Vision and Memory Loss

Imagine that you’re a 75-year-old woman living in a small house with your 78-year-old husband.  You’ve been keeping the house for your husband all your married lives while he worked to support your family.  Now you’re retired and while you traveled some in your early retirement, both of you are tiring more easily and generally stay closer to home now.

Recently you’ve noticed your husband hasn’t been interested in doing the morning crossword or reading his beloved mystery novels, and you have to work harder to coax him to go out for your evening walk.  He used to like puttering in the yard but this year the shrubs are a bit overgrown and he forgets to put out the birdseed and shoo the squirrels away from the feeder.  What’s going on?

If you said he is depressed, you might be right.  He may also have early dementia.  However, when you take him to the doctor to address these concerns, please make sure the doctor does a quick vision and hearing screen too.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that vision loss is associated with a 2-3 times increased risk of cognitive dysfunction or dementia.

We know that children have trouble learning if they can’t see properly.  One important thing we as parents can do is make sure our children get their vision checked regularly.  Turns out it’s as important for us to make sure our PARENTS are getting to the eye doctor too!

Vision loss is unfortunately quite common in older adults.  Macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma become more common with older age.  Vision loss can come on gradually and be difficult to identify without regular eye exam.

Vision loss contributes to cognitive dysfunction by decreasing stimulation to the brain.  Adults with vision loss may be more cautious about (or frankly afraid of) travel or participating in more adventurous activities.  Also, vision loss makes activities known to protect cognitive function (like reading, doing puzzles and working with the hands) less enjoyable.

There are also nutrients that can help protect vision.  First, it is important to eat leafy green vegetables regularly.  These are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which may protect against the development of macular degeneration. 

Taking an eye health supplement in addition to a multivitamin may be helpful if a doctor identifies early signs of macular degeneration on exam.  A specific brand may be recommended by the doctor.

If you have older adults in your life, please make sure they are seeing the eye doctor regularly and maintaining their vision.  It makes a huge difference in quality of life and is likely to protect them from memory loss.

QUESTION: Do you have an older adult in your life with vision loss?  How has it affected them?


Celiac Disease And Pregnancy Complications

I can think of few things more heartbreaking than infertility, repeated miscarriage and losing a child at birth.  Women in my family and in my close circle of friends have struggled with pregnancy complications and I know how difficult and painful it is.

There is a glimmer of hope that was just reported in the journal Human Reproduction recently.  Researchers in Denmark found that women who have undiagnosed celiac disease are at higher risk for infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth.

The good news is that if these women are diagnosed and treated with a gluten-free diet, their risk of pregnancy problems goes back to normal levels.  Knowing about this link between undiagnosed celiac disease and pregnancy complications may help women achieve the pregnancies and families they have always wanted.

So what is celiac disease?  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating the protein gluten, found in foods containing one or more of four grains.  The four gluten grains are wheat, barley, rye and spelt.

Eating gluten causes a reaction that harms the lining of the intestine and interferes with digestion and absorption of nutrients.  It increases the risk of cancer of the small intestine. Gluten intolerance also is associated with disorders in many other body symptoms, including the brain, skin, joints and cardiovascular system.  Turns out celiac disease also appears to affect the reproductive system.

Celiac disease is diagnosed by a combination of blood tests and endoscopy, and is treated with a strict gluten-free diet.  Even accidental intake of tiny amounts of gluten can trigger the disease.

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance about 3 years ago and don’t know if I have celiac disease.  I might;  I’m not willing to eat gluten to confirm the diagnosis.  (Eating gluten-free can interfere with testing because antibody levels and changes in the intestine correct with avoiding gluten in the diet).

I probably have been gluten intolerant most of my life.  As I wrote before, major food intolerance (including gluten intolerance) is strongly associated with gallstone formation.  I had my gallbladder removed at age 19 because of gallstones.

