Thursday, July 26, 2018

19th Annual Harvard Nutrition and Obesity Symposium: Sugar


The 19th Annual Harvard Nutrition and Obesity Symposium was held on July 11th and 12th. This year’s topic was Sugar: Epidemiologic, Physiologic, and Policy Considerations of the Sugar Epidemic.

The 19th Annual Harvard Nutrition and Obesity Symposium: Sugar
According to research from the National Cancer Institute, Americans consume around 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, with ~50% of added sugar coming from beverages. Because sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet, many studies have delved into this topic. Increased intake of sugary beverages has been associated with negative health effects, such as weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, gout, and tooth decay. Higher intake of sugary beverages has also been associated with decreased student academic performance, including the areas of grammar, reading, writing, and math.


To address some of the negative effects of sugar, a number of cities in the U.S. and other countries have added soda/sugar sweetened beverage taxes to discourage their purchase. Some have even taken it a step further, with junk food taxes added in Mexico and Hungary. Meanwhile, Chile is taking an impressive and large-scale approach to confront the obesity epidemic. High sugar beverages have a hefty 18% tax. Warning labels are put on the front of food and beverage packages with added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, or calories that surpass certain thresholds. Restrictions are placed on child marketing. In addition, there is a total advertising ban on all TV and cinema from 6 am – 10 am, with warning messages on TV outside of this time. 


Funds raised from sugar sweetened beverage taxes and similar taxes may be used for public health initiatives, such as supporting nutrition and physical activities in schools. Benefits of these taxes can include decreased consumption of unhealthy foods, decreased rates of overweight and obesity leading to healthcare cost savings, decreased mortality rates, increased number of quality of life years, and increased years of life for individuals.

Conflicting results have been found regarding whether low/zero calorie sweeteners are better or not compared to caloric sweeteners. Dr. Richard Mattes suggested that rather than lumping  sweeteners into a category, each type of sweetener presents a unique metabolic challenge. Taste receptors are located all over the body, and the signaling cascades they initiate vary depending on the sweetener type and where it binds to in the body. Dr. Eran Elinav noted how the human microbiome varies according to the individual, and how consumption of the same food or beverage has different effects on different people.

Overall, the fewer added sweeteners you consume, the better it is for your health. Different guidelines exist for recommended limitations on added sugar intake. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total caloric intake. The American Heart Association recommends an intake of no more than half of one’s daily discretionary calories to come from added sugar. For most women, that's approximately 6 teaspoons per day, or 100 calories from sugar. For men, it's about 9 teaspoons per day, or 150 calories. While it may be difficult to determine the amount of added sugars in your foods and beverages, changes are coming to nutrition facts labels. Added sugars are scheduled to be declared on nutrition facts labels by 2020 for large manufacturers and by 2021 for small companies. Some manufacturers have already begun updating their nutrition facts labels!

The New Nutrition Facts Label

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wild Harmony Farm

This February Sean Conroy and I took care of Wild Harmony Farm in Exeter, Rhode Island! This polycultural farm features beef cattle, chickens, pigs, a vegetable garden, raspberries, blueberries, an apple orchard, maple trees, and bees.

On our first day, we helped farmer Ben Coerper gather sap from maple trees. The maple sap gets boiled down to remove excess water to produce maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup!

Going to the maple trees with draft horse Bud
Collecting maple sap
We also fed and watered the animals, including USDA certified organic Berkshire and Berkshire-Cross hogs that rotationally graze in the woods.

Feeding Bessie, Goose, and Brain
Pinky and her piglets

The Red Devon cattle also rotationally graze and are 100% grass fed. They are only given hay during the cold months and have access to fresh grass during the growing season. 


 

In the winter, the chickens have access to the barn for protection from the cold weather. The chickens are USDA Certified Organic and provide organic eggs. During the growing season the chickens rotationally graze behind the cattle herd on pastures, eating grass and bugs while providing fertilizer and managing pests on the farm.

Chickens
Organic meat: what does it mean?
The pigs, chicken, and eggs at Wild Harmony Farm are USDA Certified Organic. Organic businesses need to show they are protecting natural resources and biodiversity. To meet organic livestock requirements, animals need to live in an environment that accommodates their normal behavior and health with year-round access to the outdoors. They must be raised on certified organic land and fed 100% certified organic feed. At Wild Harmony Farm, animals are fed organic and non-GMO grains.  Animal health and welfare standards must also be met. Livestock cannot be given antibiotics, added growth hormones, animal byproducts, or other prohibited ingredients. Learn more about USDA organic regulations.

It was a fun week on the farm! Wild Harmony Farm products are available wholesale, through their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and at their farm store. Read more about Wild Harmony Farm and farmers Rachael Slattery and Ben Coerper on their website.    

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) was in Boston this year! This is a national meeting that offers over 100 research and educational lectures, presentations, and culinary demos.

