ENERGY – our prime need from food

 

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Energy

Energy from food is one of our prime needs for survival. As well as oxygen and water, without energy from food we would die. Every cell in the body requires a continuous supply. The macro-nutrients carbohydrates, fats, and protein are the sources for energy. When the body uses these for energy, the bonds between the atoms break and energy is released. Energy is expended within the body as electrical energy such as in nerve impulses, kinetic energy such as muscle movement, chemical reactions such as synthesis of new molecules; or the energy can be liberated as heat. (1,2)

Units of measuring the food energy supplied are the joule (amount of work performed when a mass of one kilogram is moved one metre by a force of one newton) or the calorie (heat required to raise temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius). Being small units kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal) are more commonly used. The standard measurement in Australia is kilojoules. One kcal is approximately 4.18 kJ. The energy supplied by each macro-nutrient differs. Fat averages 37 kJ (9kcal) per gram, protein 17 kJ (4 kcal); carbohydrates 17 kJ (4 kcal) and alcohol (in adults) 29 kJ (7kcal). (1)

The macro-nutrients are broken down into smaller units during digestion after a meal; carbohydrates into sugars, fats into fatty acids and protein into amino acids; which allows their absorption from the gut into the blood stream. They are then transported by the blood around the body for immediate use or converted into storage forms for later use. It is these storage forms of macro-nutrients that allows a continual supply of energy to each cell, between meals. (1,2)

In summary, in simple terms nutrients digested from food are absorbed into the blood stream and from there fluctuate within three main states.

The Fed State

After a meal (called post-prandial), the absorbed macro-nutrients flood into the blood stream. The influx of these nutrients are considered to be obtained exogenously which means from ‘outside the body’, or in other words – from food. The level of these nutrients rise in the blood in the fed state.

Storage

Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Fat is stored in adipose tissue. Protein does not have a storage form as such and there is a continual cycle of protein synthesis, breakdown, and replenishment. However, breakdown substrates can be used for fuel; and muscle and other tissue are considered protein reservoirs that can be broken down and used as fuel in an emergency. (1,2)

The Fasting State

Between meals, over-night or in periods of food deprivation; nutrients are considered to be obtained endogenously or from ‘inside the body’. This is when nutrients are drawn from storage or synthesised from other substrates to ensure adequate to supply to every cell.

Nutrient Balance

The body has an amazing capacity to keep essential nutrients, including macro-nutrients, within a narrow range in the blood stream to ensure a constant supply. One of the main nutrients and a prime need of the body is glucose …

To Be Continued

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DisclaimerNothing in this article or website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related issue they may have. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.
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References:

(1) E Whitney, S R Rolfes, T Crowe, D Cameron-Smith, A Walsh. Understanding Nutrition. Australia and New Zealand Edition. 2nd Edition. Cengate Learning. 2014.

(2) M L Wahlqvist. Ed. Food and Nutrition in Australia. Methuen Australia. 1982.

(3) Image courtesy [Grant.Cochrane]/Freedigitalphotos.net

 

My Food-Health #2: Critical moments – my risk of developing Type 2 diabetes

Photo 28-3-18, 7 27 30 pm

Having focussed for 40 years on my father’s premature death from a stroke and dietary patterns to prevent heart disease, it struck me I should begin to pay attention to being my mother’s daughter and my risk for developing Type 2 diabetes (T2D). My mother was a third generation Type 2 diabetic, following on after my grand-mother and great-grandmother. She was diagnosed in her early 60s, although may have been an un-diagnosed diabetic years before that.

