Posts Tagged ‘Food


What Are Food Cravings? Is Your Body Really Trying to Tell You Something?

SwisschiropracticFor some years, researchers had believed that having cravings for a particular type of food may be an indication that you are missing a particular nutrient in your diet. For example, if you crave red meat then you may have an iron deficiency, or if you crave ice cream you must need calcium. Studies have shown, however, that cravings have nothing to do with a nutritional deficiency, but are actually caused by chemical signals in the brain. Nutritionist Karen Ansel says, “If cravings were an indicator of nutritional deficiency, we’d all crave fruits and vegetables. The fact that we all want high carb, high fat comfort foods, along with the research, is a pretty good indicator that cravings aren’t related to deficiencies.” Yes–it’s really all in your head.

When you crave a food, the same reward centers in the brain that are responsible for drug and alcohol addiction are more active: the hippocampus (memory), the insula (emotion and perception) and the caudate (memory and learning). These areas are all very receptive to dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that are responsible for feeling relaxed and calm and which spur reward-driven learning. The reason you crave things such as ice cream, potato chips and chocolate is that these items are full of fat and/or sugar. Both fat and sugar are involved in an increased production of serotonin and other chemicals that make us feel good.

There is a large societal aspect to cravings as well. For instance, women in Japan tend to crave sushi and only 6 percent of Egyptian women say they crave chocolate. Approximately half of American women claim that their cravings for chocolate reach a peak just before their period. However, research has found no correlation between fluctuations in women’s hormones and cravings. In fact, postmenopausal women do not report a large reduction in cravings from their premenopausal levels.

Studies have found that the more people try to deny their cravings, the greater the craving they have for the forbidden food. Researchers suggest that it is better to give in to the craving in a controlled way rather than denying yourself altogether. Just be sure to restrict what you consume to a reasonable amount. If your dopamine receptors are constantly bombarded with high-fat and high-sugar foods (or drugs and alcohol), they shut down to prevent an overload. This makes your cravings even greater and you end up eating more in an attempt get the same reward, but you never really feel satisfied.

Exercise and distraction are two good ways to reduce food cravings. One study found that a morning workout can reduce your cravings for the whole day. Smelling a non-food item can also help. Keep a small vial of your favorite perfume with you when a craving comes on and take a whiff when the craving hits you. It will occupy the aroma receptors that are involved in food cravings.



What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

fish-oil-supplements-200-300We see articles everywhere these days about the benefits of omega-3 for everything from improving cardiovascular health to warding off the risk of Alzheimer’s. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of our daily requirement of nutrients and something that the body does not produce on its own, so it must be absorbed from the foods we eat. If you do not eat foods that are sufficiently high in omega-3 (vegetarians and vegans fall into this category), then you should probably consider a fish oil supplement. But which one?

There are many brands and types of fish oil supplements available, but some are better than others. You want to be sure you are getting the best kind of omega-3 fatty acid in the supplement you take, without the risk of ingesting toxic mercury. First, let’s see what makes some omega-3s different from others.

There are basically three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA.

ALA is a short-chain fatty acid that is commonly found in flaxseed and other plant sources such as some nuts. The body does not convert ALA to EPA and DHA very efficiently, so taking only a plant-based supplement may not provide you with enough EPA and DHA, depending on how much omega-6 you are getting in your diet (we will explain this below).

EPA is a long-chain fatty acid that is primarily found in fatty fish, with some found in eggs and a tiny amount in seaweed and has been found to reduce inflammation, blood clotting, cholesterol and high blood pressure.

DHA is found in the same sources and amounts as EPA, but its benefit is to be a critical component of cell membranes, the retina, testes and sperm.

The primary reason why some people do not get enough omega-3, particularly if they are vegetarian, has to do with the importance of the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in the diet. While omega-3 fatty acid reduces inflammation, omega-6 tends to promote inflammation. The typical American diet has from 14 to 26 times more omega-6 than omega-3, as it contains foods high in omega-6-rich vegetable oils, meat and processed food. Reducing your intake of omega-6 will help to keep your ratios at a healthier level.