Sessions I attended included "Food Allergies: School Guidelines and Education," "Using Science to Further Define FODMAPs and Simplify Patient Education," and "The Gut-Brain Highway: Can Traffic Be Regulated by Diet?" In The Gut-Brain Highway session, I learned that the microbiota was impacted differently by the amount of almond processing in Taylor et al.'s research. Chopped almonds were found to have the most impact compared to the control, rather than whole almonds, roasted almonds, or almond butter.

FNCE Educational Session
In addition to lectures, over 300 exhibitors participated at FNCE Boston. I discovered many new food and nutrition related products and had samples galore! One tasty find was Biena Chickpea Snacks, roasted chickpeas that are light, delicious, and crunchy.

FNCE Boston Exhibitors
I enjoyed going to FNCE and learning about the latest nutrition research, learning about new food products, and talking with other nutrition students and professionals!

FNCE 2016 Boston

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Probiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

This past April, I presented my research with Dr. Suzanne Neubauer on Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Probiotics at the Massachusetts Dietetic Association's Annual Nutrition Convention and Exposition. This research was a part of the Seminar in Clinical Nutrition course that I took in Framingham State University's Coordinated Program in Dietetics. Below is a summary of my findings.

Presenting Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Probiotics at MDA's ANCE
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort and abnormal bowel habits, with an estimated global prevalence of 11%. It has unclear causes and is diagnosed based on symptoms rather than structural abnormalities. Probiotic supplementation has been proposed to treat IBS, because the fecal microbiota composition of patients with IBS has been found to be significantly different compared to healthy patients. 

A review of 21 primary studies was performed to examine the efficacy of probiotic treatment on IBS symptoms in subjects over 16 years old. Most of the studies reviewed were double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trials. While some trials examined multi-strain probiotics, others assessed the influence of individual probiotic strains.

The results suggest abdominal pain, bloating, stool frequency, stool consistency, adequate relief, and quality of life are not adequately addressed with multi-strain probiotics in patients with all types of IBS. Different dosages, compositions of probiotic mixtures, treatment lengths, and subtypes of IBS studied make trials on probiotics hard to compare. The results were also impacted by the placebo effect, which may be a common occurrence in IBS trials, because IBS has unclear etiologies and is diagnosed based on subjective report of symptoms. 

Meanwhile, impacts of single strains of Escherichia, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, and Lactobacillus were limited and varied according to specific strains. Drawing general conclusions from the studies on single-strain probiotics is not straightforward, as outcomes were strain specific, and some results were only observed in one bacterial strain in one trial.

Due to the inadequate number of studies that demonstrate substantial benefits of probiotics, single- and multi-strain probiotic supplements are not recommended for IBS treatment. However, if patients with IBS are interested, taking up to 8 strains of probiotics and up to 9x10^11 CFU per day has been shown to be safe.

I was surprised to discover there was not enough evidence to support supplementing with probiotics to treat IBS. However, following a low-FODMAP diet may help to manage IBS symptoms. In addition, find out what else probiotics may be good for at the Boston Fermentation Festival this Sunday!

Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Probiotics Research Sources
1. Begtrup et al. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2013;48(10)1127-1135. 
2. Cha et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012;46(3):220-227. 
3. Ford et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;109(10):1547-1561. 
4. Jafari et al. Arch Iran Med. 2014;17(7):466-470. 
5. Ludidi et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2014;26(5):705-714. 
6. Roberts et al. BMC Gastroenterol. 2013;13:45. 
7. Shavakhi et al. Adv Biomed Res. 2014;3:140. 
8. Simrén M et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010;31(2):218-227. 
9. Sisson et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014;40(1)51-62. 
10. Søndergaard et al. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011;46(6):663-672. 
11. Wong et al. Dig Dis Sci. 2015;60(1):186-194.
12. Yoon et al. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;29(1):52-59. 
13. Kruis et al. Int J Colorectal Dis. 2012;27(4):467-474. 
14. Choi et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011;45(8):679-683. 
15. Dapoigny et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(17):2067-2075. 
16. Ducrotté et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(30):4012-4018. 
17. Ligaarden et al. BMC Gastroenterol. 2010;10:16. 
18. Stevenson et al. Nutrition. 2014;30(10):1151-1157. 
19. Guglielmetti et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;33(10): 1123-1132. 
20. Charbonneau et al. Gut Microbes. 2013;4(3):201-211. 
21. Pineton de Chambrun et al. Dig Liver Dis. 2015;47(2):119-124.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dietetic Internship Rotations at Needham Public Schools

As a part of the M.S. Coordinated Program in Dietetics at Framingham State University, I completed my food service and school nutrition rotations at Needham Public Schools (NPS) this spring. At NPS, the school cafeteria is considered the nutrition classroom, where students can learn about healthy eating through the nutritious and delicious food options offered.

