Unit 1: The Nutrients
Sugar Isn’t Just Empty, Fattening Calories—It’s Making Us Sick, Robert Lustig, The Conversation, 2016
Pediatric endocrinologist, Robert Lustig, challenges the assumption that “a calorie is a calorie” and that overeating any food causes chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He describes the research that suggests that diets high in sugar are the culprit, not simply overeating any food.
Paranoia about Fats Is Driven by Junk Science, Jill Richardson, AlterNet, 2013
Since the 1960s, Americans have become increasingly confused about fat. We were told to stay away from any saturated fat and were encouraged to use shortening and margarine. But was this advice based on sound science? Jill Richardson questions the science and traces the ever-changing recommendations about dietary fat and recommends the right balance of omega-3 to omega-6.
Role of Multivitamins in Filling Nutrient Gaps, Elizabeth M. Ward, Today’s Dietitian, 2016
Some health professionals say that most people do not meet all their daily vitamin and mineral requirements through food and could improve their health by taking a multivitamin supplement. This article discusses micronutrient insufficiencies among the adult U.S. population and focuses on certain groups that are at particular risk of under-consuming vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin K2: A Little-Known Nutrient Can Make a Big Difference in Heart and Bone Health, Aglaée Jacob, Today’s Dietitian, 2013
Vitamin K does more than function in coagulation, especially vitamin K-2 (menaquinon) the form of the vitamin that is produced by bacteria in the gut. (Vitamin K-1 [phylloquinone] is derived from plants). Recent research focuses on vitamin K-2 and its roles in bone and heart health.
Antioxidants: More Is Not Always Better, Consumer Reports on Health, 2013
Antioxidants are powerful nutrients and can work for or against you, depending on the amount you consume. Do we need to eat pomegranates, blueberries, and kale to get our daily dose of antioxidants or are supplements just as good? Are all antioxidants vitamins—or are all vitamins antioxidants? These and other questions are discussed in this selection.
Athletes and Protein Intake, Densie Webb, Today’s Dietitian, 2014
Protein requirement of athletes is one of the most debated topics between registered dietitians and athletes. In this article, dietitian Denise Webb provides her opinion on the best types of proteins for athletes, how much they should consume, and the best time to eat proteins.
Unit 2: Diet and Health
Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Frequently Asked Questions, Agata Dabrowska, Congressional Research Service (CRS), 2016
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have been released every five years since 1980. This report describes why the DGA are important to Americans and the history of why and how the DGA are developed. A concise table that compares the 2010 DGA to the 2015-2020 DGA is included.
A Dip in the Genes Pool: What You Can—and Can’t—Learn about Your DNA, David Schardt, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2016
Senior Nutritionist for Center for Science in the Public Interest describes his experience with the results from his “23andMe” genetic test. He outlines the results that have been found to be accurate and those that he considers questionable.
Everything You Need to Know about Poop, Melissa Dahl et al., New York Magazine, 2016
“Poo is no longer taboo” claim the authors of this article. They consider that the 2010s have turned out to be the “golden age of crap science.” The authors describe how to donate your poop to people suffering from Clostridium difficile and provide a list colon cleansing salons in NYC. They also discuss “foods to help you go” for those who prefer to correct constipation the natural way.
Some of My Best Friends Are Germs, Michael Pollan, The New York Times, 2013
Michael Pollan describes his experiences as a participant in the “American Gut” project, a national initiative to identify the number and strains of bacterial species that reside in a person’s gut. He describes the benefits of bacteria (also known as probiotics) and how a diet based on unprocessed or lightly cooked plant foods serve as a food (prebiotic) for the bacteria.
Eat to Treat, Emma Young, Mosaic, 2016
Does Dr. Mark Hyman’s claim that you can cure all health problems and lose 10 pounds in 7 days by following his “detox” diet really work? Award-winning health writer Emma Young is intrigued by the idea but skeptical that following Hyman’s detox diet will cure her type-2 diabetes. In her story, Young describes her experiences of being a patient at Hyman’s UltraWellness Center and how she felt after following his diet.