Luckily I have not had any problems with fertility.  I was able to have my children when I wanted them and carried them without problems.  I want that for you and the women in your life!  If you or someone you love has been struggling with problems achieving and carrying a pregnancy please share this article with them.  Their doctor may not be aware of this newly reported link between celiac disease and pregnancy complications.

If you are considering getting pregnant please keep a few things in mind.  You need a prenatal vitamin BEFORE you are pregnant.  One that contains adequate amounts of folic acid, iron and iodine is crucial.  Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use any recreational drugs while trying to conceive.  Also, you must manage your stress because too much stress can affect fertility.  (Heck it affects everything else, why not that, right?)

Please click this link for several articles about nutrition and pregnancy.

QUESTION: Do you know anyone struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss?  Would this information help them?


How To Talk To Your Doctor

Have you ever had the feeling that you just weren’t communicating with someone?  Have you felt like you were talking but the message wasn’t getting through?

Sometimes it feels like that with my patients, and I’m sure they sometimes feel like that with me.  Today I’d like to go over how to talk to your doctor.

First of all, it seems to go without saying, but you must be honest and forthright with your doctor.  We need to know what’s REALLY going on.  We need to know what, where, when, how long, what makes it worse, what makes it better, and what you’ve tried for whatever symptom you’re having.  The more information, the better, and if we ask specific, detailed questions, answer as completely and honestly as you can.

Believe me, we’re not being nosy.  (Well, I’m not.  I can’t really speak for EVERYONE, LOL.)  If I ask if you have pain in your vagina when having sex, or if you lose your erection during sex, there’s a reason for my question.  If I ask about your sexual history and past partners, it’s because it impacts your health in a big way.

When talking about a chronic condition, we need to know what you’re doing at home to take care of yourself.  Are you exercising, are you smoking (and WHAT are you smoking?), do you check your blood sugar or blood pressure and how often.  Please don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.  I want to know the truth, because it impacts the advice I will give you.

One more thing to be aware of when talking with your doctor is that if we ask you to do something you are NOT willing or able to do, you have to speak up.  I have had patients seem to agree with me, then just never come back.  There is always something we can do to move closer to your goals.  If you can’t do one thing, we can do something else.

For instance, if you have a medical condition that is not under control, and I want to change your medication to X and you’re not comfortable with that, that’s fine.  We can change it to Y instead.  Not doing ANYTHING isn’t really an option, but there are a variety of things we can do.  We need to decide together.  And if medication X causes a problem, I definitely need to hear about it ASAP!

You and your doctor are a team.  If you don’t think your doctor is listening to you, call them on it.  If they aren’t helping you, make sure they understand clearly what the problem is and what your expectation is.  Don’t lose a good doctor because of communication problems!

It all comes down to trust.  You need to trust that I hear you and have your best possible health as my goal.  I need to trust that you will tell me the truth, both when I ask for it and when I haven’t asked but need to hear it anyway.  Especially if you think I won’t like it.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you can talk to your doctor?  Why or why not?


CBD Oil – Is It Legal?

Lincoln is a young patient of mine who suffers with a number of medical problems.  He sees a host of physicians who haven’t had much success in controlling his symptoms.  Lincoln finds it very difficult to manage his life day-to-day.  He has a history of addiction problems and recently confided that smoking marijuana helps with his pain, his anxiety and with sleep.

I’ve advised him that, particularly as an asthmatic, smoking marijuana isn’t a smart idea.  At his last visit, he was proud to tell me that he had switched to using marijuana edibles rather than cigarettes, and was looking into CBD oil.  He assured me that CBD oil was legal to use in all 50 states and that it did not contain THC so there were no concerns about drug testing.

Is this true?

Well, in a word, no.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right?  Cannabidiol (CBD) oil from cannabis is legal over-the-counter only in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and can be legally used by prescription in states that have legalized medical marijuana.  17 other states have CBD-specific laws, the list can be seen here on WebMD.

