Updates from the Academy

By: Tara Kessinger

Palmitoleic Acid

Palmitoleic acid is an n-7 fatty acid, a small family of unsaturated fatty acids not commonly found in food but instead a product of palmitic acid metabolism in the body. Food sources that naturally contain palmitoleic acid are limited and include certain blue-green algae, macadamia nuts, and sea buckthorn oil extracted from the see of berries of the plant. Palmitoleic acid comes in two forms: a cis isomer when a source like macadamia nuts are consumed or produced endogenously in the body, and a trans isomer that is naturally present in full-fat dairy products and meat fat. Because previous studies in animals suggested that the cis form of this fatty acid may have beneficial effects, researchers wanted to see whether blood levels of the trans isomer, which is derived from diet only (no endogenous production), would be similarly associated with health benefits. Researchers found an association with lower insulin resistance, atherogenic dyslipidemia, and incident diabetes in study participants with higher levels of circulating trans palmitoleate. Their observational findings were striking, but the need for detailed further clinical and experimental investigation was stressed.

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Fiber Recommendations

The daily recommended amount of fiber was originally derived from observational data that reflected a lowered risk of coronary heart disease in populations that consumed an adequate amount. The addition of functional fiber, such as inulin or psyllium, to foods may help some people increase their overall fiber intake. However, this form of fiber may not yield the same benefits as food sources that contain dietary fiber naturally. As with other nutrition-related research, a synergistic effect is thought to be responsible for fiber’s notable health benefits. Although fiber is derived from one of the macronutrients, the absence of a deficiency state prevents it from being considered an essential nutrient. Furthermore, there is no Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) or Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for fiber, as there are 
for other carbohydrate sources. An Adequate Intake (AI) has been established instead, and this amount is contingent on the amount of kilocalories consumed. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans make shifts in their food choices by eating more of the foods that provide dietary fiber. Therefore, focusing on a healthy dietary pattern that includes a variety of fiber sources, especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds will help Americans achieve the daily recommended amount for dietary fiber and fulfill other important nutrient requirements, while helping to lower their risk for some chronic diseases.

Smoking Cessation and Weight Gain

Many aspects of health care reform, including the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit and worksite wellness interventions, as well as Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations have offered opportunities for dietitians to address tobacco usage. A meta- analysis published in the British Medical Journal indicated the reported weight gain after quitting smoking is higher than previously thought. The review looked at smoking cessation participants who had succeeded in quitting smoking for at least 12 months. On average, quitters who did not rely on drugs or nicotine replacements gained 2.5 lb one month after quitting, 5 lb at two months and steadily continued to gain up to 10.3 lb at 12 months. About 16 percent of people actually lost weight after quitting, and 13 percent gained more than 22 lb. Dietetics practitioners can contribute to the health and well-being of the American people by making themselves aware of the smoking cessation resources available in their setting, and by collaborating with other healthcare professionals to facilitate changes in weight-concerned smokers.

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