Can collagen supplements make your skin younger?

There’s a lot of buzz about collagen peptide supplements these days. Collagen is a structural protein present in the skin, joints, hair and nails. The gradual loss of collagen as we age can make the skin look less plump. The idea is that collagen supplements can replace some of that lost collagen and improve the look of the skin.

Assessing the effectiveness of skin care products or supplements is notoriously difficult. For one thing, it’s difficult to isolate the effects of any particular cream or pill. The condition of our skin surface can be affected by diet, hydration, sun exposure, temperature and humidity. It’s also really hard to be objective about what we’re seeing in the mirror.  So how do we know whether these supplements are actually working? Continue reading “Can collagen supplements make your skin younger?” >

What’s the best diet for your genetics?

Personalized nutrition is getting a lot of attention these days. Companies will analyze your DNA and tell you what foods and supplements you should and shouldn’t eat based on your genetic profile. But a huge new study throws cold water on the idea of matching your diet to your genetics.  Participants with a “low-carb genotype” (who would hypothetically do better on a low-carb diet) were no more successful on a low-carb diet than on a low-fat diet. The same was true for those with a “low-fat genotype.”

The study also found that, overall, low-carb diets are no better or worse than low-fat diets at producing weight loss.  Those are the two headlines from this study. ( has produced an excellent detailed analysis of the study, if you want to take a deeper dive.)

But there is so much more here that warrants mentioning. Here’s what really got my attention:

None of the study participants were asked to count or limit their calories. Instead, both groups were told to limit their intake of added sugars, refined flour and junk food, and to eat lots of vegetables and whole foods. And that was enough to produce weight loss.  In other words, when you pay attention to the quality of your food choices, the calories often take care of themselves. And when you’re eating a healthy, whole foods diet, low carb is no more effective than low fat.

When you pay attention to the quality of your food choices, the calories often take care of themselves. Click To Tweet

The other thing that’s notable about this study is that the participants received intensive coaching throughout the year. They were taught how to choose foods that kept them satisfied for fewer calories.   They were encouraged to avoid distracted eating and eat more mindfully. Making sustainable changes was a bigger priority than achieving fast weight loss.  (All of this will sound very familiar to participants of  the Weigh*less program, our 12-month coaching program for sustainable weight loss.)

Making sustainable changes matters more than achieving fast weight loss. Click To Tweet

At the end of the study, the most successful participants reported having changed their relationship to food. And that’s ultimately what’s required for permanent weight loss. Not calorie or fat or carb counting.

To learn more about the Weigh*less Program,

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Is IV Nutrition Worth a Try?

Will IV Therapy improve your health?

If you have a confirmed deficiency of a specific nutrient, or a condition that prevents you from absorbing nutrients  delivered orally, IV nutrition might make sense. And if you were severely dehydrated, an IV can be an efficient way to deliver fluids.

But I have grave reservations about these “IV therapy” clinics that are springing up and pumping people full of nutrient cocktails.  Although it’s promoted as everything from a hangover cure to energy booster to anti-aging therapy, most of the claims are not supported by evidence and may even be unsafe.

IV fluids may help relieve some of the acute symptoms of a hangover (many of which are due to dehydration), but won’t counteract the other harmful effects of drinking too much. More questionable are the alleged benefits of the vitamins, minerals, and other compounds used in IV therapy.

Supplying nutrients in excess of the body’s needs will not make your cellular processes work better or faster, any more than over-filling your gas tank will make your car run faster. High doses of antioxidants can even shut down the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.  There are also general risks associated with any IV therapy, such as infection or hematoma.

Those administering IV therapy may be well-meaning but uninformed, or they may simply be out to make a buck. Given the lack of regulation and oversight (and research), I think I’d steer clear.

What is the Sirtfood Diet?

Will there ever be an end to silly new diet trends?

The Sirtfood Diet is the latest to cross my desk and, boy, is it a doozy.

The premise is that certain foods increase the activity of sir ruins in your body. Sirtuins are special proteins which allegedly have all sorts of beneficial effects, everything from fighting inflammation to preventing cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, all the way to reversing aging and extending lifespan.

