Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We made a top 50 list!

Wow, it's been awhile since I posted...I've been busy with another blog. I look forward to more regular posting here soon!

In the meantime, I just received word that we received inclusion in a "top 50" list of dietitian blogs. I consider that a wonderful compliment, given the number of blogs out there focusing on nutrition.

If you'd like to read and learn more about our colleagues, here is the link to the list:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Omega-3's in a Powder: You Saw It Here First

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to share an article you may have seen on MS-NBC.

The main ingredient in our sponsor's Omega-3 Brain Booster is the Ocean Nutrition product featured in this article. If you'd like to try it, you will receive a 10% discount on your first purchase if you click this link and use the coupon code "neuron" when you order.

I was thrilled to see this article and to know we'd brought this information to all of you long before MS-NBC had even heard of it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Stresses You Most--Your Weight Or The Economy?

This request comes from good friend Marsha Hudnall, up in beautiful Vermont.

If you have a moment and some inclination take the survey and share with friends/colleagues/whatever.

We're trying to get as many responses to our survey as possible, and one way to do that is to get other blogs to mention it. Would you consider asking your readers to take the survey, or sending it to people you know?

What creates the most stress for you -- your weight or the economy? Please take our survey.


Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, CD
Green Mountain at Fox Run
a women's retreat for healthy living without dieting

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In honor of National Registered Dietitian Day

Today, my post is devoted to a special project promoting registered dietitians. I am cohosting, with dietitian Renata Mangrum, the first-ever Registered Dietitian blogfest, aimed at showcasing to the Internet-surfing public the many things dietitians do and can do to help you with your quest for help. Listed below my entry is a list of links to other blogs written by other dietitians that you can visit to see the many things my friends and colleagues do within this profession.

I started this blog when I noticed, over time, that a vast amount of research regarding the relationship between nutrition and mental health existed in the National Library of Medicine database...but it wasn't making it to the public. My guess is that is because nutritional answers to brain and nervous system problems are not nearly as profitable to spend money marketing as medications.

That doesn't mean there is not a need to get this information to where it is needed--the screens of blog readers like you!

I was surprised and excited to see how quickly blog traffic to this publication grew. One of my favorite things to do is to read research and find items to share with all of you.

I can't think of anything better I could be devoting my work and my career to. I hope you enjoy our blog...and I hope you enjoy getting to know some of the many colleagues participating in our blogfest today!

Warmest regards,

Monika M. Woolsey, MS, RD

Monday, March 9, 2009

No, fish oil isn't as multipurpose as's still about overall lifestyle

I am devoting this blog post to my friends who think I've gone fish oil overboard! I write and talk about fish oil so much, it seems, they've gotten the impression that maybe I've forgotten about all of the other things that determine health. One of my neighbors constantly teases me about the fact that I believe in and promote fish oil like the guy who uses Windex for everything in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Colleague Karen Siegel (Houston registered dietitian and licensed acupuncturist) sent me the following article.

Note that the recommendations at the end of this quote are the same recommendations commonly made for diabetes prevention--and you HAVE seen in this blog, that I have written on the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

It's not that I think fish oil can replace a healthy lifestyle, it's that I see so many people who pretty much have the right idea, and not balancing omega-3's is the piece that keeps them from being completely on the right train.

Though I do believe fish oil is important, this article perfectly sums up how I do feel: by no means is fish oil a "bad habit eraser"! You've got to live a healthful life, and when you do that, fish oil may help decrease your health risk.

Oh, BTW, that neighbor who teases me? She told me the other day she secretly went to Costco and got the pills...and her hair and nails have started to become longer and stronger.

Dangour AD, Allen E, Elbourne D, Fletcher A, Richards M, Uauy R. Fish Consumption and Cognitive Function among Older People in the UK: Baseline Data from the Opal Study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2009;13(3):198-202.

A UK study has cast doubt on claims that eating oily fish can protect against dementia in old age.

Data from a trial of more than 800 older people initially showed that those who eat plenty of oily fish seem to have better cognitive function.

