Tag Archives: pizza

Unhealthy foods may diminish positive effects of an otherwise healthy diet

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.

Photo by Ana Madeleine Uribe on Pexels.com

“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.”


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Pizza study shows body copes surprisingly well with one-off calorie indulgence

A new study, which involved participants eating pizza well after feeling ‘full’ in order to test what immediate effects this had on the body, finds that our metabolism is surprisingly good at coping with over-indulgence.

Thick crust pizza in Chicago

Researchers with the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism at the University of Bath compared the effects of normal eating (i.e. ‘eat until you are comfortably full’) with maximal eating (i.e. ‘eat until you cannot manage another bite’).

They found that the young, healthy men (aged 22 – 37) who volunteered for the trial consumed almost twice as much pizza when pushing beyond their usual limits, doubling their calorie intake, yet, remarkably, managed to keep the amount of nutrients in the bloodstream within normal range.


Filed under calories, cardiovascular diseases, cardiovascular risk, diabetes, junk food calories, obesity, pizza

Eating Triggers Endorphin Release in the Brain

If we want to get control of our weight and our health we clearly need to engage our brain before we start eating because the food’s taste impacts our appetite and desire for more. As I wrote in the introduction to this blog nearly 10 years ago. “everything you eat and drink becomes a part of you …”

Recent results obtained by Finnish researchers from Turku PET Centre have revealed that eating leads to widespread opioid release in the brain, likely signalling feelings of satiety and pleasure.

Eating a delicious pizza led to significant increase of pleasant feelings, whereas consumption of calorie-matched nutritional drink did not. However, both types of meals induced significant release of endogenous opioids in the brain.


Opioids are associated with pleasure and euphoria. The study revealed that a significant amount of endorphins is released in the entire brain after eating the pizza and, surprisingly, even more are released after the consumption of the tasteless nutritional drink. The magnitude of the opioid release was independent of the pleasure associated with eating. According to the researchers, it is likely that the endogenous opioid system regulates both feelings of pleasure and satiety.

– The opioid system regulates eating and appetite, and we have previously found that its dysfunctions are a hallmark of morbid obesity. The present results suggest that overeating may continuously overstimulate the opioid system, thus directly contributing to development of obesity. These findings open new opportunities for treating overeating and the development of obesity, says Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Turku PET Centre.

– It was a surprise that endorphins are released in the entire brain and that the nutritional drink had a larger impact. This creates a basis for future research and hopefully we will find ways to study and describe the development and predictors of addiction, obesity and eating disorders, says Researcher, M.D., PhD. Jetro Tuulari.

The study was conducted using positron emission tomography (PET). The participants were injected with a radioactive compound binding to their brain’s opioid receptors. Radioactivity in the brain was measured three times with the PET camera: after a palatable meal (pizza), after a non-palatable meal (liquid meal) and after an overnight fast.

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Is Food an End or a Means for You? – Key Weight Loss Principle

I am nearing the end of my fourth year of blogging on health in general and weight loss in particular. In the beginning I had experienced a small amount of success, but the mental exercise of blogging on the subject sharpened my focus and really accelerated my progress. In 2010 I had my weight ‘down to’ 165 pounds which was my best weight in the past decade – down from over 220 pounds at my worst. So, I felt I had reason to feel good about myself.

Now, however, nearly four years later, I have my weight down to the low 150s. In addition, my cholesterol level is sub 200 with the key HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) reading at 85. I have less than 17 percent body fat and my waistline is 31 inches, the same as it was in high school. My resting heart rate is below 50 beats per minute. Clearly I have progressed positively.

One serving of pasta -200 calories - is about the size of a tennis ball.

One serving of pasta -200 calories – is about the size of a tennis ball. This is 200 calories without sauce.

What changed? A couple of things. The first is that I became conscious of portion size and portion control. As I wrote in a previous post, I used to think a ‘serving’ of pasta was a plate full. WRONG. A serving is about the size of a  tennis ball which amounts to around 200 calories – without pasta sauce on it. So, when I was eating a plate full of pasta, I was probably packing away 800 to 1000 calories. No wonder I could never lose weight. I learned that you need to pay attention to how much you are eating. That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t for me.  I was more focused on the pleasure of the food than its function – to keep me healthy.

