Wellchat Episode 11: These Go to Eleven

Eposode 11: Recorded February 5th. Neal and Cristin share their favorite goofy movies, which naturally leads into a conversation about exercise intensity. Happy American Heart Month!

For further insight into this week’s Wellchat, check out this clip.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

New super-vitamin, or just catchy headlines?

“Before you jump on a nutrition bandwagon, and start taking supplements or radically change your diet, dig deeper. Be wary. Find reliable sources. Read the actual study.”

As a dietitian working in the wellness field, nutrition-related news always catches my eye. So I was intrigued when I saw several headlines last summer pertaining to vitamin B3. The first group of headlines were about miscarriage: “Vitamin B3 may prevent miscarriage and birth defects, study suggests” and  “Landmark Vitamin Discovery Could Prevent Miscarriages and Birth Defects”  Then a second group of headlines appeared, this time for vitamin B3 links to skin cancer prevention: “Vitamin therapy could prevent melanoma” and “New review shows potential of Vitamin B3 in preventing melanoma”. Reading the media-written articles about the research, things sounded pretty promising!

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a dietitian, it’s to be skeptical of “too good to true” headlines. So I decided to take some time and investigate the actual basis of the headlines. What I found was surprising, and not in a good way, especially if you went out and bought a bunch of vitamin B3 supplements based on the headlines.

For some background info to start, vitamin B3 comes in two forms: niacin and niacinamide. Niacinamide is derived from niacin, but the two forms are nearly interchangeable in low doses, like the doses found in vitamin supplements. In bigger doses, niacin and niacinamide do vary in their ability to treat certain conditions such as high cholesterol. Vitamin B3 plays an important role in our body’s metabolism, helping convert food into usable energy. Good sources of the vitamin in our diet include meat, fish, nuts, mushrooms, and fortified cereal.

Now, let’s take a look at the study related to miscarriage. An estimated 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, so there could be huge implications for millions of people if the headlines are true and vitamin B3 can prevent miscarriage. Researchers were looking specifically at a group of birth defects known as VACTERL association, which causes abnormalities in many different body systems including the spine, heart, kidneys, and limbs. VACTERL association is rare, affecting 1 in 10,000 to 40,000 babies. Researchers studied four families who had been affected by this particular type of birth defect and found that this association was related to a deficiency of a certain compound in the body known as NAD, or niacinamide adenine dinucleotide. NAD is a coenzyme formed from niacin, which allows cells to produce energy, and which is important for normal organ development. 

The discovery that NAD was involved and responsible for this group of birth defects alone was a big deal, but then scientists went further and found that when mice with the genetic mutation that will result in VACTERL were given extra niacin, their mouse babies didn’t end up with the expected defects.

It was a well designed study and an important one for the prevention of this specific type of birth defect. But, notice that the study was conducted on only four families and mice, and no niacin was actually given to humans! Furthermore, the dose given to mice was the equivalent of ten times the recommended daily amount for people. We also know that body mass index and diabetes can affect how someone produces NAD, and developing fetuses are particularly sensitive little beings. So, while it’s true that niacin may potentially prevent a certain type of birth defects (if humans react in the same way as mice), we are still a long ways off from recommending extra niacin to all pregnant women or being able to say that niacin will prevent miscarriage and birth defects. In other words, it’s an exciting study, but certainly shouldn’t be interpreted as having widespread ramifications for our entire population yet.

Next, let’s take a look at the study, or review rather, that spawned the headlines related to melanoma. A clinical trial known as ONTRAC was recently conducted which looked at the effect of niacin supplementation on the recurrence of skin cancer. Researchers found a 23% reduction in basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers (both non-melanoma cancers) when people with a history of skin cancer were given 500 mg of niacinamide twice per day as compared to a randomized control group receiving a placebo. It’s a compelling finding for people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, especially since niacinamide is safe, inexpensive, and easily available.

However, researchers then hypothesized that vitamin B3 might also be effective in helping to prevent melanoma, based on the promising ONTRAC trial results, as well as the assumed role of vitamin B3 in relation to skin cancer. Vitamin B3 is thought to reduce inflammation and suppression of the immune system caused by UV radiation, and is involved in DNA repair.

So, scientists never actually studied Vitamin B3 in relation to melanoma. They just called for future studies. And yet, somehow, their untested hypothesis that niacin might be able to prevent melanoma got translated into headlines that at first glance anyway, certainly give the impression that there is more of a connection.

Bottom line? Before you jump on a nutrition bandwagon, and start taking supplements or radically change your diet, dig deeper. Be wary. Find reliable sources. Read the actual study. You don’t have to have an advanced degree to find serious limitations of studies including small sample size, animals only, or no control groups. Or, in the case of the melanoma headlines, no study at all; simply a call for future research!

Hopefully we will see follow-up research that support these findings and hypotheses, but in the meantime, the best approach is to get your niacin from a whole-foods based, healthy diet!