But factors such as education and mood explained most of the link.

Researchers need to clarify what, if any, benefits fish oil has on the ageing brain, they wrote in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in diet as a way of preventing dementia.

It's not at all clear that healthy older people get any benefit from eating fish oil

Dr Alan Dangour, study leader
Much focus has been on omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel.

And there are biological reasons, backed by tests in the laboratory, why in theory, these fatty acids would be neuroprotective.

The latest study found a significant association between eating a couple of portions of fish a week and better scores on tests of cognitive function.

But when the researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took into account education and psychological health the association almost disappeared.


Experts advise eating a couple of portions of fish a week, with at least one being an oily fish, because there are proven benefits on the heart.

Study leader Dr Alan Dangour said claims about the benefits of oily fish in warding of dementia in older people seemed to have been oversold.

"The evidence on this has always been sporadic.

"What this shows is there is a link between people who eat oily fish and better cognitive function, but if you adjust for education and mood this relationship goes, so it's not at all clear that healthy older people get any benefit from eating fish oil."

The evidence collected by Dr Dangour was for a study due to report later this year comparing fish oil supplements with placebo.

He added that this randomised, controlled study should provide clarification.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "One of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia is by eating a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, fish and poultry.

"However, we still do not know which components of this sort of diet help the most.

"Unfortunately this study does not add to our understanding.

"Once age, sex and education are accounted for the research does not show any significant benefit of regularly eating oily fish."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Why weight loss experts fail their clients--Part 2

I am a little behind on this post, it's been a busy week!

I wanted to continue with part 2 of a series on why weight loss experts fail their clients. In my first post, just below this one, I described a study looking at brain changes that happen in the presence of depression.

One finding was that the prefrontal cortex, important for memory retention and coordination of complex behaviors, was compromised.

And what are dietitians notorious for doing? Handing over, in a one hour session, a volume of handouts as thick as Tolstoy's War and Peace, full of do's and dont's and calorie counts and exchanges and label reading information. And then they wonder why the client didn't return for a follow up visit.

I will never forget the client who shared with me that he sometimes made two lunches, not because he was hungry for lunch #2, but because he forgot he'd even eaten lunch #1 until he went to put lunch #2's dishes in the sink and encountered remnants from lunch #1.

Yes, it's sometimes that simple. Yet, the dietitian who even takes the time to ask about memory is a rare one.

Reasons for memory issues with depression, in addition to decreased blood flow, include loss of neurons in the hippocampus, another memory center, and low levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is an essential component of brain matter.

If those issues are not accounted for and accommodated in a treatment plan, guaranteed your clients are at great risk for dropping out of treatment. Maybe even not remembering appointments they had made, if they actually did want to return.

Another brain center with compromised function with depression is the anterior cingulate, responsible for executive, evaluative, cognitive, and emotional functions, as well as learning and problem solving, error detection, motivation, and emotional modulation.

So if you're a dietitian trying to use the intuitive eating approach and you have a client who can't evaluate how they feel, decide what to do with how they feel, set boundaries in situations that trigger feelings that trigger eating....just how far are you going to get with your approach?

And you know what we do when clients don't do what we think they should? We diagnose them with mental health issues, refer them out, and potentially set them up to be prescribed medication that only exacerbates their metabolic and weight issues.

Just think about it over the weekend. I'll be back next week with a way around this dilemma that may actually help the client to get better and leave the dietitian less frustrated.

Elizabeth Sublette M, Milak MS, Hibbeln JR, Freed PJ, Oquendo MA, Malone KM, Parsey RV, John Mann J. Plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids and regional cerebral glucose metabolism in major depression. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Jan;80(1):57-64. Epub 2009 Jan 6.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The American Heart Association Needs to Check Its Omega-3 Math

I have heard the following recommendations made by the American Heart Association repeatedly for years now. And I hear them parroted everywhere by well-intended medical experts who, it seems, did not stop to check the math on which the recommendations are based:

Population Recommendation
Patients without documented coronary heart disease (CHD)
Eat a variety of (preferably fatty) fish at least twice a week.
Include oils and foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid (flaxseed, canola
and soybean oils; flaxseed and walnuts).

