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Jeffrey S. Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN

Jeff’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition with minors in Exercise Science.

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Juggling For Your Mind PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 00:00

We know the old adage, "Use it or lose it" holds true for exercise and the physical body no matter how old you are.  For many years, it was generally thought that the capability of the human brain to modify its structural pattern to fit new environmental demands is restricted to the early stages of development.  However, in recent years, we have also began to see how the human brain and cognitive functioning could adapt to demands placed on it. The question then arises, if the brain of the elderly could respond as well as younger subjects. 

A recent study in The Journal of Neuroscience, looked at the ability of a group of elderly people to learn to juggle 3 balls compare to a group of 20 year old adolescents. 

A group of 93 volunteers (54 female, 39 male; mean age, 60 years) who were  matched for gender and age were divided into two groups: training and control. Both groups were inexperienced in terms of juggling at the start of the study. The subjects from the training group were given 3 months to learn classic three-ball juggling. Brain scans were performed prior do the study, at the time of the juggling and a final scan was performed 3 months later. 

The Lyon (or Lying) Heart Trial, Pt 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Thursday, 25 September 2008 14:27

Following up on yesterdays blog on the Lyon Heart Trial....

 It is important to note that most of the unfortunate popularity and (mis)information about the MED diet and the Lyon Heart Trial, is a result of the "Mediterranean" diet pyramid and all the marketing and advertising that came out as a result and not a result of actual clinical trial, randomized controlled trials, and population studies.   This MED diet pyramid was actually originally created by "OldWays" and is heavily sponsored by the food industry.

You can read the list of the sponsors here...

Someday, we will separate "Public Health Initiatives" that are based on science, from.....

The Lyon (or Lying) Heart Trial PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 00:00

Recently,  I was asked to respond to the following quote, which often appear around the web and in the mainstream media...

"The landmark Lyon Diet Heart Study found that heart attack survivors who adopted a Mediterranean-style diet -- low in red meat and dairy but rich in olive oil, nuts, fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables -- lowered their risk of heart attacks, sudden death, and cardiac events"

This is typical of the way media reports misrepresent information. The diet was not "rich" in olive oil or nuts, nor was olive oil even the oil used in the Lyon heart trial. Not only that, this study is often used as a rationale to promote the Mediterranean (MED) diet, as if there is one specific diet everyone in the Mediterranean follows.   But, this is not true.   In fact, food consumption varies dramatically throughout the MED countries and in some areas, there is little if any oil intake and/or wine consumption.

Quoting from the author of the largest MED Study to date in an editorial on the topic...

Calcium In Plant Foods PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Saturday, 20 September 2008 13:33

I often say that greens are some of the richest sources of calcium there are, per calorie.  The problem is, we often see the amount of calcium in food listed per gram. 

As many of you know, the best way to evaluate the nutrient content of a food is by nutrient density or how much of the nutrient is there per calorie.  After all, our daily intake is based on calories and not grams.   Overall, it is best to evaluate foods on overall nutrient density, of which foods provide the best overall amount of nutrients per calories, instead of looking at just an isolated single nutrient.  The reason is, we may find a food that is very nutrient dense in one nutrient, but poor in many others.

 However, for the sake of discussion today, we will look at the calcium density of dark green leafy veggies today.   One, just to support the point I make the dark greens are such a rich source of calcium and two, because we know that leafy greens are rich sources of all other nutrients also (except Vit B12 and Vit D)

So, here is a list of several green vegetables and the calcium density of them, per calorie.

More On Vit D2 vs D3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Friday, 19 September 2008 00:00

In the blog, Vitamin D: Update: Vit D2 vs D3 & How Much Sun?, we saw that recent research has shown that Vit D2 (a plant based source) may be as equally effective as Vit D3 (an animal based source).  

As D2 is often thought to be inferior, there are still  some misconceptions about Vitamin D2, so here is some more info on the difference and effectiveness of both.  

To clarify:

There are two types of vitamin D:

Vitamin D3 - cholecalciferol; is derived from animals (usually from sheep's wool or fish oil). It is the preferred form that is usually recommended as studies have shown it to be more effective, and it is the form animals (including humans) synthesize from sunlight.

Vitamin D2 - ergocalciferol; a plant chemical that is the form synthesized by plants. It has vitamin D activity in humans, but not as much activity as D3;

While D3 has been shown to be more effective (some studies have estimated it to be about 3- 10x more effective) it doesn't mean that D2 is ineffective.

