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THE DIET DETECTIVE

Nutrition advice: Fatty acids found in vegetable oils can be healthful

Among other diet tidbits: the effects of Splenda, some tips for safe grilling.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

Scientists find that linoleic acid, the omega-6 essential fatty acid found in vegetable oils such as soy, corn and canola, may help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

Some experts believe that too much dietary linoleic acid increases inflammation; however, researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois, after reviewing 15 clinical trials, “found that no link exists between vegetable oil consumption and circulating indicators of inflammation that are often associated with diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma and arthritis.”

According to research, Americans typically consume 3 or more tablespoons of vegetable oil each day.

Here are some other interesting diet tidbits:

Does Sucralose (e.g., Splenda) have a 'sugar' effect?

Researchers from Washington University's Center for Human Nutrition conducted a small study of severely obese individuals using sucralose who did not have diabetes.

“The researchers gave subjects either water or sucralose to drink before they consumed a glucose challenge test. The glucose dosage is very similar to what a person might receive as part of a glucose-tolerance test. The researchers wanted to learn whether the combination of sucralose and glucose would affect insulin and blood sugar levels. Every participant was tested twice. Those who drank water followed by glucose in one visit drank sucralose followed by glucose in the next. In this way, each subject served as his or her own control group.”

The researchers found that when the study group drank the sucralose, they had higher blood sugar than when drinking just water. According to researchers, “insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher. So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response.”

Make sure your child does not overeat during infancy

Don't encourage your baby to drink up that last sip of milk in the bottle; it could create overeating issues.

After analyzing more than 8,000 families, researchers at Brigham Young University found that “babies predominantly fed formula were 2.5 times more likely to become obese toddlers than babies who were breastfed for the first six months.”

Additionally, “putting babies to bed with a bottle increased the risk of childhood obesity by 36 percent. And introducing solid foods too soon — before 4 months of age — increased a child's risk of obesity by 40 percent. The researchers believe that breastfeeding helps infants to determine when they are full and should stop eating.

Grill carefully

Gas or charcoal grilling has been linked to chemicals that cause breast, stomach, prostate and colon cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (although the risk is low). High-heat grilling can convert proteins in red meat, pork, poultry and fish into chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that have been shown to be carcinogenic.

In addition, high temperatures can change the shape of the protein, thus irritating the body. The smoke may also cause cancer because of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in the smoke.

“PAHs form when fat and juices from meat products drip on the heat source. As the smoke rises it can stick to the surface of the meat,” say health experts at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This does not apply to veggies (good news)!

Nutritionists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have the following tips:

Prep the meat

•Choose lean cuts of meat, instead of high-fat varieties, such as ribs and sausage.

•Trim all excess fat and remove skin.

•When using marinades — thinner is better. Thicker marinades have a tendency to “char,” possibly increasing exposure to carcinogenic compounds.

•Look for marinades that contain vinegar and/or lemon. They actually create a protective barrier around the meat.

Limit time — limit exposure

•Always thaw meat first. This also reduces the cooking time.

•Partially cook meat and fish in a microwave for 60 to 90 seconds on high before grilling and then discard the juices. This will lower cooking time and reduce risk of causing smoke flare-ups.

Grilling techniques

•Flip burgers often — once every minute for meat burgers — to help prevent burning or charring.

•Place food at least 6 inches from heat source.

•Create a barrier to prevent juices from spilling and producing harmful smoke. Try lining the grill with foil and poking holes, and cooking on cedar planks.

Subway not as healthy as you might think for those 12-21 years old

Research appearing in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that study subjects between the ages of 12 and 21 who bought meals at Subway ate nearly as many calories as those who bought at McDonald’s.

Participants bought meals containing an average of 1,038 calories at McDonald’s and an average of 955 calories at Subway. Sodium intake averaged 2,149 milligrams at Subway; and 1,829 milligrams at McDonald’s.

Adolescent lunches should not exceed 850 calories, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Commercial-free TV could reduce junk food intake

Researchers at the University of Michigan interviewed more than 100 parents and preschool children to get an idea of what these children believed made up a healthy meal and how their thoughts related to their eating habits.

The researchers found a strong link between a preschooler’s junk food consumption and watching commercial TV, because of the food advertising.

According to researchers, “past research has linked child TV viewing to obesity in childhood, but not during the preschool years. It has also combined commercial TV with digitally-recorded TV, so there was no way to separate the two.”

Do you want your preschoolers to eat healthier? Make sure that, if your kids do watch TV, it’s the “healthy” kind — without food commercials.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.