Nutrition For Dummies book cover

Nutrition For Dummies

By: Carol Ann Rinzler Published: 05-04-2021

Updated with the latest available research and the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines

It's a scientific fact: You really are what you eat. Good nutrition is your meal-ticket to staying sleek, healthy, and strong—both physically and mentally. Nutrition For Dummies, 7th Edition is a complete guide that shows you how to maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent chronic disease. This book gives you the know-how to put together a shopping list, prepare healthy foods, and easily cut calories. Along the way, there's up-to-the-minute guidance for building a nutritious diet at every stage of life from toddler time to your Golden Years. Enjoy!

Articles From Nutrition For Dummies

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38 results
38 results
Nutrition For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-25-2022

Nutrition is the science of how your body uses the food and drink you consume to build new tissues and power every organ and part from your brain down to your toes. Get the most from your daily diet by making healthy choices.

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10 Easy Ways to Cut Calories

Step by Step / Updated 04-24-2017

Losing weight is simple math. If you cut 3,500 calories out of your diet in the course of a week without reducing your daily activity, you can say goodbye to a whole pound of fat. Yes, reading that sentence is easier than actually doing it, but two tricks make the job easier. First, cut calories in small increments — 50 here, 100 there — rather than in one big lump. Second, instead of giving up foods you really love (and then feeling deprived), switch to low-fat versions.

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10 Superstar Foods

Step by Step / Updated 04-05-2017

This is by no means the complete A+ list of foods with extra special attributes. For example, chicken soup is not included, because what more can anyone say about this universal panacea? How about this: These ten foods are super good enough.

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Beyond Additives: Foods Nature Never Made

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

Genetically engineered foods, also known as GMOs or bioengineered foods, are foods with extra genes added artificially through special laboratory processes. Like preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other chemical boosters, the genes — which may come from plants, animals, or microorganisms such as bacteria — are used to make foods more resistant to disease and insects, more nutritious, and better tasting. Genetic engineering may also help plants and animals grow faster and larger, thus increasing the food supply. The Big Question is, "Are genetically engineered foods safe?" Many consumers have doubts. To enable them to make a clear choice — "Yes, I'll take that biotech food" or "No, I won't" — the European Union requires food labels to specifically state the presence of any genetically altered ingredients. In the United States, the FDA currently requires wording on labels to alert consumers to genetic engineering only when it results in an unexpected added allergen (such as corn genes in tomatoes) or changes the nutritional content of a food. Does the wording on the label matter to consumers? Are most willing to accept genetically altered foods? The answer depends on who you ask and how you ask. The International Food Information Council (IFIC), a trade group for the food industry, accepts the current label-wording rules. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based consumer advocacy group, wants to see the words genetically altered on all foods that have been, well, genetically altered. In 2005, each organization conducted a survey that seemed designed to bolster its point of view. For example, IFIC's survey says that nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of Americans expect food technology to serve up better-quality, better-tasting food. CSPI's competing survey says, "Not so fast." The difference may lie in the questions. IFIC's emphasizes the benefits of biotech; CSPI's leans more heavily on the drawbacks. For example: CSPI Version: Would you buy food labeled "genetically engineered"? Forty-three percent said yes. IFIC Version: Would you buy a food if it had been modified by biotechnology to taste better or fresher? Or stay fresher? Fifty-four percent said yes. Ten years later, little has changed. In 2015, when the Neilsen company conducted an online poll of 30,000 people in 60 countries about which health benefits they considered "very important" when buying food, the two top answers were "all-natural" and "GMO-free." In the end, despite a slight wariness about exploring new nutritional ground, Americans are intrigued by the promise of food innovations and willing to give the whole idea a try. Only 32 percent of them considered "GMO-free" very important versus 47 percent in Europe and 46 percent in Latin America. Eventually, the proof of GMOs' promise will be in the (genetically engineered) pudding.

