07 Apr

Stress and Immunity – Do We Have a Choice on How It Affects Us?

By Dr. Natalie Kazzi Buxton DrPH, MS, RD

If there is one thing that is hard to avoid, it is stress and worry.  You hear people talking about it all the time.  Some get stressed when driving, shopping, watching the news, etc.  There is a lot to be worried about in this world recently.  Others are stressed at school or at work.  Family dynamics and other relationships can also be a significant source of stress, and on the other hand, being too lonely can also lead to depression and stress.  No matter how you look at it, there is going to be a source of stress in your life.  It is, in fact, a very normal part of life.

Stress is our body’s reaction to any change in our environment that requires an adjustment or response (1).  While we usually interpret stress as a bad thing, positive outcomes include helping us avoid danger and keeping us alert and motivated.  Often, I have been most productive in my life when I was stressed.  The helpful stress is acute stress or short-term stress and is activated for minutes to hours.  On the other hand, long durations of stress that last for months to years with no break in between can have harmful effects on us.  This is chronic stress and it has been linked to many health problems and chronic diseases.

How Stress Affects Our Health

Chronic stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and even suicide.  It can cause headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and sleeping problems (1).  If you cannot sleep well, a myriad of other problems can occur because rest heals our body.  Chronic stress even affects our first line of defense against disease — our immune system.  Stress can cause an increase in inflammation in our body, which in turn has been linked to numerous health problems (2).  Chronic stress causes white blood cells to be weaker and the immune response to be less effective (3).  In addition, the biological aging process and stress have been found to interact and negatively influence the immune system.  Older people are already predisposed to illness due to a weakened immune response, and this, combined with stress, makes illness apparently inevitable (2).

With the knowledge of how bad stress can be for our health, the logical questions to ponder next are what can we do about it?  Is there something that can even be done?  The good news is: Yes!  There is something we can do to help alleviate the unavoidable stress that we face.  Remember the keys to having good health: “Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in Divine power—these are the true remedies” (4).  Trust in Divine power can help us overcome and handle the stress and worry we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

“It is not work that kills; it is worry. The only way to avoid worry is to take every trouble to Christ. Let us not look on the dark side. Let us cultivate cheerfulness of spirit” (5).

It’s one thing to be faced with stress and it’s another thing to drown in it by worrying.

“Do not worry.  By looking at appearances and complaining when difficulty and pressure come, you reveal a sickly, enfeebled faith.  By your words and your works show that your faith is invincible.  The Lord is rich in resources.  He owns the world.  Look to Him who has light, and power, and efficiency.  He will bless everyone who is seeking to communicate light and love” (6).

Is it possible to cancel out or mitigate the effects of stress by having faith and looking at the bright side?  Science says that it is.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other important and sometimes needful ways to deal with stress.  But it’s often an area that is overlooked.

Tapping Into Effective Steps to Counteract Stress Harm

Some time ago I watched a TED talk titled “How to make stress your friend,” (7) where the presenter highlighted research showing that changing the way you think about stress can change your body’s response to it.  That is to say, if you view stress as a positive thing, if you view it as a signal to prepare yourself for a challenge or to motivate yourself, it can help your health.  It discussed how people who experience a lot of stress and who view their stress as harmful had a 43% increased risk of dying.  On the other hand, people who experience a lot of stress yet did not view it as harmful were no more likely to die than others.  Those who reported that they experienced little stress had the lowest risk of dying.  The numbers were affected by individuals’ perception.  And among people who reported high levels of stress in their life, those who spent time in selfless service, caring for others, showed no stress-related increase in dying compared to those who did no such activity.  The latter group had a 30% increased risk of dying for every major stressful life experience reported.  Staying connected with people was also recommended to reduce the harmful effects of stress.

Stress Management and Religion

An effective way to stay ‘connected’ is through religion.  It helps you connect to God and being involved in church creates a community that can potentially help with your health.  Research into how religion and health are related is ongoing at Loma Linda University.  Dr. Jerry Lee is a researcher and professor who has been involved in studying this link and he says that those who are involved religiously are less likely to report depression and anxiety and negative feelings (8).  It’s not that people who go to church experience less stress than those who don’t.  Rather it seems to be they have a coping mechanism that allows them to worry less because they choose to leave it in God’s hands.  It’s amazing to see how much our mind affects the rest of our body and how our thoughts can actively change our health for better or for worse.

“The relation which exists between the mind and the body is very intimate.  When one is affected, the other sympathizes.  The condition of the mind affects the health of the physical system.  If the mind is free and happy, from a consciousness of right doing and a sense of satisfaction in causing happiness to others, it creates a cheerfulness that will react upon the whole system, causing a freer circulation of the blood and a toning up of the entire body.  The blessing of God is a healing power, and those who are abundant in benefiting others will realize that wondrous blessing in both heart and life” (9).

