Today, I will play the role of DJ…
These three articles (summaries below) have been the highlights of my health and fitness oriented reading this summer. They touch on hot topics that women care a lot about. I hope you enjoy the highlights that I’ve included in this post.
If you’re digging for even more juicy details, I encourage you to read the full articles from One Medical, WebMD and PT on the Net (links below).
Now, let the mixing and scratching of today’s burning topics begin…
The Dirty Secrets of ‘Clean’ Labels
- “Clean labeling” involves reducing the number of ingredients in processed foods and making the names of the ingredients easy to read, understand and pronounce.
- Food companies – not the FDA – now determine which ingredients are safe to use in their products. “GRAS” or “generally recognized as safe” is a term the FDA used while evaluating new or reinvented ingredients. In 1997, the FDA handed over this screening process to companies since there were industry complaints that they were taking too long to approve ingredients. In short, this means that companies can rush to put items in foods (they want to make a profit, after all) without thorough testing and due diligence.
- One clean label fix that companies commonly turn to is replacing ‘high fructose corn syrup’ with ‘fructose.’ The former is a mixture of two sugars; fructose and glucose (same ingredients found in table sugar). Even though fructose sounds like a better, simpler option, the name is deceiving; it actually has MORE sugar than high-fructose corn syrup!
- “Some scientific evidence suggests that calories from fructose are more easily stored as fat than glucose. And fructose may also raise levels of harmful blood fats more than glucose does. The fear is that eating too much fructose may set the body on a path to obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes.”
- A full 10 years after ‘trans fats’ were required to be listed on food labels, they have been formally declared by the FDA as not meeting GRAS standards (the public was notified in June, 2015). These fats negatively impact cholesterol levels (raising the bad kind and lowering the good kind), and, yet, they were included in foods and have been suspected to contribute to obesity-related deaths.
- Companies are struggling to find a healthy replacement for trans fats and have not found conclusive evidence to support that alternatives are safe. These include palm oil and interesterified fats, which consists of fats that have undergone this kind of processing, for example: soybean oil.
- Many consumers have become cautious of cured meats because of nitrates (linked to cancer and heart disease) and, thus, food companies have sought to rid their labels of the stuff. Only problem…how to preserve freshness and color? Answer: Celery Extract. This is now on the ingredient labels of many “uncured, organic” meat products. The issue? In spite of sounding more consumer-friendly, celery extract is apparently full of nitrates.
WellnessWinz’s Perspective: Try to stick to unprocessed foods as best you can. Don’t think you’re a failure because you can’t cook from scratch all day, every day…if ever! Just try to make modifications in your diet to allow for more wholesome foods.
- Many “performance” or “functional” drinks get a bad reputation because of sugar content, but that’s not the only issue….
- Many vitamin-enriched beverages contain 2-3x as many nutrients as required for the average adult.
- Over 50% of Americans consume multivitamins and/or dietary supplements. A recent study found that these individuals were already getting substantial nutrition from their food alone.
- The Institute of Medicine has found that many people are exceeding the safe limits of nutrient intakes. For example, antioxidants are very popular additives (and they’re important to the body too), but overdoses can cause major health issues.
- Shocker: A large study examining 6,000 heart disease patients found that those patients given folic acid and B12 on a daily basis had higher mortality and cancer rates over a period of seven years.
WellnessWinz’s Perspective: This article is from my doctor’s office, One Medical, and I completely agree with their statement “It’s important to talk to your health care provider about any vitamins or supplements you’re consuming regularly, including fortified beverages.” Many of us like to think that we’re doing ourselves a favor by taking lots of supplements and drinking protein shakes with added vitamins and minerals, but, as this article suggests, there may be more to the story when we tinker so much with mother nature…
Estrogen, Menstrual Cycle and Exercise
Estrogen vs Progesterone
- Estrogen deficiency (caused by irregular or missing periods due to intense training) is the most significant risk factor for osteoporosis in women who exercise.
