This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, May 23, 2014

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In this week’s news: Gluten isn’t the only culprit in town; carbs, however, aren’t getting any slack; and a chef serves up a side of food politics.

Later, Gluten; Hello, FODMAPs
Studies show that 30 percent of us would like to cut down on our gluten consumption. For many, this stems from the belief that eating gluten can lead to gastrointestinal distress, an idea that drew attention after a 2011 Australian study. Thorough as that investigation was, the fact that it resulted in no real clues about why people might be so sensitive to gluten had puzzled the researchers. Recently, they headed back to the lab to give the experiment another go using an even more water-tight protocol. The results threw a wrench in prevailing thinking about gluten intolerance: Study participants reported little change in how they felt based on how much gluten they were or were not consuming. (Important note: Although gluten intolerance might be in question, celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten consumption, is real but rare.) What did seem to make some difference, the scientists note, was the amount of a specific category carbohydrate found in wheat, known by its acronym, FODMAPs.

Hunger (Blame) Games
When it comes to weight gain, we tend to think that the calories we eat, minus those we burn, add up to what we’re fated to store as fat. But some scientists have been questioning this view, arguing that in the battle of the bulge, we’re confusing cause and effect. In one version of this perspective, published in the latest issue of the JAMA, researchers argue that because fat, by its very nature, pulls in and stores calories — leaving fewer to circulate and be used for energy — the more of it we already have, the more we need. This problem may have worsened over the past decades because we’ve been consuming more refined carbohydrates. Simple carbs spike insulin, a hormone that drives fat to store calories. Fueling this fatty fire, one recent study published in The Lancet found that rats that ate a high-glycemic diet, which drives up insulin, gained 71 percent more fat than those that consumed more calories but a fewer insulin-spiking carbs. 

On the Menu: Advocacy
Craft owner, cookbook author and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio has been in the spotlight for all kinds of things over the years. Increasingly, as The New York Times reported, he’s been making sure food activist is on that list. Married to director and producer Lori Silverbush, whose 2012 documentary A Place at the Table explored food disparities in America, Colicchio is a passionate champion of reforming national policies on food supply and nutrition issues. The chef uses his Twitter account to raise awareness for issues such as a recent farm bill that cut $9 billion from the food stamp program and gave a TEDx Manhattan talk, Vote for Food, earlier this year.

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

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