Health Column: Good diet is route to better health

The following diet information is provided by The American Institute for Cancer Research.
Q: As long as a weight loss supplement is labeled “ephedra-free,” it should be safe, right?
A: Unfortunately, you can’t assume “ephedra-free” means a product is safe. Ephedra was banned in the United States in 2004 because of serious harmful cardiovascular effects, but “ephedra-free” products are not necessarily stimulant-free and can lead to unsafe increases in blood pressure and heart rate for some people. Some manufacturers have replaced ephedra with citrus aurantium, also known as “bitter orange.” Especially in combination with caffeine, this ingredient can cause stimulant effects similar to ephedra and has resulted in various heart-related side effects in otherwise healthy people. Besides, although advertisements provide explanations that sound logical about effects of bitter orange on metabolic rate, research does not support its having a role in clinically significant weight loss. The cumulative effect of small changes that add up to cut 250 to 500 calories a day are actually a safer and more reliable path to weight control, especially if you can also walk for 10 or 15 minutes a day or do other moderate activity throughout the day.
Q: As long as my doctor can keep my blood pressure and blood sugar controlled by adjusting my medication, does it really matter how I eat or how much I weigh?
A: Absolutely! An unhealthy overall diet or level of body fat can mean you require higher doses of medicine than would otherwise be needed to control your blood pressure and blood sugar. Those higher doses mean greater chances of side effects that can reduce your quality of life. Besides, additional doses or stronger choices of medicines are often more expensive, which increases the financial burden not only for you but for our whole country. Medications to control blood pressure and blood sugar are life saving, but use them as additions to a healthy lifestyle, not alternatives to it. Researchers now point out that although controlling blood pressure and blood sugar is important, this control does not necessarily stop underlying metabolic changes from unhealthy eating habits and excess weight that can promote chronic, low-level inflammation, heart disease and long-term cancer development. Excess weight increases the risk of conditions that impact your quality of life, such as osteoarthritis and urinary incontinence. Healthy eating habits and weight management do more than just improve your blood pressure and blood sugar. The pay-off includes more energy and lower risk for many cancers and other chronic diseases.
Q: How much could I cut calories and saturated fat if I bake with egg whites instead of whole eggs?
A: The amount of fat saved depends on how many whole eggs you replace and the number of servings in the recipe. Each time you substitute two egg whites for one whole egg, you save 40 calories and 1.6 grams of saturated fat. While that can add up to a substantial total in the entire recipe, when you divide the total savings among the number of servings, the substitution saves about 10 calories and only 0.3 to 0.5 grams of saturated fat per serving of most muffins, cookies and cakes. Depending on what you’re making, you cut saturated fat more by reducing or replacing butter, stick margarine, shortening or cream cheese with applesauce, baby food prunes or low-fat plain yogurt for some of the fat. When it comes to calories, remember that reducing sugar also helps, as does simply making smaller serving sizes of the final product.

Karen Collins in s a registered dietician and certified nutritionist with the American Institute for Cancer Research, the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.