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On Nutrition: Readers Question Low-fat Milk And Vitamin K

Barbara Quinn The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

08-17-12

A reader writes: "The other day I caught a brief segment of "Dr. Oz" on TV. He was saying that milk and yogurt with some fat is better for you than nonfat. I was not able to listen to hear his reasoning on this. Would you care to comment on the idea in one of your columns?"

Be happy to. And since I did not see the segment you refer to, these are strictly my comments:

The recommendation to choose milk with some fat may be due to studies that look at the effect of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - a naturally occurring trans-fat found in milk, meat and dairy foods. Unlike the harmful trans fats found in foods containing partially hydrogenated oils, CLA may actually be beneficial. Studies have found CLA may have a role in the prevention of heart disease and some types of cancer.

Another potentially beneficial substance in dairy fat is "trans-palmitoleic acid." In 2010, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health observed that subjects with the highest amount of this substance in their blood had a much lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Are we confused? Until we learn more, here's what we know: High fat dairy foods are loaded with saturated fat - the fat implicated in raising "bad" LDL cholesterol in our blood. Low-fat dairy foods have been shown to help lower blood pressure and possibly help with weight loss. Some components in dairy fat - such as CLA and trans-palmitoleic acid - may offer additional health benefits.

I vote to mix and match two to three servings a day of low-fat or nonfat dairy foods ... and save the higher fat choices for occasional occasions.

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Q: My family and I are New Mexico natives. My 80-year-old dad recently had a blot clot and is currently taking Coumadin. As you can imagine, his preference in food choices are the typical New Mexico traditional foods like sopapillas and beans. Is there a book or diet that you can recommend? Your response would be very much appreciated.

A: Coumadin (generic name "warfarin sodium") is a "vitamin K antagonist" meaning it works against the action of vitamin K - the vitamin that helps blood to clot.

Many people mistakenly believe they must avoid all vitamin K when they are on blood thinning medications. In truth, vitamin K is an essential nutrient. (Most men and women need about 90 micrograms each day.)

Your dad can enjoy his usual New Mexican fare while taking this medication. But he should NOT make any drastic changes in his diet since any sudden increase (or decrease) in his intake of vitamin K can throw the effects of his medication out of whack.

That said, your dad should avoid large amounts of leafy, green vegetables. Just one cup of cooked kale, collards or spinach contains over 1000 micrograms of vitamin K. A cup of cooked mustard, turnip or beet greens contains between 400 to 800 micrograms.

In comparison, a cup of raw lettuce or spinach contains between 130 to 150 micrograms of vitamin K. And according to the Chile Pepper Institute (www.chilepepperinstitute.org) at New Mexico State University a half-cup of raw green chile peppers only contains about 10 micrograms of vitamin K.

Yay!

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(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. Email her at barbara.quinn@chomp.org.)

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(c)2012 The Monterey County Herald Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.

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