This quote by Ellen White has been confirmed in a scientific study titled Giving To Others And The Association Between Stress And Mortality where it was concluded that, “helping others predicted reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality” (10).  Helping others is the essence of religion (James 1:27), and just think: helping others helps your health in return.

I love how modern science is catching up with these principles.  Work in psychoneuroimmunology and other fields of science are establishing the link between our attitude and our health; having a positive outlook on life leads to a healthier body and having a negative and pessimistic view on life can lead to illness.  In fact, it has been shown that the simple act of smiling or frowning has a small yet significant influence on feelings of being happy or sad (11).  How much more benefit do you think it would be to actively choose to be happy?

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22, ESV.

Praise God for such counsel!  The active choice of looking at the bright side and being cheerful can alleviate the negative effects of brokenness and stressful situations.  Interestingly, the immune system’s cells originate in the bone marrow.  The Bible is basically telling us that being happy and trusting in the Lord and laying all our cares on Him will relieve us and help our immune system, which is our first line of defense against illness.  How awesome is this?

–This article was originally published on the NAD Health website

References

  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress
  2. Morey, J. N., Boggero, I. A., Scott, A. B., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2015). Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Current opinion in psychology, 5, 13–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007
  3. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune
  4. Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 127
  5. Ellen G. White, Letter 209, 1903 in Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, p. 466.1.
  6. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 7, p 212 in Mind Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, p. 471.3
  7. https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en
  8. https://publichealth.llu.edu/about/blog/religion-and-health-study
  9. Ellen G. White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 13, 1890. (Counsels on Health, 28; see also Testimonies for the Church 4:60, 61 [1876].
  10. Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A. J., & Smith, D. M. (2013). Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality. American journal of public health, 103(9), 1649-1655.
  11. Coles, N. A., Larsen, J. T., & Lench, H. C. (2019). A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: Effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable. Psychological Bulletin, 145(6), 610.

 

01 Apr

Making Peace with Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (aka carbs) are largely misunderstood and in the past decades have become the target of numerous fad diets. But are their claims valid? Are all carbs created equal? We will discuss the biblical and scientific evidence to debunk many of the myths related to carbohydrates and highlight the wonderful health benefits of eating whole foods that are rich in this nutrient.

What are Carbohydrates

There are six classes of nutrients our bodies require to sustain life: vitamins, minerals, water, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients, as we need them in small amounts. Water is considered a macronutrient and is the largest component of the human body, therefore being required in large amount.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are considered macronutrients as we need them in larger amounts. They vary in function, but have in common the fact that they are “energy yielding” nutrients in the following amount:

Carbohydrates 4 calories per gram
Protein 4 calories per gram
Fat 9 calories per gram
This already give us a clue that the claim that carbs per se cause more weight gain than other macronutrients is false. If one of the causes of weight gain is related to the excessive calorie consumption, the macronutrient that has the greater calorie density is not carbohydrates, but fat.

Carbohydrates exists in the form of sugar, starches, and fiber. However, these components are part of foods that most of the time also contain protein, fat, or both, so referring to certain foods as just ‘carbs’ is not accurate. The foods groups that are rich in carbohydrates are:

  1. Added Sugars: this is a term you find in food labels and it is the defined as sugars and syrups that are added to foods during processing or preparation(1), including white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, corn syrup, corn-syrup solids, high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, and crystal dextrose. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars such as lactose in milk or fructose in fruits.
  2. Sugar Alcohols (aka polyols): carbohydrates with a hybrid chemical structure that partially looks like sugar and partially looks like alcohol. Despite the “alcohol” part of the name, they do not contain ethanol as alcoholic beverages do. Examples are: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, lactitol, erythritol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. These sugars partially resist digestion, so their calorie content ranges from 1.5 to 3 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for other sugars. This form of sugar can be naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables, but it can also be manufactured from sucrose (table sugar), glucose, and different types of starch to be used in processed foods as a sweetener, bulking agent, to achieve a certain mouthfeel, to retain moisture in the product, and to prevent browning that can occur during heating.
  3. Grains and grain-based products: which can be whole grains (including wheat, barley, oats, rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, and others) or refined grains (including white rice, white pasta, white bread, pastries, baked goods, and others).
  4. Beans (including soybeans), lentils, and peas.
  5. Fruits: fresh, dried, frozen, canned, and fruit juices.
  6. Starchy vegetables: including potatoes, yams, yucca, corn, winter squash, and others.
  7. Non-starchy vegetables: including green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (Arugula, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and others), asparagus, artichoke, beets, tomatoes, peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and others.
  8. Milk and yogurt (as they contain the sugar lactose) and foods made with these ingredients, including ice cream, puddings, and others. The exception is cheese and butter, which are both derived from milk, but the process to make them discards the lactose and concentrates the proteins and fats found in milk in the case of cheese, and concentrates the fats in the case of butter.
  9. Other: processed foods made with any of the food groups described will contain carbohydrates, although they may also contain protein and fat.

