Archive for July, 2012

Should you check food labels when traveling?

Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

As people travel for summer holidays, they often find themselves eating out more than when at home. This can be a challenge for many who are on restricted diets (e.g. gluten free diets), for those who are trying to manage a specific condition (e.g. high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) or for people who are trying to lose weight.

As people become familiar with the nutritional information detailed on labels of specific products, or on the menus at specific restaurant chains (e.g. Subway), they tend to make consistent choices. For example, they order the sandwich from the same restaurant chain that they ‘know’ is low in salt. But, is it ok to rely on one’s knowledge of brands when traveling outside of Canada (i.e. is it a given that a food has the same nutritional content across geographical areas?) To answer this question, Dunford et al. (2012) looked at the reported levels of salt in fast foods in six different countries (Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States).

The researchers found that there was great variability in the salt content of specific products in different countries. For example, Chicken McNuggets had 2.5 times more salt in McDonald’s restaurants in the United States as compared to those in the United Kingdom.

While researchers did not look at other nutritional information (i.e. calories, total fat, saturated, unsaturated and trans fat, etc.), it is possible that quantities of other nutrients also vary across and between countries. These variations can be explained by health initiatives that are put in place on a national, regional or city wide level (e.g., both the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency and the New York City Health Department have put forth initiatives to reduce salt).

Thus, what should you do? Remember to continue to check nutrition labels while traveling, even if it is a product that you normally consume as part of your healthy diet.

In my practice, I spend time with patients counselling them on nutrition and on how to properly read food labels.

I am a Naturopath in downtown Ottawa. For more information on food label reading, nutrition, high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, weight loss, Naturopathic Medicine, or to book an appointment, please call 613-290-6115.

Fasting – Does fasting affect subsequent meal choices?

Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Fasting for short periods of time is common in our society. People may fast for religious reasons, to prepare for blood work (lab tests) or surgery, for weight loss or to control weight, as part of a detox, or due to skipping meals because of lack of time. But what effects does fasting have on subsequent food choices? A literature search using Pubmed revealed the following recent studies on the subject:

  • A study by Wansink and colleagues in the June 25th, 2012 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine. In this study 128 participants were recruited and randomly assigned to two groups. The first group was instructed not to eat or drink for 18 hours prior to the study – a lunch which took place at 12 pm. The second group was told not to fast and continue to eat their normal diet. A buffet consisting of 2 starches (dinner rolls and French fries), 2 proteins (chicken and cheese), 2 vegetables (carrots and green beans) and a beverage was presented to small groups of participants. Participants served themselves and the food that they chose was recorded by video cameras and weighed. Any food left over on participants’ plates was weighed at the end of the meal. In addition to the scales and video camera, participants completed a questionnaire after lunch in which they provided information on their food consumption prior to lunch (i.e. if they had fasted), and on the order that they had first tasted or eaten the foods that they had for lunch.

    The researchers found that those who fasted started their meals more often with high calorie foods (e.g. starches and protein) than those who did not. Also, participants tended to eat more of the food that they started with. Thus, if this was a starch, they ate more starches than if they had started with a different food.

  • Read the rest of this entry »

Caffeine – Does it protect against skin cancer?

Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

An interesting article was published in the July 1st issue of the journal Cancer Research. The researchers looked at coffee and caffeine consumption to determine if caffeine intake reduces the chances of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC) (a type of skin cancer).

Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study (72,921 women) and the Professional Follow-up Study (39,976 men), researchers reviewed 112,897 questionnaires detailing participants’ lifestyles, diet and medical history. Researchers found that those who drank more than 3 cups/day had the lowest risk of developing BCC – reducing their relative risk by 17% (compared to those who drank less than 1 cup of caffeinated coffee per day). This positive effect was seen in both men and women (with women having slight additional benefits from greater caffeine intake).

Caffeine consumption in participants was primarily from coffee (78.5%), followed by tea (18%), cola (3%), and chocolate (0.5%). Reduction in risk of BCC was seen regardless of the source of caffeine. Moreover, caffeine appeared to be the source of the protection against the development of BCC, as consumption of decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decrease in BCC risk. In contrast to the benefits of caffeine on BCC, it did not appear to have an effect on lowering the incidence of either squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma.

For more information on caffeine and BCC, click here for a link to the study, and for more on sun safety please click here.

Graham Beaton is a Naturopath practicing in Ottawa. For questions or to schedule an appointment, please call 613-290-6115.