suffering from the misconception that losing weight means giving up all the foods you love. The truth is that when you learn moderation and portion control, you can have your cake and eat it, too. You can also learn to add healthy stress-reducers to your arsenal (like a quick walk or a chat with a friend; check out Non-Food Fixes for Emotional Eaters for more ideas) so that you won't need to turn to the chips every time you feel sad or stressed. Not to mention, once you remove food as crutch, it will be much easier to see what's really eating you. Think of it as lifting the veil on your real problem so you can ID and tackle issues that could be holding you back from living a fuller life.

You think of losing weight as stressful—and you have enough in your life

Who needs to spend precious hours in the kitchen cooking healthy meals when you barely have the time to order and inhale pizza? Your full-throttle life can't accommodate any exacting calorie-counting or sweat-inducing activities that don't involve picking up the kids from school or getting to the office on-time. You believe losing weight is just one additional stressor and you're doing yourself a favor by ignoring the scale. The problem is, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Consider these facts: Exercise relieves stress and keeps you feeling your best; eating healthfully provides sustained energy; if you have the right recipes, healthy meals can be thrown together in the same time it takes you to dial in dinner. Take a second to look through the recipes on the site; you'll find that many of the healthy, tasty meals can be thrown together in just minutes. In the long-run, a healthier you is a less-stressed, more active you, which translates into a more productive life. It's also less stressful if you set moderate, realistic goals. You shouldn’t be losing more than a pound or two a week—anything more is unhealthy.

You're afraid of disappointing

A fear of failure has stalled many a dieter in her tracks. Perhaps you're concerned that you won't meet your own standards or maybe you worry about reaching the expectations of others, so you quit before you can see any real results or, in some cases, before you even get started. Be realistic with yourself, and know that even small changes (like switching from whole milk to skim milk or giving up soda) can have a major effect on not just your weight, but your health, too. The key to staying motivated is to set small and reachable goals for yourself, and then, to reward yourself when you hit them. When it comes to other people, try not to worry so much. If they love you, they'll only want what's best for you. You may be surprised just how supportive and encouraging they can be. Talk to them about your goals and tell them how they can support you along the way.

Thanks to Meeha for passing on this tidbit.

15 things to know when you're new to Atkins

1. You will feel like crap, but only at first.
This is not because of the unhealthiness of low carb! You are going through withdrawal from sugar. It is called Induction Flu. Within the week you will start to feel normal again, and within a few more weeks you'll feel better than you ever have before in your life, because you're no longer poisoning yourself.

2. This is not a zero carb diet.
It's a low carb diet. You start at 20 net grams (total carbs minus fiber carbs) per day and work your way up. Anyone who tries to warn you that your body needs carbs to run is not familiar with Atkins. (And you don't need carbs for energy, either -- guess where else your body can get energy from! )

3. There is no such thing as good carbs vs. bad carbs.
Bread, fruit, milk, potatoes, corn, pasta, and sugar all become exactly the same thing in your body. The only difference is that the "good" carbs take slightly longer to turn into fat.

4. Eating fat does not make you fat.
COMBINING carbs and fat makes you fat. Take away the carbs, and eating fat will make you lose weight. Do not avoid it on this diet. Eat bacon, butter, oil, and juicy marbled steak and watch the pounds melt off. Restricting yourself to chicken and turkey will actually sabotage your progress.

5. This is not a starvation diet.
EAT EAT EAT! Don't worry about calories. Don't worry about eating after 6pm. Don't worry about snacking between meals. You may decide to tweak those things later if you have problems, but there's no need to worry about it during Induction!

6. The way to win is: be prepared.
Have a house full of good meats and veggies ready before you officially start. Lack of willpower won't make you fail -- lack of convenient snacks will.

7. The book is a treasure trove of knowledge. READ IT.
If you're a member of the board for long, you will start to notice that the people who struggle and disappear within two weeks are those who seem confused about the basics covered in DANDR. Don't ignore this step. Even veterans learn something new each time they read it.

8. You can't cheat "just this once" and burn it off later.
This isn't like other diets. One slice of pizza doesn't mean an extra ten minutes on the treadmill. It means triggering the sugar addiction cycle and a slippery slide into obesity again. If you're doing it right, you're doing it for life.

9. The cupcake cravings will go away.
Remember, it's withdrawal. Eventually sugar won't have the same hold over you, and you won't need to feed your demon anymore. Supposedly, L-Glutamine supplements can help if the cravings are bad.

10. It doesn't matter how dark the ketosticks are.
The more water you drink, the lighter the color. Dark just means you aren't drinking enough. As long as it's pink, congratulations, you're in ketosis. If the sticks won't change color no matter how good you've been, there's a good chance they've expired and you need new ones.

11. Low fat generally means high carb.

Check the labels and go for the full fat stuff! Two notable exceptions: Philly Cream Cheese and Hillshire Farm Summer Sausage.

12. "Regular" does not mean "daily."
You're suddenly eating nutritionally dense food instead of "fortified" fluff. Your BM output is going to slow. If you feel this is becoming a problem, magnesium supposedly helps.

13. The carb counts on packages lie.
If the food has trace amounts of carbs, anywhere from 0g to .49g, they can label it as 0g.
If the food has .5g to .99g, they label it as <1g.
If the food has 1g-1.49g, it's labelled as 1g.
And so on.
But don't just go by the numbers, also check the ingredients lists. You want to avoid anything containing: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, maltodextrin, and anything ending in -ose (sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, etc.).


Foods to definitely avoid:
Baked goods, pasta, milk, potatoes, fruit, sweets, sugary or alcoholic drinks.

Induction Acceptable Foods:
- Unlimited meat. Beef, fish, poultry, pork, game. Be very sparing with deli meats and shellfish, since they have carbs, even if the package says 0.
- Eggs. Count them as about .6g each depending on size.
- Cheese. Limit this to 3-4 oz per day. All cheese has carbs, even if the package says 0.
- Vegetables. 12-15 grams per day (not counting fiber) of your 20g carb allowance should come from vegetables.
You can have 2 cups/day of salad veggies, including celery, cucumber, lettuce, mushrooms, peppers, and radishes.
You can have up to 1 cup/day of higher carb veggies, including artichoke, asparagus, avocadoes, bamboo, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, eggplant, kale, leeks, okra, olives, onion, pumpkin, rhubarb, sauerkraut, squash, spinach, tomato, turnips, and zucchini.
- Herbs and Spices (as long as they contain no added sugar)
- Oils and fats. Butter, oils, shortening, lard, mayo, etc. Do not be afraid of these! You are training your body to burn fat. Use them!
- Heavy Whipping Cream. Limit of 3 oz/day.
- Sour cream. Up to 1 oz/day.

15. This is not a crash diet. It is a way of life.
You'll lose a ton of weight within the first two weeks, then stall for a week or two. Give it time. Throwing in the towel will put the weight right back on. Carbs made you fat, and going back to them will make you fat.
Stick with it long enough to see that Atkins isn't a weird way of eating. It's what your body was designed to process. Your body will thank you. You'll see.

Congratulations on picking the best way ever to lose weight!

Thanks to Joy from Florida for sharing this list.