The Functions of Carbohydrates in the Body

The main role of carbohydrates is to provide energy to sustain the body’s functions, including respiration, circulation, digestion, physical activity, brain function, and protein synthesis(2).  When these basic needs are met, any excess carbohydrates consumed is stored in the liver and muscle cells in the form of glycogen.(3) This storage is released during times when the amount of carbohydrates being consumed is less than the amount needed by the cells in the body such as during fasting and prolonged exercise.

How much Carbohydrate should we consume per day?

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) sets the acceptable distribution range of macronutrient as the following(2):

  • 45% to 65% of calories coming from carbohydrates
  • 10% to 35% of calories coming from protein
  • 20% to 35% of calories coming from fat (while limiting saturated fat and trans fats)

On average, children and adults need a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates each day in order to maintain adequate brain function.(1)  But in order to provide for the energy needs of all the cells in the body that use glucose as their primary fuel, we need to eat more than the minimum amount. For example, the suggested range on this macronutrient on a 2,000-calorie diet would equal 225 and 335 grams of carbohydrate per day.

Based on national surveys, the general population meets the recommended range of intake for this macronutrient.(4)  The question is, what type of carbohydrates are being consumed by the general population? Scientific evidence points to an excess of added-sugars and an insufficient intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.(5)  Research also shows that ultra-processed foods provide 58% of the energy intake in the American diet.(6)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Carbohydrate-rich foods
The concept of “good, bad, and ugly” related to foods may vary depending on the circumstance, and these terms should be avoided when dealing with those suffering from eating disorders. The intention of using this classification here is to emphasize the carbohydrate-rich foods that should be eaten more often and more freely versus the ones that should be limited or avoided to help prevent chronic diseases, which constitute seven out of the top ten leading causes of death in this country (7).

Good carbohydrate-rich foods are those that promote health benefits including the prevention, management and treatment of chronic diseases. They include foods in their unprocessed or minimally processed form, and prepared in a simple manner (when preparation is required) while maintaining the pleasure of eating. Examples include: fruits, vegetables (both starchy and non-starchy), whole grains and whole grain products that are minimally processed, beans, lentils, and peas.

Clinical trials have demonstrated that eating from these foods have a powerful effect in:

  • Reducing the risk for depression.(8)
  • Preventing chronic diseases in general (9)
  • Reduce the risk of many types of cancer (9; 10)
  • Preventing, managing or reversing diabetes type 2(11; 12) and heart disease(13).
  • Reducing cholesterol and excess weight, as well as normalizing blood sugars(11; 12) without the need to restrict calories. Whole plant foods are packed with fiber and water, which helps us to naturally restrict how much we eat. Fiber slows down the emptying of the stomach, while water gives volume to these foods without adding calories. When these foods are highly processed they lose fiber and water, therefore, concentrating calories in a smaller volume. In addition, processed foods usually contain concentrated fats and sugars, which also contribute to a significant increase in the calories. See the two examples below comparing a whole carbohydrate-rich food on the left and a processed version of it on the right:
Potatoes, Baked or Boiled Potato Chips

(Without adding any source of fat)

(Nutrients will vary by brand)

Portion 100 g (3.5 oz) 100 g (3.5 oz)
Water 75 g 2 g
Calories 93 kcal 532 kcal
Protein 2 g 6 g
Total fat 2 g 34 g
Carbohydrate 21 g 54 g
Fiber 2 g 3 g
Sugars 1 g 0 g
Banana, fresh Banana loaf, commercial brand
Portion 100 g (3.5 oz) 100 g (3.5 oz)
Water 75 g n/a
Calories 89 kcal 434 kcal
Protein 1 g 5 g
Total fat 0 g 24 g
Carbohydrate 23 g 50 g
Fiber 3 g 2 g
Sugars 12 g 12 g

Source: USDA Food Database (numbers were rounded)

The following table contains a suggested amount to be consumed daily or weekly from the healthy carbohydrate-rich food groups and subgroups, adapted from the recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans at the 2,000-Calorie level. (5)
Food Group or Subgroups Daily or Weekly Ranges*
Vegetables 2 ½ – 3 ½ cup equivalent / day
Dark Green Vegetables 1 ½ – 2 ½ cup eq / week
Red and Orange Vegetables 5 ½ cup eq / week
Other Vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables 5 cup eq / week
Starchy Vegetables 6
Beans (including soybeans), Peas, and Lentils 1 to 3 cup eq / week
Whole Grains 7 ½ to 9 cup eq / day, cooked
Fruits 2 – 3 cup eq / day

* The Dietary Guidelines for Americans considers that part of the calories on a healthy diet, including vegetarian diets, come from what oils and “empty calories”, which are calories mostly from added sugar and saturated fats. On a 2,000-calorie diet, this amount can reach 430 calories, which is almost 25% of the calories.