Cholesterol & Cancer Confusion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Thursday, 18 September 2008 00:00

They have done it again.   The media is creating more confusion.   

Recent news reports of a recent medical study is creating confusion in regard to cholesterol levels and cancer.   What the media is reporting is that people with low LDL cholesterol (below 109) have a higher risk of certain cancers.  Of course, the implications of these news reports is that those of us who are following healthy diets and lifestyles and have low cholesterol levels are increasing our risks for cancer.  

Well, not so.   The reality is, there is no evidence that a low cholesterol that is the result of a healthy lifestyle is harmful at all.  Non human primates in the wild have cholesterol levels around 120-130.   However, the problem is that sometimes a low cholesterol is a symptom of another health concern and not the cause of a another health problem, i.e. certain cancers, as in the case in this recent study. 

Also, a low cholesterol that is a result of taking cholesterol lowering medications is not protective like a low cholesterol that is the result of a healthy diet and lifestyle. So, many people who still follow an unhealthy diet and lifestyle but have low cholesterol levels as a result of taking cholesterol lowering medication,  are still at an increased risk for heart disease, strokes and premature death. 

Simple Changes Yield Huge Benefits PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Wednesday, 17 September 2008 19:47

Some simple changes can have some huge benefits according to a recent study from Harvard University.   While many studies try to isolate the impact of one specific behavior, this study looked at the impact of several behaviors when combined.   The healthy lifestyle behaviors were not smoking, eating a healthy diet an getting in regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

In the study, over 80,000 nurses who kept detailed records of their diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, weight, smoking and disease history were followed for more than two decades.

Almost 30 percent of premature deaths could have been avoided if the women had never smoked and over 50 percent of the premature deaths could have been avoided if the women had never smoked and exercised regularly, eaten a healthy diet and maintained a healthy weight, with smoking playing the biggest role.

In the article, one of the researchers, Dr. Rob van Dam, said,

What Is The Harm? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Tuesday, 16 September 2008 14:18

One of the most common responses you hear from supplement users, is that even if there is not any benefit, what is the harm in using them. Maybe they just offer come extra insurance, and/or protection.

Apparently not. And, this is not the first study to show this.

This one just came out from the Cochrance Group, which is one of the most respected groups out there for reviewing medical research. Not only were these products not helpful, they actually increased mortality.

Here is the study...

Outdoor Activities, Sunlight, Vitamin D & You PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Monday, 15 September 2008 00:00

We have been discussing the importance of Vitamin D and adequate sunlight recently. And, the importance of maintaining a healthy weight as this actually raises your serum Vitamin D levels. Often we hear the only way to get adequate Vitamin D is to take a supplement, especially if you are older, as you lose your ability to synthesize Vitamin D from the sun.

However, contrary to a these many admonitions claiming that Americans, especially seniors, must take vitamin D supplements because their skin can no longer generate sufficient vitamin D when out in the sun, seniors' vitamin D generating capability is apparently just as good as that of young people, as this recent study reports.

BMI, Cancer and You PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick   
Saturday, 23 August 2008 13:15

Recently, I posted to blogs about the relationship between body weight, BMI and mortality.  We saw that a BMI in the lower range of what is considered "healthy" (18.5-22) may be best for low rates of disease and death.

Now, a new study adds to the above body of evidence supporting that a BMI in the lower range of what is considered "healthy" may be best. In this case, it is for colon cancer, a leading cancer.

The study, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, included 46,349 men aged 40-75 who filled out questionnaires, including items on weight, every second year between 1986 to 2004. Updated weight change between consecutive questionnaires during follow-up and recalled weight gain since age 21 was evaluated. All eligible men were cancer-free at the beginning of the study.  Over an 18-year period, 765 cases of colon cancer were documented.

Two important findings from this study.

Simplicity Is The Key To Good Health PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Tuesday, 19 August 2008 19:42

"Variety" may be the "spice of life" but "simplicity" is truly the "key to health"

Over the last 16 years of following the principles of "healthful living", I often hear the following comment...

"Jeff, this is SIMPLE for you to do and follow because you have been doing it for so LONG".

To which I respond...

"You have it backwards, the reason I have been able to do this for so LONG is because I have always kept it so SIMPLE."