Insulin Resistance, Rita Carey Rubin, Today’s Dietitian, 2013
Insulin resistance appears to play a role in the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). While much remains to be discovered about the exact causes of the condition, this selection reviews the current theory and research regarding the condition’s etiology and major risk factors as well as the role it may play in the development of diabetes and CVD.
Sugar Belly: How Much Is Too Much Sugar? Bonnie Liebman, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2012
Research supports the link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, gout, and weight gain. Added fructose has been tied to increased levels of triglycerides in the blood, decreased fat oxidation, increased LDL cholesterol, increased uric acid in the blood, and an increase in visceral fat.
Be Kind to Your Kidneys, Gary Curhan, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2014
Kidney disease is a problem, especially among older adults. This article describes what the kidneys do, outlines the prevalence and causes of kidney disease, and discusses ways to protect your kidneys.
Soothe the Fire in Your Belly, Consumer Reports on Health, 2012
More than 50 million people in the United States experience heartburn at least once per month. What a person eats can contribute to the unpleasant symptoms of this condition. Often people get temporary relief from over-the-counter medications; however, if the condition persists, it may mean that a more serious chronic condition is occurring.
Soyfoods and Heart Disease, Virginia Messina, Today’s Dietitian, 2016
Recent research suggests a link between eating soy and lower risk of heart disease. The benefits appear to be related to the generous amounts of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in soy and the isoflavone content. The article includes a table with the protein, fatty acid, and isoflavone content of various soyfoods.
Unit 3: Obesity and Weight Concerns
Stress and Weight Management, Monica Lebre, Today’s Dietitian, 2016
Are the comfort foods that we crave during times of stress the cause of our expanding waistlines? Dietitian Monica Lebre explores the relationship between stress and obesity. She describes the differences between acute and chronic stress and discusses the effects that adrenaline and cortisol have on appetite.
Why the Calorie Is Broken, Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley, Mosaic, 2016
Calories consumed minus calories burned: it’s the simple formula for weight loss or gain. But dieters often find that it doesn’t work. Graber and Twilley trace the history of how the caloric content of foods is determined and question accuracy of the methods used to calculate the number of calories our foods provide.
The Eating Disorder You’ve Never Heard of, Karen Lindell, The Fix, 2014
“Diabulimia” is the name given to people with type I diabetes who tamper with their insulin doses in an effort to lose weight. Many clinicians call it “ED-DMT1,” the dual diagnosis of an eating disorder and diabetes. Although the condition is not officially considered a medical or psychiatric disorder, the condition is a growing problem.
Can Skinny Fat Beat Obesity? Philip A. Rea, Peter Yin, and Ryan Zahalka, American Scientist, 2014
Two new discoveries may help determine the relationship between obesity, diet, and exercise. The first is beige fat, an intermediate between brown and white fat. The second is the hormone irisin, which is produced after exercise and thought to have the ability to help maintain body weight, improve cognition, and slow aging.
My Anorexic 9-Year-Old, Kristi Belcamino, Salon, 2013
We typically think of anorexia nervosa as a disease of teenage girls or young women. Kristi Belcamino describes the heartbreak she experiences after realizing that her 9-year-old daughter was anorexic. She outlines the medical intervention her daughter received and the support given to her by the nurse, teachers, and nutrition staff at her daughter’s school.
Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), 2013
Currently, there are only a few FDA-approved drugs to help Americans shed unwanted pounds—and most have adverse side effects. This article provides information about these products, how each type works, and describes what is meant by “off-label” drugs.
What’s behind New Findings That It’s Healthy to Be Overweight? Jill Richardson, AlterNet, 2013
Results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight people live longer than people with “healthy” weights and that even moderate obesity is not that bad. So why are Americans obsessed with being labeled “overweight” and what has fueled this obsession? Could it be the multibillion dollar weight-loss industry?
Unit 4: Health Claims
The Eyes Have It: Can Supplements Protect Your Peepers? David Schardt, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2016
About one in five middle-age adults take supplements “for their eyes.” Are they worth it or are supplements a waste of money? This article describes common eye problems such as glaucoma and cataracts, and the pros and cons of taking lutein, taurine, bilberry, and supplemental doses of several vitamins.
