Prevention and Wellness

Answers to Common Nutrition Questions

Premier HealthNet doctors answer frequently asked questions about nutrition.

What is added sugar, and why is it not healthy in food?

Added sugar is sugar added during the making of processed food and drinks, just like you might add sugar to foods you make at home, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

It is not healthy to consume too much added sugar in foods and drinks because it can cause serious health issues, including out–of-control diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, high triglyceride levels and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels, according to the AAFP.

For more about added sugar and its negative effects on the body, talk to your doctor.

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How does the body react to consumed sugar?

Added sugar does not have any nutritional value, and consuming too much added sugar can have serious consequences, including high triglycerides, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Also, filling up on food and drinks that have added sugar can keep you from eating and drinking things that will have a positive effect on your health, according to the AAFP.

People who drink a lot of sugar-filled drinks, for example, drink less milk, which provides calcium, protein and vitamins that the body needs to function properly, according to the AAFP.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how consumed sugar affects the body.

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What are some ways people can reduce their sugar intake?

The best way to reduce added sugar in your diet is to avoid foods with excessive added sugar, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Limiting and eliminating the following foods and drinks, according to the AAFP, can be a great help:

  • Baked goods
  • Candy and other sweets
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary drinks, including soda and fruit punch

Sugary drinks are the No. 1 offender when it comes to added sugar in foods in American diets, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

Talk to your doctor about some ways to reduce sugar intake.

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What are empty calories?

Empty calories are calories we get from solid fats or added sugars in food and drinks, according to the U.S. Department of AgricultureOff Site Icon (USDA).

These fats and sugars add few or no nutrients and are only added to foods to make them more appealing.

According to the USDA, some foods and drinks that contain the most empty calories include:

  • bacon
  • cakes
  • cheese
  • cookies
  • donuts
  • energy drinks
  • fruit drinks
  • hot dogs
  • ice cream
  • pastries
  • pizza
  • ribs
  • sausages
  • soda
  • sports drinks

While small amounts of empty calories are OK, eating too many can cause weight gain and is unhealthy, according to the USDA.

For more information about empty calories, talk with your doctor.

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What are liquid calories, and where are they found?

Dr. Allen discusses liquid calories. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Liquid calories are calories found in things we drink, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ weight management programOff Site Icon (USDVA).

If you’re trying to lose or manage your weight, it’s important to remember that eating calories is a better choice than drinking them, according to the USDVA.

Some types of drinks with liquid calories include:

  • alcohol
  • coffee with sugar
  • fruit drinks
  • lemonade
  • milkshakes
  • punch
  • sports drinks
  • sugary sodas
  • sweet tea

Instead, try drinking more water, unsweetened tea, juice with no sugar added, and low-calorie drinks.

Talk to your doctor for more information about liquid calories.

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What happens to the body when caffeine is consumed?

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

Though caffeine’s main affect is to make your body feel more awake and alert, according to the FDA, it also can cause the following issues:

  • Dehydration
  • Dependency
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • Jittery, shaky feelings
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Uneven heart rhythm

The effects of caffeine usually last about four to six hours, and can cause an overdose if consumed in extremely high levels, according to the FDA.

For more information about how caffeine affects your body, talk with your physician.

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What foods or drinks contain caffeine?

Caffeine is naturally found in many seeds, leaves and more than 60 types of plants, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Plants that naturally contain caffeine, according to the NIH, include:

  • Coffee
  • Cocoa beans (used in chocolate)
  • Kola nuts (used in many sodas)
  • Tea leaves

Caffeine is often found in processed foods and medications, according to the NIH, including:

  • Candies
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Energy drinks
  • Gum
  • Many sodas
  • Snacks
  • Tea

Some medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers, diet pills and cold medicines also include caffeine, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what foods and drinks contain caffeine.

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Can caffeine be consumed safely?

It is safe for adults to consume caffeine, as long as it is consumed in moderation, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

To keep caffeine at safe levels in the body, doctors recommend limiting intake to no more than 200 mg per day, according to the FDA. Two 5-ounce cups of coffee contains about 200 mg of caffeine, for example.

Every person is different, however, so a lesser amount of caffeine might be a better fit for you. Also, people who are pregnant, breastfeeding and children should be even more cautious of the amount of caffeine they consume, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If you are consuming too much caffeine, try to cut back slowly because caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms, including headache, tiredness and depression, according to the FDA.