Hemp oil, which is legal, has only very small and inconsistent levels of CBD.  Most supplements don’t tell you what amounts of CBD are in them.  There’s a good reason for that.  According to the FDA, CBD oil cannot be sold as a dietary supplement.  Companies are hoping that by NOT labeling their products as containing CBD they will escape the FDA’s oversight.

I checked with Amazon and found a HUGE number of hemp oil supplements being marketed for reducing chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia and other symptoms.  THIS IS ILLEGAL.  As someone who markets supplements, I was cringing as I was reading the Amazon listings.  These companies are asking for HUGE fines from the FDA.

Another issue with CBD oil is that there is very little evidence that it works for anything.  The best evidence is for treating certain severe types of seizures, and in fact there is a formulation called Epidiolex which is working its way through the FDA approval process as a new drug.

There is only weak evidence for CBD oil helping anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, inflammation or any other problem in humans.  Some animal trials have been done but they are of limited use.

Also, testing of CBD oils from cannabis showed over 60% of products didn’t have the amount of CBD shown on the label.  Some had more, some had less.  Worse, 20% of tested products were contaminated with THC, which is psychoactive (causing the “high”) and potentially causing positive drug tests.  Those who must take random drug tests as part of their employment should not use CBD oils.

CBD oils are not perfectly safe either.  It is fairly common to have increased liver enzymes, and the products can interact with medications too.

In Ohio, medical marijuana has been legalized but the infrastructure isn’t in place with dispensaries and training for medical personnel yet.  Everything is targeted to be in place later this year.  Presumably at that point those who are trained to prescribe medical marijuana will also be able to prescribe CBD oil for those who prefer a treatment with no risk of intoxication or dependence.

In the meantime it is important to remember these points:

  • CBD oil use without a prescription is against the law in states without legalized medical marijuana, recreational marijuana use, or special state provisions.
  • CBD oil cannot be sold as a nutritional supplement by FDA regulations
  • Hemp oil, which is legal, has very inconsistent levels of CBD and cannot be marketed with drug claims (such as reducing anxiety or pain or fighting cancer)
  • There is no consistent evidence that CBD is effective for anything other than intractable seizures
  • CBD has side effects of its own and can interfere with medications

QUESTION:  Have you or someone you love tried CBD oil?  What was your experience?


Injury Deaths Rise For Kids And Teens

What is the leading cause of death for children and teens?

If you said accidents, you’re right.  Injury is the leading cause of death for children over 1 year of age.  This includes accidents, homicide and suicide.  A recent troubling report from the CDC states that injury deaths are now on the rise among our kids and teens.

It used to be that kids mostly died from infections.  Pneumonia, measles, polio, influenza, strep throat, the list goes on.  As we got better at preventing and treating these illnesses, injury deaths became the leading killer of kids and teenagers.

We’ve been doing better with injury prevention.  Better automobile safety measures like seat belts and air bags have helped tremendously.  Injury deaths fell by 35% between 1999 and 2013.

Then they started to trend up again.  Injury deaths rose by over 15% from 2013 to 2016 (the last year for which data is available).

Why is this on the rise again?  All injury causes of death rose, including accidents, suicides and homicides.  Suicides are typically underreported and may be mistaken for accidental poisonings (especially opiate overdoses).

From reading this report, I have 3 takeaway points.


We have to help our kids cope with stress better.  I’ve written before about kids’ mental health issues.  Adolescence is hard no matter who you are or where you live, but some teens struggle more with it than others.

I’ve talked with more than one terrified parent desperate to protect their child and help them get and stay well.  I’ve wondered more than once if letting a teenager walk out of my office meant an unacceptable risk that I’d never see their face again except in an obituary photo.

It is critically important that we develop effective, easily accessed, and affordable mental health and substance abuse services that are designed for children and teenagers.  Our kids are killing themselves and each other, and we have to help them!


My son is learning to drive right now, so I KNOW just how hair-raising it is to have an impulse-control-challenged video game player with a serious social media addiction behind the wheel!  (Just kidding, my son doesn’t do social media accounts.  Texting, yes.  Instagram or Snapchat, no.)