CS

Want to learn more about dietary supplementation? Check out our 2016 Webinar Smart About Supplements

 

 

Defining Success

“Don’t minimize the success that you experienced just because it didn’t have the typical trappings of a wellness success story! Inspiration and success take many forms.”

Hello MUS! I’m back from maternity leave, and as all of you working moms know, returning to work has been bittersweet. It’s been really hard to leave my 3-month-old baby during the day, but it also feels good to get back into the swing of things work-wise, especially with some exciting projects on the horizon for MUS Wellness in 2018.

One of the things that has made returning to work easier was being greeted by literally hundreds of success stories that were sent in while I was on leave. Reading your success stories is always motivational to me, both on a personal level, particularly since I have to redefine what wellness looks like to me as I balance new responsibilities in my life, and on a professional level, as the stories are a wonderful reminder as to why the Wellness program exists, and how great the people are who work for MUS.

Many of your stories are similar to Angela’s: stories of getting back into shape, losing weight, running marathons. We love these kinds of stories, and they are fun to post on our blog as they inspire others to take steps in a healthy direction (we hope!).

But I also read plenty of stories that had a different theme and tone, often starting with phrases such as, “I didn’t lose the weight I wanted to…” or “I had some major setbacks in 2017…” Many stories began with apologies, excuses (usually very valid), or admissions, but then without fail, all of them included at least one thing that was accomplished despite the obstacles or challenges.

Other stories opened with “It may not sound like much, but…” and went on to describe an awesome, but perhaps nontraditional success story. So, to all of you who submitted a story: Don’t minimize the success that you experienced just because it didn’t have the typical trappings of a wellness success story! Inspiration and success take many forms.

Here are a few examples we want to celebrate with you!

  • Work was stressful and exercise goals went by the wayside, but maintained a goal of not drinking soda and drinking more water, and no longer punished herself for a bad day of eating.
  • Struggled with back pain and other health concerns, so made a point to focus on mental health. Is now incorporating meditation, mindfulness, and acupuncture into her regular routine to help deal with physical and mental challenges.
  • Discovered coloring books as a great stress reliever.
  • Refinanced the house, paid off credit card debt, and put money away for savings.
  • Signed up to be a Wellness Champion as a way to re-commit to wellness goals.
  • Found a new church to improve spiritual health.
  • Started going to a counselor to work through long overdue issues.
  • Didn’t lose weight, but didn’t gain any either!
  • Actually decreased the amount of time spent running and training for long races, so that more time could be spent with family and catching up on sleep.
  • Got in the habit of brushing tongue along with teeth.
  • Then there was a plan member who I know to be a big runner and very physically active, so I was expecting his story to involve a race or setting a PR, but instead, his success of 2017 was taking the stairs at least once a day to his 6th floor office! Yes, that is absolutely a success!

Consider these examples as you set goals, resolutions, or intentions for 2018. Think outside the  box when defining what wellness success might look like to you this year. Is there an aspect of your health (physical, mental, spiritual, financial) that you’ve been ignoring? Maybe being realistic about your time & responsibilities, you know that exercising for an hour every day isn’t in the cards for you this year. Rather than getting discouraged, think about whether there’s a smaller, more manageable goal that you can actually achieve (keep it SMART), and remember that you define your own success!

Cristin

Wellchat Episode VII: The Late Night Binge

Episode 7: Recorded previously, Cristin discusses Bluezones, the myths and realities of late-night eating, and some strategies to curb binges later in the day. Plus Neal shares some latest news regarding the MUS Wellness Incentive Program.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Power Bite Video: Freezing Veggies

As we head into fall and our CSA shares, home gardens, and Farmer’s market bounties of fresh fruits and veggies start to wane, don’t despair! Cristin, with the help of Montana dietetic intern Anna Goodrum, demonstrates how to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables in order to preserve those delicious foods through the winter. The simple technique of blanching is also discussed.

Freezing fresh produce is a great way to prevent food waste, and prepare for easy meals down the road.

For those of you who participate in our MUS Wellness Incentive Program, a new round of challenges will begin next week (10/2). Get a jump on one of them by watching the latest Montana Meals offering!

Happy Eating!

How do you figure what is 20%?

In Episode 2 of the Montana Moves and Meals podcast, we discussed my first nutrition tenet: the 80/20 rule of moderation. This principle is meant to allow for some flexibility in one’s diet to include foods that we enjoy but that may not be great for us (the 20%), while maintaining a focus on eating for health (the 80%). By following this tenet, you lose the all-or-nothing approach to nutrition and the excuse that “the diet starts tomorrow!”

After we posted the podcast, I received the following question: “How do you figure what is 20%? 20% of the days? 20% of meals? 20% of calories?” Great question, and one that I felt deserved to be answered for everyone, not just for those who are comment readers.

