Wednesday, July 20, 2016

No, Eggs do Not Cause Atherosclerosis: Debunking Nutritional Myths

A friend of mine (her name shall be omitted to protect the innocent) posted an article on how eggs cause atherosclerosis. As a result, I decided to do some research and break down what I found to be a highly misleading article, which I shall include for the sake of accurately representing the article.

First off, a little research led me to discover that the writer of the original article ( had completely blown the study out of proportion. The study in question, which stated that people who consumed egg yolks were more likely to cause atherosclerosis, was interpreted by the author of the aforementioned article to be evidence that eating eggs at all is as likely to cause atherosclerosis as smoking cigarettes. After having read that, I decided to dig a bit deeper.

The first thing I decided to do was to look at the article itself and understand what was going on. In all honesty, that is the most important place to look because getting opinions based on what was said can be exaggerated, hearsay, or misinterpreted, which is less likely to happen if you go straight to the source. One thing that impressed me about reading this article in particular was the amount of attention to detail when pointing out their own flaws.

The authors specifically state that they need to do more research than just surveying, which can be exceptionally inaccurate because people do not always properly report their actual food consumption; oftentimes, people will cut their portions down or exaggerate their consumption of what they perceive to be healthy foods. A great example of this error is the garbage project at the University of Arizona, where one of the major findings was that people's self reporting and actually sifting through people's garbage yielded two very different results. Next, they state that they did not take exercise into account; this can be problematic as exercise is an important factor in vascular health as opposed to only diet. Finally, they specifically state they failed to take into account other sources of saturated fats. As someone who used to work in a restaurant, I can tell you that people make some really bizarre decisions with their health. People will often pair an egg white omelet with potatoes fried in oil or a highly caloric baked good because they think the egg whites negate the properties of the other foods. Others will pair scrambled egg whites with a whole milk latte, which contains a great deal of saturated fat.

What shocked me the most had nothing to do with the article itself, but rather with how the article was presented by journalists. The journalists who wrote the Los Angeles Times article clearly exaggerated the amount of impact of eggs on overall human health and also failed to mention the conservative measures the authors mentioned as to other underlying causes of their findings. The video my friend sent went a step further to state that all egg consumption is bad.

While I do not recommend looking at the comments section of articles for quality information, in the case of looking over the site my friend shared, it was to my benefit. A fellow skeptic posted a meta-analysis of all articles discussing eggs and atherosclerosis. This article examined pertinent articles from January of 1966 to June of 2012 to try and find a correlation between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease. The data was analyzed and re-analyzed using several different methods of plotting and statistical examinations. Through all this analysis, no correlation was found between heart attack, stroke, or eggs. However, they did admit that diabetics appear to have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes when they consume eggs than do people who are not diabetic, and they state this needs to be further studied as it is an overlooked area of research.

Furthermore, we need to look at the anthropological research. As you can imagine, my research in archaeology always comes forward to the modern era. Through looking at the remains of what people leave behind (including their bodies themselves), we can get a more accurate image of ourselves. In an examination of 137 mummies from all over the world who lived in populations spanning 4000 years, 47 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, several of whom were from hunter-gatherer populations. Of the 47 who showed evidence, 25 definitely had it. Of these populations, only one consumed eggs as a regular part of their diet. This study suggests that this is something that is just part of our aging process and is not attributable to diet at all.

If looking this over should tell you anything, it's that human health is exceptionally complicated. Nothing is ever black and white or perfectly straightforward. Atherosclerosis is no exception. My advice after reading this is to be conservative in what you eat in the sense of using moderation, but also take everything you read about nutrition with a grain of salt. Above all else, do your homework.

Works Cited

Rong, Ying et al
              2013 Egg Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke: Dose Response                            Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies BMJ
Spence, David J. et al
              2012 Egg Consumption and Carotid Plaque Atherosclerosis Vol. 24 No. 2
Thompson, Randal et al
             2013 Atherosclerosis Across 4000 Years of Human History: the Horus Study of Four Ancient                      Populations The Lancet Vol. 381 No. 9783 pp. 1211-1222

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Baked Sea Bass: Super Tasty

I'll preface this by saying that I was a little out of my element this time because I have never cooked sea bass before. However, this recipe was fantastic, and I'm really glad I decided to try it. It's super easy, and best of all, it requires things that are generally found in your home kitchen.