Talk to your doctor for more information about caffeine safety.

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What is lactose intolerance?

Dr. Amin discusses lactose intolerance. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when the small intestine doesn’t make enough of the enzyme called lactase, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The enzyme is needed to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other types of dairy products, according to the NIH.

Lactase is able to break down the milk sugar into two simpler kinds of sugar that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

For more information about lactose intolerance, talk with your doctor.

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Who is at risk for developing lactose intolerance?

Dr. Amin discusses who is at risk for developing lactose intolerance. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Lactose intolerance is very common among adults, with about 30 million American adults being diagnosed with some level of lactose intolerance by age 20, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Someone’s ethnic or racial background can make them more or less likely to become lactose intolerant. The condition is most common among people of Asian, African, or Native American descent and among Hispanics and Latinos, according to the NIH.

People of European descent are least likely to be lactose intolerant, according to the NIH.

Babies born prematurely sometimes also can have lactose intolerance, according to the NIH. The condition is hereditary, so most people inherit it from their parents, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

Talk to your doctor for more information about who is at risk of developing lactose intolerance.

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How is lactose intolerance treated?

Dr. Amin discusses how lactose intolerance is treated. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though there isn’t a specific treatment for lactose intolerance – because there isn’t a treatment to make the body create more lactase enzyme – there are steps you can take to manage lactose intolerance, according to the Food and Drug Administration[Link to http://www.fda.gov/ in a new window with off site icon and 3rd party content disclaimer] (FDA).

Most people with lactose intolerance have different levels of how much lactose their body can tolerate, according to the FDA.

For some people controlling the lactose in their diet could mean limiting the amounts of milk and other dairy products in their diets, according to the FDA. For other people, it could mean eliminating some things completely.

Avoiding or greatly limiting milk in your diet can lead to a shortage of calcium, protein, riboflavin, and vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If you are avoiding or limiting milk, you could eat foods with more calcium, such as leafy greens, shrimp, and broccoli, and drink orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Or, you could talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements with added vitamin D, according to the NIH.

For more information about treating lactose intolerance, talk to your physician.

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What is food addiction?

Food addiction is a disease that causes someone to lose control of being able to stop eating some kinds of food, according to the Food Addiction InstituteOff Site Icon (FAI).

With food addiction, the body develops chemical dependencies on certain foods, which causes them to overeat these foods, even if they logically know it will have negative consequences, according to the FAI.

For more information about what food addiction is, talk with your doctor.

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Is food addiction a difficult addiction to break?

Like many addictions, food addiction has no permanent cure, and while it can be treated, treatment can be difficult, according to the Food Addiction InstituteOff Site Icon (FAI).

The difficulty and steps to treat food addiction can be different from person to person, depending on how far the addiction has progressed before the patient seeks treatment, according to the FAI.

As opposed to a different kind of addiction – such as smoking – a person can’t choose to quit the addiction altogether, according to the FAI. Because food is needed to live, it can’t be eliminated from a person’s daily routine. Instead, a person with a food addiction has to learn to control their eating behaviors, emotions and decision making about food.

For more information about breaking a food addiction, talk with your doctor.

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Is there a psychological or biological cause for food addiction?

Food addiction can have both biological and psychological causes, according to the Food Addiction InstituteOff Site Icon (FAI).

People with food addictions develop a kind of chemical dependency on certain foods, most frequently foods that are high in sugar, excess fat and salt, according to the FAI.

Genetics can play some role in food addiction, but psychological issues also can cause food addiction, according to the FAI. The addiction can come from not dealing well with emotional issues or using food as a coping mechanism.

Talk to your physician for more information about the causes of food addiction.

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Are there certain ages at which a body’s metabolism slows down?

Dr. Jennewine discusses when the body’s metabolism slows down. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As people age, their metabolism slows down.

Starting in your 20s, your metabolism begins to slow down, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). In your 30s, your metabolism rate slows even more.

Metabolism slows about 5 percent every 10 years after age 40, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

Talk to your doctor for more information about changes in metabolism as you age.

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Why does weight loss seem to be harder as you age?