First, determining the 80% vs 20% is really up to individual discretion. There are no hard and fast rules. But here’s my take:  I would say the percentages should be considered in the context of all of the food/beverage choices that you make over the course of a day. If you think about it, we make dozens of eating choices everyday – wheat bread or white? Salad or fries? Trail mix or chips? Milk or water? Opening the refrigerator door or not, etc. So, to follow the 80/20 rule, 80% of those choices are the healthy option; 20% of those choices are based purely on what you want.

I would judge the 80/20 breakdown over a day or even a couple of days as you might have entire meals that are mostly in the 80 or 20 category, but hopefully not entire days that are in the 20%. Determining the 20% doesn’t need to be an exact science; it’s more of just a basic guiding principle and reminder that most of our diet should consist of healthy foods, while still leaving room for foods that make us happy & satisfied. In fact, think broadly when considering this principle. Resist the temptation to categorize each and every food as good or bad, as it’s all too easy to extend this to a judgement about ourselves as good or bad for eating that food. We eat a variety of foods for a variety of reasons, and the food we eat has no bearing on our worth as a person. It does however, have a bearing on our health outcomes and health risks, and that’s why it’s important to prioritize healthy nutritional choices.

Hope this helps.

Happy Eating!

Cristin

 

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat

Well, we did it. We made a podcast. We’ve been talking about it for sometime now and we finally got it done! Let us know if you like it, give us some feedback, and we’ll make more! Have an idea for an episode? We take requests. Episode 1 is introductions and back stories. Even if you think you know us, if you listen you might learn something new.

Episode 1.  Neal Andrews & Cristin Stokes from MUS Wellness introduce themselves and the Montana Moves & Montana Meals programs in Episode 1 of their new podcast, The Wellchat.

National Nutrition Month: Put Your Best Fork Forward

“Nutrition, at its core, is simply about eating good food.”

I’m sure the readership of this blog knows that March is National Nutrition Month. I mean, it’s circled on your calendar, right?  Well, in case you haven’t heard, National Nutrition Month is a month intended for celebrating healthy, delicious food that nourishes your body. It’s also a month that all joking aside, even as a dietitian, I often overlook. So this year, I am going to be a little bit better, and acknowledge National Nutrition Month with a blog post!  

Each year, the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the largest organization of dietitians and nutrition professionals, selects a theme for National Nutrition Month. The theme for 2017 is Put Your Best Fork Forward. It’s a broad theme that allows a lot of personal interpretation, so here’s my take:

To me, the phrase Put Your Best Fork Forward makes me think about the actual act of eating. And not eating just anything, but eating wholesome, delicious food.

Sometimes in the world of nutrition, we get so focused on single nutrients or numbers that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We get lost in in the questions like “how many grams of protein should I be getting each day?” or “which calcium supplement is best?” that we forget that nutrition, at its core, is simply about eating good food. It’s about eating consistent meals throughout the day consisting of fresh, healthy ingredients that you actually enjoy. Gone are the days where healthy means only raw vegetables without dressing, light margarines, and nonfat/sugar-free everything. Instead, putting your best fork forward means food that is flavorful, colorful, and most of all, satisfying. It’s roasted vegetables with a generous enough serving of olive oil, salt, and pepper to bring out all the flavors, it’s whole eggs topped with creamy avocado chunks, and it’s your favorite cut of beef savored and served with garden carrots and locally grown whole grains. It’s food that, in reasonable portions, makes us both healthy and happy.

Put Your Best Fork Forward also means eating food with a fork. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, the healthiest meals (in our American diet and American way of eating, anyway) actually require utensils. Consider foods that can be consumed without utensils — fast food burgers, prepackaged granola bars, snack foods straight from the bag, donuts or pastries, etc. All can be eaten quickly, on the go, in your car, mindlessly in front of the TV, or at your desk as a distraction from work. Now think about a hearty, nutritious meal that has protein, veggies, and whole grains. You need a fork to eat what you just pictured, don’t you?

Put Your Best Fork Forward further implies a conscience decision to make good choices. Just as putting your best foot forward means putting forth solid effort and trying your best, putting your best fork forward means you are doing things on purpose to help yourself and your family eat a healthy diet. Good nutrition doesn’t happen by accident. It requires effort. Sometimes this news is discouraging to people. But remember that small actions on a consistent basis, like fitting in 3 servings of vegetables a day or planning out your dinner meals for the week, can produce big results like feeling less fatigued, bringing or keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in a normal range, or losing the weight that has been creeping up over the years. 

The other part of making a conscience effort to eat well is to not get too discouraged when you make a poor food choice. Putting Your Best Fork Forward means that each time you eat something is another opportunity to provide your body with the nutrients it needs. So what if you gave into that candy bar craving? Get right back on track with your next bite, snack, or meal. Had a day at work full of junk food? Make an extra healthy dinner at home to balance things out.

So this month, in honor of National Nutrition Month, take a moment and consider, what does Put Your Best Fork Forward mean to you? And what can you do today to eat in a way that matches and honors your interpretation?

Happy Eating!

Cristin

For more info on Putting Your Best Fork Forward, visit www.eatright.org

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