Therefore, the higher number on the ranges on this table reflects the use of these calories toward these foods that are more nutrient-dense, to maximize disease prevention. Total vegetarian diets, which also eliminates dairy and eggs, should aim to be on higher end of the range for the beans, lentils, and peas group in order to get adequate protein.

“Bad” carbohydrate-rich foods include:

  • Those that have been refined to the point of stripping most of the fiber and causing a significant loss of micronutrients. Examples are: white flours and products made with them (including white bread, baked goods, pastries, white flour tortilla, white rice, white pasta);
  • Those that have added-sugar and/or saturated fat in high amounts, such as pastries, rich desserts, and others.
  • Sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Note that if the amount of added-sugar is minimal while the main ingredient is a whole-food and the product is minimally processed such as a tomato sauce or a whole wheat bread, those foods should be part of the good carbohydrates as they have a significant nutrient value and contribute to adding variety to the diet.

Chronic consumption of foods from this group has been linked to:

  • Decline in cognitive function, with a warning that early exposure to these foods (including prenatal exposure) having the greatest negative impact (14).
  • Depression and anxiety(8).
  • Obesity (15)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (16)
  • Increased mortality from inflammatory diseases (17)

“Ugly” carbohydrate-rich foods are the ones that fall under the umbrella of ultra-processed foods.  The list below – adapted from a study published in 2019 in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition (18) – presents some practical ways to identify them:

  • Foods containing mostly ingredients that result from a series of industrial processes, requiring specialized equipment and technology, that would be difficult to replicate at home;
  • Foods that require fractioning of whole foods into isolated substances, including chemical modifications of these substances;
  • Food that undergo industrial techniques such as pre-frying;
  • Foods that contain additives whose function is to enhance the flavor of the product making it hyper-palatable;
  • Ingredients often include sugar, saturated fats or trans fats, and salt, usually in combination;
  • Foods containing ingredients rarely used in homemade cooking such as high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and protein isolates;
  • Food containing additives used as emulsifiers, anti-foaming, carbonating, and others. Generally, these additives are names you would not know what they are in the ingredients list.

Examples of these foods include sodas, candies, morning cereals, sweet or salty packaged snacks, pastries, cakes, instant sauces and soups, processed meats and reconstituted meat products (such as ‘nuggets’, ‘sticks’, ‘hot dogs’, ‘burgers’), frozen desserts, mass-produced baked goods and pastries, ‘fruit’ yogurts, ‘energy’ drinks, and many others.

These foods undergo multiple industrial processes (hence the ‘ultra-processed’ definition) with the intention to create highly profitable products by using low cost ingredients (such as high-fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar), creating products with a long shelf-life (thus the extra salt and sugar used also as preservatives), ready-to-eat, and hyper-palatableTaking the place of healthy foods, these foods contribute to the exponential rise of obesity and chronic diseases in this country and worldwide. A recent review article found that 37 of the 43 studies linked ultra-processed foods to at least one adverse health outcome. Among children and adolescents, these included asthma and cardio-metabolic risk. Among adults, these included overweight or obesity, type-2 diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, frailty, cardio-metabolic risk and cardiovascular diseases (19).

Does the Bible have anything to say about Carbohydrates?

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food:” Genesis 1:29

The Bible does not directly use the word “carbohydrates”, but as we consider the following passages, we can see that healthy carbohydrate-rich foods are part of God’s ideal diet for humans, as evidenced by:

  1. The original diet prescribed by God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:29).
  2. The diet miraculously provided by God during the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, manna is described as having the taste of wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:31). Also, the manna ceased when God’s remnant people entered in the promised Land and could eat produce again (Joshua 5:12).
  3. The food stored by Joseph to prepare for the seven years of famine was corn (Genesis 41), highlighting the nutritional and environmental sustainability aspect of plant foods.
  4. The diet chosen by Daniel and his friends during their Babylonian captivity being a whole food plant-based diet and the superior health outcomes they experienced when compared to the other captives eating what seemed to be a more processed omnivore diet (Daniel 1).
  5. How God warns us about the deceptiveness of more refined foods (Proverbs 23:1-3).
  6. Honey is described as good (Proverbs 24:13), but because it is a more concentrated carbohydrate in the form of sugar, it should be eaten in moderation (Proverbs 25:16, 27).
  7. Bread, grains, fruits, vegetables, and lentils were staple foods consumed by God’s people (Genesis 19:3, Genesis 21:14, Genesis 25:34, Genesis 45:23, Acts 20:1, Deuteronomy 8:8, Ruth 1:22, Numbers 11:5, I Samuel 30:20).
  8. God’s plan of restoration involves going back to the original diet (Revelation 21:1, 4; Revelation 22:2, 14; Isaiah 65:17, 21, 22)
Summary
  1. Focus your carbohydrate choices mostly from unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as whole grains, beans, lentils, peas, fruits, and vegetables.
  2. Make sure the number of calories you are consuming from foods in general – including carbohydrates – matches your daily activity level. If you have excess body fat and are trying to lose weight, adjusting your portions may be needed but also focusing on selecting more foods from the lowest caloric dense groups, which are fruits and vegetables. Aim to fill at least half of your plate with a combination of these two food groups at your meals.
  3. Vary your choices as much as possible, within each category of carbohydrate-rich foods, to ensure a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fibers are being consumed.

