Monday, November 30, 2015

Stress And Diet

Scientists at the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research at the University of Zurich researched the role of stress in relation to diet. 

Stress is already liked to health problems and weight gain but the scientists wanted to look at how stress drives you to your coworker’s candy dish versus the apple you packed.  Mild stress may send the most disciplined eater to the vending machine. 

The study “Acute Stress Impairs Self-Control in Goal-Directed Choice by Altering Multiple Functional Connections within the Brain’s Decision Circuits” looks at how stressful circumstances can compromise one’s self-regulatory behavior.  

The scientists took 51 young men and divided them into two groups where one served as a control.  
The participants were asked to look at images of food on a screen and rate them for taste and healthfulness.  

The men in the experimental group were put under “stress.”  Basically putting their hand in cold water to induce mild stress (this increased their cortisol compared to the control group who did not have this done).  The scientists did fMRIs following dress, they found “… that stress increased the influence of immediately rewarding taste attributes on choice and reduced self-control. 
This choice pattern was accompanied by increased functional connectivity between ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala and striatal regions encoding tastiness” (Maier, Makwana, Hare, 2015). 

Lead author on the study Todd Hare reported “think about an action path that improves your choice… If you know you will have a hard time resisting don’t store snacks at home.” 

You can also find this study on The New York Times Well blog:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Does Vitamin C Help Colds?

Autumn, the time for bonfires, pumpkin spice lattes, beautiful fall colors... and the sniffles.
Fall and winter are peak seasons for colds. And one of the most popular remedies for fighting off those pesky colds is to load up on vitamin C.
But does popping vitamin C tablets like candy do anything for your cold?
Vitamin C And The Immune System
Vitamin C is required for several functions including making collagen, carnitine, and neurotransmitters. Collagen is a protein found in skin, bones, tendons and cartilage. Carnitine helps with energy production by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria (your tiny power stations) for oxidation. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that help transfer information throughout your body and brain.
More commonly, vitamin C is known for its antioxidant properties. Free radicals are made during normal metabolic processes and spawn from things like pollution, radiation, and cigarette smoke. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, help to neutralize these cell and tissue damaging free radicals.
Does it Help the Common Cold?
Over the last couple decades, several studies involving thousands of people, have examined the ability of vitamin C to prevent and treat the common cold.
But, even ingestion of high doses of vitamin C has not been shown to prevent the common cold. However, habitual vitamin C consumption may reduce the duration of colds by 3% to 13%.
The Verdict
Taking vitamin C will not reduce the number of colds you get per year, but it can help reduce the severity and modestly reduce the time you have the cold.
As always, focus on foods first. Food sources of vitamin C contain several other important nutrients that you cannot get from a supplement. Excellent sources are asparagus cantaloupe, oranges, broccoli, grapefruit, kale and strawberries.
If you choose to supplement with vitamin C, it is best to take smaller doses. This is because the absorption of vitamin C decreases with increased intake. Less than 50% of vitamin C is typically absorbed at intakes above 1 g.
Gavin Van De Walle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and is a certified personal trainer. He is in the coordinated dietetic internship program at South Dakota State University where he is a Master of Science candidate in nutrition with a specialization in sports nutrition. Contact Gavin at  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Nutrition Personalities