There are differing opinions now on the best treatment for T2D, and whether diet and lifestyle changes can reverse the disease. This was not the case when my mother was diagnosed in the late 1980s, when it was considered a manageable yet progressive disease and not reversible. My mother followed medical advice of medications to control blood sugar levels and following a regimented eating plan. She became dismayed at her diagnosis to begin with, yet soon accepted her condition and carrying on with life. She survived the disease well, losing some weight initially on the recommended diet and she lived over twenty five years after her diagnosis. She did not suffer any marked degree of diabetic complications. She was staunchly independent so it wasn’t until her late 80s, when an unrelated illness necessitated my siblings and I to care for her, that I became fully aware of the impact diabetes had on her life. Her days were structured around  measurement of blood glucose, medications, medical appointments, and her regimented eating plan. However, she worked around this and was able to go about her life as she previously had. She was a very active member of the local community – to the very end. Nevertheless, having seen the effects of living with Type 2 diabetes had on my mother’s life, I resolved I would try and prevent that disease in myself.

My Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

I began focussing on learning about what the risk factors for T2D were. Late in 2014, I did an online risk assessment. (1) I was dismayed I had a one in three chance of developing the disease within five years. In the blink of an eye, the extra weight I was carrying became a health problem. T2D has a higher prevalence in those overweight/  obese especially those who retain weight around their abdomen. Other risks factors are being sedentary, age, gender (males have a higher risk), having high blood pressure, and having a first-degree relative with Type 2 diabetes. (2) It also associated with high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.(2)

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

When I went looking for information on reducing my risks, surprisingly I found less information on prevention than treatment options. Most easily accessible information about T2D is aimed at people once they are diagnosed with either diabetes or pre-diabetes. (2) It was almost as if no-one goes looking for help until either they receive the diagnosis or have a close scare. Information that did exist was mostly aimed at losing weight, becoming more active, and eating patterns of portion-control for carbohydrate.

There did not seem to be any easily found information relevant to me, a non-diabetic except general advice. Nevertheless, whilst I could not change the contributing factors of my family history or my age, I could reduce my risk by losing weight, reducing my waist circumference, and becoming more active. That became my aim in late 2014 as the New Year 2015 approached – to lose weight and reduce my risk profile for developing Type 2 diabetes. I also began to explore the medical literature on Type 2 diabetes.

But how was I going to achieve this goal? I had been struggling with my weight for some time … and nothing seemed to work.

 

To be continued …

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Following my series My Food History – this is a series on Food-Health.

# 1. A return to the heart of the matter
# 2. My risk of Type 2 Diabetes

 

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Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.

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(1) Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Australia. diabetesaustralia.com.au Retrieved 21 Nov, 2018.

(2) Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. mayoclinic.org Retrieved 21 Nov, 2018.

 

“… eat the way your great-great-great- grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life” …

Convicts in New Holland. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (1)
Convicts in New Holland. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales1

Scattered throughout the food and diet literature is the suggestion that to ensure optimal health we should return to the eating patterns before the 1960s. This concept was popularised by Michael Pollan. In his book In Defence of Food2 one of his ‘rules of thumb’ is ‘don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognise as food‘. His implied take-away message is we should ‘eat real, proper, simple food’ – not the kind from a packet. When a recent article3 suggested going back two generations further ‘eat the way your great-great-great-grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life’, it got me wondering.

To begin with, my great-great-great-grandparents number 32. To find out if that quoted statement is true, I would have to trace my family history back to those 32 ancestors, understand their backgrounds, work out what they probably ate, then contemplate whether foods they were eating in the manner they were eating them could improve my own longevity.

This was an intriguing concept and I decided to investigate.

Luckily for me, I come from a line of family-history lovers. My sister, mother and other relatives traced my family tree to before the 18th century and have written books on it4,5,6, so understanding where I came from wasn’t difficult. My fifth generation ancestors from 200 to 250 years ago originated mainly from Britain but from diverse backgrounds of convicts, working class, tenant-farmers, middle class merchants, professionals, and one line possibly from landed gentry. With that variance, pin-pointing any single traditional food pattern would be challenging.

Gastronomic, other historians, and nutritionists have researched food history in Australia and that of Britain7,8,9,10,11,12,13. As I explored this literature genre – from a time that was supposedly before processed and definitely before fast food – I was to discover that this was not the case. Two hundred or more years ago people were not always eating “real” food. In fact in the days before refrigeration, the probable dietary patterns of my own ancestors would have included substantial quantities of preserved (salted, smoked, dried, pickled, candied) foods; biscuits, bread, cheese, tea, sugar, spices, flour; and later canned foods – all of which are processed foods and arguably many could also be deemed ‘fast-food’.