It is justifiable to avoid or at least limit carbohydrate-rich foods that are refined or ultra-processed, but avoiding healthy carbohydrate-rich foods can be detrimental to our health. Make peace with the healthy carbohydrates, enjoy the bountiful variety of delicious and nutritious foods God created to give us an abundant life.

–Maggie Collins MPH, RDN, CDCES, DipACLM

References

  1. Medicine Io (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. Trumbo P, Schlicker S, Yates AA et al. (2002). Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids. J Am Diet Assoc 102, 1621-1630.
  3. Medicine L (2020). The Functions of Carbohydrates in the Body. https://chem.libretexts.org/@go/page/1848 (accessed Retrieved March 5, 2021)
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture ARS (2020). Energy Intakes: Percentages of Energy from Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat, and Alcohol, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2017-2018.
  5. Agriculture. USDoHaHSaUSDo (2020). 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 9th Edition. www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
  6. Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Levy RB et al. (2019). Ultra-processed foods: what they are and how to identify them. Public Health Nutrition 22, 936-941.
  7. CDC (2021). Leading Causes of Death. www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
  8. Marx W, Moseley G, Berk M et al. (2017). Nutritional psychiatry: the present state of the evidence. Proc Nutr Soc 76, 427-436.
  9. Melina V, Craig W, Levin S (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 116, 1970-1980.
  10. Miles FL, Lloren JIC, Haddad E et al. (2019). Plasma, Urine, and Adipose Tissue Biomarkers of Dietary Intake Differ Between Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Diet Groups in the Adventist Health Study-2. The Journal of Nutrition 149, 667-675.
  11. Porrata-Maury C, Hernández-Triana M, Ruiz-Álvarez V et al. (2014). Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diet and type 2 diabetes mellitus: pooled analysis of short-term intervention studies. Diabetes Metab Res Rev 30 Suppl 1, 55-66.
  12. Wright N, Wilson L, Smith M et al. (2017). The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutr Diabetes 7, e256.
  13. Esselstyn CB, Jr., Ellis SG, Medendorp SV et al. (1995). A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. J Fam Pract 41, 560-568.
  14. Hawkins MAW, Keirns NG, Helms Z (2018). Carbohydrates and cognitive function. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 21, 302-307.
  15. Bradley P (2019). Refined carbohydrates, phenotypic plasticity and the obesity epidemic. Med Hypotheses 131, 109317.
  16. Aune D, Norat T, Romundstad P et al. (2013). Whole grain and refined grain consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies. Eur J Epidemiol 28, 845-858.
  17. Buyken AE, Flood V, Empson M et al. (2010). Carbohydrate nutrition and inflammatory disease mortality in older adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 92, 634-643.
  18. Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Levy RB et al. (2019). Ultra-processed foods: what they are and how to identify them. Public Health Nutr 22, 936-941.
  19. Elizabeth L, Machado P, Zinöcker M et al. (2020). Ultra-Processed Foods and Health Outcomes: A Narrative Review. Nutrients 12.
18 Mar

Water: The Underestimated Nutrient

A few facts about water probably pop into our mind — we need 8 cups of water a day, about 70-80% of our body is made of water, and most of the earth’s surface is covered with water.  We don’t usually think about water as an “essential nutrient.”  But it is just that.  It is essential that we drink water daily since it is required in amounts that exceed the body’s ability to produce it.  All chemical reactions need water to occur, water regulates body temperature, protects body organs and tissues, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, acts as a vehicle to expel waste, and helps to form the structure of protein and glycogen molecules.  If it wasn’t for water we’d simply cease to exist.

With all the immense relevancy and importance of water, surprisingly there still appears to be some inconsistency in water research.  But what the literature tends to agree on is that dehydration, particularly chronic or long term dehydration, has been linked to many life threatening health outcomes which include the following (brace yourself for this laundry list!):  falls and fractures in the elderly, increased risk of heat stroke during heat waves, heart disease, bronchopulmonary disorders, kidney disease, urolithiasis, bladder and colon cancer, urinary tract infections, constipation, decreased salivation, dental carries, decreased immunity, and cataract formation or sight problems (1).

For quite some time the research on water was mainly supported by the bottled water industry, and as critical thinking scientists, we don’t really like research of this nature since some of these studies are biased and intend to produce results that favor the “product.”  Biased research can paint a fainter picture of methodical science on a particular topic and limits the dependability of conclusions drawn.  This is always important to keep in mind when looking at scarce data as it restricts the opportunity to compare and contrast studies.

