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Jeff Novick's Blog

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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Are Flax Seeds Toxic? Pt 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Friday, 23 January 2009 13:52

We have now seen that the concern over cadmium in flaxseed is misquided and not a health concern at all.   Small amounts of cadmium exist in many common foods and the amount that occurs is flaxseed is not a concern.

The next concern in regard to the toxicity of flaxseed is their cyaanide content.    Like cadmium, small amount of cyanogenic compounds exist in many common foods (ie, casava, lima beans, almonds, etc). 

Raw flaxseed does contains tiny amounts of cyanogenic compounds and in fact, at one point, the FDA actually indicated concern about the cyanide in flaxseed and posted an alert in 1978. However, this concern was abandoned in 1982 when the alert was canceled and flaxseed was permitted in bread in levels of 10-12 percent (which is an amount that is above what is being recommended here). The FDA stated that there was no concern that there would be ". . . any more exposure to hydrogen cyanide than from other foods such as lima beans, fava beans, chickpeas, cassava, yams, cashews or almonds."

J.E. Vanderveen. "Regulation of Flaxseed as a Food Ingredient in the United States" in Flaxseed in Human Nutrition, S.C. Cunnane and I.U. Thompson, Editors, AOCS Press, Champaign, IL, 1995, pp. 363-366

Are Flax Seeds Toxic? Pt 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 00:00

Flax seeds have become very popular in recent years, mostly because they are a rich source of the short chain essential fats, Omega 6 and Omega 3.   As a result, flax seeds are now being consumed by many as ground up meal, added into many recipes at home, and even added into many food products on the shelves. 

However, some people have raised caution about this, saying flax seeds can be toxic as they contain cadmium and cyanide and may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Let's take a closer look at flax seeds and these concerns and to begin with, let's clarify a few things.

All foods contain toxic or potentially harmful chemicals. Many of these chemicals occur naturally in food and are part of the plants natural defense system. Bruce Ames has published some articles on this subject, showing just how many toxic chemicals occur naturally in common fruits and veggies.

Ames, B. N., Profet, M. and Gold, L. S. (1990) Dietary Pesticides (99.99% All Natural). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87, 7777-7781

Ames, B. N. (1990) Natural Carcinogens: They're Found in Many Foods. In: Health & Environment Digest, B. Murdock, ed., pp. 4

Gallstones & Rapid Weight Loss PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 19:21

With so many people needing to lose weight, many people want to lose the weight as fast as possible.  Any diet, that is very low in calories, with or without exercise, that causes a large energy deficit, can cause rapid weight loss as weight is a function of energy balance.   Ass we mentioned in the article about dieting and eating disorders, in trying to lose weight rapidly, many people may resort to some unhealthy methods.  One of the risks often associated with rapid weight loss, is gallstones.

Gallbladder attacks can occur as a side effect of very rapid weight loss, very low calorie diets, and long periods without eating, regardless of how one loses weight. But first, very rapid weight loss and very low calorie diets are not a good idea for many reasons, not just the potential risk of gallbladder attacks. Now, this risk happens mostly in women and is a result of increased cholesterol levels in the gallbladder. 

More On The Starvation Response PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Friday, 09 January 2009 00:00
 Continuing on the topic of the starvation response, as I discussed the true starvation response is a metabolic adaption that occurs when body fat drops below essential levels and not just from a reduction in calories, sustained over time, or not.

While this starvation response is often reported in free-living subjects on diets, we have to ask why we do not see this response in controlled studies.

Remember, what happened in the Keys study was unique, because these subjects were truly "starving". First, they started out thin, with little reserves. They were "fit" men.    They had used up all their fat reserves and had gone below 5% body fat. Very careful records were kept.  As the pictures I posted showed, they were "skin and bones."   They were now starting to burn up essential body tissues
(vital organs) which drives metabolism.  Remember, most of metabolism isnt driven by just muscle tissue, but the muscle tissue of vital organs. Not peripheral muscle tissue. They also lost over 25% of their intital body weight.  And they started out as thin and fit.

Ouside of the Keys study, and another one of two done on actually starvation (i.e., people during hunger strikes) who again, went below 5% body fat, or the same in animals you cant find this effect in the literature where weight loss stops WHILE there is still significant fat reserves left. Just the opposite, We have studies were subjects were "fasted"  (on no food but water) for over 6 months and they have never entered this starvation mode. Why? They still had over 5% body fat .  
Are You In The Starvation Mode or Starving For Truth? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Saturday, 03 January 2009 19:23

Recently we discussed the myth that dieting can lead to an eating disorders and saw this common dieting myth was in accurate.  Another common dieting myth held by people is that they may not be losing weight because they are in the "starvation mode" from eating to few calories.  And, in response to the intake of this low calorie level, their body has gone into "starvation mode" and slowed down their metabolism and is holding on to the weight.   The usual recommendation to get out of starvation mode and allow the body to lose more weight, is to consume more calories.  Eat more calories, to lose more weight.   


Well, for anyone struggling to lose weight, this may sound sensible, but as you will see, it, like most other dieting myths, it is inaccurate. A few things to consider before we get to the "starvation mode."

First, the human body, as is our world, is governed by the laws of physics. Body weight is a product of energy balance. We can not violate the laws of physics and thermodynamics. The energy we consume must go somewhere and to maintain a certain level of weight, and equivalent amount of energy must be consumed and an equilibrium must be achieved.

Second, in regard to metabolism, about >70% of our base metabolism is driven by our brain and other vital organs and is not really effected by food consumption as I discussed in the metabolism blog.   We have little impact on this basal metabolic rate.

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