Moving on from serving sizes, the next most important concept I learned in writing this blog is that I was considering food as an end in itself. That is, if I were having pizza, I would eat my fill of it – for the simple pleasure of enjoying how good it tasted. More was better. This is a road map for overeating.

Now that I am aware of portion sizes and calorie counts, I still love the taste of pizza, but I consume it totally differently. I enjoy a slice or two and genuinely savor the taste while not overindulging in the quantity. The pizza has become a means to an end – satisfaction of my hunger and replenishing my body with energy stores. It is no longer an end in itself.

I think getting this concept straight in your head will help guide you to eating well and intelligently without the kind of overindulgence that put me over 220 pounds and has resulted in our having 60 per cent of us overweight and 30 per cent outright obese. Another 10 percent has Type 2 diabetes, a preventable and ruinous disease that stems from inactivity and poor nutrition.

Since I have begun looking on food in terms of what it can do for me as opposed to simply how good it tastes, I find myself eating a lot more intelligently. I include more salads in my diet as well as a full complement of nuts and seeds which are wonderful energy, protein and fat sources that don’t clog my arteries. Regarding artery clogging, I am eating a lot fewer burgers, fries and steaks these days, too. It all adds up to less weight and better health.

As I wrote on my page How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off, everything you eat and drink becomes a part of you. If you think about it that way,  you might be more careful about what and how much you are eating.


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What are the Worst Junk Foods?

Pizza claims two spots by itself, according to RealAge.

“Cheese and pizza are the No. 1 and No. 2 sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. One slice of extra-cheesy pizza can contain as much as two-thirds of your daily saturated fat limit. Nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It, offers these tips to lighten up your pizza: Top it with veggies instead of pepperoni and sausage. While you’re at it, say “no” to breadsticks and “yes” to a side salad, and you’re on the way to preventing heart disease,” RealAge reported.

I thought those were some very good suggestions when ordering from the pizzeria regarding topping it with veggies instead of pepperoni and/or sausage. By all means dodge the breadsticks. Suggestions like that can take several hundred calories off the total, not to mention cutting down on the bad fats.


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Filed under calories, diabetes, heart, heart disease, heart problems, pizza, portion size, submarine sandwich, winter

Is it Bad to Eat Comfort Foods?

What are comfort foods? Wikipedia says, “Comfort food is food prepared traditionally, that may have a nostalgic or sentimental appeal, or simply provide an easy-to-eat, easy-to-digest meal rich in calories, nutrients, or both. Comfort foods may be foods that have a nostalgic element either to an individual or a specific culture.”

Comfort food is food that makes you feel good, for whatever reason. Clearly, one person’s comfort food is another one’s poison. It’s an emotional choice. I think it’s likely that junk foods will rate high on the comfort food list of most folks.

For me comfort foods include mac and cheese, burgers, fries and pizza. You can add your own to the list. But can we eat them if we want to control our weight?

This is a slice of Sbarro cheese pizza

I would like to single one comfort food out for this discussion. My favorite comfort food is pizza. Growing up, to go out for pizza was a special treat in a world far less affluent than now and my family was on the lower end of the economic curve. So, going out for pizza was truly a celebration type experience. The family was all together and were ‘out’ in a restaurant and someone brought food to our table. Also, I don’t know how much of this subjective, but I consider pizza to be absolutely delicious. Back when I had my weight problem, I ate pizza every week and lots of it at each sitting. It was a big contributor to my girth.
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Filed under calories, comfort foods, Weight

Chicago Pizza, a Great Temptation

Chicago is the home of deep-dish pizza. As someone who grew up in New York, I had never seen Chicago-style pizza before moving here in the late 1970s but I have fallen in love with it (although I still enjoy a New York thin slice when I’m back East).

Given all the stress in my office in recent days, I had started taking my team out for Friday lunches to relax a bit before our summer hours kicked in at the end of May.

I wrote a few weeks ago about our Italian beef odyssey. Our second trip was for Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano’s, one of the many fine Chicago purveyors of the special pizza.

After eating two slices, with knife and fork as is customary here, I wondered what calorie damage I’d just done to myself. My usual go-to site for calorie count info, DietFacts.com, didn’t have Giordano’s listed. But I did find it on another site, MyFitnessPal.com.
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Filed under healthy eating, life challenges, men and healthy eating, portion size