Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}

Why Do Millions of Americans take Multivitamins?

Take a moment to click on the above link for an excellent article about supplementation.

The article, published yesterday on WebMD, is a good reminder that most of us really don’t need to be taking multivitamins and other supplements. The best nutrition comes from real food: with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. So eat up, but keep it real!







I like vegetables. But that doesn’t mean I always find it easy to eat enough, every day, year round.

I am, however, pretty conscientious about making half my plate fruits and vegetables, and I typically manage to eat at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day. This is the daily recommendation for my age group, and includes starchy vegetables like potatoes, and also legumes (beans and peas). 

However, because of living on a tight budget (got to love graduate school!) I don’t buy a lot of fresh vegetables, or fruits for that matter, during the winter. I can and freeze a fair variety during the summer, and then buy a few things that I really like from the store (mainly flash-frozen peas, bags of whole carrots, bananas, boxes of clementines and the occasional bunch of celery or head of lettuce). My semi-locavore conscience also decreases my willingness to purchase fresh bell-peppers in the middle of winter in West Virginia.

That being said, I don’t feel deprived. In fact, it makes me relish the deliciousness of spring all the more when the first spears of asparagus burst out of the ground.

And this year, it’s been so warm that I still have some swiss chard growing in my backyard garden.

Then, of course, there’s the option of growing vegetables inside. In the winter. In a very limited space. On your kitchen counter. With no mess, no dirt, no weeding.

Sprouts. Lots of different beans and seeds can be sprouted- alfalfa, broccoli, sunflower, lentils, clover, radish, mung beans to name a few.

A couple years ago, my mom bought me this Bioset seed sprouter, and I use it on a fairly regular basis. I thought it would be fun to walk my blog readers through a few days of sprouting in my kitchen.


Today was Day 1. I simply placed the different seeds in the sprouter- 2 Tablespoons of mung beans on one tray, 1 Tablespoon of alfalfa on another, and 3/4 Tablespoons of broccoli seeds on the last, and then filled the top tray (the white one) with water.


Broccoli Sprouts







The water siphons down through each tray, and into the drainage tray at the bottom. This drainage tray should then be dumped immediately to prevent the water from remaining close to the seeds. Sprouting should be done carefully to prevent the growth of E Coli, but stay tuned for more on that.



Some people praise sprouts as a miracle food- I just think that they are a fun, alternative way to mix up my winter vegetable routine!

Check back over the next few days to watch my sprouts grow!

Note: You can also grow sprouts in a mason jar with some cheesecloth and a rubber band on top, but I really like my Bioset- it makes the whole process quite a bit easier.

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Resolutions and Fad Diets

So, it’s now 2013, and a lot of people have made New Years resolutions. Here are a few of the most common:


“Lose weight” is a very common resolution- and I recommend a comprehensive lifestyle approach- including some basic principles described in my previous post on shedding weight for good

But for those who are looking to drop some pounds fast (and likely gain back the pounds plus a few extra), you could always try a fad diet. [Although I do not recommend it!].

I was just checking out BBC News, and came across this article, listing a few of the weirdest fad diets from the past century.

Fletcherism– chew your food and then spit it out before swallowing.

Tapeworm diet– just swallow a pill full of beef tapeworm cysts, and watch the pounds melt off. Ugh.

Arsenic– proposed to speed up metabolism. Hmmm… not sure I’d want to try that one either.

Lord Byron’s Vinegar diet– Drink vinegar daily and eat potatoes soaked in vinegar- a little bit of vinegar in food is fine, but the amount consumed caused vomiting and diarrhea.

Rubber– not exactly a diet, but an extreme method of losing weight: just wear rubber knickers or corsets, and you’ll sweat off excess weight. This diet came to an end when rubber was needed for World War 1.

I didn’t make any “resolutions” per se, but my goals for 2013 include defending my thesis, presenting the results at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston, finishing my Masters degree and internship, finding a job, and running a 10k.

What about you- have you made any resolutions or goals for 2013?


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Do you like sugar? I do too- but moderation is key! It’s ok to have a bit of sweetness, but Americans have a tendency to go overboard.

I just watched this video  and this video about sugar, and I thought they are both consumer-friendly and could spark some interesting discussion. 

