Draft nutrition rules tell you what we’ve been saying: Drink coffee!

The U.S. is in the process of updating its official dietary guidelines, and the initial recommendations have been released telling you all what we keep saying: Coffee is good for you.

Here’s NPR’s take:

If you like a cup of coffee and an egg in the morning, you’ve got the green light.

A panel of top nutrition experts appointed by the federal government has weighed in with its long-awaited diet advice.

Their conclusions are that daily cup of joe (or two) may help protect against Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And an egg a day will not raise the risk of heart disease in healthy people. Hold the sugary muffin, though.

More generally, the guidelines encourage more fruit and vegetables — both for health reasons and because they are more sustainable than something like red meat. Another big focus is: Cut sugar. And that’s not easy because there is so much sugar hidden in foods — in condiments, in sauces, in cereals, sort of everywhere.

If you’re feeling skeptical about these government-endorsed suggestions, there’s reason. The New York Times sums it up nicely:

Since they were first issued in 1980, the guidelines have largely encouraged people to follow a low-fat diet, which prompted an explosion of processed foods stripped of fat and loaded with sugar. Studies show that replacing fat with refined carbohydrates like bread, rice and sugar can actually worsen cardiovascular health, so the guidelines encourage Americans to focus not on the amount of fat they are eating but on the type.

The guidelines advise people to eat unsaturated fat — the kind found in fish, nuts, and olive and vegetable oils — in place of saturated fat, which occurs primarily in animal foods.

The panel also dropped a longstanding recommendation that Americans restrict their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods like eggs and shrimp — a belated acknowledgment of decades of research showing that dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on the blood cholesterol levels of most people.

This time, though, they are moving toward what in our household holds true: limited processed foods, lots of vegetables (raw usually) and no real fear of eggs or even butter.

The guidelines now go through a 45-day public comment period. NPR says the updated guidelines will be released by the end of the year.

Posted by Steve

Kids are drinking more coffee. Even we might not support that

Yes, yes, “no coffee, no prana,” but, c’mon. Also: The Middle Path.

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics (you know something is serious when it is preceded by the words “the journal”) and detailed — for those not serious enough to read the journal Pediatrics — at Quartz, kids are getting their caffeine fixes more often from coffee and less from soda.

OK, that doesn’t sound so bad. But coffee or soda, in kids? Seems a little loopy. Here’s more from the Quartz summary:

American children consume less caffeine than they did a decade ago, but a study published in Pediatrics found that the 2-22 set can now thank coffee for nearly a quarter of their daily caffeine intake, up from 10% a decade ago. The caffeine consumed via soda dropped from 62% to 38%. Soda’s significant loss of drinkers could be because of a cultural shift. While soda was once perceived as healthier than coffee, the roles have now been switched. (Surprisingly, energy drinks only accounted for around 6% of youth caffeine consumption.)

The good news there, of course, is that kids are consuming less caffeine that 10 years ago — sort of hard to believe, when you hear about the overly stimulated, overly stressful world in which today’s kids (aka “kids these days”) supposedly live.

The thing is, apparently, that as sugary drinks — potentially to be labeled here in California — have gotten a bad rap, coffee has gotten a better one. (Color us guilty!) But we aren’t feeling bad about being guilty, because in many coffee drinks, it isn’t the coffee that’s bad. No sirree. It’s the sugars and fats that get added in to mochas, etc.

There’s no prana in that stuff. And we don’t advocate it. (Well, maybe a little cream, if you have to…)

Posted by Steve

Sugar may make you flexible, but study outlines serious health risks

“Sugar makes you flexible” is one of those semi-sourced Ashtanga phrases that I would guess most serious practitioners have heard in one form or another, attributed to one teacher or another. (That includes to Guruji, himself.)

I also would guess it comes as no surprise that sugar isn’t exactly good for you. Now there’s a new study that suggests that the levels of added sugar in the average human diet (and probably especially the Western and U.S. ones) is pretty bad for you.

“Sugar is Toxic to Mice in ‘Safe’ Doses” is the cut and dry title of the University of Utah press release announcing the study:

When mice ate a diet of 25 percent extra sugar – the mouse equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda daily – females died at twice the normal rate and males were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce, according to a toxicity test developed at the University of Utah.

“Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health,” the researchers say in a study set for online publication Tuesday, Aug. 13 in the journal Nature Communications.

“This demonstrates the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels,” says University of Utah biology professor Wayne Potts, the study’s senior author. He says previous studies using other tests fed mice large doses of sugar disproportionate to the amount people consume in sweetened beverages, baked goods and candy.

You get the key thing here, right? Rather than seeing if you fed mice a diet of basically candy bars, this study try to match, more or less, how we all eat. (Well, not we all, because we all eat too healthy, another thing I hate about Ashtanga.) Here’s a bit more on this aspect of the study:

Potts says the National Research Council recommends that for people, no more than 25 percent of calories should be from “added sugar,” which means “they don’t count what’s naturally in an apple, banana, potato or other nonprocessed food. … The dose we selected is consumed by 13 percent to 25 percent of Americans.”

The diet fed to the mice with the 25 percent sugar-added diet is equivalent to the diet of a person who drinks three cans daily of sweetened soda pop “plus a perfectly healthy, no-sugar-added diet,” Potts says.

Ruff notes that sugar consumption in the American diet has increased 50 percent since the 1970s, accompanied by a dramatic increase in metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease.

And here three of the study’s findings, written in all their scientific glory:

– After 32 weeks in mouse barns, 35 percent of the females fed extra sugar died, twice the 17 percent death rate for female control mice. There was no difference in the 55 percent death among males who did and did not get added sugar. Ruff says males have much higher death rates than females in natural settings because they compete for territory, “but there’s no relation to sugar.”

– Males on the added-sugar diet acquired and held 26 percent fewer territories than males on the control diet: control males occupied 47 percent of the territories while sugar-added mice controlled less than 36 percent. Male mice shared the remaining 17 percent of territories.

– Males on the added-sugar diet produced 25 percent fewer offspring than control males, as determined by genetic analysis of the offspring. The sugar-added females had higher reproduction rates than controls initially – likely because the sugar gave them extra energy to handle the burden of pregnancy – but then had lower reproductive rates as the study progressed, partly because they had higher death rates linked to sugar.

Translation: Sugar is bad.

Or is it? You surely will be shocked to learn that corn and sugar producers have some complaints and questions about the study. Via the Los Angeles Times:

The Corn Refiners Assn., a trade group, questioned the use of mice in the study, saying in a statement that the only way to know the effect in people would be to test people.

“Mice do not eat sugar as a part of their normal diet, so the authors are measuring a contrived overload effect that might not be present had the rodents adapted to sugar intake over time,” the group said.

The trade group for the sugar industry, the Sugar Assn., said it was studying the research. But it maintained that the sweetener used in the study was crucial.

“Sugar and the various formulations of HFCS are molecularly different — they are not the same product, yet too often, and erroneously, HFCS is referred to as an ‘added sugar.’ ” the statement said. “Only sugar is sugar.”

Hmm… sugar and spice, and everything nice… we may need to re-calibrate that old ditty.

Posted by Steve