How does drinking enough water per day really help me?

As I mentioned above, a lot of the research we have today on water come from more biased sources.  However, one of the best studies to date on the effects of adequate water consumption was conducted by the Adventist Health Study and included 20,000 subjects.  These were divided into two groups, one drank over 5 cups of water, the other less than 2 cups of water.  It was found that the group that drank over 5 cups of water per day were 50% less likely to get coronary heart disease than the group that only drank 2 or less cups of water per day (2).  It’s important to note that these results were estimated after controlling for other healthy behaviors like diet and exercise, so the water itself had health promoting effects.  The decrease in risk of heart disease may have had something to do with the viscosity of the blood with higher intake of water.  Of course, other aspects of the body can also benefit from improved circulation of the blood, so increased water can lend itself to overall health.  This is very powerful research because it produced results based on evidence and emphasized the effect of water in the absence of other healthy behaviors through the controlling process.

Where did this widely accepted 8 cups of water standard come from?

To reach a place where any “treatment” is being regularly prescribed by the medical community as a standard of care, there needs to be scores of evidenced-based sources to back it up.  But rather surprisingly the recommendation of drinking 8 cups of water per day stems back to a single 1920’s paper in which the author himself was the only subject enrolled in the study.  I’m not sure how biased that would have made it, but after calculating his own water expenditure (such as through urine and sweat), he found that approximately 8 Cups would replenish the lost stores of water one experiences in a day (4).

So how much water are we really supposed to have since this obviously isn’t the only source we should quote for a standard of care, right?  After much analysis of data, the medical authorities in Europe, the US Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization finally recommended (not including fluids from food and other drinks) 4-7 Cups per day for women, and 6-11 Cups per day for men (2).  This does not take into consideration the water intake needs associated with regular or strenuous physical activity.  But I guess you could say Dr. Adolph was pretty close in his 1920’s paper with a single enrolled subject!

Behavioral health practices associated with low water consumption

Behavioral health practices have been shown to be strongly interconnected.  One behavior can influence and dictate the outcome of another.  If someone is diligent about daily exercise it’s not far-fetched to assume they may also eat a healthier diet than one who rarely ever exercises.  Healthy practices promote other healthy practices, and poor health practices tend to encourage other poor ones.

In a study analyzing the food behavioral practices of several thousand adults it was found that individuals who drank lower amounts of water were also involved in other unhealthy behaviors which included low fruit and vegetable intake and high fast-food intake.  The study concluded that understanding characteristics associated with low drinking water intake may help to identify populations that could benefit from targeted health interventions (2).  And if you think about it, who is most likely to drink more water?  Athletes and people who exercise more.  And so, it should not be surprising to see that those who drink more water overall also experience lower disease rates as this group is also practicing other beneficial behaviors that promote health and wellbeing.  The healthier behaviors we pick up the more likely we are to pick up more health behaviors until we are living a truly healthy and balanced lifestyle, so yes, every step in the right direction counts!

Does it make a difference whether I drink bottled water or tap water?

I’m very particular of the water I drink.  If I sense even the slightest off-taste or just that tiny bit of chlorine, I simply will not drink that water.  I’m not about to distrust my sense of taste and go right ahead and drink my water out of the tap either, after all, why would there be numerous water bottle companies if we could do just that?

This is a mindset that probably many of us have, but the research tends to show us some interesting findings.  A study analyzing the water from 35 water bottle companies did not guarantee higher quality, safer, or cleaner water than tap water (5).  Looks like just because water might come in the form of a pretty bottle with a sharp logo on it doesn’t make that much better than whatever is coming out of your tap.  I’m not recommending that you start drinking your tap water, but this is good drink for thought.

What about coconut water?  Is it really “glorified water?”

Cold coconut water out of the fridge can be so refreshing and delicious.  With its barely-there sweetness and tiny bits of coconut shreds along with the snazzy packaging promising invigorating electrolyte replenishment and an abundance of nutrients, it can make anyone feel like a health pro.  Unfortunately, mainstream media likes to blow things out of proportion in terms of benefits, and coconut water has been an easy and very marketable victim.

But what does the science tell us about the real benefits of drinking coconut water?  The truth is, it doesn’t provide any more benefit than a common sports drink would, aside from less sugar content.  A study conducted by the International Society of Sports Nutrition compared coconut water to regular manufactured sports drinks and found no difference between the two in terms of hydration or exercise performance.  Here’s the kicker though, those who drank the coconut water reported feeling more bloated and had more stomach upsets than those who were drinking the regular sports drinks (6).  Surprisingly, this study was funded by a coconut water manufacturing company!  It’s good to know that results were still published, though not in favor of its own product in comparison with a competitor.

How do we bottle up this whole water case?