The death rate from motor vehicle accidents for teens 15-19 is almost 6 times that of kids 10-14.  In Ohio teens learning to drive must not only participate in extensive driver training but they must also spend 50 hours behind the wheel driving with their parent or guardian.

We very sadly had a traffic accident locally within the last few years where a teen driver had her car overloaded such that not every passenger had access to a seatbelt.  She was driving unsafely, lost control of the car and a teenage passenger was killed.  More laws would not have prevented this needless death, but it serves to illustrate that teens don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to behavior behind the wheel.


Homicide and suicide by firearms are both on the rise.  Homicides of male children and teens increased by 25% from 2013 to 2016.  Homicides of female children and teens increased by a whopping 72%.  Suicides by firearms are overwhelmingly more common with boys, but rising in girls too.

Adults who own guns must keep them locked up and secure.  This is both a legal and moral responsibility and makes intuitive sense, but I think adults sometimes are as prone to impulse control problems and delusions of immortality as their teenage counterparts.

As a parent myself, and as a physician that cares for children and teens, the rise in injury deaths over the last few years is very concerning to me.  I will be keeping an eye on future reports and passing on recommendations to help keep my and your kids as safe as possible!

QUESTION:  Why do you think the injury deaths are on the rise for kids and teens over the last few years?


Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

It’s summertime!  Time to play outside, hike and swim and sail and kayak and camp and do all the fun things you love to do outdoors.

Say you and your family travel to Michigan to go camping and kayaking.  You’ve spent the day playing in a beautiful meadow with your kids and as you’re changing your 3-year-old into her pajamas you find this in her armpit:



What do you do?  (Aside from panicking and calling the doctor, LOL.)

This is an Ixodes tick, commonly called a deer tick.  It is this species that transmits Lyme disease.  Luckily this particular tick has NOT fed from your toddler, so she is safe from Lyme disease.

What if it HAD fed and completed a blood meal?  Well, then it would look like this, with a swollen, grayish-blue abdomen:



In this case, your child would need to see the doctor to be treated with antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease.  Luckily Lyme is preventable if treated early.

What if you hadn’t noticed your child had a tick, if it had fed and dropped off?  Lyme disease begins with a bullseye rash that can be easy to recognize.



Sometimes it doesn’t look exactly like this, so if you’ve been out in the woods and see a rash, it’s reasonable to see the doctor to be checked out.  Here are some other examples of how it might look.



Along with the rash (which happens 70-80% of the time), patients generally develop fever, chills, body aches and other flu-like symptoms.  This usually happens a few days to a few weeks after the tick bite.

If not treated, Lyme disease can go on to cause swollen, painful joints (especially large joints such as the knees), neurological problems such as headaches, heart problems, eye problems, and other less common symptoms.

Even though Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, it’s much better to avoid tick bites and being infected in the first place.  If you’re going to be in the woods or in grassy areas near the woods (where ticks are likely to be found), wear long sleeves and long pants.  Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants so ticks will have a hard time getting to your skin.

After you’ve been outside where you might have been exposed to ticks, check your clothes carefully to remove any ticks.  Wash those clothes to get rid of ticks you might have missed.  Check your body carefully, especially the scalp and any skin folds (ticks like places that are warm, moist and dark).  Check every member of the family thoroughly, including four-legged ones.  Shampoo your hair to dislodge any hitchhikers.

Since a tick must take its blood meal before it can transmit Lyme disease, you have time to find and remove it.  If a tick doesn’t come off easily, put olive oil or another cooking oil on it.  They have pores in their shells that allow them to breathe.  They will let go before they suffocate.

Cleveland itself is not considered a high-risk area for Lyme disease, but we’re not far from areas that ARE considered high-risk.  This is projected to be a bad year for deer ticks and Lyme disease.



If you’re traveling it’s good to know how to stay safe!

QUESTION: Have you ever found a tick on yourself or a family member?


