Monday, March 25, 2013

Obesity, Food Service & National Security.

Recently, an article was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that looked at the energy intake of soldiers serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The study utilized 10 military dining facilities on the base to determine, what, if any, effect the food service operation could have on energy intake at meals. Five of the dining facilities had no intervention, and the other five facilities had modest changes implemented at the serving stations. The changes included making fruit available at the dessert bar, an additional vegetable placed at the front of the entree line, a "stoplight" system for grading food items (choose often, choose sometimes, choose rarely) and making whole grains more available at sandwich lines.
Two follow ups were done, one at 6 months, and another 12 months after the changes were made. The researchers found that there were statistically significant decreases in the amount of total energy (calories) the soldiers consumed. Pretty cool, huh? What's even better -- 74% of soldiers at this particular base eat at least one meal per day at one of the military dining facilities.
It sounds simple enough. Make fruits and veggies more attractive, make sure people have access to fresh, healthy food, and they'll eat it. Right? Well, this is actually a pretty huge deal. Obesity in the general US population is at 48%, and the military obesity prevalence is 13% which is an increase from just 10 years ago. elevated body fat percentages for soldiers can impede promotion and award opportunities. Further, it can negatively impact military operational readiness. Scary stuff.
So I ask you, loyal readers, is obesity really a national security issue? This writer says yes. 27% of 17-24 year-olds are currently ineligible to serve as a result of overweight or obesity. Between 1995 and 2008, 140,000 recruits were unable to pass the entry physical for the military because of their weight. This number doesn't include persons who were turned away due to weight prior to the administration of the physical. An additional 1,200 solider are discharged each year for failure to maintain their weight, costing over $60 million annually in lost training costs -- that's $50,000 per recruit!
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-- Les, MS RD LD

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Miracle" Berries

Yesterday, Section D of the Orlando Sentinel had a pretty interesting article about a diet. A miracle diet.
As it happens, there is a berry which, when eaten, has the capacity to alter the way we perceive certain tastes, specifically, bitter and sour (acidic foods). What does the bitter/sour flavor change to? Sweetness. The process is simple, eat a Synsepalum dulcificum (or more commonly, miracle berry), and eat something bitter or sour within about 30 minutes. The berries are native to Africa, or you can purchase them as a tablet for about $1-2 apiece.
The logic behind the supposed diet miracle here is that by drinking lemon juice which is suddenly as sweet as lemonade without all the sugar, you will be able meet that sweet-tooth craving without the excess sugar and calories. Weight loss ensues. People rejoice. Right?
Not so fast. Remember, this the same logic that has been touted for years with artificial sweeteners. Get that sweet taste without the sugar and calories. The article mentions a University of Florida researcher who has been looking at the miracle berry since the 1970s. Her research indicates that tricking the mind into think it is getting a sugary treat without actually ingesting the calories can be harmful to the metabolism.
As it turns out, the body has an amazing capacity to adjust to what you eat to help you maintain your weight. One of these mechanisms recognizes "sweetness" and responds by ramping up the body's metabolism to help disperse the calories appropriately. By getting that sweet sensation without the calories, your body stops associating sweetness with calories. The result? Loss of satiation and satiety (fullness and satisfaction following a meal) which can lead to increased hunger. Additionally, eating the berries doesn't contribute to that fullness, and doesn't change the overall palatability of a food, which is linked with fat content.
So what's the take home? It's an interesting concept, and a great party trick. But remember, if it's a miracle, it's probably also a gimmick. Stick with what we know works -- balanced meals, wholesome foods, and all things in moderation.
The original article can be viewed here:,0,672596.story
-- Les, MS RD 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sleep & Weight Mangement

We live in a changing world. With the availability of smart phones, tablets and even home internet access, we are expected to be on call at all times -- ready to respond at a moment's notice. This increase in "screen time" may well be a decrease in "sleep time". So what does this really mean for our health?
We are seeing more and more research linking sleep cycles and weight management. So where's the relationship exactly? As it turns out, it is simpler than you might think! In a study released by Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), they found that insufficient sleep (what many people might consider a "weeknight"), consumed 5% more calories during the day primarily in the evening, and often after the evening meal. This may not seem like much, but if you consider a chronic condition of insufficient sleep, that excess energy can add up fast. After all, if it isn't used, it can lead to undesirable weight gain. In this study, it came to just over 1/2lb in a week. Over a year, this can total over 25 pounds!
Where's the link? Studies have shown that the extra energy consumption may be an evolutionary tactic to sustain wakefulness in times of reduced sleep. However, because food is more available now, the intake exceeds this excess energy need, leading to increased energy intake, and eventual weight gain. What's more? The study found that if you are already not getting enough sleep, just meeting your daily sleep need can lead to normalized intake, leading to modest weight loss, about 1/3lb per week, or about 17 lbs a year -- just by getting the rest you need every day!
There is no magic bullet for weight management, despite what the check-out aisle charlatans would have you believe. Balanced energy intake, adequate rest, and physical activity will help keep your body healthy for years to come! Take care of your body and it will take care of you!

For more information, the original abstract can be read here:

-- Les, MS RD 

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Thank you for stopping by to check out our new blog! The Registered Dietitians of Nutritional Guidance, Inc will be weighing in regularly with updates and information relevant to nutrition practice! We'll be providing our expert opinion on all things nutrition, including up-and-coming nutrition research and the latest "health crazes". You never know, maybe you'll even find recipe ideas using available, seasonal produce!

- Les, MS RD