WWB Wise Guru Q&A Series: Newly Released Book ‘The Nature Fix’ Presents Cutting Edge Science on How Nature Affects our Health & Well-Being from a World Wise Perspective…

Mar 15, 2017 by

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgWWB Wise Guru: Florence Williams is an American journalist and nonfiction author whose work focuses on the environment, health and science. She is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and a freelance writer for National Geographic, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. The New York Times named it a notable book of 2012.

She was a Scripps Fellow at the Center of Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. She is a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. She serves on the board of nonprofit environmental magazine, High Country News.

WWB Featured Book: ‘The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ explores the science behind our connection to nature and proposes that for optimal well-being, regular doses of nature are not only recommended but required.

 

Lauroly Opening- I am so honored and pleased Florence Williams could join me for a Q&A. Her book is a favorite of mine, and so glad she wrote it. Perhaps it’s a favorite because it speaks to me on a very personal level. Nature has always been my fix, without a doubt. Having said this, I never classified myself as ‘Nature Girl’. I didn’t camp as a kid and I didn’t hike until my 20’s. But being outside and playing in nature was always a big part of my life experience. I can thank my Dad for that. I have this in common with the author! I only saw him on weekends growing up, and every weekend, weather permitted, we were either horseback riding in the woods, walking in the woods, or rowing a boat on a lake next to the woods. Those early experiences and the need to be outdoors has never left me. I like the term Florence used in the book, “drinking the tonic of nature.”I wrote a piece for this very blog on Nature Therapy in 2015 and briefly discussed ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan which she covers quite extensively in the book. Later in my life, traveling for business, I would always make a point to find a Public Garden no matter where I was, so I could reconnect with nature and myself. Reading ‘The Nature Fix’ confirmed what I have had always felt intuitively about nature…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.

Besides my personal connection to the topic of your book, I found it to be the perfect non-fiction book. It is well researched, highly informative and very entertaining as well. I love how she takes us through the research via her own personal travel. Her travel takes us to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Scotland, and we learn a lot about their cultures and wellness philosophies. Florence packed so much into this book, I found myself really challenged about where to start. I remind myself that I do these Q&A’s to recommend books and motivate people to go and read the books. I hope to touch on some of the many important findings in this book…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Florence Williams! So if everyone hasn’t heard yet, nature is good for civilization!  What you set out to do is to find the science to support why nature is so important to our humanity and our everyday well-being. To do that we need to understand our senses and how much of how we function is synced with nature.  It seems to me that when we are out in nature we are fully alive, because many of our senses are engaged in our experience. This explains to me personally why I am generally happier when I am outside. There is an enlightening chapter where you focus on a man in Sweden who experienced a personal tragedy and later came to understand how important nature therapy is to patients with depression. Yet like everything else with humans, the dose of nature varies from human to human.  What do we know so far about nature as therapy? Tell us more…

 

 

 

flopromoBarrOutdoorFlorence Williams: Yes, Lauroly, you are exactly right that it does seem to be the full-sensory experience that awakens our sense of well-being, and that there are many studies that support this idea. But the science is still young, and many of the studies are very small. It’s actually quite difficult for scientists to tease apart exactly which elements of nature are most helpful or which senses are most engaged. I was struck by the studies in Japan, led by Japanese anthropologist Yoshifumi Miyazaki, that measured physiological changes to the nervous system after just 20 minutes of being in the woods. These studies showed a 20-minute stroll on a forest trail can reduce your blood pressure an average 11 percent and lower your cortisol hormones (a measure of stress) by six percent. Perhaps because of the practice of forest bathing in Japan, people there are attuned to using all their senses in the woods – so they’re really paying attention to what they’re smelling and feeling and hearing and seeing. It seems that shortcut to mindfulness really helps us feel calmer and relaxed more quickly when we’re out in nature.
 

Lauroly Q– Glad you started with Japan. We can’t discuss your book without talking about ‘ Shinren Yoku (Forest Bathing)’. What is it about the Japanese culture, that has them embracing Forest Bathing so fervently that it has become part of their national healthcare policy? When you asked Miyazaki why nature is so important to their culture, he had this to say, “In our culture, nature is part of our minds and bodies and philosophy. In our tradition, all things are relative to something else.” Loved his answer. But it is amazing how the Japanese ended up being so far removed from the very thing that defined them isn’t it?