- The first half of a woman’s monthly cycle is more dominated by estrogen, while the latter half is when progesterone takes over. Although each woman is unique, in general, the most energized workouts are possible during times when estrogen is highest.
Estrogen and Exercise
- Easy to moderate workouts may help alleviate physical discomfort associated with PMS and menstruation, and may even lift a woman’s mood, when estrogen is low.
- A woman may have greater strength gains if she trains more heavily during the estrogen dominant phase of her cycle. This is due to how estrogen and progesterone impact the body’s ability to recover from workouts and build muscle.
- In general, women use less carbohydrates (glycogen) and protein to fuel submaximal exercise when compared to men. A woman’s body recruits more energy from fat to delay fatigue.
- Progesterone is catabolic (i.e., it breaks down molecules for energy), thus, it’s important during high-progesterone weeks to eat adequate protein before and after a workout to help the body recover and build muscle.
WellnessWinz’s Perspective: If this is information overload, don’t let it stress you out! Instead, simply listen to how your body feels each day and week as you exercise. On the flip side, if you’re really looking to maximize your training potential, you may consider tinkering with your workout schedule according to some of these facts.
Yours in health and wellness,
I’m concerned about the consumption of B12 leading to higher mortality and cancer rates. I started taking a B12 complex and gentle iron a few months ago, after having a blood test run at a local health food store. I was hoping to learn that I had an under-active thyroid, but learned that I was severely anemic and lacking B12. Do you think it’s alright to take these supplements since my blood test came back lacking them? Or should I reduce what I’m taking? I haven’t made it back to take another test yet, but will be in January (and will also be getting hormone tests run at that point). I have noticed a huge difference in my energy levels and motivation to get everything done, since a few weeks after I started the supplements, but don’t want to hurt myself in the long run…
Thank you for this article! It was very enlightening.
Thank you for the thoughtful message and for voicing this concern – it’s important to feel confident in the decisions we are making for our health. To help quell some concerns, I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and know that in the short term, there is likely to be little negative consequence for behaviors and decisions that are not optimal for our individual needs. Ultimately, our bodies are super resilient! That said, you’re right to want to work towards what will be best for your health in the long run. This is always the paramount goal that we should all strive for, adapting in each season of life as our bodies and needs change.
Although I have many professional qualifications, I’m not a doctor so I can’t “prescribe” anything regarding your supplements choices; however, I can give you some high level food for thought:
It sounds that since you are deficient in those vitamins, based on recent blood tests, that you have been given appropriate recommendations for supplements. The higher mortality and cancer rates mentioned in the article appear to be for individuals who consumed enough of these nutrients via food and were taking supplements as well, resulting in an overload of nutrients. Just as deficiencies in vitamins can cause problems (for example, your anemia, from lack of iron, causing fatigue), “toxicities” can result from too much of a good thing. A great example of this is Vitamin A, which has been linked to birth defects when consumed in excess by expectant mothers.
I think one of the most important things with nutrient deficiences is getting retested, as you are planning to. This will help paint the full picture. I would take the results (ask for a printed copy) to a medical professional. Unless there is a doctor or nurse practitioner at the health food store, I would not deem the staff’s advice to be sufficient. They might be accurate and offering sound advice, but it’s always going to be best to get a second, more credible profesional opinion, ESPECIALLY since you’re planning to get a full work-up of your endocrine system in January. The endocrine system is incredibly complex and there are many factors that can impact it, so this should entail a detailed conversation with your doctor about the results.
For your personal enrichment, I encourage you to read the book Ultrametabolism by Mark Hyman. This dives into the relationship between diet/lifestyle and our hormones. It’s a great read, especially for people who have a vested interest in learning more about their health, as I can tell you do!
Keep curious, open-minded, and in pursuit of balanced health! I have no doubt you’re en route to finding it!
Hope this has helped 🙂
Yours in health and wellness,