‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grass-Fed Beef: An Environmental No No

The always popular, always controversial discussion of beef resurfaced recently and I figured, why not chew the fat a little? Let's talk grass-fed vs conventionally raised beef, let's talk beef and nutrition. Let's steak a claim!

First off, allow me to remind readers that herein doesn't lie my opinion. If you're morally opposed to biting into Bessie the Cow, I understand, I'm purely sharing scientific findings. Feel free to moo'v along.

A new meta analysis based on 67 articles compared the nutritional composition of organic vs conventional meat. Here are the main points:
  • Organic meat has less saturated fat (the artery clogging kind) and also less monounsaturated fat (one of the "good" fats)
  • Total polyunsaturated fats ("good" fats) and omega 3 fats (also good) were estimated 23% and 47% higher in organic meat, respectively
The likely reason for the difference in fat composition is due to grazing/forage-based diets in organic animals.

So you're thinking, "we're done, that settles it, I'm only going to buy Bessie if she grew up organic and foraged". But wait, there's another aspect worth considering... The environment.
Contrary to popular belief, conventional beef has the lowest environmental impact across several parameters, and the lowest carbon footprint.
Am I crazy? Everyone and their dog says the opposite: Grass-fed is best, right? Not right, and I'm not crazy (well, maybe a little).
A pretty landmark study assessed the conventional (CON) system, compared it to the natural (NAT) system and the grass-fed (GF) system. Here's a summary of findings:
  • Days from birth to slaughter:
    • CON system - 444 days
    • NAT system - 464 days
    • GF system - 679 days (a conservative estimate on the lower end of the "finishing age" range which is actually 671-915 days)
    • See the implications of this below
  • A larger population is required in the GF system and NAT system to produce the same amount of beef as the CON system:
    • Pop size in the NAT system is 17.1% larger than CON
    • Pop size in the GF system is 77.5% larger than CON
  • More land is needed to support larger populations:
    • If all the beef produced in 2010 was by the GF system, the additional land needed would've been equivalent to 75% of Texas
  • Water consumption:
    • In the NAT system uses 17% more than the CON system
    • In the GF system uses a whopping 302% higher than the CON system
  • Carbon footprint (the big one!):
    • The NAT system's carbon footprint was 17.4% greater than the CON system
    • The GF system's carbon footprint was 67.5% higher than the CON system
So really, what the above boils down to is that the GF system and, to a lesser extent, the NAT system requires animals to live longer before being slaughtered. That means more feed, more water, more land, more grazing for those extra days. All that contributes to the greater carbon footprint seen above. To recap, the GF system is the least environmentally friendly system.
But I'm a dietitian, shouldn't I tell you to eat grass-fed beef because some research shows it's marginally healthier? I'm not that type of dietitian. There are some things that are bigger and more important than us, the environment is one of them.
Ideally westerners would eat much less meat and beef. Can I change the world? No. We need a societal/cultural shift to occur: Eat less meat, more plants, plant-based. If we all jump on that bandwagon, perhaps we could all eat grass-fed beef.
Well, I'd say "eat more leaf, less beef"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pregnancy: 10 Things to Think About When You're "Eating for Two..."

Sorry in advance for the click-baity title. However, since becoming pregnant myself, this article's been brewing inside me... Just like my future baby. I'm soo sick of hearing "oh, you can eat that, you're pregnant" when it comes to all manner of things like chocolate, cake, fried food, you name it. So here's why you might want to rethink that thought.

First, allow me to repaint this image for you: Your pregnant wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, best friend, etc, is growing a new life. They're feeding a developing brain and human, not a garbage disposal.
This idea that pregnancy is a free pass to eat whatever the hell you want is bull. I'm calling it. There's enough evidence to show that smoking and drinking are bad for pregnant women, right? Well, you know what? Here's some evidence that shoving copious amounts of cake, candies, caramels, corn dogs, and cookies down your pie hole whilst pregnant isn't all that different.

A recent CDC report stated that 47% of pregnant women in the US gain too much weight whilst pregnant. Ok, so here are the 10 things you should think about when you're reaching for your 6th Snickers bar with the convenient excuse of "it's fine, I'm pregnant"...

Thing 1
Research shows gaining too much weight during pregnancy (or being obese prior to becoming pregnant) increases your child's risk of obesity. No one wants to predispose their child to obesity and the slew of health problems that accompany it like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc, etc.

Thing 2
Along that same vein, high total fat and/or visceral fat in mothers in their first trimester is an independent predictor of dysglycemia (abnormal levels of sugar in the blood that can lead to gestational diabetes). No, that doesn't mean your baby will be extra sweet.

Thing 3
Following on quite nicely is that a combination of pre-pregnancy obesity and maternal diabetes showed an increased risk of autism and other intellectual disabilities in children. Yes, you are building and feeding a human brain, take some responsibility.

Thing 4
Women with gestational diabetes (a condition during pregnancy where blood glucose levels are abnormally high) were more likely to have a larger baby at birth, and that baby is at greater risk of being overweight/obese at 7 years old. No, a big baby doesn't mean a healthy, well nourished baby... Read thing 5.

Thing 5
Women who are overweight or obese during pregnancy have increased risk of depression and delivery complications. Given what you just read in thing 4, this is because overweight/obese mums are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, which leads to larger babies at birth. Larger babies are more difficult to deliver vaginally (1, 2) - think: Large basketball, small hoop (I know you loved that analogy.)

Thing 6
High blood glucose levels/gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also associated with heart defects in babies. Good news: A healthy diet during pregnancy reduces risk of heart defects. More good news: Gestational diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels are easily prevented and managed.

Thing 7
Research shows a woman's diet while pregnant impacts her baby's body composition at birth and later in life. Meaning, a poor diet during pregnancy may lead offspring to carry more visceral fat (the dangerous abdominal kind) and again, be predisposed to the chronic diseases listed in thing 1.

Thing 8
The amount and ratio of omega 3 vs omega 6 fatty acids plays an important role in brain development. A recent mouse study found that both diets high in omega 6, and low in omega 3 fatty acids caused abnormal brain development and lasting effects on an offspring's mental state (eg: anxiety). More research is needed, but ladies... think "hook, line, and sinker"...Eat fish! More on that here and here.

Thing 9
A diet high in junk food during pregnancy changes a baby's brain chemistry. It decreases sensitivity to the joys of fatty/sugary foods, meaning those kids need to consume more of those foods to feel satisfied. More junk food means more calories, means more weight gain... Chronic illnesses listed in thing 1.
Thing 10
Women who ate high junk food/high fat diets during pregnancy had higher instances of children with behavioural problems.

So to recap:
  • Lots of junk food during pregnancy predisposes your baby to a slew of health issues
  • If you're eating a lot of junk food, you're missing out on important nutrients that help grow and nourish a human
    • No, you cannot fix everything by taking your prenatal vitamin
    • We've talked about vitamins a-plenty, and yes, while they are necessary to supplement certain nutrients during your pregnancy, they do not "make up" for or "reverse" your crappy diet
Now you're wondering how much weight you should gain? These recommendations are given by pre-pregnancy BMI:
  • Underweight (BMI <18.5) gain 28-40lbs
  • Healthy/normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) gain 25-35lbs
  • Overweight (BMI 25-29.9) gain 15-25lbs
  • Obese (BMI >30) gain 11-20lbs
Final parting message from one preggo to another: Look at pregnancy as a reason to better yourself and your diet, not an excuse.