Florence Williams: Japan industrialized very quickly. The cities grew fast and there was intense economic competition for good jobs, good schooling and feeding the corporate culture. People are stressed out there, and they work and study incredibly long hours, effectively removing them from a lot of time in the countryside. But it would be mistake to say that modern life has disconnected them from nature. The Japanese still internalize a close connection to plants, for example, in their practices of bonsai and flower arranging, in their tiny gardens and through their lens of wabi sabi, which celebrates the seasons and simple nature. I think in many ways the Japanese definition of nature is more generous that the western one, which looks at spaces like parks and wilderness areas, rather than integrating elements of the natural world into everyday life and homes. That said, the Japanese do seem to relish getting outside when they can. As a result of Miyazaki’s data, the country has designated 48 “forest therapy” trails where overworked, urban citizens are now urged to go unwind, and it looks like more trails are being created.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I was wondering about while reading about your research in Finland, is related to Vitamin D (sun) and the deprivation they experience in winter. Have any researchers looked at how tree therapy might counteract the negative effects of not having enough sun? This is a good time to tell us about why Cypress Trees seem to have such a positive effect on our senses. As you put it, in the book “we enjoy a neural bath of happy hormones”! Below is a quick video you created to illustrate the beneficial effects of nature…

 

Florence Williams: Trees are certainly magical and wonderful, and hit a lot of our happy buttons, from providing rich visuals, especially fractal patterns (known to promote alpha brainwaves) to creating habitat for birds that in turn relax us with their birdsong. The smell piece is fascinating, as tree aerosols from cypress trees in Japan were found to lower blood pressure and increase Killer T immune cells in humans. That said, even in Finland and even in winter, being outside provides more brightness and full-spectrum light than being inside, and so the light aspect is still important. Full spectrum light is linked to wellbeing, and vitamin D is linked to all sorts of good things, from shaping our retinas to strengthening our bones. The lumens outside is generally 10 times greater than the lumens inside, except of course at night. Even the darkness, though, can help reset our circadian rhythms so we sleep better.

Lauroly Q- As a psychology major I found a lot of the research on education, and brain disorders like ADHD fascinating with respect to nature. Besides the specific special needs of children on the spectrum, your book explores the idea that children in general really need nature and play. I loved the section on Friedrich Frobel and his research. He focused on cultivating curiosity and freedom in childhood. Tell us how ‘kindergarten’ was originally conceptualized, and how nature was at the center of child education…

Florence Williams: Friedrich Froebel, who was born in Germany in 1782, was an educator heavily influenced by Rousseau, who said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature.” Rousseau and Froebel both made a case for allowing young children to explore and learn based on their own curiosity. Froebel believed that an education filled with nature and art could instill a lifelong readiness to learn and also develop empathy and a love for living things. He really invented kindergarten, and it was nature-based from the beginning. Unfortunately, many cultures now consider kindergarten the new first-grade, and are taking children inside to sit at desks and learn their academics. We are not devoting enough time to considering what has been lost in this new model.

Lauroly Closing: I hope we don’t lose that model. Cultures change, but we don’t have to lose the wisdom that has already been acquired, especially when it comes to child development. Thank you Florence for joining me at World Wise Beauty, to discuss your important and wonderful book. I am going to make it my personal duty to share this book with everyone! I know they will love it and your research will resonate for them. I believe we are realizing nature is not a luxury but an absolute essential to our personal wellness, our humanity and our culture. See you out there Florence!

Florence Williams Closing: Thanks so much for your interest, Lauroly. It was so much fun reporting and writing this book, and it’s certainly made me spend more time outside. I will hope it will influence others as well.

 

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How to Live a Long and Pleasurable Life…Doctor, & Author of “The Olive Oil Diet” Shares the Wellness Secrets of the Mediterranean Culture & Lifestyle

Feb 10, 2017 by

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WWB Wise Guru: Dr. Simon Poole  MBBS DRCOG is a Cambridge based medical doctor, author, broadcaster and commentator with expertise in the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.

Featured Book: The Olive Oil Diet –Nutritional Secrets of the Original SuperFood –The book has just been nominated for the International Gourmand Prize for food and cookery writing, and shortlisted for the “Best of the World” which is described as the food writing equivalent of the “Oscars”.

Professional Profile: As well as being a full time GP, Dr Simon Poole is a renowned international commentator on the Mediterranean Diet and a member of the Council of Directors of the True Health Initiative in the USA. He has written regularly on matters related to primary care in medicine and nutrition for a diverse range of media including The Guardian, Nutrition and Food Science and the Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons as well as consumer magazines such as Cook Vegetarian and Body Language. He also has extensive experience broadcasting and writing for local, national and international radio, television and web based organisations and regularly speaks at and chairs conferences attended by physicians, the media, politicians and the food industry on subject matters relating to health, politics and nutrition.