What’s the Catch? Why the Latest Study Is Rarely the Final Answer, Bonnie Liebman, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2014
We are constantly being bombarded with headlines about the latest nutrition studies; a study published one week contradicts the one published the previous week. How do you know what to believe? This article helps the reader understand which results are important and which are not.
Four of the Biggest Quacks Plaguing America with False Claims about Science, Cliff Weathers, AlterNet, 2014
Nutrition quackery abounds on the Internet and television. Cliff Weathers, senior editor of Alternet, considers Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Health Ranger” Mike Adams, “Food Babe” Vani Hair, and Dr. Oz to be the leading quacks of the health-care industry.
Beyond the Buzz: Is What You’ve Heard True…or Just New? Stephanie Scarmo, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2013
Should you drink chocolate milk after your daily jog? Does skipping breakfast make you fat? If you cut out all wheat, will those extra pounds melt away? We are bombarded with an overload of nutrition information and it’s hard to know what to believe. This article provides the truth about some of the latest nutrition hot topics.
Answers to the Seven Big Questions Everyone Asks about Gluten, Jill Richardson, AlterNet, 2014
“Gluten-free” is seen on many food labels today. This article answers the following questions about gluten: What is it and what foods contain it? Is it genetically engineered? What groups of people really benefit gluten-free diets?
Is The Popular Paleo Diet a Bunch of Baloney? Jill Richardson, AlterNet, 2013
Proponents of the Paleo Diet claims that it’s “the healthiest diet that mimics the diets of our caveman ancestors.” Richardson questions if people who follow a grain-free, Paleo Diet really eat like their Stone Age ancestors; she uses the well-documented diet of the Kumeyaay tribe in Mexico to describe the probable foods consumed by cavemen. She points out the benefits paleo eating—for the dieter as well as for businesses that generate profit from the sales of books, diet plans, and memberships.
Unit 5: Food and Nutrition Trends
Bar Hopping: How to Find the Better Bars, Jayne Hurley and Bonnie Liebman, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2016
Fifty years ago the only “bars” most people ate were candy bars. Today the food industry has developed a host of bars—granola, breakfast, protein, fiber, etc. But are they wholesome and healthy? This article rates the most popular bars and explains which they consider “decent snacks” and why others are “glorified cookies.”
The Quest for a Natural Sugar Substitute, Daniel Engber, The New York Times, 2014
Journalist Daniel Engber traces the history of various sugar substitutes and focuses on stevia, one of the newest sweeteners on the market. He questions if stevia is more healthful than other sweeteners and if it should be marketed as “natural.”
Tea’s Good for the Heart: Studies Show a Few Cups a Day Keep Heart Disease at Bay, Lori Zanteson, Today’s Dietitian, 2013
Green tea has been the rave for several years. Does it really provide greater heart-health benefits than oolong and black teas or are all teas the same? This article describes the differences between white, green, black, oolong, and herbal teas and highlights recent studies about the benefits various teas have on heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
FDA to Investigate Added Caffeine, Michael R. Taylor, FDA Consumer Health Information, 2013
Caffeine, once found only in beverages, is being added to chewing gum, jelly beans, marshmallows, sunflower seeds, and other snack foods. Is this going a bit too far? The FDA, whose role is to protect the health of Americans, is concerned about the influence of caffeine added to foods that are commonly consumed by children and adolescents.
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Michael Moss, The New York Times, 2013
Do you remember the slogan “Bet you can’t eat just one”? Food scientists at the potato chip giant spent hours determining the exact amount of salt to use on their chips to make people crave more—and it worked! The same is true when it comes to the amount of sugar added to foods that makes us addicted to spaghetti sauce, soft drinks, and breakfast pastries. This selection provides the history behind many of America’s favorite junk foods.
Go On: Eat Your Heart Out, Bruce Horovitz, USA Today, 2012
With increased access to information, viral videos, and documentaries of food production in the United States, consumers are experiencing a new emotion related to food: fear. Products that are grown naturally, ethically, and safely are at increasing demand. U.S. consumers’ emotional attachment to food is leading the food industry to change the way it produces and markets food.