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The Safety of Food Additives

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

The safety of any chemical approved for use as a food additive is determined by evaluating its potential as a toxin, carcinogen, or allergen, each of which is defined here. Defining toxins A toxin is a poison. Some chemicals, such as cyanide, are toxic (poisonous) in very small doses. Others, such as sodium ascorbate (a form of vitamin C), are nontoxic even in very large doses. All chemicals on the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list are considered nontoxic in the amounts that are permitted in food. By the way, both vitamin C and cyanide are natural chemicals — one beneficial, the other not so much. Explaining carcinogens A carcinogen is a substance that causes cancer. Some natural chemicals, such as aflatoxins (poisons produced by molds that grow on peanuts and grains), are carcinogens. Some synthetic chemicals, such as specific dyes, are also potentially carcinogenic. In 1958, driven by a fear of potentially carcinogenic pesticide residues in food, New York Congressman James Delaney proposed, and Congress enacted into law, an amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that banned from food any synthetic chemical known to cause cancer (in animals or human beings) when ingested in any amount, no matter how small. (The Delaney clause didn't apply to natural chemicals, even those known to cause cancer.) For a time, the only exception to the Delaney clause was saccharin, which was exempted in 1970. Although ingesting very large amounts of the artificial sweetener is known to cause bladder cancer in animals, no similar link was ever found to human cancers. Nonetheless, in 1977, Congress required all products containing saccharin to carry a warning statement: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." When the Delaney clause was introduced, ingredients such as additives were measured in parts (of the additive) per thousand parts (of the product). Today, scientists have the ability to measure an ingredient in parts per trillionths. As a result, the zero-risk standard of the Delaney clause in regard to pesticide residue in food was repealed and replaced with a standard of "reasonable risk." The saccharin warning was lifted in 2000. Listing allergens Allergens are substances that trigger allergic reactions. Some foods, such as peanuts, contain natural allergens that can provoke the fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The best-known example of an allergenic food additive is the sulfites, a group of preservatives that Keep light-colored fruits and vegetables (apples, potatoes) from browning when exposed to air Prevent shellfish (shrimp and lobster) from developing black spots Reduce the growth of bacteria in fermenting wine and beer Bleach food starches Make dough easier to handle Sulfites are safe for most people but not for all. In fact, the FDA estimates that 1 out of every 100 people is sensitive to these chemicals; among people with asthma, the number rises to 5 out of every 100. For people sensitive to sulfites, even infinitesimally small amounts may trigger a serious allergic reaction, and asthmatics may develop breathing problems by simply inhaling fumes from sulfite-treated foods. In 1986, the FDA tried banning sulfites from food but lost in a court case brought by food manufacturers, so two years later the agency wrote rules to protect sulfite-sensitive people. Today, sulfites are not considered GRAS for use in Meats Foods that are an important source of vitamin B1 (thiamin), a nutrient sulfites destroy Fruits and veggies served raw (think salad bars), or described as "fresh" (think fruit salad) Sulfites are permitted in some foods, such as dried fruit, but the package must list sulfites if the additives account for more than ten parts sulfites to every million parts food (10 ppm). These rules, plus plenty of press information about the risks of sulfites, have led to a dramatic decrease in the number of sulfite reactions.

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The Natural and Synthetic Nature of Food Additives