 

 

 

 

Lauroly Opening: I am pleased to introduce another doctor/expert from the True Health Initiative. For those just learning about THI, it is a growing coalition of more than 250 world renowned health experts committed to cutting through the noise, and educating on only time-honored, proven principles of lifestyle as medicine. The THI coalition members include physicians, scientists, nutritionists, and authors from nearly 30 countries. An example of their collective collaboration is Dr. Poole will be joining Dr. David Katz (founder of THI and wellness expert here in the U.S) in Italy for the International Food Values Conference in Rome. World leading experts in nutrition, health and sustainability will gather under the patronage of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences next week to debate the urgent need for policies to be adopted which encourage more traditional diets such as the Mediterranean Diet. 

 We have heard about the Mediterranean Diet over the years, and many other diets have come along since, but there has been no other diet that has so much research and science behind it world-wide. How lucky we are to have Dr. Simon Poole here to discuss the diet and his book ‘The Olive Oil Diet’. Personally I am not a promoter of any one diet or any one super-food, because we all are so different bio-individually.  What I will say is the Mediterranean diet has ancient wisdom and a lot of modern science based research behind it, and seems to be enjoyed by many centenarian people. The prospect of healthy longevity gets my attention! At the center of the Mediterranean Diet is ‘Olive Oil’ and Dr. Poole has a passion for Olive Oil! Let’s find out why…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Dr.Poole! Thank you for joining me to discuss your new book, ‘The Olive Oil Diet’ Nutritional Secrets of the Original Superfood’. What I didn’t mention in the opening is I am big olive oil user and cook with it exclusively. Even as the coconut oil trend has accelerated I have stuck with my olive oil. One of my reasons for this, is the amount of research behind the healthy heart properties of olive oil is substantially greater than that available for coconut oil. So let’s start with a hot topic! Is Olive oil better for you or healthier than coconut oil? I realize you are biased because you wrote a book about Olive Oil, but you are also a doctor who cares greatly about Public Health.

 

DR.SPDr. Poole: Extra virgin olive oil is a fundamental cooking and flavouring ingredient in all the regional variations of what has become known collectively as the Mediterranean Diet. Researchers who have demonstrated the myriad of benefits of this pattern of eating invariably include the regular use of olive oil as the main source of fat as a measure of adherence to the diet. Whatever the argument about the differences in saturated fat types in coconut oil which may make it less likely to have an adverse effect on harmful LDL cholesterol, it is perhaps the unique combination of antioxidant compounds in olive oil which may contribute even more to health than the high level of monounsaturated fat.

There is a myth which exists suggesting that cooking with saturated fats like coconut oil is more healthy because of higher “smoke points”, which is the temperature at which heated fats begin to break down to form potentially harmful by-products. In fact, not only are cooking temperatures in general well below the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil, but most of the beneficial antioxidants tolerate heating as well. Try telling a centenarian from the beautiful island of Ikaria, famed for its healthy Mediterranean lifestyle not to use olive oil as part of his or her daily life, and I rather think you would get a short reply!

 

 

Lauroly Q- Your book pretty much platforms the Mediterranean Diet as the ‘Ultimate Diet’. You have a chapter entitled ‘Keeping a Healthy Weight–The End of Dieting.  As a ‘Healthy Epicurean’ which means I value health and enjoy eating, I find the Mediterranean diet most appealing, because it really isn’t a diet as much as it is a cultural lifestyle. As a physician, why do you believe it is the ultimate diet?

Dr. Poole: You are exactly right to make the point that the Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle rather than simply a pattern of eating. Whilst in the western world we have come to view a “diet” as a way to lose weight, the term actually originates from the ancient Greek word “diaita” which means way of life. Research shows that adopting a Mediterranean Diet is in fact better than a low fat diet at helping people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and because people enjoy it, they are more likely to continue to eat healthily. I call it the “ultimate diet” because it has the added benefits of many other health advantages, including an association with lower rates of heart disease, stroke, many cancers and even dementia. The lifestyle itself which promotes the enjoyment of food as part of an experience of conviviality and community is also an important aspect.