For my food service rotation, I visited and learned about how each of the school cafeterias in the district operates. At NPS, each school is lucky to have its own kitchen! Projects that I was involved with included updating and training the cafeteria managers on the department's standard operating procedures and designing and running a plate waste study at the three secondary schools. I attended meetings and events, such as monthly manager meetings, the USDA Foods Conference, and The Education Collaborative (TEC) food service director meetings. During staff relief, I helped to manage the cafeteria at High Rock Middle School, which is a HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), Gold Award of Distinction winner. The HUSSC is a voluntary certification, highlighting schools with healthier environments by encouraging nutrition and physical activity.

Buffalo chicken "wings of fire" with a warm biscuit, melon, vegetables, and salad for lunch at Needham High School
In addition to food service, I had the opportunity to teach nutrition lessons in the classroom for students in elementary, middle, and high school. This included an activity on the five food groups with third grade students at Mitchell Elementary School, and a lesson on food marketing with middle school students at Pollard Middle School. I enjoyed teaching to students of various age levels at the different schools.

Teaching the five food groups with MyPlate
Throughout the experience, I worked with a variety of staff in the Nutrition Services department, including the Nutrition Services director, Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, secretaries, cafeteria managers, and food service workers. I also worked with other staff and members of the school community, including teachers, custodial staff, and students.

I learned a lot about school nutrition at Needham Public Schools. I'm looking forward to continuing to learn more about school nutrition by assisting the food services department at Dedham Public Schools!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nutrition Experiences at Framingham State University

This past school year I had the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant at The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University. The John Stalker Institute (JSI) provides information, resources, and workshops for Massachusetts school and child nutrition professionals, to address child nutrition and healthy nutrition environments. My work involved publicizing professional development, resources, and information about school nutrition through social media. I also attended JSI workshops and events, such as a Back to Basics: Fresh Vegetables and Fruits Workshop to Go and the 2015 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit.

Prepared dishes from a Back to Basics: Fresh Vegetables and Fruits Workshop to Go
2015 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit: Day One - The Learning Connection with Dr. Robert Murray
I enjoyed learning about school nutrition and expanding my skills in online communications through my work at JSI. Read posts that I wrote for the JSI blog and that I contributed to about the Chefs in Schools initiative in Beverly Public Schools on the Chefs Move to Schools blog.

Although I am no longer at JSI, I have an exciting and busy year ahead! This will be my final year of graduate school in the Coordinated Program of Dietetics at Framingham State University. My research for the fall is on a contemporary topic: treating irritable bowel syndrome with probiotics. Supervised practice experiences that I will have include a clinical rotation at Lowell General Hospital, foodservice and school nutrition rotations in the Needham Public Schools, and a community nutrition rotation to be determined. After beginning to study nutrition at Boston University for my bachelor's degree in 2007, I am looking forward to being eligible to take the national exam to become a registered dietitian next year!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Make Your Own Lip Balm

Making your own lip balm is very simple and rewarding. You only need two ingredients: oil and beeswax. In this post, I will provide directions on how to make your own lip balm, accompanied with photos to illustrate the process.

Homemade Lip Balm Slideshow
Photos are numbered in the same steps as the directions.

Homemade Lip Balm Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 3 oz. oil
    • Such as almond oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and more. Or, a combination of oils.
  • 1 oz. beeswax
  • Essential oils (optional, adds fragrance and prolongs the shelf-life of the lip balm)
    • Such as cinnamon, lavender, and peppermint
  • Empty lip balm tubes, jars, or containers for the lip balm
    • Contact lens cases are also a perfect size!
Directions:
  1. Fill a pot a few inches high with water on the stove over medium-heat, to make a hot water bath.
  2. Combine the beeswax and oil in a heat-proof measuring cup.
  3. Put the measuring cup in the hot water bath. Occasionally stir the oil and beeswax well with a spoon. Take off the heat immediately once all of the beeswax is melted. (Do not turn the heat up to high, because you do not want the oil to go rancid).
  4. Slowly and carefully pour the oil and beeswax mixture into your lip balm containers. 
    • Optional: If you would like to use essential oils, they should be added at the last step. Because essential oils are volatile, they evaporate easily. After pouring the oil and beeswax mixture into a container, add the essential oil and cap the container immediately. I usually add 1 drop of essential oil per lip balm tube (0.15 oz) or ~5 drops per 0.5 oz lip balm.
  5. Let the lip balm containers sit upright, until they cool down to room temperature.
Finished lip balms
You can also make red tinted lip gloss using the same methods above with 3 oz. alkanet-root infused extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp. castor oil, 1 oz. beeswax, and optional essential oil.

Red tinted lip gloss 

A few suggestions on where to purchase ingredients:
Recipe inspired by Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair, my Boston School of Herbal Studies courses, and personal experience.