Dr. Jennewine discusses why weight loss is harder as you age. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As people age, their hormones change, which causes their metabolic rate to change, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

As men lose testosterone and women lose estrogen, their metabolism slows, making the weight easier to put on and harder to take off.

Weight management can become more difficult for people in their 20s, but weight loss can become even trickier in your 30s, according to PHN physicians.

For more about why weight loss is more difficult as you get older, talk with your doctor.

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Are there common areas of weight gain in men’s and women’s bodies as they age?

Dr. Jennewine discusses areas of weight gain in men’s and women’s bodies as they age. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As people age, it can be more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Men and women, however, tend to gain weight in different places.

In general, it is more common for women to gain weight in the area of their hips, buttocks, and thighs, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Men, however, tend to gain and carry their weight in their midsection as belly fat, according to PHN physicians.

For more information about how men and women gain weight differently, talk with your physician.

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What is weight loss medication?

Dr. Allen discusses weight loss medication. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Weight loss medications are designed for people who have tried losing weight with diet and exercise alone and have found they need an extra boost, according to Premier HealthNet physicians.

Most weight loss medications can help people lose five to 10 pounds but won’t help them to continue losing weight unless they also continue with a diet and exercise routine, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Talk to your doctor for more information about weight loss medication.

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Who is a good candidate for weight loss medication?

The use of weight loss medications might be recommended by your doctor as part of a comprehensive approach to weight loss, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Weight loss medications can help give a boost to someone who has put in the time and effort to lose weight by making lifestyle changes and incorporating a healthy diet and exercise but is still struggling to lose weight, according to PHN physicians.

For more information about who might need to take weight loss medication, talk with your doctor.

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What is the function of the thyroid, and what role does it play in a person’s health?

Dr. Bethel discusses the function of the thyroid. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The thyroid is an essential hormonal gland that plays a major role in many of the body’s functions, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The thyroid’s function is to regulate the body’s metabolism, which affects how fast or slow things occur in the body, such as hair growth, heartbeat, and food excretion, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

The thyroid also controls how fast or slow you burn calories, which in turn affects your weight, according to the Office of Women’s Health[Link to http://womenshealth.gov/about-us/ in a new window with off site icon and 3rd party content disclaimer] (OWH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

If a person’s thyroid gland is not in control, it can work in extremes, so it is important to try to keep its function in a midrange, according to PHN physicians.

For more information about how the thyroid works and how it affects a person’s health

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What is the link between a person’s thyroid and their weight?

Dr. Bethel discusses the connection between the thyroid and weight. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The amount of hormone your thyroid makes affects your weight, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If your thyroid is making too little of the hormone, you have a condition called hypothyroidism, which can cause weight gain, according to the NIH.

If, however, your thyroid is making too much of the hormone, you have a condition called hyperthyroidism, which can cause weight loss, according to the NIH.

These weight changes can be sudden, but typically they happen slowly over time, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how a person’s thyroid affects their weight.

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How can treatment for thyroid disease help a person’s weight return to normal?

Dr. Bethel discusses how treating a thyroid problem can help with weight. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Because the thyroid affects how fast or slow calories are burned, it in turn affects how much someone weighs, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Treating thyroid disease means helping to get thyroid hormone production back at a normal level, instead of excessively high or low, according to the NIH.

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For example, treating an underactive thyroid will increase a person’s metabolism, which will help to burn more calories and cause weight loss, according to Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians. Treating thyroid disease will also help prevent future weight gain.

For more information about how treating thyroid disease can help a person’s weight return to normal, talk with your doctor.

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How can diet affect arthritis?

Dr. Williams discusses how diet can affect arthritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Fortunately for people facing arthritis, choosing to follow an arthritis-friendly diet can help, according to the Arthritis FoundationOff Site Icon (AF).

If you have arthritis, avoiding processed foods and saturated fats can help the pain, according to the AF. Instead choose fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains, and beans. Having these foods in your diet can help your arthritis, according to the AF, by:

  • Beans – These are full of fiber and phytonutrients, which help lower C-reactive protein (CRP) – an indicator of inflammation found in the blood
  • Fish – This is a good source of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fruits and vegetables – Both are loaded with antioxidants, which act as a natural defense system for the body
  • Nuts – Nuts, along with seeds, have been shown to help improve inflammation
  • Whole grains – These contain fiber, which can help maintain a healthy weight

For more about how diet affects arthritis, talk with your doctor.

