Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Research Update: Red Meat And Risk Of Stroke

Red meat consumption and risk of stroke in Swedish men.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011: 94:417-21.

Objective:  The objective of this study was to examine the association between red meat consumption and risk of stroke in 40,291 Swedish men over a 10 year follow-up period.

Methods: All men filled out a 96 item food frequency questionnaire that assessed usual diet.  This enabled the researchers to compute total red meat, fresh red meat, and processed red meat consumption for the analysis.  Fresh red meat was considered minced pork, beef, or veal.  Processed red meat was considered sausage, hot dogs, salami, ham, and processed cold cuts.  Total red meat was the sum of fresh red meat and processed red meat.

Results: After 10 years of follow up, there were 2,409 new cases of stroke among these men.  Men who consumed more than 2 ounces of processed red meat per day had a 23% increased risk of stroke when compared to men consuming less than ¾ ounce of processed red meat per day. Fresh red meat was not associated with risk of stroke.  Total red meat was associated with a borderline significant 15% increased risk of stroke when comparing men who consumed the most red meat (greater than 5 ounces per day) to men who consumed the least (less than 2 ounces per day).

Discussion: A number of studies have recently shown that fresh red meat is not as strongly associated with risk of cardiovascular disease as once thought.  Processed red meat, on the other hand, is strongly associated with risk of heart disease and stroke.  It is believed that the high levels of nitrates and sodium in the processed red meat are the mechanism behind the increased risk. 

Take Home Message:  It seems like the problem with red meat largely lies in the processing.  I tell my clients to limit portions of red meat to once per week.  Choosing lean and fresh sources of red meat like filet mignon and lean hamburger is a good idea.   Strictly limit the processed red meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and fatty deli meats.  Keep in mind that red meat has also been associated with colon cancer incidence so don’t go overboard with the red meat consumption.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top 5 Strategies To Reduce Your Sodium Consumption

           The impact of sodium on health has been a very hot topic in the nutritional literature of late.  Public health efforts to reduce sodium in our foods are becoming more and more focused.  In years past, sodium restriction was only recommended for those with hypertension.  It is now becoming clear that we all should be limiting our sodium intake.  High sodium diets have been associated with hypertension, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and even gastric cancer.  A good goal is 1500 mg of sodium per day.  The typical American gets 3400 mg.  We’ve clearly got some work to do.  Here are the top 5 strategies to reduce your sodium consumption.

1) Limit Processed Food 
The vast majority of the sodium that we consume comes from processed, pre-packaged food.  If you eat most of your food in its natural form, you’ll be reducing your sodium dramatically.  Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, vegetable fats like oils and nuts, legumes and whole grains for the majority of your calories and you will significantly reduce your sodium levels.

2) Eat Out Less
            One thing that I always stress to my clients is that when they are deciding on what to eat, the main goal is to pick foods that are healthy for them.  When you eat out at a restaurant, the main goal of the chef is to make the food taste as good as possible, so you’ll want to come back for another visit.  This means you are getting much higher levels of flavor enhancing sugar, salt and fat when you eat out.  Eat as many meals in your home as possible and your salt consumption will plummet.

3) Choose Low Sodium Versions Of Foods When You Can
            Low sodium versions of many foods are available and you can find more and more of them in grocery stores every day.  Admittedly, it does take a little while to get used to the lower sodium level, but after a short period of time you don’t even really notice the difference.  Look for low sodium black beans, soups, turkey breast, turkey bacon, nuts, nut butters, etc.  You can reduce your sodium levels drastically by just making a few changes when low sodium options present themselves.

4) Don’t Add Any Salt To Your Food At The Table
            Even better, don’t even have a salt shaker on your table.

5) Limit Fast Food
            Fast food restaurants are a major source of sodium in the American diet.  Limit fast food to an occasional treat and you’ll reduce your sodium intake dramatically.