Patients with documented CHD Consume about 1 g of EPA+DHA per day,
preferably from fatty fish. EPA+DHA in capsule form could be
considered in consultation with the physician.

Patients who need to lower triglycerides 2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per
day provided as capsules under a physician's care.

Patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from
capsules should do so only under a physician's care. High intakes
could cause excessive bleeding in some people.

Evidence from prospective secondary prevention studies suggests that
taking EPA+DHA ranging from 0.5 to 1.8 grams per day (either as fatty
fish or supplements) significantly reduces deaths from heart disease
and all causes. For alpha-linolenic acid, a total intake of 1.5–3
grams per day seems beneficial.

I couldn't sit back anymore. Ellen Reiss Goldfarb, RD, a member of my inCYST Network for Women With PCOS collaborated with me on hopefully setting the record straight. We hope it helps, especially to get a mathematically-correct set of recommendations out to the public so they can go grocery shopping with a better sense of empowerment.

Regarding the omega-3 recommendations recently discussed, you all may want to consider that there are several contradictions within that make it very difficult (maybe even impossible) for the average American to follow them. As dietitians, it is important that we understand this math so that we help, not confuse or hurt, people who look to us for advice.

First of all, we are telling people that they are not to eat more than 3 grams of omega-3's per day unless they are under a physician's care. However, if you try to get 1.8 mg of combined EPA + DHA combined, in the form of food first, 3 ounces of Alaskan salmon, which contains 384 mg of EPA plus DHA, would have to be eaten in a DAILY QUANTITY OF 14 ounces in order to get there. Are you really saying that if you're eating enough fish to get the amount of omega-3's we recommend, that the MD has to manage it??? You are unnecessarily putting yourself out of business if you are!!!

Secondly, given those numbers for salmon, the densest seafood source of omega-3's, there is no way eating fish just a few times a week is going to get you to the level of omega-3 intake these recommendations are making. It is so frustrating watching colleagues parrot these recommendations and wondering if we're the only ones who've actually sat down and done this math..

We also went to three popular fish oil brands and calculated out how many pills you would need to get the upper level of DHA + EPA recommended. Two of those, Nordic Naturals and Carlson's, if taken at the level needed to get there, would also place your client at levels you say a physician needs to manage.

Realistically and honestly, how many of you are really doing that?

With regards to bleeding, in all of our collective years actively recommending fish oil, only one client encountered a bleeding problem. The people at greatest risk for that are people who are on medications such as coumadin...and if you work closely with a physician who "gets it"--the dose of that medication can be dropped as EPA levels rise and help normalize blood clotting function. Always start low, titrate up, look closely for symptoms in people not on contraindicated medicatoins and let the MD check blood levels in people who are...and work very hard to minimize omega-6 intake. You'll get a lot more bang out of your omega-3 buck if you focus on the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio than if you only think about one.

If you don't know how to use omega-3's to promote health, you may actually CREATE health risks for your clients, which I don't think any of you want to do.

Here are the numbers from our calculations for your reference.

EPA + DHA, total mg
3 ounces salmon 384 mg
Nordic Naturals 550 mg
Carlson's 500 mg
Barlean's 600 mg

Total omega-3 content
3 ounces salmon 3250 mg
Nordic Naturals 690 mg
Carlson's 600 mg
Barlean's 780 mg

Amount needed to meet n-3's needed to meet upper DHA + EPA recommendation/total omega-3 content of that amount
3 ounces salmon 14 oz DAILY/15.2 total gms n-3
Nordic Naturals 3.27 capsules/3.6 gm total n-3
Carlson's 3.6 capsules/6.0 gm total n-3
Barlean's 3.0 capsules/2.3 gm total n-3

Monika M. Woolsey, MS, RD
Ellen Reiss Goldfarb, RD