If you want to keep your body hydrated and cleansed, drink your recommended amount of water daily.  Get most of your fluids from pure water.  Try to avoid sodas and caffeinated beverages, and even fruit juices (most are made from sugary concentrates).  If you get tired of drinking just water, infuse it with fresh fruit like strawberries, oranges, and lemons.  You can sweeten it naturally with stevia leaves and add a little more flare with fresh mint or rosemary.  If you want something hot, then have your water in the form of healing herbal teas like chamomile and mint.  Recently I’ve taken quite the liking to iced herbal tea, you just make yourself some hot herbal tea and then pour it over a cup full of ice.  I don’t even need to add any sweetener to it.  It is delightful and refreshing!  If you really want to have coconut water, then its best to have it fresh right out of the coconut, otherwise the bottled version may just be like buying expensive water.

Water is most definitely a gift from the Lord, we really don’t need to do much to it to reap its intended benefits.  Keeping it simple and consistent is the best attitude we can have in our hydration lifestyle. Cheers to going back to the basics, appreciating good research, and following simple recommendations for ultimate health!

–This article was originally published on NAD Health Ministries Website

11 Mar

“How God Heals Today” Interview

Pastor Tom Tupito of the Aurora church is on a journey of health and healing, he would like to share in the hope that his story will inspire and encourage others to experience the healing power of God through His amazing lifestyle principles. The following interview was conducted by Rick Mautz, director of the Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center, who had the pleasure of walking this health path with Pastor Tupito.

 

RMLC:  Tom, tell me where your story of heart disease began. Give us a little history

Tom: All my family had heart trouble. In 1999, I had coronary bypass surgery. When I started working at Rocky Mountain Conference In 2017, I failed my stress test, but refused to go to the cardiologist. In 2018, I again failed the stress test, but still wouldn’t go to the cardiologist. When my wife passed away from a heart attack, I finally got serious and called the cardiologist who, after giving me an angiogram, revealed that I needed another bypass surgery because all those vessels had plugged up. I told him I needed to talk to my kids to decide what to do. At that time, I could only walk about ten minutes before chest pain would start.

RMLC:  That’s when you called me and wanted some options. And I told you that I am not your doctor, but I would find as much accurate information on the subject so that you and your kids could make an informed decision. I am fortunate to have access to two fine lifestyle physicians who I contacted for their feedback. One of those doctors was Dr. Caldwell Esselstyne from the Cleveland Clinic.  I recommended you watch his YouTube video entitled, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” which is also the title of his book. Dr. Esselstyne wanted you to call him. Tell me about that conversation.

Tom: Well, I called him and he asked me about any chest pain with exertion. He described what was happening and how to turn it around and told me if I followed that plan, I would not need bypass surgery.

RMLC:  What did he tell you to do?

Tom:  He said that if I was serious about it and willing to follow this diet of no oil, no sugar and a hand full of greens before every plant-based meal that I could avoid the surgery. I also decided on my own not to eat anything after 4 p.m.

RMLC:  Some people call that radical and are not willing to make that change. They choose surgery instead.

Tom: You know Rick, I have had bypass surgery before and that is radical. This lifestyle change is not radical compared to that. Yes, I did have to do a 180-degree turn-around. I actually started to make major changes back in 1999 when I had my first bypass surgery. If I had not done that then, I wouldn’t have lasted this long.

RMLC:  So now you are known as the radical pastor?

Tom:  Yes, my kids even say that it may be radical, but we are seeing the evidence that it must be right.

I have lost weight in a short time, going from 240 lbs. to 180 lbs. I feel stronger now and after just 2-3 weeks, I can walk 40 minutes without chest pain. I have had no more chest pain since that time.

RMLC:  How hard was this for you to do? Wasn’t it difficult?

Tom:  No, God has given the wisdom and the people to help make a change. It is not a burden; it is now my passion and also my witness. I realize now that God gave me this body and my health and I want to honor Him by taking care of it.

RMLC:  But Tom, hasn’t all the joy gone out of your eating? Aren’t you just tolerating this food you have to eat?

Tom:  I enjoy my food. It is a pleasure. You might say I am on auto-pilot, it is that easy.

RMLC:  Have you been in contact with your cardiologist lately?

Tom:  The cardiologist’s office kept calling me every month to schedule my surgery. Each time, I would tell them that I am doing well, exercising and eating healthy foods. Finally, they realized that I was doing so well I didn’t need the surgery and they didn’t need to call anymore.

RMLC: Will you continue to live this way?

Tom:  By the grace of God, I will continue to live this way. I know it is right and I give glory to God. I hope that others are inspired to make some of these changes and maybe even stop the progression of heart disease. I could not be available to help people in this way if I did not practice it myself.

RMLC:  Thank you Tom. It is a pleasure to watch the Lord bless you with a natural lifestyle miracle. It is my prayer that others will be blessed by it and your ministry will thrive for many years to come.

