Chicken nuggets, burritos and other popular items consumers buy from fast food outlets in the United States contain chemicals that are linked to a long list of serious health problems, according to a first-of-its-kind study.
Researchers at the George Washington University and their colleagues bought fast foods from popular outlets and found 10 of 11 potentially harmful chemicals in the samples, including phthalates, a group of chemicals that are used to make plastics soft and are known to disrupt the endocrine system. The research team also found other plasticizers, chemicals that are emerging as replacements to phthalates.
“We found phthalates and other plasticizers are widespread in prepared foods available at U.S. fast food chains, a finding that means many consumers are getting a side of potentially unhealthy chemicals along with their meal,” Lariah Edwards, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scientist at GW, said. “Stronger regulations are needed to help keep these harmful chemicals out of the food supply.”
Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has a positive impact on health, but little is known about the effects of including unhealthy foods in an otherwise healthy diet. Now researchers at Rush University Medical Center have reported diminished benefits of a Mediterranean diet among those with high frequency of eating unhealthy foods. The results of their study were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association on January 7.
“Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains may positively affects a person’s health,” said Puja Agarwal, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College. “But when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished.”
A Mediterranean diet is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
The observational study included 5,001 older adults living in Chicago who were part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, an evaluation of cognitive health in adults over the age of 65 conducted from 1993 to 2012. Every three years, the study participants completed a cognitive assessment questionnaire that tested basic information processing skills and memory, and they filled out a questionnaire about the frequency with which they consumed 144 food items.
The researchers analyzed how closely each of the study participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish, potatoes and unrefined cereals, plus moderate wine consumption. They also assessed how much each participant followed a Western diet, which included fried foods, refined grains, sweets, red and processed meats, full-fat dairy products and pizza. They assigned scores of zero to five for each food item to compile a total Mediterranean diet score for each participant along a range from zero to 55.
The researchers then examined the association between Mediterranean diet scores and changes in participants’ global cognitive function, episodic memory and perceptual speed. Participants with slower cognitive decline over the years of follow-up were those who adhered closest to the Mediterranean diet, along with limiting foods that are part of Western diet, whereas participants who ate more of the Western diet had no beneficial effect of healthy food components in slowing cognitive decline.
There was no significant interaction between age, sex, race or education and the association with cognitive decline in either high or low levels of Western diet foods. The study also included models for smoking status, body mass index and other potential variables such as cardiovascular conditions and findings remained the same.
“Western diets may adversely affect cognitive health,” Agarwal said. “Individuals who had a high Mediterranean diet score compared to those who had the lowest score were equivalent to being 5.8 years younger in age cognitively.”
Agarwal said that the results complement other studies showing that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes and also support previous studies on Mediterranean diet and cognition. The study also notes that most of the dietary patterns that have shown improvement in cognitive function among older adults, including the Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH diets, have a unique scoring matrix based on the amount of servings consumed for each diet component.
“The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, olive oil, and fish into our diets, the better it is for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried food and low whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and faster cognitive decline in older ages,” Agarwal said. “To benefit from diets such as the Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, we would have to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.”
Cheese Consumption hits All-Time High; Americans Still Consuming Too Much Beef & Soda Despite Declines, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to regular readers that the CSPI gives a barely passing grade to the quantity and quality of food we are consuming.
Americans are eating too much of everything, and it’s not just how much, but what we eat, that needs work, according to a report card on the changing American diet published today in Nutrition Action Healthletter.The average American consumes about 2,500 calories per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. That’s up from about 2,000 calories a day in the 1970s. (my emphasis)
(Ed. note: CSPI is hosting a quiz about America’s Changing Diet. Take it now, if you like, since spoilers follow.)
We hear every day how important it is to eat healthy foods and not to junk up our systems with the many forms of junk foods available. It gets to feel like a cliche after a while. So, here is a graphic explanation of why you should eat healthy foods. Exactly what good does it do us to eat healthy foods?
Cookie lovers were marveling over a new triple stack Oreo announced last week, officially called the Triple Double Oreo. It looks a bit like a mini-layer cake, with three wafers of Oreo cookie sandwiched around two layers of cream, one vanilla, one chocolate.
Oreo’s, like so many sugar treats, can be addictive if you aren’t careful. They are the perfect snack to take one out and put the rest back in the bag and put the bag back in the cupboard. Don’t just keep eating them out of the bag. Oreos aren’t nutritious food, just tasty bites of junk food.
Oreo has been very good at coming out with new varieties in recent years to drum up more sales. There’s a red-cream-filled Christmas Oreo, for example, and of course the double-stuffed.
So, how many calories are in the new triple stack? One cookie is 100 calories, 8 grams of sugar (two teaspoons full) and 4 grams of fat, reports the Chicago Tribune. That’s not all that bad, if you can eat one or two cookies and stop. The chocolate chip cookies that Subway bakes in its stores, by way of comparison, are 200 calories each. So the Oreo’s aren’t as bad as a big chocolate chip cookie. But, remember, neither is very good for you.
Remember, we are still talking junk food here. There is minimal nutrition in one of these.
Cookies are calorie and sugar bombs, be especially careful around these new Oreo’s. Try a nice apple or other piece of fruit. A slice of cold pineapple is delicious and only 42 calories.