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Supernutrition for women.

When it comes to the healthiest diet, what's good for men may not be good for women.

According to cutting edge nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., former nutrition director at the Pritikin Longevity Center, the gender gap in health research extends to the area of nutritional counseling. Today's "healthiest" diet recommendations (high-carbohydrate, low-fat) are designed with men in mind. Women "are eating themselves into hormonal dysfunction" following diets that were tested on a man's different body chemistry. Gittleman outlines the first scientifically based dietary program for a woman's unique nutritional needs in her latest book, Supernutrition for Women: A Food-Wise Guide for Health, Beauty, Energy and Immunity (Bantam Paperback) which recently won the prestigious "Excellence in Medical Communication" award.

After receiving a master's degree in nutrition education from Columbia University, Gittleman served as the chief dietician of the pediatric clinic at Bellevue Hospital, Bilingual Nutritionist for the USDA, Women's Infants' and Children's food program at a Yale University health clinic and nutritional health consultant for the first holistic medical group in Connecticut. Gittleman's first bestseller, Beyond Pritikin, broke new ground in the low-fat, high-carbohydrate mindset by advocating that the absence of essential fats in this type of diet was blocking weight loss attempts and hindering good health for many people.

Her vast counseling experience in nutritional health concerns for women opens up a fascinating field of new information and concerns. She currently conducts her nutritional counseling practice from Santa Fe, New Mexico. American Fitness is proud to feature the following interview.

American Fitness: Why did you follow up Beyond Pritikin with a book about women?

Ann Louise Gittleman: Recent Congressional hearings have confirmed that women are being excluded from clinical research. Yet, the unique biological processes specific to women, like menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause, make women's nutrition/health needs quite different from men's.

Menopause is one of the least understood medical conditions we have, though it affects 100% of women between the ages of 43 and 55. We have appallingly very little information on the endocrine and tissue changes that occur in the female body. Research is also sadly lacking on the female breast. Someone needed to shed more light on female nutrition as it relates to a woman's life cycle. I felt that with my educational background and hands-on experience of over 15 years of counseling women of all ages and from all walks of life that I had to share my observations and research.

AF: Women, more than ever, are trying to trim the fat and shake the salt. Are they making progress?

ALG: There appears to be a greater nutritional consciousness in the 1990s than ever before. However, studies of female eating habits compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the late '80s tell a different story. The most interesting statistic to come out of the USDA study was that the average fat intake of women is 37%. A 37% fat intake is quite high when you consider there has been a dramatic decrease in the consumption of products like red meat, eggs and whole milk over the past decade.

AF: Where is the fat coming from?

ALG: Women are replacing basic healthy dietary staples like eggs and meat with high-fat baked goods like muffins and croissants, cheese, salad dressings and rich desserts.

Many times I see a woman reward herself with a decadent sweet like chocolate fudge ice cream at dinner time because she was "so good all day." One cup of gourmet ice cream contains a whopping 11 teaspoons of fat, without the beneficial nutrients to accompany it. That is really high dietary treason. To reach even a 30% fat diet, most fats should be limited to a total of 10 teaspoons per day. Sadly, women are eating fats that are not even natural to the body, such as margarine, shortening and commercially processed vegetable oil.

AF: How does this tie in with your recommendation that women should return eggs and meat into their diet?

ALG: Supernutrition for Women has an entire chapter devoted to the subject of meat and eggs, entitled "Why Women Need Meat and Eggs." In moderation and as part of a well balanced diet, I see no reason why hormone-free meat and eggs from free range chickens should be excluded in the female diet plan. As a matter of fact, meat is the only source of "heme" or blood iron, the kind that is most easily absorbed into the body. It also helps the body absorb the non-heme iron contained in enriched grains and beans.

I have worked with many vegetarians and diet-conscious women whom I was not able to get well until they began to eat a small amount of meat again. Besides being high in iron, meat is also a very high dietary source of zinc and manganese. Too little iron shows itself as fatigue, paleness and anemia. Ridges in the fingernails can be a clinical sign of iron deficiency.

AF: Why should women eat eggs?

ALG: Eggs are a high source of the sulphur bearing amino acid L-cysteine--very important for hair, skin and nails. Sulphur is hard to find in our current food sources. Eating four to six eggs per week is recommended. I tell all of my clients to purchase fertile eggs at their local health food store or food co-op. I also suggest eggs be cooked for a minimum of seven minutes if hard boiled or five minutes if poached to eliminate salmonella.

AF: Why should a woman's diet include certain oils?

ALG: I wrote about my findings on fats and oil in Beyond Pritikin. I witnessed firsthand the plusses and minuses of a no-to-low-fat diet at the Pritikin Center. The Pritikin diet is a 10% fat diet, with a high carbohydrate content from grain, beans and vegetables and limited protein.

What I discovered was that many people who followed a Pritikin-style diet had shown signs of essential fatty acid deficiency: brittle fingernails, dry and falling hair, wrinkled skin, food and environmental allergies, fatigue, sexual problems and immune disorders. I also discovered that despite their low-fat diets, many women could not lose weight.