Can Social Media Produce Wellness Results? Michelle V. Rafter, Workforce Management, 2012
A recent trend in corporate wellness programs is the use of social media platforms to support employees adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors. Social media programs can provide a venue for participants to journal, create fitness challenges, and offer support to fellow participants. It provides social support and motivating factors such as friendly competition.
Unit 6: Lifecycle Nutrition
For Consumers: Seven Things Pregnant Women and Parents Need to Know About Arsenic in Rice and Rice Cereal, FDA Consumer Health Information, 2016
This selection describes how arsenic gets into the food supply and why it is higher in rice than other foods. The potential health effects that arsenic has on pregnant women and growing infants are outlined and recommendations on rice and other grain consumption.
Early Puberty in Girls Is Becoming Epidemic and Getting Worse, Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet, 2016
Girls are going through puberty at a much younger age than girls did 75 years ago. Rosenberg outlines the health problems associated with early-onset puberty and explores the possible causes including obesity, high meat consumption, and endocrine-disrupting toxins found in everyday products like hand soap, shampoos, cosmetics, and plastics.
Nutrition’s Role in Premenstrual Syndrome, Dana Pitman, Today’s Dietitian, 2016
Dietitian Dana Pitman describes the criteria for a diagnosis of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and differences between PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Methods to assess hormones and neurotransmitters thought to be related to PMS are covered. Pittman describes the foods that may aggravate PMS symptoms and the diet and lifestyle factors that might actually prevent PMS.
Are We Born Craving a Balanced Diet? Bee Wilson, Discover, 2016
During the 1920s, pediatrician Dr. Clara Davis concluded that food preferences are inherited and that children innately choose healthy foods. Does her theory still hold up? This selection is an excerpt from Bee Wilson’s book First Bite: How We Learn to Eat.
Childhood Obesity: Is It Being Taken Seriously? Honor Whiteman, Medical News Today, 2014
Childhood obesity continues to be a global problem. The author reviews the prevalence and causes of obesity and points out that many children and teens do not recognize their weight status as overweight or obese, and more than half of parents of obese children do not consider their children to have a weight problem.
Iodine Deficiency in Pregnancy: A Global Problem, Maia V. Dutta and Janet Colson, International Journal of Childbirth Education, 2014
This report discusses the consequences of mild to moderate iodine deficiency during pregnancy. The authors describe the cognitive and psychomotor delays that may occur in the offspring of women who are mildly or moderately iodine deficient.
The Use of Caffeine in Energy Drinks, Amelia M. Arria et al., The New York Times, 2013
Caffeinated energy drinks are popular among children, teens, and college students. This selection is a letter written by 18 physicians, researchers, and public health officials urging FDA’s commissioner to restrict the amount of caffeine in energy drinks and to require manufacturers to list caffeine content on the products.
Unit 7: Food Insecurity and Safety
United States Is a Land of Plenty, So Why Do Millions of Americans Still Go Hungry? Jeffrey H. Cohen and Jay L. Zagorsky, The Conversation, 2016
Even though the U.S. is a land of bounty with ample land to grow more than enough food to feed all Americans, millions of citizens are actually “food insecure” and experience hunger. This article explains which Americans are at the highest risk of food insecurity, what causes the lack of adequate food, and concludes with steps we can take to help alleviate the problem.
Taking the SNAP Challenge, Sharon Palmer, Today’s Dietitian, 2014
The authors describe the challenges five registered dietitians face when they try to eat on the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotment and the appreciation they gain about families who are food insecure.
6 Chemical Food Additives That Are Legal in America and Banned Abroad, Ari LeVaux, AlterNet, 2016
Food journalist Ari LeVaux describes why food additives such as the artificial fat olestra, food dyes Yellow #6 and Red #40, the muscle stimulating ractopamine, flavor-enhancing brominated vegetable oil, milk-stimulating bovine somatotropin (rBST), and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are banned in other countries but allowed in the U.S.
Antibiotic Resistance: Wasting a Precious Life Saver, David Shardt, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2013
As the amount of antibiotics given to cattle, poultry, and pigs increases, more bacteria are becoming resistant to them. Why are animals given antibiotics? What causes certain bacteria to resist the antibiotics? How are they spread through the food chain? In addition to answers for these questions, this selection explains how consumers can reduce the odds of contracting food poisoning from resistant bacteria.