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Lauroly Q- What I love about your book, is it is a comprehensive health book and cooking book all rolled in one. Your book takes an authoritative and science based look at olive oil, while also exploring the joys of cooking with it. Like some books on wine, your book on olive oil teaches us that growing regions matter, and we discover not all olive oils are the same. You have a dedicated chapter to learning how to buy olive oil. Does this mean cheaper olive oil is not as good as the more expensive? Many wine connoisseurs will tell you that price does not determine a good bottle of wine. Does this apply to olive oil as well?

oilDr. Poole: The “Olive Oil Diet” is designed to help people understand more about the regular use of olive oil, and how to maximise its health benefits in everyday life. It looks at the Mediterranean diet from the perspective of the ubiquitous presence of olive oil. There are different grades of olive oil and even different properties of extra virgin olive oil which depend on the variety, land, agricultural practices, production methods and storage. Oil deteriorates over time and its quality is dependent on limiting exposure to air and light. In the book we describe the indicators of better quality oils and how to recognise markers of excellence. Often the oils with the best nutritional characteristics, including low acidity and powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers are grown in traditional ways with passion and care from individual farmers or small cooperatives. Some oils can be bought very cheaply, but often these are sourced from international markets and are a mixture of variable oils from different countries. So, our advice is to get to know a little about olive oils and try different ones from different regions as well as “pairing” different tasting oils with different dishes. There are lots of discoveries readers can enjoy!

 

Lauroly Q- I have never heard Olive Oil called the ‘the medicinal fruit juice’ before, and your chapter on all the health benefits really explains how you could call it that. There are so many health conditions olive oil can help with. Most people think of the highly publicized research on heart disease, but you really connect all the medicinal dots for us in the book. What makes Olive Oil a superfood and how does it help with other diseases beyond heart disease?

Dr. Poole: Olive oil really does qualify as a “superfood” because not only is it a fundamental building block of one of the healthiest diets in the World, specifically recommended in the latest US Dietary Guidelines, but also because research has shown that olive oil by itself can have measurable health benefits. So many chronic illnesses are now considered to be associated with chronic inflammation including conditions such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis and even dementia. The numerous plant compounds designed to protect the olive fruit from the effects of “oxidative stress” in the challenging environment and climate in which the olive tree grows may play a role in decreasing inflammation in our bodies. Type 2 Diabetes is another condition which predisposes people to heart disease and other complications, and the way that olive oil in the diet reduces the spiking of sugar levels from a meal with carbohydrates also contributes to the way the diet can protect us, and even help to reverse the very early stages of diabetes. Olive oil also helps to improve the absorption of important nutrients, including fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants in other foods. So it is a real “superfood” especially when combined with super healthy vegetables.

 

Lauroly Closing: Dr. Poole, thank you so much for visiting World Wise Beauty. I wish I could join you for the ‘Food Values’ conference in Italy this year but I am sure you will come back and share the great wisdom gleaned from gathering with experts in favor of traditional diets. Who knows maybe you will share your wisdom at a ‘Rise of Wise’ event here in the states soon! We would be honored and thrilled to have you visit! In the meantime everyone should read your book and become a connoisseur of olive oil. Keeping in mind that it is what you do with the olive oil that will determine the pleasure of eating it. Check out the tasty recipes in the book and you will be well on your way to having a passion for olive oil too!

Dr. Poole Closing: Thank you. It has been a pleasure Laura and yes, it would be a privilege to attend one of your exciting events perhaps some day soon.

 

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WWB WATCH: Food As Medicine Rising Worldwide and International Conference ‘Food Values’ in Italy Sets the Stage…

Jan 10, 2017 by

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It is no accident that there are ancient health truths that still apply to modern day lifestyle and culture, because they are supportive of the sound fundamentals of human health and well-being. When you take away commercialism of wellness, you are left with ‘What Matters’. With all the diet trends going in and out of style, what if there was one ancient diet that most people around the world could live on? What if there was one diet that has been scientifically proven ( worldwide) to reduce heart disease and many cancers? Well guess what? There is one and it’s called the Mediterranean Diet. The science hasn’t gone away but perhaps the wisdom has…

If you have been paying attention to health and wellness news the last couple of years, you might be aware that we are having a health crisis. Yes, amongst other very important urgent issues in the world, health, diet and chronic disease is becoming a global challenge. Most of the challenges could be prevented with diet, and all them come back to cultural values that have somehow been thrown under the bus for the sake of industry. The good news is, there are a lot of value driven experts around the world who are scientist, doctors, and chefs coming together with a BIG mission.  The BIG mission is essentially to enlighten governments and people around the world with ideal ‘Food Values’. What are their ideal ‘Food Values’? Simply answered, they are centered around traditional healthy plant based diets. What does that sound like? Yes, it’s the Mediterranean Diet!  The Mediterranean diet has significantly reduced the increasing burden of chronic diseases associated with modern industrialized patterns of food production and consumption. Enter the worldwide WISE mission and an important conference to address our food and health crisis with real applicable solutions…