How To Help A Friend With Cancer

These are three of the most frightening words in the English language.  “You have cancer.”

My dear friend was just diagnosed with cancer.  As you can imagine, this is overwhelming and confusing.  In most situations, friends and family desperately want to help but it’s hard to find the balance between helping and hovering.

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, I was asked over and over, “How can I help?”  It’s difficult to know how to help a friend with cancer.

For those with cancer and their loved ones, it’s important to remember that they are too busy with doctor’s appointments, treatment options, financial worries and sleepless nights to think “Hey, I can ask Karen to bring dinner over,” or “I wonder if Tom could pick up the kids from practice tonight.”

No one WANTS to need help.   Most of us resist asking for help fiercely.  So if you have a friend that’s newly diagnosed with cancer, they need YOU to reach out and offer.  Here are a few suggestions from our experience.


If your friend is undergoing chemo, healthy nutritious food is often just too much trouble.  Offering to bring dinner is an incredibly kind way to take a small weight off.

For a cancer patient undergoing chemo, the sense of taste is often disrupted.  Food doesn’t taste good and nausea can be a big problem.  Simple nutritious foods, lightly flavored and spiced, are the best.

If you know your friend well and understand his or her food preferences, feel free to choose for him.  Otherwise it’s best to offer a small number of options.  “Hey Sharon, I’m going to bring dinner over for you tomorrow night.  I know chemo sucks and I’m not sure how your stomach is feeling.  Would you like some of my black bean soup and a salad, or maybe a pasta dish with chicken?”


All the little things that go into running a household are ten times harder to accomplish while undergoing cancer treatment.  Everyone can use help with cleaning, laundry, shopping and running the kids to and from their activities.

Again, remember that your friend is not likely to reach out and ask for help.  It’s up to you to offer.


One of the most important services you can provide for any cancer patient is prayer.  Studies have shown that third-party prayer improves health care outcomes.  No matter what your faith, prayer works and will help.

Encourage the cancer patient to stay active in their faith.  Offer to pick them up for services or reach out to the clergy at their congregation and ask for in-home ministry.  If your friend is hospitalized be sure to notify their congregation and let the nursing staff know to alert the hospital’s pastoral ministry department.  I know from personal experience how comforting it is to have a visit from a clergy member or lay minister while hospitalized.

If your family member or friend is diagnosed with cancer, it can be overwhelming to know what to do to help.  There are a number of simple, concrete things you can do to help a friend with cancer.  And remember to stay in touch.  Short phone calls can help reduce the isolation that cancer patients feel and remind them that they are loved.

QUESTION: Have you had trouble knowing how to help a loved one with cancer?  What was your experience?


Mental Health Care For Diabetics

Someone very dear to me has diabetes.  She has also been dealing with a lot of stress over the last year or so, and struggles with depression.  While her doctor has been trying to help her, there really aren’t a lot of resources available that specifically provide mental health care for diabetics.

Do you know anyone with diabetes?  Do they struggle sometimes with their mood?  If they seem depressed and anxious, they’re certainly not alone.  Up to 30% of diabetics are depressed at any given time, depending on how it is assessed.


Depression is a big deal for those with chronic illness.  Not only does it steal the fun out of life, but it plays havoc with motivation to keep up with behavior change.  Depression makes it really hard to eat right, to exercise, to take medication properly.

If a diabetic is struggling with depression there is definitely treatment available.  However, that treatment may be hard to find.  Ideally, the person or group treating the diabetes will be able to direct treatment for diabetes.

A group at the University of Massachusetts Medical School just published a study that showed that a lot of diabetes care clinics don’t have good access to mental health services.  Even the highest-ranked care centers didn’t have mental health professionals on staff.

Why is this?  The biggest reason is probably money.  Mental health services in this country are NOT a priority for insurance companies or the government.  Coverage is spotty and there are limits on the number of visits covered.