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

Food additives may be natural or synthetic. For example, vitamin C is a natural preservative. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are synthetic preservatives. To ensure your safety, both the natural and synthetic food additives used in the United States come only from the group of substances known as the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list. All additives on the GRAS list Are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning that agency is satisfied that the additive is safe and effective Must be used only in specifically limited amounts Must be used to satisfy a specific need in food products, such as protection against molds Must be effective, meaning that they must actually maintain freshness and safety Must be listed accurately on the label Nutrient additives Vitamin D, which is added to virtually all milk sold in the United States, is one example of a clearly beneficial food additive. Most U.S. bread and grain products are fortified with added B vitamins, plus iron and other essential minerals to replace what's lost when whole grains are milled into white flour for white bread. Some people say that people would be better off simply sticking to whole grains, but adding vitamins and minerals to white flours enhances a product that many people prefer. Some nutrients are also useful preservatives. For example, vitamin C is an antioxidant that slows food spoilage and prevents destructive chemical reactions, which is why American food packagers must add a form of vitamin C (isoascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate) to bacon and other luncheon meats to prevent the formation of potentially cancer-causing compounds. Color additives Colors, flavoring agents, and flavor enhancers make food look and taste better. Like other food additives, these three may be either natural or synthetic. Natural colors One good example of a natural coloring agent is beta carotene, the yellow pigment extracted from many fruits and vegetables and used to turn naturally white margarine to buttery yellow. Some other natural coloring agents are annatto, a yellow-to-pink pigment from a tropical tree; chlorophyll, the green pigment in green plants; carmine, a reddish extract of cochineal (a pigment from crushed beetles); saffron, a yellow herb; and turmeric, a yellow spice. Synthetic colors An example of a synthetic coloring agent is FD&C Blue No. 1, a bright blue pigment made from coal tar and used in soft drinks, gelatin, hair dyes, and face powders, among other things. And, yes, as scientists have discovered more about the effects of coal-tar dyes, including the fact that some are carcinogenic, many of these coloring agents have been banned from use in food in one country or another but are still allowed in cosmetics. Flavor additives Every cook worth his or her spice cabinet knows about natural flavor ingredients, especially salt, sugar, vinegar, wine, and fruit juices. Artificial flavoring agents reproduce natural flavors. For example, a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice in the batter lends cheesecake a certain je ne sais quoi (French for "I don't know what" — a little something special), but artificial lemon flavoring works just as well. You can sweeten your morning coffee with natural sugar or with the artificial sweetener saccharin. Flavor enhancers are a slightly different kettle of fish. They intensify a food's natural flavor instead of adding a new one. The best-known flavor enhancer is monosodium glutamate (MSG), widely used in Asian foods. Although it improves flavor, MSG may also trigger short-term, generally mild reactions, such as headaches, flushing, sweating, facial numbness and tingling, and rapid heartbeat in people sensitive to the seasoning. Preservatives Food spoilage is a totally natural phenomenon. Milk sours. Bread molds. Meat and poultry rot. Vegetables wilt. Fats turn rancid. The first three kinds of spoilage are caused by microbes (bacteria, mold, and yeasts). The last two happen when food is exposed to oxygen (air). Preservative techniques such as cooking, chilling, canning, freezing, and drying prevent spoilage either by slowing the growth of the organisms that live on food or by protecting the food from the effects of oxygen. Chemical preservatives do essentially the same thing: Antimicrobials are natural or synthetic preservatives that protect food by slowing the growth of bacteria, molds, and yeasts. Antioxidants are natural or synthetic preservatives that protect food by preventing food molecules from combining with oxygen (air). The table is a representative list of some common preservative chemicals and the foods in which they're found. Preservatives in Food Preservative Found in … Ascorbic acid* Sausages, luncheon meats Benzoic acid Beverages (soft drinks), ice cream, baked goods BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) Potato chips and other foods BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) Potato chips and other foods Calcium propionate Breads, processed cheese Isoascorbate* Luncheon meats and other foods Sodium ascorbate* Luncheon meats and other foods Sodium benzoate Margarine, soft drinks * A form of vitamin C Other additives in food Food chemists use a variety of the following types of natural and chemical additives to improve the texture of food or prevent mixtures from separating: Emulsifiers, such as lecithin and polysorbate, keep liquid-plus-solids, such as chocolate pudding, from separating into liquid and solids. They can also keep two unfriendly liquids, such as oil and water, from divorcing so that your salad dressing stays smooth. Stabilizers, such as the alginates (alginic acid) derived from seaweed, make food such as ice cream feel smoother, richer, or creamier in your mouth. Thickeners are natural gums and starches, such as apple pectin or cornstarch, that add body to foods. Texturizers, such as calcium chloride, keep foods such as canned apples, tomatoes, or potatoes from turning mushy. Although many of these additives are derived from foods, their benefit is aesthetic (the food looks better and tastes better), not nutritional.

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Nature's Beneficial Chemistry

