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Do some food companies 'court' nutrition educators and journalists with 'junk', 'hunk', or 'healthy' food?

Photo and book by Anne Hart.
You may wish to check out the details of the excellent May 14, 2014 NPR podcast, "How Food Companies Court Nutrition Educators With Junk Food." Listen to the audio of this story. It's amazing. Recently numerous California nutritionists and dietitians gathered for their annual meeting.


If you're wondering what nutritionists and registered dietitians have for lunch or rather were served at their nutritionists meet in April 2014, it wasn't plates of raw vegetables, fruits, and dips. No. Read the important and well-written May 12, 2014 article by , "I Went to the Nutritionists' Annual Confab. It Was Catered by McDonald's."


You'll be surprised at the food served to registered dietitians and other nutritionists. Butler's subtitle is, "Our national nutrition experts are in bed with Big Food. And we wonder why we're fat." Why, what are you thinking -- that nutritionists would be served a raw vegan lunch and filtered water with organic fresh fruit or unsweetened berries for dessert? No way.


The lunch on one Friday came catered from Mc Donalds. Think lettuce, bacon, chicken, cheese, and ranch dressing, cookies and yogurt parfait, the article explains. More fat and sugar instead of cruddities. Why wasn't there some hummus with strips of red bell peppers to dip into, hummus made without canola oil but with pure sesame seed oil? No. You didn't see a variety of ethnic foods either. No bok choy salad tossed with arugula and kale.


The lunch on a Friday consisted of a bacon ranch salad, chocolate chip cookies and a pink yogurt parfait, all courtesy of McDonald's. That's right, food right from McDonalds. In fact, there's an article on that conference published on Mother Jones' magazine website by Kiera Butler, an editor at the magazine who went to the conference of the California Dietetic Association, besides the McDonald's lunch, one dinner was catered by Sizzler, Boston Market and California Pizza Kitchen, according to the NPR article, ""How Food Companies Court Nutrition Educators With Junk Food."


What you soon realize is that the big names of the food industry, as in fast-food, have a role in conference sessions directed to registered dietitians and other types of nutritionists, including nutrition journalists. Instead of seeing panels of organic fruit and vegetable farmers or scientists presenting research on plant nutrition and plant extracts, what you saw on various panels included a presentation on sweeteners in schools sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association, whose members produce high fructose corn syrup.


If you attended such conferences mainly for dietitians, you could walk through the exhibits and see the samples of processed food such as samples of  Hershey's chocolate and strawberry milk, and Butter Buds if you enjoy the taste of imitation butter crystals. The purpose of going to nutrition conferences is for dietitians and other nutritionists to receive their continuing education credits.


Just like nurses and physicians, dietitians also have to take continuing education courses to keep their licenses/accreditation up to date. A dietitian has to pass a national examination to receive a license to practice dietetics.


Regarding topics, school lunches is big news. You have people attending such conference who work in schools, such as in cafeterias. Or they teach nutrition at universities. Some dietitians specialize in genetic and metabolic nutrition and work in hospital settings when it comes to planning special diets for hospital patients with specific conditions and dietary needs.


Dietitians are supposed to give out nutritional information to the public and/or to patients in hospitals. The big problem here is the information at these continuing education conferences are coming from manufacturers of processed foods such as high fructose corn syrup. See articles such as, "Childhood Diabetes Caused by High Fructose Corn Syrup" and "Study Links High-Fructose Corn Syrup to Diabetes - WebMD."


What do you do if you're in the nutrition arena and are told in a presentation how gluten intolerance was just a fad, not a real medical problem when you know your symptoms disappeared or you got rid of that wheat belly by cutting out the GMO wheat from all those supermarket loaves of bread you were eating in sandwiches every day for years?


See, "Why Wheat Is Ruining Your Life: The Author Of Wheat Belly Explains." You also may wish to check out, "Dietary fiber intake and mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction: prospective cohort study." Or check out, "Gluten-Free: Fad, Friend, or Foe."


The Wheat Foods Council wants you to keep buying foods made with wheat. Of course buying foods with wheat means an income for any of the huge corporations that make processed foods. An alternative could be quinoa, amaranth, rice, garbanzo bean flour, or any other grain that is gluten-free, even flour and meal made from seeds or nuts such as almond meal. Or maybe you'd like to bake with oat bran or a little flaxseed meal. When emphasis is on length of shelf life or convenience for people who want to prepare food fast instead of chopping vegetables the night before, food becomes more about busy people saving time when it comes to preparing foods.