 

The following link is for the video that Tom watched–Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease with Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D    https://youtu.be/ZC3wRx4vV7g

If you would like more information, call 303-909-8274 at the Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center.

Any coaching support that we provide at the RM Lifestyle Center is confidential. Tom’s story is presented now with his permission and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

03 Mar

Do You Really Need 10,000 Steps Per Day?

By Danny Kwon — A few years back, I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years at a conference on the other side of the world. After a long day of meetings and sitting all day, we agreed to meet in the lobby of the hotel after dinner to go for a walk around the neighborhood to catch up and to get some exercise as well. We met on time and proceeded to go for a nice, brisk, approximately 4-mile hike around the hotel. When we were almost back to the hotel, my friend looked at his Fitbit watch and stated that he was going to keep walking since he was close to 10,000 steps for the day and needed a few hundred more steps. He explained that ever since he got his step counting watch as a gift, he’d been doing 10,000 steps per day for over a month now.

Since then, I’ve noticed that the 10,000 step figure is a standard goal for daily steps for many people. But it’s not always easy to get that many steps in a day. And where did this figure of 10,000 steps come from anyway? Is that the optimal or minimum level of walking for good health? Can I get away with walking less? A recent Harvard study found that just 4,400 steps per day reduced the risk of premature mortality in women by a whopping 41%.

Here’s an excerpt from WebMD of an interview with the study lead Dr. I-Min Lee.

Were you surprised by the results of your study?

Lee: Yes and no. Previous studies have shown that when it comes to physical activity, “some is good, more is better,” but there’s little data on steps and health, particularly long-term health outcomes. I knew this was a critical gap in knowledge, since so many people monitor their step counts. But 4,400 steps per day is a very modest number of steps.

Where did the more well-known goal of 10,000 steps per day come from?

Lee: It likely originated as a marketing tool. In 1965, the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in Japan sold a pedometer called “Manpo-kei,” [which roughly translates to] “ten thousand steps meter” in Japanese. But, for many older people especially, 10,000 steps per day can be a very daunting goal. That’s why we wanted to investigate whether this number was necessary to lower mortality rates.

Is 10,000 still a good goal? Or should women now shoot for 4,400 steps a day?

Lee: If you can get to 10,000 steps per day, that’s fantastic, and I certainly would not dissuade you from that goal. For those who are inactive, though, that might not be achievable. Most people average 2,500 steps per day just doing normal activities, like going to the bathroom, walking around the office and getting the mail, so adding 2,000 steps per day more to your usual routine is very doable. Just move more. Even a modest number of steps is associated with lower mortality. You don’t need to go walk for miles or hit the gym. The extra 2,000 steps (which is about one mile) can be accumulated throughout the day. Once you get into the habit of not sitting around so much, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to get the extra steps.

So here are 5 ideas to get more steps per day.

  1. Park farther away – next time you go to the supermarket, don’t look for the closest spot. Relieve stress as you park far from the hustle and bustle of cars all trying to get the choicest spot.
  2. Walk at work – During your lunch break or other break times, go outside and go for a stroll around the block. After eating your lunch, make it a point to get in a routine walk around a set course. Make it a habit.
  3. Do chores and yardwork – Just doing the laundry can get you more steps if you go up and down stairs, go in and out of rooms, etc. Mowing the lawn gets you lots of steps as well as weeding, raking and just all-around outdoor work.
  4. Play – Say yes to the basketball pickup game you used to go to. Join an adult league. Go outside with your kids and play with them. Take your kids to explore parks in your area… a different one every weekend until you’ve explored them all.
  5. Get a Step Counter – If you don’t have one already, get a step counting watch. Simple step counters are very cheap and worth getting. You’ll find that the act of counting your steps will motivate you to keep walking and give you a goal to reach every day. More advanced smart watches can even connect with your phone and apps that can share running and exercise goals with a large social network, motivating you even more by creating competition among friends.

–Danny Kwon is the executive director of Life and Health Network based out of California; photo by pixabay.

This article was originally published on the Life and Health Network webpage.

17 Feb

Lifestyle Choices to Boost Immunity

By Rick Mautz — Denver, Colorado … The Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center is here to serve you, by providing reliable health information and ongoing support as you begin your journey toward better health.

One of our major trusted sources is the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM). Since most of us are thinking about how we can have the most effective immune system. I would like to start with that, realizing that the steps you take to improve your immunity will also help with most other aspects of your health.

To make it easy, here is a handout by the ACLM that illustrates each point.  Pick just one to start with, I suggest starting with the easiest one for you.  Then add another each week, until you are able to do them all regularly.  (if it takes longer than a week for some of these steps, don’t worry, it is better to go slow and develop strong healthy habits that will last a lifetime than to try too much at once and fail.

You can expect more helpful information as we continue to develop this website.  And if you need personal support, feel free to call the Lifestyle center to connect with one of our Health Partners at 303-282-3676.

–Rick Mautz is Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Director; photo by UnSplash