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Functional and super foods: Are they the same?

According to an October 18, 2010 news release, "Western diet exacerbates sepsis," from BioMed Central, high fat diets cause a dramatic immune system overreaction to sepsis, a condition of systemic bacterial infection. An experimental study in mice, published in the open access journal BMC Physiology, has shown that a diet high in saturated fat, sugars and cholesterol greatly exaggerates the inflammatory response to sepsis.


In the 2010 news release, Chantal Rivera, PhD Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, explained that "Mortality due to sepsis in morbidly obese subjects is estimated to be 7 times more prevalent compared to mortality in lean individuals. Morbidity in obese patients is also more severe. Results from our recent studies suggest that this adverse outcome may be caused by consuming a high-fat diet, which predisposes the immune system to react more strongly to infection".


Dr. Rivera lead a team of researchers to carry out the surgical induction of sepsis in mice that had been fed normal chow or western diet for 3 weeks, according to the news release. Mice on the western diet, which was enriched in saturated fat, showed exacerbated inflammation that was found to be mediated by signaling via the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR-4) pathway.


According to Dr Rivera, "These results suggest that targeting the TLR signaling pathway as a therapeutic approach to the medical management of sepsis may be especially beneficial in obese patients". Read the study, "Western diet enhances hepatic inflammation in mice exposed to cecal ligation and puncture," Chantal A Rivera, LaTausha Gaskin, Georg Singer, Jeff Houghton and Monique Allman, BMC Physiology.

The journal, BMC Physiology is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in cellular, tissue-level, organismal, functional, and developmental aspects of physiological processes. BMC Physiology (ISSN 1472-6793) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, EMBASE, Scopus, Zoological Record, CABI and Google Scholar.


BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.


UC Davis researched super foods


Scientists at UC Davis call these "super foods" by another familiar name, “functional foods.” To farmers and ranchers, functional foods represent a set of crops and commodities—some traditional and some emerging—that may benefit from publicity surrounding their nutritional benefits.


Check out the site of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis. Functional foods is a hot topic that has taken off with the term "super foods." UC Davis studies the topic at the Mondavi Institute. The superfoods or functional foods are the following: 


Functional Foods/Super Foods


Almonds: Nutrient-rich tree nuts. Their vitamin E content is particularly noteworthy.

Blueberries: Blueberries top the list of antioxidant-rich fruits and may help prevent age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s and some forms of cancer. They also contain fiber and vitamin C, according to the  Feb. 3, 2010 Ag Alert & the March 12, 2010 UC Davis article, "Quest for ‘superfoods’ influences consumer food choices."

Blueberries were first planted commercially in the San Joaquin Valley, inlcuding Fresno in the late 1990s but have since exploded in popularity. Check out the website of the local blueberry farm, Triple Delight Blueberries.

Broccoli: Sulforaphane in broccoli is a cancer-preventive phytochemical shown to reduce cancer in laboratory and animal studies. Same is true of other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms that are briefly exposed to ultraviolet light have a very high amount of vitamin D, according to the UC Davis and Ag Alert articles.

Olive oil: Monounsaturated olive oil may lower risk of heart disease. Choose extra virgin oil for the most health benefits. California farmers in the Sacramento regional area as well as the rest of California grow 100-plus varieties of olives for olive oil. Check out the site of the California Olive Oil Council that certifies California-made oils. Olive oil production in Northern California is expanding.

Salmon: Another good fat in wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific salmon, for example are the omega-3 fatty acids,”The reason why wild-caught salmon is a supe rfood or functional food is that the omega-3 fatty acids are thought to have heart-protective and disease-fighting benefits, and may even help ease depression. The American Heart Association recommends eating salmon or other fatty fish) twice a week. Choose the fish lowest in mercury, for example wild-caught Alaskan salmon, which is relatively low in mercury rather than albacore tuna which is higher in mercury.

Spinach: The high lutein content of raw spinach is an antioxidant that protects against eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.  Check out the site of Top Flavor Farms, Salinas, CA.

Tomatoes: The lycopene red pigment in tomatoes helps to lower the risk of certain types of cancer, especially prostate, lung and stomach. Processed tomatoes also have lycopene that isn't destroyed by processing. So you can eat them raw or cooked.

The Jopson Family Garden grows tomatoes using hydroponics. See the article, "California grower makes abrupt switch to hydroponics, and it pays off - eventually." According to the article, The Jopsons had been farming dry land grains and raising cattle on their ranch north of Sacramento, CA, since the late 1800s, so it was quite a change when Tom, his father, and his brother Dave decided to start growing greenhouse tomatoes

The focus is still on hydroponics. They have two greenhouses, one 11,520 square feet and the other 17,280 square feet. Also see the site, Vegetable and herb form a perfect pair.

Whole grains: Reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer as you also reduce blood glucose levels, which contributes to diabetes. If you can stomach whole grains, they also good for weight management because they fill you up fast. Try brown rice, not white rice or amaranth, quinoa, millet, and other grains not so familiar, but higher in protein. Whole grains are counted on the list of functional foods or superfoods and smart foods.

If you have metabolic syndrome, generally you're grains are restricted. Find out which grains are agreeable with you and have a high protein level. Stay away from the starchy grains and choose those such as whole oat grans with more nutrition to them.


Yogurt:  The “Live & Active Cultures” on the label or seal are supposed to have “good” bacteria that strengthen the digestive system and overall immunity. If you take antibiotics, your immune system could become more resistant to the strength of the antibiotics. The active bacterial cultures in yogurt are also rich in calcium and protein. Find out whether the bacteria from the yogurt is or is not eating up what's in your antibiotics, if you're on them. And if the antibiotics already have destroyed your own gut's good bacteria, then perhaps it's the time to replace your 'good' bacteria with live and active cultures in yogurt. You can choose non-dairy yogurt such as unsweetened soy yogurt.