The issue is who's watching the watchers when it comes to what information is being given to dietitians and other nutritionists who pass that information on to patients and clients asking for answers when it comes to how food affects health or how to tailor certain diets or food choices to an individual's metabolism or genetic response to certain foods. If the problem is an obesity epidemic, what's being taught to dietitians at various conferences and continuing education offerings?


What's noteworthy is that the lunch came from McDonalds instead of from organic vegan chefs or health food-oriented physicians known for their lectures on what foods are healthiest choices for most people. After all, only six percent of the population can eat almost any food and still remain healthy into their late nineties or beyond.


The big issue is who's sponsoring those meetings? It's the food manufacturers who can afford to sponsor such continuing education conferences and seminars or various panels on foods. If you look at corporate sponsorships, they mostly come from the largest food manufacturing industries including such big names as  Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle and Mars.


If you were a dietitian at a continuing education conference, would you prefer a lunch from Mc Donalds or a lunch from organic vegan chefs and local farmers serving food that came from nature without much processing other than cleaning the food and making sure it easily could be chewed? There's also the price of the lunch to consider when it comes to farm-to-fork types of food. And if you eat more meat or fish than vegetables, would you prefer food just off the farm and cooked in the healthiest way possible rather than highly processed foods?


Nutrition influences metabolism through the rhythms of your body's inner clocks


Nutrition influences metabolism through circadian rhythms, a recent University of California - Irvine (UCI) study, "Reprogramming of the Circadian Clock by Nutritional Challenge," published in the December 19, 2013 issue of the journal Cell, finds.

Reprogramming of your liver 'clock' may contribute to metabolic disorders. A high-fat diet affects the molecular mechanism controlling the internal body clock that regulates metabolic functions in the liver, UC Irvine scientists have found. Disruption of these circadian rhythms may contribute to metabolic distress ailments, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.


This reprogramming of your liver's internal circadian rhythm clock takes place independent of the state of obesity. Rather, it's solely dependent upon caloric intake – showing the remarkable adaptability of the circadian clock.


There's good news, though. The researchers also discovered that returning to a balanced, low-fat diet normalized the rhythms. This study reveals that the circadian clock is able to reprogram itself depending on a diet's nutritional content – which could lead to the identification of novel pharmacological targets for controlled diets.


UC Irvine's Paolo Sassone-Corsi, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry and one of the world's leading researchers on the genetics of circadian rhythms, led the study, which appears in the journal Cell.


Circadian rhythms of 24 hours govern fundamental physiological functions in virtually all organisms. The circadian clocks are intrinsic time-tracking systems in our bodies that anticipate environmental changes and adapt themselves to the appropriate time of day. Changes to these rhythms can profoundly influence human health. Up to 15 percent of people's genes are regulated by the day-night pattern of circadian rhythms, including those involved with metabolic pathways in the liver.


A high-fat diet reprograms the liver clock through two main mechanisms. One blocks normal cycles by impeding the clock regulator genes called CLOCK:BMAL1. The other initiates a new program of oscillations by activating genes that normally do not oscillate, principally through a factor called PPAR-gamma. Previously implicated in inflammatory responses and the formation of fatty tissue, this factor oscillates with a high-fat diet.


A high-fat diet reprograms the liver's internal biorhythm clock


It's noteworthy, Sassone-Corsi said, according to the December 19, 2013 news release, Nutrition influences metabolism through circadian rhythms, UCI study finds, that this reprogramming takes place independent of the state of obesity. Rather, it's solely dependent upon caloric intake – showing the remarkable adaptability of the circadian clock. The authors will extend their research to the effects of a high-fat diet on other body components, including muscle, fat, the brain and blood plasma.


Pierre Baldi, Kristin Eckel-Mahan, Vishal Patel, Sara de Mateo Lopez, Ricardo Orozco Solis, Nicholas Ceglia, Saurabh Sahar and Sherry Dilag-Penilla of UC Irvine; and Kenneth Dyar of the Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine in Padova, Italy, contributed to the study, which received support from the National Institutes of Health (grants F32 DK083881, GM081634, AG033888, LM010235 and T15 LM07443), the National Science Foundation, the Merieux Research Institute and Sirtris/GSK.