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Is it beneficial for a person with arthritis to seek the help of a doctor or nutritionist?

Dr. Williams discusses the benefits of a person with arthritis seeking the help of a doctor or nutritionist. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you have arthritis, it is beneficial to seek the help of a doctor or a nutritionist, both to learn more about your specific condition and also to learn how your diet affects your arthritis, according to Premier HealthNet(PHN) physicians.

By talking to a physician, you can find out which type of arthritis you have – osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis, the PHN physicians say. This is important because the treatment is different for different kinds of arthritis.

Talking with a nutritionist can help you determine what foods to include in your diet to help decrease inflammation, according to PHN physicians. A nutritionist also can let you know which foods to try to avoid.

For more information about seeking help from a doctor or nutritionist about arthritis, talk with your physician.

Is there any connection between gluten and arthritis?

Dr. Williams discusses the connection between gluten and arthritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

There is no definite answer to whether choosing to follow a gluten free diet will help improve symptoms of arthritis, according to the Arthritis FoundationOff Site Icon (AF).

Premier HealthNet (PHN) physicians say that there currently is no direct connection between gluten and arthritis.

However, there are ongoing studies to see how gluten affects inflammatory diseases other than Celiac disease, PHN physicians say.

To learn more about any connection between gluten and arthritis, talk with your doctor.

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Is it beneficial for a person with arthritis to seek the help of a doctor or nutritionist?

Dr. Williams discusses the benefits of a person with arthritis seeking the help of a doctor or nutritionist. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you have arthritis, it is beneficial to seek the help of a doctor or a nutritionist, both to learn more about your specific condition and also to learn how your diet affects your arthritis, according to Premier HealthNet(PHN) physicians.

By talking to a physician, you can find out which type of arthritis you have – osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis, the PHN physicians say. This is important because the treatment is different for different kinds of arthritis.

Talking with a nutritionist can help you determine what foods to include in your diet to help decrease inflammation, according to PHN physicians. A nutritionist also can let you know which foods to try to avoid.

For more information about seeking help from a doctor or nutritionist about arthritis, talk with your physician.

What are the health benefits of eating fish?

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet.

Along with other seafood, fish provide you with protein, vitamin D, and healthy omega-3 fats, according to the Harvard School of Public HealthOff Site Icon (HSPH). 

 Working fish into your diet at least twice a week is a good part of a healthy diet. 

 Talk to your doctor for more information about the health benefits of eating fish.

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How can you safely add fish to your diet?

You can safely add fish into your diet by making sure you’re eating types of fish that are low in mercury.  

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say the fish and seafood that are safest to eat are: 

  • Canned tuna
  • Catfish
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp

For more information about how to safely add fish to your diet, talk with your doctor.

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Does it matter how often you eat fish?

You should eat two servings of fish each week, according to the Harvard School of Public HealthOff Site Icon (HSPH). 

Servings should be 4 to 6 ounces each. 

Adding a healthy amount of fish into your diet has also been shown to decrease your risk of heart disease. 

Talk to your doctor for more information about how often you should eat fish.

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What is a safe rate for me to lose weight?

Dr. C. Joe Northup discusses the safest rate for weight loss Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though a safe amount of weight to lose can be different for each of us, there are general guidelines that can help you meet your goals in a healthy way, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Typically, losing weight in a steady, gradual way can help you be successful. Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy weight loss goal.

Talk to your doctor for more information about a safe rate to lose weight.

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How can I determine the best goals for my weight loss?

Dr. C. Joe Northup discusses how to determine your weight loss goals. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say deciding on your best individual weight loss goal depends on what you want to accomplish. 

Whether you’re hoping to reduce some medications, prevent taking medications, have more energy, or just feel better about yourself, your reason for weight loss will help determine your goal.

In general, striving to lose 5 percent to 10 percent of your weight at a time is a good goal. Once you meet this smaller goal, you can set another smaller goal and keep going until you reach your ultimate goal.

For more information about how to determine your goals for weight loss, talk to your doctor.

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Can drastic, quick weight loss have a negative effect on my health?