 

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International Conference ‘Food Values’ 

The Renaissance of the Mediterranean Diet and Significance for a 21st Century World
Casina Pio IV, Vatican City–14th February, 2017

World leading experts in nutrition, health and sustainability will gather under the patronage of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences next month to debate the urgent need for policies to be adopted which encourage more traditional diets.

 

Mons. Marcelo SANCHEZ SORONDO, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican City

 

Scientific committee

Dr. Simon POOLE, MD – Author and Commentator, Cambridge, UK

Dr. Paolo PASQUALI – Mugello Cradle of the Renaissance, Vicchio, Florence, Italy

Prof. Francesco SOFI, MD, PhD – University of Florence, Italy

Organizing committee

Dr. Monica DINU, MSc – University of Florence, Italy

Dr. Giuditta PAGLIAI, MSc – University of Florence, Italy

Prof. Francesco SOFI, MD, PhD – University of Florence, Italy

Mons. Marcelo SANCHEZ SORONDO, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican City

 

casinopio4Professor Francesco Sofi, one of the organizers from the University of Florence stated ” We are privileged to host in such auspicious surroundings luminaries including Dr. David Katz of Yale University and the True Health InitiativeGreg Descher of the Culinary Institute of America, world famous London based patron Giorgio Locatelli and other representatives if scientific institutions and NGOs with particular interests in the environment and in nutritional education.

The guests attending the conference will comprise politicians and representatives of the world of science, food and the media”

 

 

dkatz-380x250” There are real fundamentals truths about a dietary pattern that is pleasurable, healthful, and sustainable, relevant all around the world.” said Dr. David Katz speaking at the conference as President of the True Health Intiative. “It is a great privaledge to deliver the details of that message at such a rarified gathering.”

 

 

Now maybe you can’t attend the conference in Vatican City but you can access the science and values via the True Health Initiative and the many experts around the world who have tirelessly been working on getting this message to you. Their mission is “Lifestyle is Medicine’, and they are are a coalition of health experts from around the world, committed to educating on the proven principles of lifestyle as medicine. In other words you can prevent chronic disease with good sound healthy habits and there is rock hard science to prove it. Food is a big part of your lifestyle and we don’t have to be in a crisis if we listen to wisdom that has history going back to the beginning of time. We have the wisdom but the question is… do we respect ourselves and value our health enough to listen to it?

 

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Dr. Simon Poole, a cambridge based physician and part of the scientific committee said of the conference…

 

simon “We must re-evaluate the value we place on our food, recognise the appalling cost of convenience and the effect it is having on levels of obesity and ill health, and rediscover our cultural links with food production and consumption.

The conference will seek to produce an action plan for governments to educate, promote and if necessary legislate to change the paradigm of diet and nutrition in the 21st Century, aligning policies with food literacy and health in a sustainable environment”

 

What Matters? Your health and the health of the planet. This important conference will hopefully accelerate the urgent idea that wellness values and culture matter. And food is the perfect place to start…

 

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WWB WATCH: ‘Healthy’ Food in a Package? The FDA Wants Labels to Catch Up With the Real Science…

Oct 3, 2016 by

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Last year, the Food and Drug Administration told the maker of Kind bars that some of its nut-filled snacks couldn’t be labeled as “healthy.” Now the agency is rethinking what healthy means, amid evolving science on fat and sugar. Ryan Kellman/NPR

 

WWB WATCH: HEALTH FOODS & LABELS

 

Better late than never right? Nobody wants to be Debbie Downer, but I share this information because I have been a human guinea pig just like you at different times in my life. When I first became a vegetarian over 25 years ago, I experimented with all kinds of foods found in the health food store. There was no Whole Foods yet, and your local health food store was a mini-version of Whole Foods. One of the uninformed mistakes I made, but learned from pretty quickly, was embracing fruit juices and granola snack bars and believing they were healthy. I quickly discovered that many products in the health food store have ingredients that were just as worrisome ( example cane sugar vs high-fructose syrup) as other processed foods in regular supermarkets. High amounts of sugar is a problem, no matter what label is on the product and no matter what store you find it in. As I am not a nutritionist or doctor, I won’t get into it in detail here. I interview many experts in wellness, so you are sure to learn from them if you follow my blog.