You also may wish to see the abstracts of similar studies and articles such as, "Circadian rhythms have profound influence on metabolic output, UCI study reveals," "Body clock controls how body burns fat," "Circadian rhythms can be modified for potential treatment of disorders," and "Circadian rhythms control body’s response to intestinal infections, UCI-led study finds."


How would a disruption of your internal body clock contribute to obesity?


If there's a disruption of your internal body clock, it could contribute to obesity. Here's how it works. Your eating patterns are subject to circadian rhythms. That's your internal body clock. Interrupt your internal body clock, and up pops certain metabolic disorders known as body clock dysregulation, which in turn may lead to inflammation and insulin resistance.


A team of Texas A&M University System scientists have investigated how "body clock dysregulation" might affect obesity-related metabolic disorders, says a new study. The team was led by Dr. Chaodong Wu, associate professor in the department of nutrition and food sciences of Texas A&M's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Dr. David Earnest, professor in the department of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics, Texas A&M Health Science Center. You can check out the abstract of the study, "Myeloid cell-specific Disruption of Period1 and Period2 Exacerbates Diet-induced Inflammation and Insulin Resistance," published online April 25, 2014 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


"Animal sleeping and eating patterns, including those of humans, are subject to a circadian rhythmicity," Earnest said, according to the May 14, 2014 news release, Texas A&M-led study shows how 'body clock' dysregulation underlies obesity, more. "And previous studies have shown an association between the dysregulation of circadian or body clock rhythms and some metabolic disorders."


Obesity-associated metabolic disorders and diet-induced inflammation may interfere with your internal body clock


Macrophage circadian dysregulation contributes to diet-induced inflammation and metabolic phenotypes in adipose and liver tissues. Why this is significant is that interactions between circadian clocks and pathways mediating adipose tissue inflammation are critical in the development and possibly treatment of obesity-associated metabolic disorders.


Wu said circadian clocks in peripheral tissues and cells drive daily rhythms and coordinate many physiological processes, including inflammation and metabolism. "And recent scientific observations suggest that disruption of circadian clock regulation plays a key role in the development of metabolic diseases, including obesity and diabetes," he noted.


He said this study affirms that eating unhealthy foods causes health problems and that it's much worse to eat unhealthy foods at the wrong time. It also indicates that "time-based treatment may provide better management of metabolic diseases.


"To promote human health, we need not only to eat healthy foods, but also more importantly to keep a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding sleeping late and eating at night," he said, according to the news release


Wu and Earnest said while previous studies using mice with genetic mutation of the removal of core clock genes has indicated that specific disruption of circadian clock function alters metabolism or produces obesity, the mechanism remained unknown. As key components of inflammation in obesity, macrophages, which are immune cells, contain cell-autonomous circadian clocks that have been shown to gate inflammatory responses.


"Our hypothesis was that overnutrition causes circadian clock dysregulation, which induces pro-inflammatory activity in adipose tissue. This then worsens inflammation and fat deposition, leading to systematic insulin resistance," Wu said, according to the news release.


To test the hypothesis, the team conducted experiments with "reporter mice" in which the circadian rhythmicity of various types of cells could be monitored by looking at their reporter activity. Accordingly, the reporter mice were put on a 12-hour light-dark cycle and were fed a high-fat diet. Additional reporter mice were fed a low-fat diet and served as controls. In this set of experiments, the team was able to characterize the effects of a high-fat diet on circadian clock rhythmicity and inflammatory responses in immune cells, or macrophages.


To further define a unique role for circadian clock dysregulation in metabolic disorders, the team conducted "bone marrow transplantation" experiments, through which the rhythmicity of circadian clocks was disrupted only in a specific type of immune cells. After high-fat diet feeding, the transplanted mice were used for collection of blood and tissue samples. A number of physiological and immunological assays also were performed on the mice.


Earnest said, according to the news release, that results showed that during obesity, that is when mice were fed a high-fat diet, the rhythmicity of circadian clocks in immune cells of fat tissue is dysregulated by a prolonged rhythmic period. This is, in turn, is linked to increased accumulation of immune cells in fat tissue and decreased whole-body insulin sensitivity.


"Animals on a high-fat diet display metabolic problems associated with obesity," Earnest said in the news release. "The problems are worsened in animals whose circadian clocks in immune cells are disrupted." Earnest and Wu explained, according to the news release, that the study will help those involved in human health and nutrition better understand the underlying mechanisms related to obesity and diabetes. For more information, you may wish to check out the Texas A&M AgriLife Communications website.