Dr. C. Joe Northup discusses whether quick, drastic weight loss can have negative health effects. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Losing weight too quickly can have a negative effect on your health, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

Losing weight in a healthy, strategic way is better for your body and more sustainable over time.

Having too drastic of a change in your weight too quickly can cause problems with your kidney and your liver. 

It’s important to make sure you’re still getting adequate nutrition and maintaining healthy habits while losing weight.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how losing too much weight too quickly can have negative effects on your health.

How can I ensure long-term weight loss success?

Dr. C. Joe Northup discusses how you can ensure long-term weight loss success. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you’re looking to make your weight loss last a lifetime, focus on making lifestyle changes that you can stick with instead of jumping into a fad diet, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

Instead of searching for a new diet or something new to try, focus on basic good habits: Eat better. Have more good days than bad ones. Make exercise part of your routine. 

Once you’ve made healthy choices part of your ongoing lifestyle, it will become easier to sustain long-term weight loss success.

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What role does vitamin D play in my overall health?

Vitamin D is an important part of staying healthy.

It helps your body absorb calcium, and it’s needed for bone growth, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon.

Vitamin D also helps:

  • Muscles to move
  • Nerves to carry messages from the brain throughout the body
  • Support the immune system in fighting bacteria and viruses

Talk to your doctor for more information about the role vitamin D plays in your body.

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What are the symptoms or signs that a person is not getting enough vitamin D?

Some people who aren’t getting enough vitamin D have pain in their bones, trouble getting around, and are more prone to infections, according to the Vitamin D CouncilOff Site Icon.

But, it’s also possible you won’t have any noticeable symptoms.

Ultimately, getting too little vitamin D can cause other, more significant problems, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon.

Though it’s rare, children with a vitamin D deficiency can get rickets, which is a condition that causes bones to become soft and bendable.

Vitamin D deficiency in adults will lead to osteomalacia, which causes painful bones and weak muscles.

Talk to your doctor for more information about signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

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How is vitamin D deficiency treated?

If you are vitamin D deficient, you can increase your vitamin levels with food, sunlight, and supplements, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon.

Only a few foods have vitamin D naturally in them, but many foods in the U.S. are fortified with vitamin D.

Some foods that have vitamin D include milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice, salmon, tuna, and mushrooms.

On a sunny day where you have a lot of your skin directly exposed to the sun, it can be easy to get all the vitamin D you need. But, getting sun through a window, while wearing sunscreen, or while mostly covered in clothing will not provide your body with vitamin D.

Though it’s important to get vitamin D from sunlight, it’s also important to take care to protect your skin from too much sun exposure to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Two types of vitamin D supplements are available. Talk to your doctor for more information about which one and how much is the right amount for you.

To learn more about how to treat vitamin D deficiency, talk with your doctor.

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What are ways I can get more vitamin D during the winter months?

In the winter, you might not be able to get outside often to take in sunlight on your exposed skin.

Instead, you can increase your vitamin levels with food and supplements, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon.

Not many foods have vitamin D naturally in them, but in the U.S. there are a variety of foods fortified with vitamin D. Some foods with vitamin D include milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice, salmon, tuna, and mushrooms.

There are two types of vitamin D supplements available. It’s important to talk to your doctor about which one and how much is for you.

Some people only need vitamin D supplements in the winter while they aren’t outside as often as in the warmer months.

To learn more about how to get more vitamin D during the winter, talk with your doctor.

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Source: Ziad Khatib, MD, First Care Family Medical; Aleda Johnson, MD, Liberty Family Medicine; Mark Ringle, MD, Beavercreek Family Physicians; Joyce Tebbe, ACNP, Covington Family Care; Stephen Liptak, PsyD, Upper Valley Outpatient Behavioral Health; Joseph Allen, MD, Family Medicine of Vandalia; Chandan Gupta, MD, Monroe Medical Center; Paul Jennewine, MD, Middletown Medical Group; Kimberly Bethel, Trotwood Physician Center; Mansi Amin, DO, Oakwood Primary Care; Mark E. Williams, MD, Beavercreek Family Medicine; Geetha Ambalavanan, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; C. Joe Northup, MD, Premier Weight Loss Solutions; Faisal Khatri, MD, Premier Family Care of Mason

Content Updated: January 8, 2019

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