Depending on which ancestor and time period I looked back on, there were periods within my family’s history where they would have experienced borderline or even critical undernourishment. For other ancestors, who were or became financially secure, patterns of plentiful food and perhaps even eating to excess were apparent. Regardless of the background, however, there did appear to be a greater focus on either obtaining or producing food; and a much deeper connection with food and where it came from than many of us have today.

Furthermore, as I delved further into its history, I gained a greater understanding that food was behind many social and political reforms10, and was a contributing factor if not the whole drive and power behind the makings of the British Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries.14

Our current food environments and its nutritional consequences is a growing concern. The shaping of those food environments through history is a subject I feel deserves closer attention and a series of blog-posts.

I shall begin by going back to the land of my ‘mother country’.15

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This is an introductory post for my theme: Food History in Australia.
Tracing the diets of my ancestors, prequels to the food history I have lived through.

# 1: Introduction: “eat what your great-great-great-grandparents ate …”
# 2: British food history leading up to the 18th century.
# 3: The relevance of food in the rise of the British Empire.
# 4: To Australia: The Hungry Years. 1777 – 1800.
# 5: Australian Food History: Greener Pastures. 1800 to 1850.
# 6: Australian Food History: The Gold Rush Years. 1850 to 1900.
# 7: Australian Food History: Federation and WW1. 1900 to 1920.
# 8: Australian Food History: Nutritionism begins. 1920 to 1950
# 9: Living through History: 1950s to 1970s
# 10: Living through history: 1980s to 2000s

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Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.

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Acknowledgements:

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I have lived and worked. I pay respect to their Elders, past and present.

I thank my sister Margaret Francis, family historian; and my brother-in-law Dr Rodney Francis PhD (agriculture) for reviewing my initial draft and discussions.

I thank Melanie Voevodin @wedietitians for much thoughtful twitter discussions on how our food environments have become what they are and for references 8 & 9 below.

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References and Notes:

1. Ravenet, Juan. Convicts in New Holland. Lithograph 01 January 1793.
Felipe Bauza, cartographer – drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Public Domain. Out of copyright: Artist died before 1955.

2. Pollan, Michael. In Defence of Food. 2008. Penguin Press. London.

3. Williams, Zoe. Why it’s never too late to start lifting weight? The Guardian. Australian Edition. 05 December, 2018.

4. Francis, Margaret; Vernon, Stella; Wilkinson, Colin; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 1 – ‘The Old Hands’. 2003. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

5. Francis, Margaret; Vernon, Stella; Wilkinson, Colin; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 2 – ‘Genuine People’. 1993. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

6. Wilkinson, Colin; Francis, Margaret; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 3 – ‘Those Precious Ones’. 2017. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

7. Santich, Barbara, What the Doctors Ordered: 150 Years of Dietary Advice in Australia. 1995. Hyland House Publishing. South Melbourne.

8. Clements, Frederick W. A History of Human Nutrition in Australia. 1986. Longman Cheshire. Melbourne.

9. Wood, Beverley, Editor. Tucker in Australia. 1977. Hill of Content. Melbourne.

10. Symons, Michael. One Continuous Picnic. 2nd edition. 2007. Melbourne University Press. Melbourne.

11. Chant, Susan. A History of Local Food In Australia 1788-2015. PhD Thesis. 2015. University of Adelaide. Adelaide.

12. Newling, Jacqueline. Foodways Unfettered: Eighteenth-Century Food in the Sydney Settlement. Thesis for Masters of Arts. 2007. University of Adelaide. Adelaide.

13. Bannerman, Colin. Print Media and the Development of an Australian Culture of Food and Eating c.1850 to c.1920. PhD Thesis. 2001. University of Canberra. Canberra.

14. Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power- The Place of Sugar in Modern History. 1986. Penguin Books. New York.

15. Definition: Mother Country: “The original country of colonists or settlers.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th edition 2014.

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019!

Fireworks.Stuart Miles.

 

Greetings to all my readers. I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season. I have been drafting some blog posts under these planned themes for 2019:

1) Food 4 Health: back to basics of food for nourishment;

2) Food 4 Environments: the influence of culture, traditions, social-network, food history, guidelines, marketing, food production and economics on our food choices;

3) Food 4 Life: food for vitality and prevention of non-communicable diseases;

4) Food 4 Freedom: explores the wellness factor, food sensitivities, and fear of foods.

I will also continue with my own food history onward to the present day.

I look forward to you joining me throughout the year.

 

Leonie Elizabeth

 

 

Potato Protein Power

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POTATOES.3.
“Potatoes” – Photo by Leonie Elizabeth 23 December 2017

If you have read one or many nutrition articles of recent years you would be forgiven for thinking that potatoes are nothing but carbohydrates with no other purpose as a food than converting to sugar, spiking blood glucose and creating havoc to our metabolic systems. Once a proud staple food, it has been attacked by dieters and professors alike, even relegated to the top tier (use sparingly) in an alternative Healthy Eating Pyramid.

You would also be forgiven for thinking of other foods, usually animal foods, as protein.

In food guides, foods are placed into various groups of similar nutrient value and these are usually fruit, vegetables, cereals, dairy and then a fifth group often named ‘protein‘ foods. Here ‘protein’ foods refer to meat, eggs, fish, poultry, legumes and nuts. The UK Eatwell Guide (1), although listing examples, refers to this group as ‘proteins’; the US Dietary Guidelines (2) refers to this group as ‘protein’ and ‘protein foods’; and the US Choose MyPlate as ‘protein’ (3). I note the Australian Dietary Guidelines (4) do not refer to this food group as ‘protein’ but rather lists the foods within the group ie: meat, poultry, fish, egg, tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans. The Australian example aside, such messages of ‘protein’ as a food group from nutrition authorities in the UK and US, has a flow-down effect to health professionals and the public and this theme of ‘protein’ as a food group is common in the lay-press. One could mistakenly assume that those foods (meat, eggs, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts) are solely or predominantly protein; and that cereals, grains, tubers, potatoes, vegetables and dairy foods (which appear in different food groups) are thus low, inferior or poor quality sources of protein. Neither assumption is correct. Continue reading “Potato Protein Power”

Talking about fat …

 

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In food and nutrition “fat” or “fats” have various meanings:

  • Fat is a food nutrient.
  • Fats is a food group.
  • Fat is a component in the blood.
  • Fat is a description of body size.
  • Fat is a body tissue.

Confusingly, some writers mix these terminologies up. Even more confusingly, these various meanings of fat can be described by different words and in various ways.

Fat is a macro-nutrient in foods. The macro-nutrients are protein, carbohydrate, fat and (in adults) alcohol. Once digested and absorbed, macro-nutrients provide energy (kilojoules/ calories) to the body for use in various bodily processes. Fat has other functions in the body including cell membrane structure and transport of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats in food can be referred to as “lipids” where lipids are organic substances insoluble in water and soluble in organic solvents. Technically though, food-fats are a sub-class of lipids known as triglycerides. Triglycerides have a glycerol backbone with three fatty acids attached. The fatty acids can be saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Food lipids include triglycerides, phospholipids and cholesterol. (1)

Fats” as a food group includes solid fats (butter/ margarine) and liquid oils. This food group contain foods that are comprised almost entirely of fat (the macro-nutrient) with only tiny amounts of protein or carbohydrate (or none), and hardly any vitamins or minerals unless fortified. They are not whole-foods but rather extracted fats from whole foods; such as butter from milk, or olive oil from olives. They are generally not eaten as foods on their own but rather added to foods or used in cooking.