For a very common problem that has a huge impact on quality of life, limiting treatment is very shortsighted.  Depression impacts diabetics’ health in a number of ways.  For instance, diabetics suffering from depression have more complications, have a harder time controlling their blood sugars, are not as likely to take their medications properly and are more likely to die.

If you know and love a diabetic, make sure to keep an eye on their mood.  If they seem depressed, encourage them to talk to their doctor about it.  See if your loved one will let you go to a doctor’s visit with them.  This will give you an opportunity to talk directly to the doctor about your concerns.

If your loved one needs mental health services, the American Diabetic Association just launched a directory which you can access at this link:  This link is a searchable directory of mental health providers with experience in treating diabetics.

This directory is brand new and doesn’t contain a lot of names.  The nearest provider to where I practice outside Cleveland is 100 miles away :-/  But hopefully it will grow!

Be persistent in seeking treatment for depression and anxiety.  If you or a loved one has diabetes, treatment will certainly improve quality of life.  It may be the difference between life and death!

QUESTION: Is there a diabetic in your life suffering with depression?  What has been your experience in seeking treatment?


Fish Oil And Inflammation

Fish.  Everyone knows they should eat more fish, right?  Why is that?  Fish is good for your heart, but why?  And what kind of fish? Turns out FATTY fish intake reduces cholesterol and, more importantly, there is a strong link between fish oil and inflammation.

Seems I have been talking to EVERYONE this week about fish oil, diet and inflammation.  When a patient’s cholesterol is high I often check a profile called an essential fatty acid (EFA) panel which gives a nice peek into their diet.  Often I just get confirmation of what I already know – their diet stinks and we need to get to work ASAP!

Ultimately I really don’t care about an individual’s cholesterol.  I really don’t.  High cholesterol in and of itself is not a disease.  I care about their risk of OTHER diseases either directly related to the high cholesterol levels (like pancreatitis from super-high triglycerides) or for which high cholesterol is a marker (like heart disease).

High cholesterol is like the fire alarm going off.  When the fire alarm goes off, do you just go turn it off and go back to bed?  No, of course not, you go figure out what made it go off in the first place.  Find the fire, right?  When a person’s cholesterol is high, that means we need to go search for the fire, and an EFA panel is one of my first steps in hunting for the fire.

One of the calculations I can make based on the EFA panel is a quick-and-dirty check of overall inflammation levels in the body.  The ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is directly tied to inflammation in the body.  The higher the ratio, the higher the levels of inflammation.

Why do we care so much about this ratio?  Higher ratios are also associated with higher risk of heart disease, as reported in the Journal of Cardiology.

I tell patients (and my students) that over the next 10 years I believe we’re going to be paying much less attention to cholesterol and much more attention to inflammation.  Inflammation hurts the cardiovascular system over time.  It damages the insides of the artery walls and when they heal they scar, which causes plaque.

Arachidonic acid is a precursor for a lot of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules in the body.  EPA is a precursor for ANTI-inflammatory molecules.  So you want MORE EPA and LESS AA.

Where does EPA come from?  The richest dietary source of EPA is fatty fish, although it is also found in low levels in seaweed.  When I’m talking to patients I tell them there are 6 fish that are “fatty” fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and tuna.  (The mnemonic is SMASH-T.)  All other fish (like cod, whitefish, tilapia, catfish, etc) are meat and should be eaten sparingly, if at all.  The human body can make small amounts of EPA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is found in walnuts, seeds like flaxseed and chia seed, and canola oil.

What about arachidonic acid?  AA can be made from another essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, which in humans must come from the diet.  The only dietary sources of AA are animal foods like meat, dairy and eggs.

Here comes the question I keep expecting: Dr. Jen, you keep telling us that the healthiest diet is completely plant-based.  If we need EPA and the best source is fish (which are undoubtedly animals), why is a completely plant-based diet so heart-healthy?

That’s a great question.  First of all, scientists are still working on the “why” but there is no doubt that a completely plant-based, whole-foods diet is the best choice if your goal is overall health and avoiding heart attacks and strokes.  My patients who choose to try a plant-based diet find their blood pressure goes down, they feel better and they usually lose some weight.