Well, turns out that maybe I am correct as my personal philosophy and thoughts were just recently supported by an interesting study that was done. These results may also be able to help many of you by pointing out the "key" component to following a program of healthful living successfully.

This study was designed to test the theory that very simple, uncomplicated diets would result in higher levels of compliance/adherence and weight loss in an outpatient setting then diets with more variety and complexity. The study was a realistic test of what can be achieved by dietary treatment alone for obese patients because the patients were typical of the general population who are trying to lose weight. They traveled to the clinic at their own expense, neither paid nor received money, and bought the food they ate at normal retail outlets. No drug or surgical treatment was offered and no exercise or behavioral therapy programs were provided.

The patients were randomized to one of three diets, each of which was designed to produce an initial energy deficit sufficient to produce weight loss. The three diets were of increasing variety and consisted of......

The Burden Of Proof: The Lesson Of Airborne PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Saturday, 16 August 2008 17:28

Misinformation abounds in the world of health care. Not only in the traditional world, but also in that of what is often referred to as the "alternative" or "complementary" health care world. So, the question is, who do you beleive and how do you evaluate the information? Where is the "Burden of Proof?"

A great example of this is the recent settlement that the privately held Airborne Health, based in Bonita Springs, Fla., will add $6.5 million to funds it has already agreed to pay to settle a related class-action lawsuit. That suit, which alleged that Airborne falsely claimed its products could cure or prevent colds, was settled earlier this year for $23.5 million.

As I have said here many times...

"My position is that there should be some good evidence for anything we do, whether it is a food, a diet, a herb, a medicine, a supplement, a treatment, or anything. We should also be aware of the potential harm and/or side effects.

Good evidence, means peer reviewed published studies in mainstream scientific journals.

Anyone can came out and make virtually any claim they want. The *burden of proof *is not really on us to disprove everyone of them and all their claims but the real *burden of proof *is on them to substantiate their products, diets and their claims. And with more than short term unpublished data or anecdotal info. Often times, if these companies or people get shut down for one product or diet, they just rearrange a few things and come right back out with a new product or diet making the same extra-ordinary claims.

in addition, extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proof.

The burden is on them, not me."

Going Nuts Over Where The Calories Go? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   

Can you consume extra calories and not have them count to your daily calorie balance? Of course, everyone would love this to be true, especially in regard to all those unhealthy (but good tasting) junk foods. But is this true in regard to healthy foods also? This is what we often hear lately when we are told that "adding in" nuts and seeds do our diet will not result in weight gain.

So, are you going nuts over where the calories go?

That is the question we should ask when we hear that adding in extra nuts and seeds does not result in weight gain. After all, we do live in a world governed by the laws of physics and you can not create or destroy energy. So, if we ingest the energy and it does not show up on us as added weight, then where did the calories go?

Well, in simple terms, if you take the calories in and they are not being stored in the body as fat, then they must be either getting burned up in the body or leaving the body, or a combination of the two. Or the calories must only be substituting for other calories.

Some recent studies have verified this.

How Much Calcium Do You Really Need? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Wednesday, 06 August 2008 19:24

How much calcium to you need?

There is no simple answer as there are many factors that influence any one nutrient recommendation. While the national recommendations usually put out a single number for certain ages and genders, the reality is, there are many factors that influence actual needs for everyone.

There are populations around the world that do no have osteoporisis yet have calcium intakes in the 300-500 range. Most of them also have total protein intakes about half of the USA and animal protein intakes of 1/4 to 1/7 of the USA.

While we often hear about the impact of animal protein, there are many other factors that may play as big if not a bigger role. These inlude Vit D, Vit K, sodium, magnesium, boron, weight bearing exercise, etc.

There is evidence that if Vit D intake is adequate, calcium needs go down and getting adequate Vit D may as important if not more important than getting in adequate calcium. Same with sodium (as we discussed a few weeks ago). Studies on Vit K have shown that adequate Vit K (which is abundant in leafy greens) may reduce fracture risk by about 30%. Smoking and caffeine, are other factors that also play a role.

Will All Americans Soon Be Overweight? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Sunday, 03 August 2008 21:34

I recently wrote two article on the relationship between bodyweight, BMI and longevity and how those who tend to be slightly underweight may live the longest.   Unfortunately, the trend to being overweight is rapidly expanding.