In the 1970s/ 1980s fats was one of the five food groups in Australia. Back then the five food groups were bread and cereals; vegetables and fruit; meat and alternatives; milk & milk products; and fats (butter or table margarine) (2). In the 1990s the five food groups had a major change and became bread & cereals; fruit group; vegetables, legumes; meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes; and (v) milk, yoghurt, cheese. At that time, it was considered nutrients in fats such as Vitamin A could be obtained from other foods, and fats as a separate food group was unnecessary (3).

The most recent (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines do not include fats as a nutritious food group. However, it considers foods with mainly unsaturated fats (spreads, oils, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado) may have ‘health benefits’ (4). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans similarly do not consider fats as a food group but includes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils (canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower) or whole-foods high in these fatty acids (nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, avocados) can form part of a healthy eating pattern (5). Thus, these more recent guidelines group some fatty whole-foods with liquid oils and do not simply group extracted fats.

Both these guidelines, as do many around the world, recommend dietary patterns lower in saturated fat.

Blood fats” are generally referred to as “blood lipids”. They move along in the aqueous environment of the blood attached to proteins as “lipoproteins”. It is postulated some lipoproteins may increase risk and others protect against risk of diseases such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The various lipoproteins doctors test for are described here.

Fat” as a description for body size is considered offensive and stigmatizing. I agree and therefore will not discuss it further in this post.

Fat” is a name for body tissue. There are three main types. Essential fat is required in small amounts in the bone marrow, vital organs, muscles and nervous system; as well as structural components of cell membranes. Storage fat (known as adipose tissue) generally accumulates sub-subcutaneously (under the skin). Ectopic fat accumulates in cells of non-adipose tissue that normally only have small amounts of fat. Accumulation occurs viscerally (around the abdomen) and also may deposit in or around vital organs including muscles, liver, pancreas, and the heart.

This distinction in body fat accumulation is critical as abdominal fat and ectopic fat are considered risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Sub-cutaneous fat does not bear the same risk. In fact the definition of “obesity by the World Health Organisation is when body fat has accumulated to the extent of having an adverse effect on health. Although body-weight is used as a guide on a population basis (6); for an individual, body-fat distribution is an important consideration. Some people of lower body weight can be at risk of disease (and therefore technically ‘obese’) if they have a tendency to accumulate fat around the abdomen or ectopically. A good guide is waist circumference. Recommendations for Australian adults can be found here.

In 2013 when I was going through my own weight / health / emotional crises … I began to ponder the connections between the different aspects of fat. How did food-fats relate to blood-fats … or body-fat … or disease risk … and why was there this change in food-group categorization where fats fell out of favour and have now come back? Most importantly, what consideration did they have for me as an individual?

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Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.
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(1) E Whitney, S R Rolfes, T Crowe, D Cameron-Smith, A Walsh. Understanding Nutrition. Australia and New Zealand Edition. 2nd Edition. Cengate Learning. 2014.

(2) Food For Health. National Food Authority. Commonwealth of Australia. 1991

(3) The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Background information for nutrition educators. Commonwealth of Australia. September 1998.

(4) National Health and Medical Research Council. Eat For Health: Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013.

(5) Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, 8th edition. US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. December 2015.Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf

(6) Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 16, 2016. Retrieved 21 November, 2018.

A false dichotomy – dietary guidelines and the other diet

Dichotomy (2)
A Dichotomy – Black or White.

A dichotomy is a division into two entirely different and often contrasting domains, interests or activities (1). Examples of true dichotomies are black or white. Tall or short.

A false dichotomy is an argument giving a false illusion of there being only two choices whereas in reality there can be at least one other or even many possibilities (2). The argument is set up in such a way as the first choice is eliminated due to it being seen as a terrible choice, and the only other alternative is the second choice.

Over the last decade dietary guidelines have come under attack. Arguments against them are often presented in the manner of a false dichotomy. These are the steps used in that line of fallacy: Continue reading “A false dichotomy – dietary guidelines and the other diet”