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

The same plant foods that yield carbohydrates are also the source of phytochemicals — natural compounds other than vitamins manufactured only in plants (phyto- is the Greek word for plant). Phytochemicals, such as coloring agents and antioxidants, are the substances that produce many of the beneficial effects associated with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. The best sources of phytochemicals are highly colored vegetables and fruits. The most interesting phytochemicals in plant foods are antioxidants, hormonelike compounds, and enzyme-activating sulfur compounds. Each group plays a specific role in maintaining health and reducing your risk of certain illnesses, which is one reason the Dietary Guidelines for Americans urges you to have as many as nine servings of fruits and vegetables and several servings of grains every day. Antioxidants Antioxidants are named for their ability to prevent a chemical reaction called oxidation, which enables molecular fragments called free radicals to join together, forming what appear to be potentially carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds in your body. Antioxidants also slow the normal wear and tear on body cells, which may be why so many studies suggest that a diet rich in plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans) is likely to reduce the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease. But you got to get the plants to get the benefit: Stuffing yourself with antioxidant vitamin supplements shows absolutely no effects on heart health. Hormonelike compounds Many plants contain compounds that behave like estrogens, the female sex hormones. Because only an animal body can produce true hormones, these plant chemicals are called hormonelike compounds or phytoestrogens (plant estrogen). The three kinds of phytoestrogens are Isoflavones, in fruits, vegetables, and beans Lignans, in grains Coumestans, in sprouts and alfalfa The most studied phytoestrogens are the soy isoflavones daidzein and genistein, two compounds with a chemical structure similar to estradiol, the estrogen produced by mammalian ovaries. Like natural or synthetic estrogens, phytoestrogens hook onto sensitive spots in reproductive tissue (breast, ovary, prostate, and so on). These plant estrogenlike compounds are weaker, so researchers once suggested that they might provide postmenopausal women with the benefits of estrogen (stronger bones and relief from hot flashes) without the higher risk of reproductive cancers associated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). But repeated animal and human studies suggested that, like natural and synthetic hormones, the plant compounds may stimulate tumor growth while having little effect on menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Bottom line? According to the International Food Information Council, "Further clinical studies will continue to increase understanding of the role of soy in maintaining and improving health." Sulfur compounds Slide an apple pie in the oven, and soon the kitchen fills with an aroma that makes your mouth water and your digestive juices flow. But boil some cabbage and — what is that awful smell? It's sulfur, the same chemical you smell in rotten eggs. Cruciferous vegetables (the name comes from crux, the Latin word meaning cross, a reference to their x-shape blossoms), such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard seed, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, and watercress, all contain stinky sulfur compounds such as sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGSD), glucobrassicin, gluconapin, gluconasturtin, neoglucobrassicin, and sinigrin whose aromas are liberated when the food is heated. Many researchers previously believed that these natural chemicals could tell your body to rev up to fight cancer, but the evidence from multiple studies in the early 2000s, when the cruciferous veggies movement was at its height, is conflicting. Researchers employ two basic types of studies to assess a link between cause and effect, or in this case, eating cruciferous vegetables and avoiding various forms of cancer. The first type is a case control study, which compares patients with a disease or condition to healthy people, looking back at their histories to see what they may or may not have in common. The second type is a cohort study, in which researchers establish a base of subjects, say 1,000 women age 25 to 40, and follow them for several years to see whether a specific behavior, such as a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, will or will not produces a specific effect, such as a lower risk of cancer. In 2001, a report from a case control study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that eating lots of cruciferous veggies led to a lower risk of breast cancer. But the same year, an overview of a number of studies conducted in the United States, Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands found no such link. In 2000, the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer suggested that women — but not men — who ate lots of cruciferous vegetables were at lower risk of colon (but not rectal) cancer. But in 2000, 2001, and 2003, three American and Dutch studies found no link. From 1992 to 2000, several American and European cohort studies failed to find a definite link between cruciferous vegetables and the risk of lung cancer. One American analysis of data from the long-running Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals study did show that women — but not men — who ate more than five servings a week were at lower risk. Some case control studies between 1999 and 2000 suggested that a diet rich in cruciferous veggies might reduce a man's risk of prostate cancer, but multiple studies in the Netherlands (1998), the United States (2003), and Europe (2004) turned up little or no association. But then in 2005, a trial conducted in China by researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical School, the University of Minnesota Cancer Institute, and the Qidong Liver Cancer Institute of Jiao Tong University (Shanghai) produced a possible explanation for why cruciferous vegetables might reduce the risk of some forms of cancer. The sulforaphane in Brussels sprouts inactivates aflatoxins — toxins released by molds on grains, such as rice, that are known to damage cells and, yes, increase the risk of cancers of the stomach and liver, two diseases more common in China than elsewhere in the world. In 2014, researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Qidong (China) Liver Cancer Institute confirmed that sulforaphane produces a cellular reaction that protects against carcinogenic changes. Clearly, this is a subject of interest. What should you do while waiting for a final answer? Enjoy your phytochemicals. Dig into those veggies, fruits, and grains.