The first principle of Intuitive Eating is “reject the diet mentality“- which, if you are new to intuitive eating is- a way of eating that is based on ones internal hunger cues and body feedback, as opposed to eating externally, essentially, the diet mentality.
Familiarizing yourself with what “type” of eater you are, or as I like to say, identifying yournutrition personality can help you see where you are, identify diet mentality thoughts and redirect them with a gentle, intuitive approach.
Tribole and Resch define the following 3 eating personalities in Intuitive Eating: The “Careful Eater”, “Professional Dieter”, and the “Unconscious Eater” (Evelyn and Resch, pages 65-80). Below, I’ll summarize some key characteristics of each.
1. Careful Eater
-From the book, the description of the careful eater may be often be depicted as the perfect eater.
-Exhibit constant “food worry” over what goes into their body, what is being served, how its being prepared and so on.
-The careful eater may have a negative relationship with food due to their rigidity in meal plans and self imposed “food rules” (some examples may be “no eating after 7pm, no added sugars with meals, ect.)
Intuitive eating allows careful eaters to eliminate the rigidity they often display, for example countless hours spent meal planning, grocery shopping and food prepping and instead asks them to turn inward to their body’s cues. Intuitive eating also allows careful eaters to eliminate guilt regarding their food choices, and instead respond to their unique preferences.
2. Professional Dieter
– Much like the description sounds, the professional dieter has a mastery of counting calories, carbs and things of the like in the pursuit of weight loss- this distinguishes them from the careful eater, in that they are not interested in health.
– While chronic dieters have an abundance of dieting knowledge, the restrictive cycles of dieting where by they eliminate food groups or certain items often leads to binging or “last supper” eating (having more of the forbidden food, instead of allowing it in a reasonable size)
– It is impossible to live in a healthful way and cultivate a normal relationship with food as a professional dieter
Intuitive eating allows professional dieters “unlimited access to food” meaning that no foods are off limits or restricted. While at first, this is very uncomfortable for the professional dieter, over time having equal access to all foods will decreased the frequency of binges and ultimately create an increase in nourishing food choices as well as fun foods
3. Unconscious Eater 
-The unconscious eater is the multitasker. While they can be caught in a variety of distractions from watching TV, reading or even walking.
– Behavior can range in this personality, however common characteristics may include finishing a child’s dinner plate, reaching for food laying around the house or at work as well as those grabbing something quick from the vending machine.
– It’s important to note that nutrition and wellness may be important to this person, its often the chaos of the moment that leads to the unconscious decision in the moment
Intuitive Eating offers the unconscious eater time to learn to listen to their bodies internal cues of hunger and satiety. Focusing on “just eating” allows time to find the “satisfaction factor” they may have been missing in chaotic eating.
Growth Questions:
1. What nutrition personality do you most identify with?
2. Identify some times in your life where you may have displayed an different nutrition personality- what factors might have contributed to this?
Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. Pages 65-80.
To learn more about Intuitive Eating, and view the complete descriptions of Nutrition personalities, please visit and be sure to visit their online community for great discussion of individuals committed to “never diet again!.”
Jaren Soloff is a San Diego based Dietetic Intern through Utah State University and received her Bachelors of Science degree in Dietetics from San Diego State University. Jaren's professional interest include eating disorders, prenatal + lactation nutrition and child feeding practices. Jaren firmly believes in empowering women by providing them with evidence based practices that support all women's innate ability to birth, breastfeed and nourish themselves and their children with confidence. Maintaining a non judgmental and safe space for women to share their relationship with food and body is the center of her practice. As an aspiring eating disorder Dietitian, Jaren is an active member of SCAN dietetic practice group and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can reach Jaren via social media, or email at:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Some Like It Hot: Eating Spicy Food May Extend Your Life Expectancy

In Eating Spicy Food Linked to a Longer Life, New York Times columnist, Nicholas Bakalar reports:
“Eating spicy food is associated with a reduced risk for death, an analysis of dietary data on more than 485,000 people found” (Bakalar, 2015).


The study focused on participants between 2004-2008 in a large Chinese health study.  The original study can be found in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers factored in patient age, medical/family history, education, diabetes, smoking and other variables.  They  found that when eating hot food (mainly from chili peppers), patients having it 1-2x a week had a 10% risk for death.  Eating spicy food 6-7 times per week reduced the risk by 14 percent. 

“Rates of ischemic heart disease, respiratory diseases and cancers were all lower in hot-food eaters. The authors drew no conclusions about cause and effect, but they noted that capsaicin, the main ingredient in chili peppers, had been found in other studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects” (Bakalar, 2015).

Dr. Lu Qi from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports that “We need more evidence, especially from clinical trials, to further verify these findings…and we are looking forward to seeing data from other populations.”

Gina Volsko RDN, LD is the SCAN blog coordinator, email her to learn more about blogging for SCAN.