Below is the excerpt from NPR, and I’m happy to see they have quoted one of WWB’s respected experts Marion Nestle. See my Q&A with her here, and follow Marion at Food Politics.

The key takeaway today is, ultimately it’s really hard to eat healthy when you are consuming packaged, processed food. I know this is pretty frustrating, because our ‘culture’ runs on fast-food living and we are constantly looking for ‘fuel’ on the go. So to be realistic, if you are going to eat a snack bar because you are starving and have to eat something, then go for it. But just know that it is not necessarily a ‘healthy’ choice. Real fruit like apples, and real nuts, can hold you over much better and also can prevent a host of diseases and chronic illnesses. Even eating a small piece of 70% dark chocolate is a better choice than some processed snacks. I bet that little tidbit lifted your spirits! Just don’t eat an entire bar in one sitting okay!

If the snack bar is your only option, then eat it, but it really shouldn’t be considered a healthy meal replacement. I’m not here to pick on snack bars. I only want to bring to light some commonsense knowledge about the food you are eating. Processed food of any kind has two big challenges. First challenge is to make it tasty to eat. How do they do that? Usually with either generous amounts of salt and sugar or ‘like’ substances. The second challenge is keeping it fresh, which involves additives and preservatives your body doesn’t necessarily need or digest well.  Again, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but for your own health,  packaged and processed food shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet. Research from around the world has proven this and our country is just catching up with the latest research. The following story from NPR on the FDA’s updates is a good piece on why packaged foods need to update or remove their claims. As a consumer, I understand the culture I am living in. Just sell me things for what they are. Convenient yes. Treat maybe. Health Food? Not so much!

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Excerpt NPR’s The Salt

FDA Is Redefining The Term ‘Healthy’ On Food Labels

So, you’re looking for a quick grab-and-go snack, and there’s a row of energy bars at the checkout counter. Are they a healthy option?

The maker of Kind bars thinks so. The company has used the phrase “healthy and tasty” on some of its products that contain lots of nuts. But, here’s the issue: The bars contained too much fat to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s strict low-fat definition of healthy. So, as we reported last May, the company helped launch a petition to challenge the status quo.

Now the FDA has begun the process of redefining the term “healthy” on food labels. Policymakers are looking for input from food makers, health experts and the public. You can weigh in with your ideas about what factors and criteria should be used for the new definition. (Submit electronic comments directly to the FDA).

“As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the ‘healthy’ labeling claim stays up to date,” writes Douglas Balentine, who directs the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

So, how has nutrition science — and the thinking about what’s healthful — evolved?

Let’s start with fat. The fat-free era has come and gone. “The most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat,” Balentine writes in a blog post for the FDA.

For instance, the type of fats found in avocados and nuts are considered healthful fats. We’re encouraged to eat more plant-based fats and omega-3s from fatty fish, whereas the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats — the type of fat found in meat and other animal products — to less than 10 percent of your total daily calorie intake.

The modernized definition of “healthy” will also likely address sugar content. The FDA is taking into account all of the newer evidence linking excessive sugar intake to heart disease and obesity.

“Our thinking about sugars has changed,” Balentine told us, “so I would think the amount of sugar in products is something we [will] take into account.”

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t need labels to signal which food choices are healthful. As nutrition guru Marion Nestle of New York University, tells us, “if people want to eat healthfully, we know how to do that. That’s eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” And she says we should eat packaged and processed foods in much smaller amounts.

“I don’t think we should have health claims [on food packages] at all,” Nestle tells us. “They’re inherently misleading,” because food companies use them as a marketing tool.

But the FDA’s Douglas Balentine pushes back, pointing out that Americans are looking for information on food packages to help them make better decisions.

“The typical consumer makes a purchase decision in three to five seconds. They don’t have a lot of time,” Balentine says. So, he says, an up-to-date “healthy” label will give people a quick way to identify better-for-you options. “We want to give consumers the best tools and information about the foods they choose.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WWB WATCH: ‘It’s Complicated’ –Three Important Articles and Why We Don’t Have to Be So Dazed, Confused, & Clueless About Our Health

Aug 20, 2016 by

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I love connecting the dots and sharing with you! In the last week I came across three high profile health articles I thought were very interesting, conflicting and ultimately illuminating for us. ‘Here at ‘The Watch’ I aim to raise awareness about important developments in wellness culture that matter. I think sifting through these three articles is worth your while and below I share my takeaway on what I believe matters. The reason I share these particular articles, is because they are all inter-connected and expose the challenges we are confronting today. Each of them also offers wisdom on how to navigate in an increasingly over-loaded information highway on health and wellness.