First, heat your oven to 425 degrees F. While it's heating, put your sea bass filets into an ovenproof baking dish. Mix a couple Tablespoons olive oil, three or four cloves garlic (obviously this depends on the size of your garlic and how much you like garlic). Add salt and pepper to taste and mix it well. Brush this mixture onto the fish and bake it for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle a good sized sprig of fresh Italian parsley that has been chopped over the fish and continue baking the fish for another five minutes.

Will and I both loved it. I really could have more evenly distributed the parsley, but other than that, it was pretty fantastic. I would definitely do it again. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of failing to properly salt the risotto I served with it (for the recipe for that, please go to my blog post on risotto) because I used water to make it instead of the stock I normally use, so it kind of created a flavor dissonance. In the future, make sure everything you serve is properly seasoned before serving it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Nutritional Misconceptions: Dairy Consumption Causes Autism

I was perusing Youtube this morning when I came across a video by a Youtuber with the user name Freelee the Banana Girl. In it, she mentions several statements about dairy consumption including that dairy product consumption causes autism and cancer. As a person with Asperger's syndrome and lactose intolerance, I decided to learn where this woman got her information (she cited no sources in her video) and expand my knowledge on this.

First off, a perusal of Google Scholar (a site which I recommend if you are looking at scientific studies) shows no articles even correlating dairy to autism, let alone causation. I did, however, find one article which suggests that there is a protein in camel's milk which could be used to treat symptoms associated with autism. I also discovered another paper which suggests that there is no connection whatsoever between autism and dairy consumption.

Having found no academic source that could be this user's source, I decided to do a general Google search. What I found really bothered me. It appears to have come from PETA, a group not particularly well known for getting their information from reputable sources. In it, they mention definitive information and, like the user in question, fail to cite their sources.

Dr. Steven Novella, a reputable neurologist and skeptic, put it far better than I could and broke it down so that even the most scientifically illiterate person could easily understand it. If you don't like the jargon heavy or dryness of academic papers, I highly recommend reading his article on this debacle.

In conclusion, don't believe everything you read or hear about on the internet. Reputable sources are your friends, and it really doesn't take much. My research for this blog post took me about an hour and a half, and I learned quite a bit about an area that I quite frankly know little about (that is, neurology and the dietary influences of neurological health). Also, remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and the more extraordinary the claim is, the more evidence it requires to prove it.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tips on Snacking

If you're anything like me, snacking can be your downfall. Luckily for people like us, there is a simple way to fix this, and most of them are pretty straightforward.

The biggest problem facing people in the US is portion sizing. Because we feed people so much, we often have difficulty telling what is a proper portion size. Couple that with a lack of knowledge of how to read nutrition facts (which I will get into if I can) and it becomes a recipe for disaster. The first thing you should look for when looking at the portion size and the caloric content so that you can judge if this is a good snack option for you; if it's not, shelve it and move on. For example, if you like to munch on something for a while, Oreos are probably not a good idea because a serving on the nutrition facts is 3 cookies, which are about 180 calories per serving. If it is, put the snacks in individually wrapped bags to help eliminate temptation. If you don't want to do this, go to an Asian/Pacific Island market; a lot of other countries, most notably Koreans and Japanese, tend to package their snacks in individual containers, which makes it easier to gauge what we're eating. For those of you who are looking at saving money, you can also use this to judge how many servings you can get for it and thus get more bang for your buck.

As I mentioned above, a lack of knowledge of nutrition facts can lead to other problems. One of the biggest factors is to look at the proportions. If it has more than 30% of your daily value of a given nutrient, it's high in that nutrient. This can be a good or bad thing, however. For example, it would be a good idea to eat half a cup of orange sections if it has 40% of your daily value of Vitamin C, but eating a food that has that proportion of carbohydrates wouldn't be such a good idea.