My personal interpretation of current research is that if you give the body ALA and LA from plant sources, it will manufacture the EPA and AA that it needs for its purposes.  The ratio of AA to EPA will be low because the body won’t make extra AA.  However, if you eat a lot of meat you get a lot of AA from the diet and the body isn’t so much in control of how much is floating around.

The best choice for those who want to reduce their risk of heart disease is to eat NO animal foods at all.  Adding a small amount of fish oil as a supplement is good insurance to further reduce inflammation in the body.

If you have high cholesterol, ask your doctor to order an Essential Fatty Acid profile or a Boston Heart Diagnostics panel.  If it is coded with a high-cholesterol or high-triglyceride diagnosis code, it will almost certainly be covered by your insurance.The results should look something like what is shown at this link.  Calculate the ratio of arachidonic acid to EPA.  The goal is <3, an elevated level is >10 and a high level is >15.  I’ve seen it over 30.

Then look at the ratio of omega-3 to polyunsaturated fatty acids (w3:PUFA).  The healthiest people in the world have a ratio of about 50%, but we eat so many omega-6 oils in the USA that I’m usually content with a ratio of 15-20%.

The last thing to look at is the total saturated fat level.  If it is high you REALLY need to think about how much meat you’re eating.  The main sources of saturated fat in the body are animal foods (meat, dairy and eggs).  Palm kernel oil is found in many processed foods and is also a big dietary source of saturated fat.  Read your ingredient lists.  There is currently a big craze to eat coconut oil, which is also a rich source of saturated fat.  No research suggests adding more coconut oil to your diet improves health at all.

You are what you eat.  Your body is 100% created from the food and drink you put in your mouth.  Your health is 90% determined by lifestyle factors, mostly diet.  Now is the time to look at what you’re choosing to feed your body and make good choices.  It’s up to you!

QUESTION: Will you change your diet based on this information?


Less Saturated And Trans Fat Intake Recommended

What should we eat to be healthy?  This is the ultimate question that EVERYONE is trying to answer and nobody really has a good handle on it.

Our diets are getting worse and worse.  We are eating more processed foods, more convenience foods, more sugar and fat and salt.  Our risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer are climbing.  Our kids are the first generation that has a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The World Health Organization is intensely interested in these worrisome trends.  They are trying to analyze the confusing array of nutritional research coming out to make recommendations to help people all over the world live longer, healthier lives.

Recently the WHO came out with a report recommending less saturated and trans fat intake in the diet.  The goal is to reduce saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily total calorie intake, and trans fats to less than 1% of calories.

Saturated fat and trans fats are both largely found in animal foods.  Animal flesh from all species, eggs and dairy are rich sources of both saturated and trans fats.  While many people know to avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils which are added to processed foods to make them taste better, surveys suggest that trans fat intake from animal foods is greater than that from industrial sources.

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I recommend that the whole-foods plant-based diet is the healthiest diet for humans.  This type of diet has the best research showing reduced heart risk and reduced cancer risk.  It has been shown to decrease diabetes risk (a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cancer).  In fact, switching as little as 5% calorie intake from animal protein to plant protein reduced diabetes risk by 20-25%.  This translates to 25 grams of protein from plant sources rather than animal for someone who eats 2000 calories per day.

I get that not too many of my readers are going to switch tomorrow from a Standard American Diet to a whole-foods plant-based diet and never look back.  I’m about progress, not perfection.  Hey, my husband calls me “vegan-ish!”  I avoid animal foods as much as I possibly can but every once in a while I have ice cream or macarons for a treat.

So gradually substituting plant-based meals for ones with meat and dairy will reduce your heart and cancer risk.  Reducing animal foods to have less saturated and trans fat intake in the diet is a good step to take for improving your health.  You’ll feel better, and your body will thank you!

QUESTION: Do you try to reduce animal foods in your diet?