On September 28, 2010, the Dr. Oz show, seen in Sacramento on channel 58 (Dish Satellite) emphasized how to reduce belly fat in women over age 40. As your estrogen levels drop, your fat cells increase as your body tries to make more estrogen by making more fat cells, particularly around the waist or in the belly.


If you decrease the portion size of your meals and reduce your calories by only 100 calories, you can make a difference in how much belly fat your body stores after the age of 40. The reason why belly fat increases in women after the age of 40 is that in the decade before menopause (and afterwards) your metabolism slows, your estrogen levels decrease. And because of the decreased estrogen which in youth burned more fat, you begin to feel hungry more often.


UC Davis in the Sacramento-Davis regional area and Kaiser Permanente in Northern California also studied two years ago how belly fat and a wider waist might lead to Alzheimer's. See the L.A. Times March 27, 2008 article by Denise Gellene, Los Angeles Times staff writer, "When the Waist Widens, Risks of Dementia Rises." Also see the article, UC Davis News & Information: New Study May Explain How Weight Loss Surgery Reverses Type 2 Diabetes.


For women over the age of 40 beginning to experience lower estrogen levels, you also begin to crave more sweets and sugary foods. This happens because your lower estrogen levels create an imbalance in hormones. As your body struggles to get more estrogen from fat cells, in turn, more fat cells are created in order to produce more estrogen. So the lower your estrogen levels become, the more your body tries to increase its estrogen levels from the small amount of estrogen produced by fat cells.


If you're in the peri-menopause decade beginning about a decade before you actually begin to go through menopause, your body starts to produce more fat cells. And a little more estrogen is produced from the hormones made by these additional fat cells. Your body is now in a state where it tries the only method it can to get more estrogen, from creating more fat cells, usually in the belly or around the waistline.


Here's where the danger sets in from visceral fat forming around the belly. And if you've inherited the genes for an apple-shaped body, the visceral fat around the belly increases and looks even more pronounced. But it's not about how it looks. It's about how it begins to cause inflammation that might lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, liver and kidney problems, dementia, or hardened coronary arteries. Visceral belly fat is dangerous. But there's a way to decrease it.


The way to partially solve this problem is to decrease your intake of food by 100 calories. You also could decrease portion size. To get rid of the hunger or the craving for sweets, you would increase your fiber intake to about 25 grams of fiber daily. To do this easily, eat a bowl of oatmeal, a bowl of raspberries, and a bowl of brown rice. If you can't eat grains, you can substitute beans for their high fiber. Choose beans that are deeply colored, such as black beans. Pinto beans and red beans are also good. White beans don't have as much nutrition as black beans.


You can control belly fat, especially if you have the genes that predispose you to gain weight in the middle, but have thin arms and legs. By reducing your caloric intake, eating smaller portions or eating several small meals a day instead of the usual three big meals, it helps. But the main way to lose belly fat is to increase fiber to about 25 grams daily for women and 30 to 35 grams of fiber daily for men.


If you tend to gain weight in your belly and not so much anywhere else, you may have visceral fat, which develops deep inside the abdomen. Visceral fat is metabolically more active. And visceral belly fat affects your liver function. You can more easily develop metabolic syndrome. The visceral belly fat interferes with the processing of cholesterol and insulin. 


You want to get rid of the belly fat before it interferes with the function of other tissues and systems or causes inflammation leading possibly to heart disease. Check out the study conducted at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam that found links between belly fat and capillary inflammation (a contributor to heart disease) and between belly fat and insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). If you want to tackle your insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome symptoms, work on reducing your visceral belly fat with foods that have more fiber, smaller portion sizes, and less calories.


Also see the articles, Belly fat may be linked to systemic inflammation | Newsroom, and  Scientists Discover Link Between Belly Fat Cell Inflammation and heart disesase. In a January 23, 2008 press release from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, scientists say that they have found a link between inflammation around belly fat cells and the hardening of the arteries that accompanies atherosclerosis. The researchers studied laboratory mice and say that it is too early to tell whether the damaging inflammation process is the same for humans.


You don't have to go around feeling hungry. Drink enough water and eat enough foods with fiber so you feel full. Then eat nutrient-dense foods. Instead of smearing mustard and mayonnaise on your bread eat that bowl of black beans and brown rice, the bowl of whole oat groats or even oatmeal, and that bowl of raspberries or any other high-fiber fruit in a small portion that increases the fiber in your diet.


Don't go overboard on the fiber, but eat enough so that with walking or other exercise such as squatting and standing or even a home course in belly dancing in front of your mirror, you can work on lowering the amount of visceral belly fat. This is especially of benefit to apple-shaped women over age 40.


You may be at a time in  your life where your food cravings for sweets are increasing simply because your estrogen levels are decreasing. As your body tries to make more estrogen using your fat cells, your body tends to increase those fat cells just to get more estrogen.


Be aware of this metabolic change as you age, and adjust what you eat to get enough fiber, walking or other exercise activities, even stretching or Tai Chi, and most of all, get enough clean water to quell those increased hunger feelings due to your body's way of trying to make more estrogen from making more fat cells, especially in the abdominal area.


For men, increase the fiber and the walking activity. Your hormones also go through some changes after 40. They may be different hormones than the women use, but the adjustment of food and portion size, calories, and fiber also apply. Instead of reaching for sweets, reach for foods with fiber, reduce calories by 100, and drink enough clean water.