Note: This is the next guest post by Stefanie Stevenson, Nourish’s Integrative Physician, who is attending the Nutrition and Health Conference in Boston this week!
The morning began in an interesting way – 3 experts (Weil, Willett, and Hibbeln) discussing the health benefits of the various types of fats (saturated, omega 6 and omega 3) and they were not all in agreement. It does underline the difficulty in studying nutrition and how the information is interpreted. The next talk was about nutrition and bone health. There was a general consensus on calcium and vitamin D recommendations for both men and women, but the most interesting thing that I took away was a typical Western Diet with overly processed foods causes an acidic load on the body. The skeleton buffers this load by losing its calcium. Another way to buffer this acidity is by eating 9 fruits and vegetables a day!
Dr. McClafferty, a pediatrician, gave a wonderful talk “What’s a Parent to Do? Children’s Nutrition and Environmental Medicine.” One of her goals was to raise awareness about diseases that may be related to environmental toxins in children. As a parent of three children this lecture certainly raised many concerns about the toxins our children are exposed to daily in our environment. The endocrine disrupting chemicals – Bisphenol A, phthalates, flame retardants – are currently a key area of research. I learned of two great resources – the Environmental Working Group and GoodGuide.
Finally, Dr. Weil talked about food and mental health – a huge topic! There is currently a huge shift that is taking place in how medical researchers and clinicians are thinking about the causes of depression. There is a growing body of data that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – an example is Prozac) work no better than a sugar pill. In fact, long term SSRI may lead to prolonging depression due to the brain making less serotonin and decreasing the number of serotonin receptors. We have seen an analogous story in the stomach with long – term proton pump inhibitors (an example being Prevacid). The two strategies that have the strongest evidence to both prevent and treat depression are exercise and fish oil.
Once again, if you have any questions, ask them in the comments section!