The first thing you want to be sure of when looking to buy a fish oil supplement is that it does not contain hazardous metals. Most fish oil supplements are made from small oily fish, such as anchovies, herring and sardines, which do not accumulate the amount of toxins as that of larger fish like salmon and tuna. Nevertheless, you should be sure that the fish oil you buy states that it is molecularly distilled. While it tends to be more expensive than regularly purified fish oil, there are a few advantages.

Molecularly distilled fish oil is boiled under high vacuum conditions, which effectively removes all impurities, including mercury, PCB, Dioxins and other heavy metals, leaving only the omega-3 EPA and DHA. It is also more concentrated, so you get more omega-3 per capsule, and it is less prone to oxidation and rancidity, with less of a “fishy” smell.

DHA concentration is important too. Many fish oils do not have the DHA component in a high enough concentration to be effective without taking a ridiculous number of capsules every day. You should look for a supplement that has 200-300mg per capsule. And keep in mind that this recommendation is not per serving. Some products advertise themselves as having 400mg per serving, however, if you read the label, a serving is often considered three capsules.

If you are low in vitamin A or vitamin D, you may want to consider a molecularly distilled cod liver oil supplement, as it provides these two vitamins along with EPA and DHA. Just be aware that taking too much of either of these vitamins can be toxic, so at some point you may want to switch back to regular fish oil supplements.



Linking Toxicity to Sickness

Although the skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes may be in large part due to poor diet and lack of exercise, these aren’t necessarily the only explanations.  Dr. Jerome Ruzzin, a researcher from the University of Bergen in Norway, believes that the presence of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is a major contributor to metabolic diseases.drain-outlet-200-300

POPs are everywhere, even in some of what would be considered the healthiest of environments.  POPs are chemical toxins that are transported through the environment by wind and water and which are difficult to contain in one area.  Most people are familiar with the POPs dioxin, PCBs and DDT.  These toxic chemicals are used in the production of pesticides, herbicides and paints as well as in a variety of manufacturing processes.

While the EPA has set what staff scientists consider to be safe limits on POPs in the foods we eat, part of the problem is that these toxins actually accumulate in a process termed “biomagnification”.  This means that tiny amounts of toxins are ingested at the bottom of the food chain by algae, which are then consumed by progressively larger predators, resulting in an accumulation and potential concentration of toxins as they’re passed up the food chain.  By the time it reaches our dinner table, food can contain significant amounts of these toxins.

This process of biomagnification is the reason why people (particularly pregnant women) are advised to eat fatty fish no more than two times a week.  Although the omega-3 in fatty fish is very healthy, the mercury levels in the same fish can be dangerous when eaten in larger quantities.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition being diagnosed in increasing numbers of people.  This is a condition in which obesity, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol combine and contribute to a significantly greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Ruzzin says of the dramatic increase in metabolic syndrome, “Many studies now indicate that persistent organic pollutants play a major role.  Today’s adults are the first generation to experience serious health problems from these substances.  If we do not take this challenge seriously, there is every reason to be concerned about the coming generations as well.”

Even if POPs are considered to be at safe levels when taken individually, they can lead to a hazardous “cocktail effect” when combined with other POPs or other dangerous substances.  This cocktail effect can in turn wreak havoc with the body’s metabolism.  A 2006 study found that those with high levels of POPs in their body were 38 times more likely to be insulin resistant than those with low levels of POPs.

“Current threshold values for pollutants are probably too high,” notes Ruzzin, “which means that the regulatory framework needs changing.  Food producers need to eliminate hazardous substances to a far greater extent than they do at present, and we consumers need more information about the kinds of chemicals we could be ingesting with their food products.”

Dr P. Dubois, DC, CCSP.

Pierre DuboisDr. Dubois,a Swiss physician, and a Triangle Certified Sport Chiropractor has over 20 years of experience in the treatment and prevention of disorders of the musculoskeletal system.Amongst his patients, two world champions in martial arts (gold medalists in 2005 WMJA), one carrier of the Olympic flame in 2004, and numerous soccer players, swimmers and athletes of all levels who benefited from his chiropractic care.

Check out our Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 147 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: