Giant leap for fat recommendations

Soon, US Dietary Guidelines will reflect current science.

That it’s the TYPE of fat that matters!  

The Giant Leap:  The 2015 US Dietary Guidelines will remove the upper limit for dietary fat intake and instead, focus on healthful foods and a diet that includes more polyunsaturated fats, particularly omega-3s from fish, nuts, and seeds.

“Dietary advice should put the emphasis on optimizing types of dietary fat and not reducing total fat.”

The other notable change in the forthcoming recommendations, is that cholesterol will no longer be listed as a ‘nutrient of concern’.  For years we’ve known that cholesterol is not the danger it’s purported as being, but cholesterol is inexpensive to measure and there are drugs that lower it (if you can live with the side effects).

JAMA article:  Forthcoming changes in US Dietary Guidelines 

Fish oil improves muscle strength in older men and women

During middle age, muscle mass declines at a rate of about 0.5-1% per year. Loss of muscle mass is associated with higher risk of falling, disability, longer hospital stays, and inability to carry out daily activities in older age. Loss of muscle mass can also lead to sarcopenia, a serious medical condition associated with aging.

A 6-month, double-blind, randomized control in 60 healthy men and women age 60-85 reported that daily supplementation with 3,350 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 from fish oil significantly increased thigh muscle mass and upper and lower body muscle strength (measured by hand-grip and weight lifting, e.g., chest press, leg press). 

Supplementing with > 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA for at least 6 months can prevent the equivalent of 2-3 years of usual, age-associated muscle loss and function in healthy, older adults. 


Smith GI, Jullian S, et al. Fish oil–derived n–3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults. Am J Clin Nutr. Published ahead of print May 20, 2015. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.105833

Background: Age-associated declines in muscle mass and function are major risk factors for an impaired ability to carry out activities of daily living, falls, prolonged recovery time after hospitalization, and mortality in older adults. New strategies that can slow the age-related loss of muscle mass and function are needed to help older adults maintain adequate performance status to reduce these risks and maintain independence.

Objective: We evaluated the efficacy of fish oil–derived n–3 (ω-3) PUFA therapy to slow the age-associated loss of muscle mass and function.

Design: Sixty healthy 60–85-y-old men and women were randomly assigned to receive n–3 PUFA (n = 40) or corn oil (n = 20) therapy for 6 mo. Thigh muscle volume, handgrip strength, one-repetition maximum (1-RM) lower- and upper-body strength, and average power during isokinetic leg exercises were evaluated before and after treatment.

Results: Forty-four subjects completed the study [29 subjects (73%) in the n–3 PUFA group; 15 subjects (75%) in the control group]. Compared with the control group, 6 mo of n–3 PUFA therapy increased thigh muscle volume (3.6%; 95% CI: 0.2%, 7.0%), handgrip strength (2.3 kg; 95% CI: 0.8, 3.7 kg), 1-RM muscle strength (4.0%; 95% CI: 0.8%, 7.3%) (all P < 0.05), and tended to increase average isokinetic power (5.6%; 95% CI: −0.6%, 11.7%; P = 0.075).

Conclusion: Fish oil–derived n–3 PUFA therapy slows the normal decline in muscle mass and function in older adults and should be considered a therapeutic approach for preventing sarcopenia and maintaining physical independence in older adults.

This study was registered at as NCT01308957.

The beginning of the end of Oz

This experiment with the Dr. Oz show could have worked.  It required Dr. Oz to hold true to his intelligence and integrity. He had the training, the platform, it could have worked. 

  • It was a problem from the beginning that he needed to fill 5 hours (40 minutes/show) of TV programming each week.  One hour of thoughtful programming content could have done a world of good.
  •  It was a problem that Oz wasn’t transparent.  He presented bogus products as-if they had real evidence.  His show boosted record sales for dietary supplements, but he promoted supplements that don’t work.  Admitting to this after-the-fact isn’t good.
  • It would have been fantastic if Oz had presented honest and accurate information, instead of fiction. There are many traditional medicines and practices that have great benefit and should be honored, but don’t present them like they have the rock solid proof.  America is smarter than that.

New Yorker article here:

Given the work I do (in nutrition science and evidence-based, natural therapies), I’m familiar with the evidence.  Given what Oz says on his show, I’ve long wondered how he kept his medical license.  He has good training, he knows good science, and he had to have known that he was misleading the public.

Dr. Oz could have stuck to accurate reporting.  He could have done so much good.  He presented good information when he was a guest on Oprah’s show, and then he was on his own. We had better transparency in Wizard of Oz movie; at least there we learned that the man behind the curtain was just a regular guy. 

Saturated Fat; it’s not all bad

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with saturated fat.  We like the way it tastes in food and we know too much isn’t good for our health.  In the quest for answers, I was recently interviewed in an article.

In brief

  • Some saturated fat in the diet is just fine 
  • Saturated fats from different foods (e.g., dairy, beef, plant) have different health properties
  • We are learning more about individual fats, but we don’t eat individual fats, we eat food.  So continue to eat food and be selective about where you get your saturated (solid) fat.

Link to the article here: Saturated Fat Today’s Dietitian Vannice 11.14

Guidance on healthy fats in Prevention magazine

I was recently interviewed by Prevention magazine on new science regarding fat in our diet.  Some of you remember the fat-free trend, where you’d eat a box of fat-free crackers and still be hungry (there are reasons for that). Then we went to fat substitutions and low-fat everything; real fat was out.

Turns out, we can eat all kinds of fats – naturally occurring is best –  balance and moderation is still ‘in’.

Some highlights: 

  • The type of fat we eat matters!  
  • Most of us need more long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA, specifically)
  • Saturated fat is not all evil!  Some is OK; make choices.  
  • Eating mono- and poly-unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, fish) instead of refined carbohydrates is a better choice for cardiovascular health.  

Click on this link for a handy reference chart that I created of some smart and tasty substitutions:  Easy fat substitutions Vannice Prevention mag 2014

The article on healthy fats is here I didn’t know the article title would be weight loss; the content refers to good health!  Healthy fat update. Vannice Prevention 2014

“Choose your fat like you choose your friends; wisely!”©

FTC ruling prevents memory and cognitive claims

FTC final Decision and Ruling is that Martek and ihealth, sellers of BrainStrong Adult are no longer allowed to make the claims of “improves memory in adults” or “prevents cognitive decline in adults”.

Find the complete ruling here: FTC Decision and Ruling Martek/ihealth Cognitive and Memory claims 8.14

The product most directly affected is BrainStrong Adult which contains 900 mg DHA along with some l-theanine and green tea extract.  Distrubuted by i-health (formerly Amerifit).

New recommendations for pregnant women and children

In light of the abundance of research demonstrating Need and Benefit from consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 for pregnant women and young children, the FDA and EPA have issued an update of their 2004 advice.

This updated advice pertains to all women who are pregnant or may become pregnant and everyone who feeds young children. 

Why this advice matters?  Intake of EPA and DHA is deplorably low in the United States, particularly among pregnant women and young children. These nutrients are essential fats that must be consumed through diet.

The documented benefits during pregnancy and for young children are too numerous to list here; contact me if you’d like more information.

Recommendations, in brief (see link below for complete update):

1. Eat 8-12 ounces of a variety of fish* a week.

  • That’s 2 or 3 servings of fish a week.
  • For young children, give them 2 or 3 servings of fish a week with the portion right for the child’s age and calorie needs.

2. Choose fish lower in mercury.

  • Many of the most commonly eaten fish are lower in mercury.
  • These include salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish, and cod.

* “Fish” refers to fish and shellfish collectively



Draft Updated Advice (1 page PDF) – also attached


Consumer Health document + Instructions to comment


This is excellent news!  

The Position Paper on Dietary Fats is published

I’m thrilled to share news of my recent publication!


Nutritional consultant Gretchen Vannice, MS, RDN, has written a new position paper on dietary fats for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Co-authored with Heather Rasmussen, PhD, RD, of Rush University Medical Center, the paper updates the 2007 position of the academy. 

A summary of the key recommendations follows.

  • The type of fat in the foods we eat is as important as the amount of fat we eat.
  • Americans should increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and limit saturated and trans fats while consuming 20%-35% of their daily calories from fat.
  • Dietary fat recommendations aren’t as simple as saturated or  unsaturated because fatty acids within these groups influence health and disease risk in different ways. For example, the health impact of ALA is different from EPA omega-3; the health impact of lauric differs from stearic saturated fatty acids. Healthcare providers, dietitian nutritionists, the food and supplement industries, and the general public need to become aware of the specific fatty acids within the general fat categories.
  • Fat is an important nutrient in the diet: some kinds of fats are essential for good health (omega-3s) while some are detrimental (trans fats).
  • Many Americans have replaced saturated fat in their diet with refined carbohydrates, increasing their risk of diabetes and heart disease. Replacing saturated fats (typically solid fats) with polyunsaturated foods (typically liquid oils) and more vegetables is a healthier choice.

The Academy recommends a food-based approach that includes regularly consuming fatty fish, nuts and seeds, lean meats and poultry, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Dietary supplements can supplement essential fatty acids for general or specific health needs. JAND, 2014;114:136-153For more information please contact Gretchen Vannice at


Gretchen Vannice, MS, RDN, consults with industry, academia, and healthcare.  A frequent speaker, she is also the author of Omega-3 Handbook A Ready Reference Guide for Health Professionals(


Alan Kristol, PhD, long-time research investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently stated “ I suspect there are benefits to eating fish. You might decrease your chance of heart disease a bit. But there is no benefit at all for anyone to be taking supplements. “. *

At the same time, Dr. Kristol is the 2nd author of 2 studies (below) which report protective effects from very high levels of EPA and DHA from fish.  These studies reported that consuming EPA and DHA from fish at levels much higher than what the average American consumes was protective against chronic diseases, even in people with diabetes.


Zeina Makhoul, Alan R Kristal, Roman Gulati, Bret Luick, Andrea Bersamin, Bert Boyer, and Gerald V Mohatt. Associations of very high intakes of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids with biomarkers of chronic disease risk among Yup’ik Eskimos. Am J Clin Nutr, Mar 2010; 91: 777 – 785.

Zeina Makhoul, Alan R Kristal, Roman Gulati, Bret Luick, Andrea Bersamin, Bert Boyer, and Gerald V Mohatt. High chronic intakes of eicosapentanoic (EPA) and docosahexanoic acids (DHA) are associated with desirable lipid profile and reduced C-reactive protein (CRP), and attenuate effects of obesity on triglycerides (TG) and CRP. FASEB J, Apr 2009; 23: 334.2.