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Nonallergic Body Reactions to Food

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

Allergic reactions aren't the only way your body registers a protest against certain foods. You might have experienced this when eating a food you like, but that doesn't like you. Other reactions to foods include the following: A metabolic reaction: Food intolerance, also known as a non-allergic food hypersensitivity, is an inherited inability to metabolize (digest) certain foods, such as fat or lactose (the naturally occurring sugar in milk). The reaction may include intestinal gas, diarrhea, or other signs of gastric revolt. A physical reaction to a specific chemical: Your body may react to things such as the laxative substance in prunes or monosodium glutamate (MSG), the flavor enhancer commonly found in Asian food. Although some people are more sensitive than others to these chemicals, their reaction is a physical one. It doesn't involve the immune system. A body response to psychological triggers: When you're very fearful or very anxious or very excited, your body moves into hyper drive, secreting hormones that pump up your heartbeat and respiration, speed the passage of food through your gut, and cause you to empty your bowels and bladder. The entire process, called the fight-or-flight response, prepares your body to defend itself by either fighting or running. On a more prosaic level, a strong reaction to your food may cause diarrhea. It isn't an allergy; it's your hormones. A change in mood and/or behavior. Some foods, such as coffee, contain chemicals, such as caffeine, that may cause hyperactivity, as well as having a real effect on mood and behavior.

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Diagnosing Food Allergies

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

A food allergy can provoke a response as your body releases antibodies to attack specific proteins in food. Your immune system is designed to protect your body from harmful invaders, such as bacteria. Sometimes, however, the system responds to substances normally considered harmless. The substance that provokes the attack is called an allergen; the substances that attack the allergen are called antibodies. When this happens, some of the physical reactions include Hives Itching Swelling of the face, tongue, lips, eyelids, hands, and feet Rashes Headaches, migraines Nausea and/or vomiting Diarrhea, sometimes bloody Sneezing, coughing Asthma Breathing difficulties caused by tightening (swelling) of tissues in the throat Loss of consciousness (from anaphylactic shock) If you're sensitive to a specific food, you may not have to eat the food to have the reaction. For example, people sensitive to peanuts may break out in hives just from touching a peanut or peanut butter and may suffer a potentially fatal reaction after tasting chocolate that has touched factory machinery that previously touched peanuts. People sensitive to seafood — fin fish and shellfish — have been known to develop breathing problems after simply inhaling the vapors or steam produced by cooking the fish. Understanding how an allergic reaction occurs When you eat a food containing a protein to which you're sensitive, the protein reaches antibodies on the surface of white blood cells called basophils and immune system cells called mast cells either in your gastrointestinal tract or by circulating through the bloodstream. The basophils and mast cells produce, store, and release histamine, a natural body chemical that causes the symptoms — itching, swelling, hives — associated with allergic reactions (some allergy pills designed to counter this are called antihistamines). When the antibodies on the surface of the basophils and mast cells come in contact with food allergens, the cells release histamine, and the result is an allergic reaction. Investigating two kinds of allergic reactions Your body may react to an allergen in one of two ways — immediately or later on: Immediate reactions are more dangerous because they involve a fast swelling of tissue, sometimes within seconds after contact with the offending food. Delayed reactions, which may occur as long as 24 to 48 hours after you've been exposed to the offending food, are usually much milder, perhaps a slight cough or nasal congestion caused by swollen tissues. Most allergic reactions to food are unpleasant but essentially mild. However, as many as 150 or more people die every year in the United States from a severe reaction to a food allergen. Call 911 immediately if you or a friend or relative show any signs of an allergic reaction — including an allergic reaction to food — that affects breathing. Identifying food allergies A tendency toward allergies (although not necessarily the specific allergy itself) is inherited. If one of your parents has an allergy, your risk of having one is two times higher than it would be if neither of your parents had a history of allergic disease. If both your mother and your father have allergies, your risk is four times higher. To identify the culprit causing your food allergy, your doctor may suggest an elimination diet. This regimen removes from your diet foods — most commonly milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanuts — known to cause allergic reactions in many people. Then, one at a time, the foods are added back. If you react to one, bingo! That's a clue to what triggers your immune response. To be absolutely certain, your doctor may challenge your immune system by introducing foods in a form (maybe a capsule) that neither you nor he can identify as a specific food. Doing so rules out any possibility that your reaction has been triggered by emotional stimuli — that is, seeing, tasting, or smelling the food. Other tests that can identify allergens to specific foods include skin tests and two types of blood tests — ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and RAST (radioallergosorbent test) — that can identify antibodies to specific allergens in your blood. But these two tests are rarely required.