Most of us think of protein bars as a good healthy snack. Unfortunately, some of them are about as good for you as candy bars, and others are more like meal replacers than actual snacks. One of the reasons for that is added sugar content. Most people should not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. To put that into perspective, a can of soda easily has at least twice that. The best way to do this is to look at the ingredients list; anything with the suffix -ose, the word syrup, honey, molasses, or cane juice is just a fancy word for sugar. If, like Will, you have a sweet tooth, you probably don't wish to waste your added sugar in one fell swoop.

I hope this helps. Do you have some tips on snacking that I didn't mention? Please comment below; I love it when people contribute to this.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chili Rellenos Con Guacamole: A Light, Delightful Summer Meal

So Will and I are back to trying to lose weight again and are looking at meals that are reasonably healthy. I've made this particular recipe before, but decided to make a few changes in order to get a better flavor profile going.

First, roast your poblano peppers. The way to do this is simple. Turn on your broiler, arrange your peppers on a baking sheet, and roast, turning until all sides are blistered. This should only take a total of five minutes. Next, stick them in a plastic bag and leave them alone until they are cool enough to handle. Warning: they will be steamy.

While waiting for your peppers to cool, make your guacamole. Mine is a pretty simple mixture of avocados, 1 clove of garlic per three avocados, salt, pepper, and some form of acid. Normally I use lemon or lime juice, but this time I had to use white wine vinegar. Because vinegar is more acidic than citrus juice, make sure to use a light hand with it.

Once your peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the membrane, which should be easy since you blistered it in the broiler, and remove the seeds. If you don't, you will be in for a fiery mouth. Finally, spoon some of the guacamole into each pepper and serve.

Will thought these were awesome, but might be better with Anaheim peppers because they're spicier. I personally prefer to use poblanos because they are smokier tasting when roasted. This really is a fantastic summer dish and I look forward to making this in the future.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cherry Vanilla Almond Sorbet: Fresh Flavor, No Dairy

I had a bunch of leftover cherries and decided to make some homemade sorbet. In order to do this, I modified a recipe I had for mango sorbet.

First, pit 2 cups of cherries and freeze them until frozen solid. Meanwhile, make a vanilla simple syrup by combining 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water, and half a vanilla bean. Bring this mixture to a boil on medium heat, stirring to dissolve. Once it comes up to a boil, put it on low and let it simmer until smooth, about a minute. Take it off the heat and cool it completely. Remove the vanilla bean from the syrup. For extra vanilla flavor, split the vanilla bean after removing it and scrape the seeds into the syrup.

Next, put cherries, 2 cups ice, syrup, and 1/2 cup almond liqueur in a blender. Blend this mixture until it's smooth and slushy. Pour this into Tupperware containers and freeze it until frozen solid.

Will and I both found this delicious. I was considering adding chopped almonds the next time I made it, but once I tasted it, I realized it didn't need it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Black Rice Salad: Way Too Much Vinaigrette Used; Please Don't Make the Same Mistake I Did

I decided to make a rice salad to get back on the whole dieting thing after some craziness involving school and work. The good news is, this is my last year as an undergraduate. The bad news is, I have to struggle to get into graduate school. Wish me luck, everyone! Anyway, here's the recipe.

Cook one cup of black rice (also frequently known as Chinese forbidden rice or just forbidden rice) in one and three quarter cups boiling water for 45 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, thaw and drain frozen edamame (also known as shelled soybeans), French cut green beans, and corn.

To make the vinaigrette, combine one third of a cup of white wine vinegar, three Tablespoons grapeseed oil, and one Tablespoon agave nectar. Whisk this mixture to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the rice and vegetables together in the vinaigrette and add salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

As I said in the title, this had WAY too much vinegar. All I could taste was the acid. Will found it so vinegary that it turned his stomach and he couldn't actually stand to eat it. If I ever make this again, I will cut down the vinaigrette by at least half. Also, if you have stomach problems, make sure to cut down the vinaigrette or else your stomach will complain at you forever.