 

IT’S COMPLICATED! 

 

1- Gina Kolata wrote an article in the New York Times entitled ‘We’re So Confused, The Problems with Food & Exercise Studies”. She put a spotlight on the conflicting data researchers present focused on lifestyle prescriptions, and quotes doctors who conclude the data is inconclusive, and that we don’t know how to measure diet and exercise. It is worth your time reading this article, simply because it shows us just how complicated research is. The research itself is complicated ( size, how rigorous it is and who is supporting the research). The NYT writer does remind us there are some pretty large federally funded research studies that are taken seriously. Yet in other cases there are so many studies that conflict with each other. These studies are released to the public and are deciphered by health media and biased organizations, and often in sound bites. The result as one doctor interviewed points out is ‘whipsaw literature’ and news. One week coffee is good for you and the next week it it is not.

WWB TAKEAWAY:  It doesn’t matter whether coffee is good or not. It does matter whether it is good for you personally. This article needed to be written, because it is exposing two major issues concerning research and interpretation. What it doesn’t focus on enough is how ‘industry’ gets a hold of research and further muddies the water. We all know that many supposed ‘health websites’ are created by and supported by certain industries. We can’t get away from it. Does it mean you can’t trust any study? No, I don’t think so. It does mean we have to be savvy and conservative about embracing the results of new studies released, because they may not apply to you at all. We also have to connect the dots. Who is funding the research, how rigorous was it and who is interpreting the research? It’s complicated! We need research to uncover important health findings, yet we now know that bio-individuality is really all that matters. Some can drink coffee all day and others can not. This is a simple example of bio-individuality but serves the point. Who cares what the study finds if you feel okay! If you are 65 and have been drinking coffee in the morning all your life, it’s safe to say it’s not all that harmful, unless you develop a new health condition that may be adversely affected by the caffeine in coffee. Do you see how it gets tricky? Yes it’s complicated!

You will find me coming back to this one central idea in wellness over and over. The idea… is we are all unique bio-individuals and epigenetics matters. Therefore our interaction with environment, food and substances are always going affect us differently. We have to know our own bodies. The only thing we really have across the board in health and wellness, is common sense. Which leads me to my next article, shared by a well respected expert and nutritionist Marion Nestle, in response to the article by Gina Kolata.  Marion is full of wisdom and is always reminding us to use our common sense! Her perspective is decidedly more optimistic about research.  I agree with Marion Nestle but also see the larger context, which is ultimately a funnel of information spinning around, vulnerable to industries work of marketing distortion. Making us…

 

DAZED, CONFUSED & CLUELESS? WELL MAYBE!

 

2- Marion Nestle’s (Founder of Food Politics) article was entitled “Confused About Diet? Oh Please! She was exasperated by Gina’s NYT article and felt that it only created more confusion for us. Marion believes quote, ” Nutrition advice could not be easier to understand.  Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits; balance calories; don’t eat too much junk food.”.

Good, wise common sense. What part aren’t we getting? Her website ‘FOOD POLITICS’ actually explains a lot.

She is right,  but oddly enough she has an entire website devoted to educating us on the politics of the food industry. She is always trying to keep them honest. We are thankful to have her guiding us and informing us. Her prescription of common sense is so important, but Marion herself recognizes the ‘culture’ of marketing and the power of industry can certainly lead us astray. Or at the very least tempt us. I will get to the ‘culture’ challenge in the next article below. Marion emphatically reminds us quote, “A global consensus of expert judgment concurs… Routine physical activity and a diet of mostly minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and water when thirsty redounds consistently to the advantage of human health. It offers benefits to the planet as well.”.

WWB TAKEAWAY: Marion is spot on in my book, but our culture in the last thirty years and two major industries ( food and pharma) have slowly and methodically conditioned us to approach our diets and our illnesses very differently from the stance of ‘common sense’. What we are left with after a forty year infiltration of marketing is a culture of illness and dare I say, perhaps ignorance. You live and you learn, and in our case we have to re-learn what would seem to be easy common sense. I think what we need is a social/cultural anthropologist ( which is me without the degree!) to give us contextual understanding of how culture shapes us and can mislead us. Oops! I now need an historian to illustrate just how off the grid we have gone taking care of our health and wellness. I will get to this with my closing. Marion shared another link to an article written by Dr. David L. Katz who is a renowned expert in Preventive Medicine and Public Health and a driving force in the practice of lifestyle medicine. His article was entitled ‘Diets, Doubts and Doughnuts: Are We Truly Clueless?  He pretty much makes the case that Marion is strongly advocating. He absolutely believes we are not clueless. He ends his article with this statement “I recommend that you leave your eyebrow just where it is, and lift instead your feet, and your fork, accordingly.”