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Healing the Injured Brain with Food

Article / Updated 09-11-2016

There may be another weapon in the arsenal to help heal injured brains: food. Traditionally, to reduce the loss of brain cells and limit damage to an injured brain, doctors concentrate on ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen and controlling swelling that pushes the soft brain against the inside of the hard skull. The 5, 7, 2, 4, 100, 200 solution After any injury, your body goes into a hypermetabolic state (hyper is the Greek word for "over"), meaning that it suddenly requires more calories than normal to provide the energy and material to rebuild damaged tissues. True, an injured brain won't be producing new cells, but this 2 percent of your weight that consumes 20 percent of your calorie intake will need extra energy to establish the new connections that can enable you to function. In fact, feeding patients with brain injuries is so important that neurologists at Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York have actually put some hard numbers to it: 5, 7, 2, 4, 100, 200. Translation: Patients with brain injury who are not fed either intravenously or through a tube into the stomach within 5 days after the injury occurs are 2 times more likely to die than are patients who get fed. Patients not fed within 7 days are 4 times more likely to die. And the best menu provides 100 percent of the normal recommended daily calories for that particular patient; up to 200 percent is even better. "There is no miracle drug for patients with severe traumatic brain injury," says Roger Härtl, director of neurotrauma at the Brain and Spine Center of Weill Cornell Medical College. "But we have been able to reduce the mortality and improve outcome in these patients dramatically over the past 15 years by maintaining their blood pressure and supplying the brain early on with oxygen and nutrients. We now start feeding patients with severe brain injuries very aggressively from the moment they first hit the intensive care unit, and early nutrition is now recognized as one of the most important factors improving outcome in these patients." So important, in fact, that the regimen has now been incorporated in the international Guidelines for Management of Severe Traumatic Brain injury. Protein possibilities Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Because these three particular amino acids share a distinct chemical structure — a long central chain with smaller side chains branching off — they're called branched chain amino acids (BCAA, for short). The body uses BCAA to build neurotransmitters, the naturally occurring chemicals that enable cells to exchange messages: Think! Move! Feel! Unfortunately, an injury to the brain that damages the hippocampus, a part of the brain that helps direct memory and cognition, may reduce brain levels of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. As long ago as 1983, studies suggested that intravenous doses of BCAA would benefit patients with liver disease by forcing additional amino acids into their brain. Some sports nutritionists think that BCAA supplements can improve muscle performance. Neuroscientist Akiva Cohen and his team at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia see a more direct application. When they added BCAA to the drinking water of brain-injured mice, Cohen's team observed improvements in both mouse memory and cognition. If future studies with human beings demonstrate the same effect, patients with traumatic brain injuries might be able to avoid the feeding tubes and intravenous needles to improve their thinking and remembering simply by sipping a glass of branched-chain-amino-acid-enriched (building blocks of protein) water. A follow-up study in 2013 showed that the amino acids also improve "wakefulness" — the ability to stay awake and alert — after traumatic brain injury (TBI), thus enhancing recovery. The (eventual) official word Because military personnel, especially those in combat zones, face a distinct risk of TBI, in 2009, the Department of Defense (DoD) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to convene an expert committee to review the potential role of nutrition in the treatment of and resilience against TBI. The IOM is the division of the National Academy of Sciences that sets and publishes the RDAs, RDIs, and other nutritional recommendations. To meet the DoD request, IOM set up a Consensus Study on Nutrition, Trauma, and the Brain to determine "the potential role for nutrition in providing resilience (i.e., protecting), mitigating or treating of primary (i.e., within minutes of insult), secondary (i.e., within 24 hours of insult), and long-term (i.e., more than 24 hours after insult) associated effects of neurotrauma, with a focus on traumatic brain injury." Two years later, in 2011, IOM issued a first report from the study. The primary message, an echo of Dr. Härtl's: All military personnel suffering from traumatic brain injury should get adequate protein and calories as soon as possible to reduce inflammation and improve their recovery and eventual outcome. This advice, they noted, also applied for non-military people, such as athletes, who were at risk of concussion and other brain injuries.

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