Just the facts. From the experts.

By Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RDN

As a registered dietitian who’s been writing about food for more than two decades, I’m always worried that what I know and what I share will ultimately be proven wrong. After all, there’s a cavalcade of new studies, reports and surveys released just about every day. The conclusions roll in and I read through the facts and try to figure out what’s best to advise based on better science. Here's the latest advice based on a couple of new studies.

Cheers to Your Health – What’s a Champagne lover to do?

"Pore" over the research reports very carefully!

A new study published in the British Medical Journal found that a group of subjects, who do not drink alcohol because of a genetic expression that causes nausea and facial flushing, had lower rates of heart disease than those who were light-to-moderate drinkers. The researchers said they couldn’t prove cause and effect, prompting this word of caution from Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City: “It is clear that the patients with this genetic variant have a reduction in alcohol intake, but it is unclear if this in itself is the factor improving their cardiovascular outcomes.” She says don’t dismiss the many studies showing that antioxidants and other compounds in wine are beneficial for heart health.

Celebrating Seafood – If you like sautéed trout, grilled salmon, baked cod, crab cakes and steamed shrimp then you’re dining for taste and health! Fish and shellfish are a great source of protein, essential minerals and heart-healthy omega 3 fats. But what about the mercury contamination? This is a tale of balancing risks and benefits. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has drafted updated guidance to match the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendations for everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children, to eat 8-12 ounces (two to three servings) per week of a variety of low-mercury seafood. Fish higher in mercury include tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

“A large percentage of women are simply not eating enough fish and as a result they are not getting the health benefits that fish can provide,” says Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the F.D.A.’s acting chief scientist.

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