A new study, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, projects the majority of U.S. adults to be overweight or obese by 2030.  This study was just published in the July 2008 online issue of Obesity,

The amount of Americans who are overweight and obese has risen dramatically since 1980.  Currently, about 65% of Americans are overweight with 33% of them being obese.   According to the new study, if these trends continue, more than 86 percent of adults will be overweight or obese by 2030 with approximately 96 percent of non-Hispanic black women and 91 percent of Mexican-American men affected. 

In addition, obesity-related health costs are expected rise to about $956.9 billion, according to the study.  Dr. Youfa Wang, the lead author of the study and associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Center for Human Nutrition said in a press release, "This would result in 1 of every 6 health care dollars spent in total direct health care costs paying for overweight and obesity-related costs,”


Vitamin D Rich Mushrooms Now Available PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 00:01

Vit D is really a hormone and we manufacture it as a response to sunlight. Lately, there has been a growing concern that Vit D deficiency is a problem in those who live in Northern climates or other geographical areas, where sunlight is limited.

Very few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D so much of the Vit D in the food supply is from fortified foods (like dairy milk, breakfast cereals and bread). These represent the major dietary sources of vitamin D.

In latitudes around 40 degrees north or 40 degrees south (Boston is 42 degrees north), there is insufficient UVB radiation available for vitamin D synthesis from November to early March. Ten degrees farther north (Edmonton, Canada) or south, the “vitamin D winter” extends from mid-October to mid-March.

However, some interesting recent research has shown that mushrooms may be able to provide Vit D (~2700 IU per serving of vitamin D2), if they are exposed to a few minutes of UV light after being harvested or if they are exposing to about three hours of artificial UV light during growing, and this may become one of the few natural sources (outside of sunlight) of vitamin D, especially for those of you who avoid consuming animal products, if the industry adopts this practice.

Now, as you know, I am rarely one to promote a specific product, but hese mushrooms and they are now available and those of you who live in northern climates may really benefit from consuming them.

Look for them in your local produce outlet and if you don't see them, as to have them made available.


For more info

More Problems With The Atkins Study PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Friday, 25 July 2008 13:03

More problems with the Atkins study...

First, as we showed last week, we know the low fat group was not a low fat group but the low carb group was also not low carb.

Here is why...

The low carb group was told to limit their total carb intake to no more than 120 grams and as according to the study data, this made up 40% of their calories.   If we do the math, 120 grams of carbs is 480 calories from carbs.    If their carbohydrate intake was 40% of their calories and equalled 480 calories,  then their total caloric intake was 1171 calories.  Think about that 1171 calories.

The average BMI of the subjects in the study was around 31, with an average body weight of around202 lbs,  In addition, the low carb group was doing the equivalent of 18/MET of exercise a week.  Now, lets put this all together.   Obese subjects went on a diet and consumed only 1171 calories  and engaged in fairly vigorous exercise on a regular basis for 6 months and only lost 6 kgs. Something is way wrong because the math does not work.

Less IS More: Body Weight, Longevity and You! Pt 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Monday, 21 July 2008 00:00

To continue where we left off in our discussion of body weight, disease risk and longevity...

When studies have tried to factor out these other issues, we see lower disease rates and a lower mortality rate at BMIs in the 18.5 to 22 range, depending on the study & how they grouped the subjects

In the following study, we see that a BMI between 18.5 and 22 may be best for lowering the risk of disease.

"Impact of Overweight on the Risk of Developing Common Chronic Diseases During a 10-Year Period Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:1581-1586

Conclusions: During 10 years of follow-up, the incidence of diabetes, gallstones, hypertension, heart disease, colon cancer, and stroke (men only) increased with degree of overweight in both men and women. Adults who were overweight but not obese (ie, BMI 25.0 to BMI 29.9) were at significantly increased risk of developing numerous health conditions. Moreover, the dose-response relationship between BMI and the risk of developing chronic diseases was evident even among adults in the upper half of the healthy weight range (ie, BMI of 22.0-24.9), suggesting that adults should try to maintain a BMI between 18.5 and 21.9 to minimize their risk of disease.

The above recommendations are especially important as they come from a ten-year follow-up (1986-1996) of middle-aged women in the Nurses' Health Study and men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, two very large and respected epidemiological studies.

This large 5 year study found similar results:

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