Food Fears: Which Ones Should You Worry About? David Schardt, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 2013
Reports in the media make many of us afraid to eat certain foods. This article answers the following questions: Is farmed salmon contaminated? Should we wash bagged leafy greens before eating? Does microwave popcorn damage your lungs? Do raw bean sprouts make you sick? Is ground beef safe to eat? Does arsenic in rice cause cancer?
Who Should You Believe When It Comes to the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods? Jill Richardson, AlterNet, 2013
Are genetically engineered (GE) foods safe to eat or should we avoid them? Journalist Jill Richardson describes conflicting studies that have attempted to determine the safety of GE foods; she explains the things that we should look for when attempting to decipher the clashing views about GE foods.
The Future of Food: Five Frontiers, Elizabeth Weingarten, Slate, 2012
Advances in food technology are leading to radically different methods of producing and preserving food. Principles of genetic engineering, vertical farms, lab-grown meats, bacteriophages, and nanotechnology provide ways to increase production with fewer problems, enhance food safety, and keep foods fresh longer. These principles are shaping the future of food.
Unit 8: The Food Supply
The Trouble with Labels like ‘Natural’ and ‘All Natural,’ Consumer Reports, 2016
The “natural” claim on processed foods has no legal definition yet many people confuse the term with “organic” or “GMO free” but in reality. The article includes a list of over 20 foods that many consumers believe are natural or wholesome, but are not.
Have a Bite, It’s Natural, Chris Sorensen, Maclean’s, 2012
Consumer demand for natural ingredients is leading to significant changes in the operations of some food companies. Also, increased attention to the ethical treatment of animals is changing the foods that are offered in popular restaurants and the nature of how some farmers raise their animals.
How Do Food Manufacturers Pick Those Dates on Their Product Packaging—and What Do They Mean? Londa Nwadike, The Conversation, 2016
USDA estimates that about $162 billion in food is thrown out every year, at the retail and consumer levels. Although no one wants to serve spoiled food to their families, we certainly do not want to waste perfectly good food. Part of the problem is that most Americans do not understand the “use by” or “best by” dates on packaged foods.
Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label, FDA Consumer Health Information, 2016
This selection outlines the updated Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that are designed to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. Revisions to the label are designed to help consumers make informed food choices and maintain healthy dietary practices.
Eat the Peach, Not the Pesticide, Consumer Reports, 2016
Consumer Reports evaluated the pesticide residue on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables from various countries and developed a guide that includes which foods are safe to eat conventionally grown and which are best to consume organically grown. They also outline health risks associated with pesticide exposure.
The Cereal Box Is Lying to You—And So Is Every Other Label: Why You Can’t Trust That “Nutrition” Information, Catherine Price, Salon, 2016
Health writer Catherine Price warns that the “comforting calorie numbers” on the Nutrition Facts panel of food labels may be off by 20 percent. So the bagel you think has only 160 calories could have a whopping 200 calories or the protein bar that claims 10 grams of protein could actually only provide 8 grams. Price includes a history of the RDAs on which nutrition facts panels are based.
The Organic Foods Debate: Are They Healthier Than Conventional? Judith C. Thalheimer, Today’s Dietitian, 2013
Many consumers believe organics are healthier than conventional options, as some studies show certain organics contain more nutrients and less pesticide residues. One negative aspect of organic foods is that they do cost more than conventionally grown products. The question most consumers ask is if the benefits of organic foods justify the higher cost.
The Side Effects of America’s Growing Obsession with Greek Yogurt, Jill Richardson, AlterNet, 2014
Greek yogurt is growing in popularity. Jill Richardson describes how Greek yogurt is made gives suggestions of how to use the whey that is strained off during the yogurt making process.
The New Healthy, Amy Winterfeld, State Legislatures, 2012
Lawmakers of state governments are creating initiatives that support the USDA’s latest nutrition education campaign, My Plate. Legislative support for improving access to locally grown fruits and vegetables, seafood, and dairy is becoming more prevalent at the state level. These efforts serve to improve not only the health of the states’ people, but also their economies.