My research on essential fatty acids proved they are just that, they are essential. As I said before, the right kind of fats--essential fat--stimulates a mechanism in the body that in turn burns fat. Studies now show that the addition of essential fats to the diet assists weight control, cardiovascular disorders and a host of hair, skin and nail conditions. Essential fat deficiencies are linked to a weakened immune system that offers a defenseless home for viral, parasitic and bacterial invaders that lead to many health problems.

AF: Why do women on high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets need to eat constantly and binge frequently?

ALG: Without fat, more food is needed to satisfy your appetite and meet energy needs. Fat in the diet gives a sense of fullness, or satiety. When the body is fat-starved, one is hungry all the time, tending to overeat and binge, particularly on carbohydrates. With a small amount of the right fats, a woman's body weight will stabilize, her appetite will normalize and she will burn calories more efficiently. The natural result is lasting weight loss.

AF: What are the essential fats--and how do you get them?

ALG: One can get the essential fatty acids from a variety of foods such as fish, flax oil, 100% expeller pressed vegetable oils and botanicals such as evening primrose. The inclusion of at least one to two tablespoons of oil a day is extremely important. Not only for health of the cell membrane and the prostaglandins (tissue-like hormones), it is helpful to women, particularly, because oil is a carrier for calcium into the tissues.

AF: What should women eliminate from their diet?

ALG: Margarine, vegetable shortening, processed vegetable oils and all the baked goods that contain these alien fats. I suggest women limit or eliminate food inhibitors which affect vital female mineral absorption, like caffeine, sugar, nicotine and the use of aluminum. These particular substances affect both calcium and iron utilization.

AF: What are your recommendations regarding calcium?

ALG: Calcium alone will not prevent osteoporosis. Other minerals like magnesium and boron, as well as Vitamin D are needed. I suggest a calcium and magnesium based powder to my female patients called Calci-Fem.

It is also interesting to note that too much exercise, if you are very thin, can create a calcium loss. Excess exercise makes the body stop producing estrogen as in menopause. Without estrogen, the body cannot use calcium. A moderate aerobic exercise program is essential to prevent osteoporosis. The stress of exercise creates a kind of electricity that goes right into the bone to enable calcium to deposit there. The bottom line, dietarily, is to maintain a particularly rich calcium diet through the age of 24 when calcium continues to accumulate in the bone and bone density can maximize.

AF: Are there any other minerals that are important to women?

ALG: There are many minerals which work in combination with each other. Magnesium is important to women since it is found in over 300 body enzyme processes. It is also nature's tranquilizer. A woman who is jittery or startles at the sound of a small noise may well be magnesium deficient.

AF: What about zinc?

ALG: Zinc is extremely important for women, as it is for men. In my experience with over 7,000 women, I found magnesium seems to be the most deficient mineral, while zinc comes up very close as the second most deficient mineral. My feelings are zinc may be deficient for several reasons. One is women are not eating as many zinc-rich foods as they used to. Sources like liver, brewer's yeast and meat are not part of the nutritionally chic'90s diet standard.

Vegetarian-based diets are very high in copper. Copper is the mineral that competes with zinc in absorption. A copper toxic woman is one who can suffer from anxiety attacks, panic attacks and is prone to candida albicans infections. Excess copper is probably the most underrated toxic mineral problem that we have in this day and age. The strange thing is that toxic copper does not show through a traditional blood test. It is only through tissue samples of hair that I have found how many women are storing this bio-unavailable or unbound copper.

Women who crave chocolate and women who drink a great deal of regular tea, for example, may be very copper toxic. Racing thoughts, insomnia, fibroid tumors and female baldness, as well as migraine headaches and numerous food and environmental ailments have all been attributed to copper toxicity.

AF: You also include some recipes in your new book.

ALG: I have interesting tips and recipes for sea vegetables, ways to free food from fat, salt and sugar as well as a guide for dining out whether you are at sea, on land or in the air. I also included my own "fast food" grocery list. Like most women I counsel, I love to eat but do not like to spend a great deal of time cooking so I try to make it as easy as I can for my readers and clients.

AF: What's your basic advice for women in regard to good nutritional health?

ALG: Just because a little bit of something is good does not mean a lot is better. I see many women overdoing complex carbohydrates with a resultant problem of a mineral deficient system. Too much fiber in the form of bran, grain or beans can wash calcium, zinc and iron out of the system. Too many grains from wheat, rye, oats and barley can magnify a gluten intolerance and create aches and joint pains in sensitive individuals.

Many years ago I read a definition about health. It goes like this: Health is that which we do not appreciate until we feel it slipping away from us. Health is what we use up for 60 years in order to gain wealth, after which we use up our wealth to try to regain our health.

Let's hope we can turn that around.

For Ann Louise Gittleman's books Beyond Pritkin and Supernutrition for Women, phone (800) 888-4353.
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Title Annotation:interview with Ann Louise Gittleman
Publication:American Fitness
Article Type:Interview
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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