Hopefully you are following me! Let’s move on to the last article but equally as enlightening as the others.  Like Marion’s, this article reminds us of another expert’s ( Michael Pollan) sage advice ” ‘Eat food, mostly plants and not too much’. The writer for the Atlantic plays with that wisdom and applies it to our exercise conundrum. Please read on…

 

 

DO WHAT YOU CAN & SIT AT YOUR OWN RISK!

 

3- James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk  and wrote a recent article entitled  ‘The Futility of the WorkOut-Sit Cycle–Exercise Can’t Undo Sitting’. Here we go! Is it all for naught? Are we doomed to obesity and illness? Nah, not at all. This is ultimately another article that ultimately reminds us of…there’s that word again, COMMON SENSE. Before he gets to this, he covers all the complicated research and also uses excellent real world examples of how the conclusions and the prescriptions born out of the research, may not be ideal for getting most of us moving and taking care of ourselves. It’s complicated and he also reminds us how many people have different health profiles ( someone with a disability, or diabetes) and different lifestyles because of their individual conditions. Yes we are all different.

I can personally add to this particular conversation because my mother suffered from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and limited mobility but always made it a point to move. She walked slowly when able, and sometimes just around her home. I also might add through good conscious diet, she showed no signs of heart disease, but ultimately died of cancer. We all die one way or another and sometimes of things that are out of our control. That’s another discussion, let’s get back to Hamblin’s article. In his article he walks us through all the confusing research regarding exercise and fitness. He quotes another expert with this conclusion:

“In a press statement, the chair of the group, Deborah Rohm Young, the director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, put it this way: “Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels.”

Or, as Hamblin puts it you can’t undo sitting! This might sound futile but it’s not, because I am here to remind you that bio-individuality matters and so does the WHOLE picture of your overall lifestyle. It’s great to isolate food and nutrition, or exercise and fitness for research purposes, but health and wellness is dependent on a whole host of considerations which includes yes our genes, but also our social connections, emotional/spiritual well-being, and mental health too. It’s complicated! He concludes in his very good article that maybe we need a similar mantra for exercise as Michael Pollan’s for eating. Sit Less…Move More. Once again we hear, sound, wise, common sense.  My closing and takeaway follows here. I connect the dots and find our ‘culture’ to be at the core of all this.

 

OUR HEALTH & WELLBEING IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE CULTURE WE LIVE IN

 

All of these articles create the sense of urgency we need to have about health and well-being. There wouldn’t be experts writing about this so much if there wasn’t such a crisis. What I often feel is missing in the conversation about wellness is how our collective values can create a healthy society and a sick society. Connecting the dots matters. Whether it be the food industry, or the pharma industry or any industry, they can’t be successful without our buy in. Am I blaming the industry? Am I blaming us? No to both. Because it takes two to tango, and the buy in happens insidiously through cultural shifts and trends. For example, back in the 80’s we discovered that the Japanese were surpassing us as an economy and superpower. What came out of that fear and discovery was a cultural shift. We learned that they worked much longer hours, and this knowledge led us down the ‘workaholic is good’ path. This shift lead to other ‘stressors’ on family, health and diets. Each area became neglected. Fast food and frozen dinners could never be successful without the culture cooperating. The culture’s values changed and wellness was not part of the new ‘value system’.  We got swept up in a culture that systematically affected our overall health and wellness through a span of forty years. It happened slowly and not because we are clueless, but because we shifted our attention to one value superseding all others. You can connect the dots for yourself!

The mission at World Wise Beauty is to advance and celebrate wellness culture, and the word ‘culture’ is extremely important because values create culture. When I share the WWB Watch I am shining a light on all the little things that matter and add up. They illuminate our values and sometimes illuminate our blindspots. Let’s focus on what matters because wellness or the lack thereof affects every aspect of our lives. As Ancient Rome’s greatest poet ‘Virgil’ said, “The greatest wealth is health”. Paying attention really matters, and we don’t have to be dazed, confused, or clueless when we are clear on our values.

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