The Sirtdiet protocol consists of lots of green smoothies and other meals made from “sirtfoods,” which include capers, celery, cocoa powder, green tea, kale,  parsley, onions, strawberries, turmeric, and walnuts.

Nothing wrong with those foods.  But there is a lot wrong with this diet.

First, the claims for this diet are not only unproven, they verge on the preposterous. Although sirtuins are an area of promising research, what we don’t know about them far exceeds what we do know about them.

Even if we did know more about how sirtiuns promote health and longevity, the idea that these foods will increase sirtuin activity is pure speculation.  These foods are rich in poloyphenols, compounds that might boost sirutin activity. Then again they might not. We’ll have to get back to you on that.

The other problem with this diet is that it is designed to produce extreme (and extremely fast) weight loss. As you’ve heard me say before, dieting is counter-productive. Extreme dieting is extremely counter-productive.

I bet a lot of these so called “sirtfoods” are already in your diet. Stay the course! And some of the “sirtfood” recipes I’ve seen look delicious. Feel free to add them to your repertoire. But the actual Sirtfood Diet protocol? I’d pass on that if I were you.

Is Tofu a Good Source of Calcium?

Karen writes: “How would you rate tofu as a source of calcium? Is it bioavailable?”

Calcium sulfate is often used as a coagulant in the tofu making process. It’s added to the soymilk to get it to set into a solid form. The more coagulant you add, the firmer the tofu gets. As a result, firm tofu will contain more calcium per serving.

The exact amount of calcium per serving varies considerably by brand, so check those nutrition facts labels.

Calcium sulfate is also a bioavailable form of calcium which can rival milk as a source.

A cup (8 oz) of milk contain about 300 mg of elemental calcium, about a third of which is absorbed from the digestive tract, providing about 96 mg of calcium.  A three ounce serving of firm tofu can also provide 300 mg of calcium. Despite a slightly lower absorption rate, you’d still get about 93 mg of calcium out of it.

Note that the recommended intake of calcium (1000 to 1200mg per day) is based on the amount of calcium in the food and not the amount of calcium that you absorb. In other words, the recommendations take into consideration the fact that calcium absorption varies from food to food and are based on typical dietary patterns.

Here’s more on calcium absorbability from different foods.

Do phytates fight cancer?

Jennie writes:

“I read a book on plant-based diets that which cliams that the phytates in whole grains kill cancer cells. Do whole grains really fight cancer?”

Ironic, isn’t it? In some corners of the nutrition world, the phytates in grains and legumes are reviled as “anti-nutrients.” In other circles, they are heralded as cancer killers.

In fact, both are true. Phytic acid in nuts, whole grains and legumes can bind to minerals like calcium and magnesium and reduce absorption of these minerals.  This effect can be greatly diminished by soaking, sprouting, or cooking these foods. But if you’re not soaking or sprouting your grains, don’t worry.  It’s unlikely to lead to mineral deficiencies.

In fact, the health benefits of phytic acid from whole grains and legumes appear to be much more significant than any downside.  In addition to building strong bones, lowering cholesterol, and removing heavy metals from your body, phytates may help prevent cancer (colon cancer in particular).

It’s worth pointing out that there are a lot of things that kill cancer cells.  But killing cancer cells in a petri dish and impeding the progression of cancer in a living organism are two entirely different things. Phytates are not effective chemotherapy. But they have been found to reduce the effects of actual chemotherapy in cancer patients.

Eating meat without feeling guilty

About ten years ago, I cut way back on the amount of meat I was eating, from 3-4 times a week to 3-4 times a month. I wasn’t worried about my health. And I enjoy a good steak or roasted chicken as much as anyone. I stopped eating meat mostly because I felt guilty about it.

I had concerns about the treatment of the animals I was eating, the environmental impact of large scale livestock operations, the sustainability of it all. I tried to research which farms and brands were raising their animals humanely and responsibly but it ended up being easier just to order (or cook) vegetarian meals instead. Continue reading “Eating meat without feeling guilty” >