Of course, sugar itself is not the exclusive cause of the current obesity epidemic. This problem can be traced to a multitude of reasons, but the amount of sugar consumed in America today is startling. In 2010, per capita sugar consumption in the US was 66.0 pounds and, and corn sweetener was 64.5 pounds (ERS). That’s a whole lot of sweetness!

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The dietetic internship program that I am completing is combined with a Masters in Human Nutrition and Food. Therefore, in addition to rotating with various dietitians, I am taking graduate courses as well. Last year was all courses, and I had one more course to take this year: a seminar course.

Essentially, that means that a group of graduate students and professors in a department meet once or twice a week and each student will choose a specific topic within a broader topic. The broad topic for this semester was “Physiologic Regulation of Food Intake”, i.e. the various hormones and peripheral metabolic systems within the body that affect appetite, digestive systems, etc.

As I started to look for a topic, I came across a molecule discovered in 2006 that was named “Nesfatin-1”. The name itself, and the fact that it was so recently discovered intrigued me.

Using library databases, I compiled a sizable stack of journal articles on this one little satiety molecule.

I read them. And re-read them. And found a few more articles. And tossed a handful. Trying to wrap my mind around the hypothesized way that Nesfatin-1 sends signals within the hypothalamus- a key feeding regulator in the brain.

I’m pretty sure I spent upwards of 80 hours studying charts and graphs and immunostaining pictures and critically examining the work of researchers.

Sticky notes were all over my wall. 

And the desktop of my computer was covered with screen shots of various charts and graphs.  They covered up the face of my sweet newborn niece which is currently set as my wallpaper.


“Nesfatin” is a name coined by the Japanese researchers who first discovered the satiation properties of this Nucleobindin2-encoded satiety and fatinfluencing protein (1). It is a 396 amino acid molecule attached to a 24 amino acid signal peptide that is located in several areas within the brain and has also been identified in other areas of the body. 

In my presentation, I focused mostly on research looking at the effects in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and the nucleus tractus solitarius of the brain stem. As with any molecule in the body, it is highly complex and difficult to identify a clear mechanism of action.

This is the proposed mechanism that I presented:


As a note, “anorexia” in this case simply means a reduced appetite, not the clinically diagnosed eating disorder “anorexia nervosa”.

As a result of my research, I propose that in the future, nesfatin-1 could potentially be a biomarker for monitoring/diagnoses of diseases, as well as used therapeutically in metabolic diseases. However, a lot more research must be done before anything like this could be used. 


Future research could focus on characterizing nesfatin-1 levels across various populations and identify the local of expression in both the brain and periphery of the body.


Conclusions of my study include that Nesfatin-1 appears to be a potent regulator of food intake in rodents (1,2), that it appears to work via a leptin independent mechanism, implying potential application in leptin resistance (1,2).

However, observational human studies demonstrate that the production and mechanism of nesfatin-1 is complex and deserves further study.
Admittedly, there was a lot of stress involved in gathering this information and presenting it in a coherent manner to a group of graduate students and professors. I was super thankful when the 1 hour of presenting and answering questions was finished, to say the least. Here’s a picture of my exultation, with my all-important flash drive in my hand.


1. Oh-I S, Shimizu H, Satoh, T, et al. Identification of nesfatin-1 as a satiety molecule in the hypothalamus. Nature. 2006;443:709-712. 

2. Maejima Y, Sedbazar U, Suyama S, et al. Nesfatin-1-regulated oxytocinergic signaling in the paraventricular nucleus causes anorexia through a leptin-independent melanocortin pathway. Cell Metabolism. 2009;10(5):355. 

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Self Esteem

This may seem like a bit of a strange topic to tackle on the blog about a dietetic internship. However, this past week I was able to sit in on some counseling sessions of clients with eating disorders, and one of the themes that surfaced frequently was that of self esteem, particularly related to body image. The dietitian I am working with referenced the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, and so I decided to check it out.

I came across this startling quote on their website:

In 2011, Dove® released the findings of its largest global study to date on women’s relationship with beauty—The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited. The study revealed that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and that anxiety about looks begins at an early age. In a study of over 1,200 10-to-17-year-olds, a majority of girls, 72%, said they felt tremendous pressure to be beautiful. The study also found that only 11% of girls around the world feel comfortable using the word beautiful to describe their looks, showing that there is a universal increase in beauty pressure and a decrease in girls’ confidence as they grow older. Though Dove®efforts have moved the needle in a positive direction, there is more to be done.

Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. Wow. Media has a huge influence on our society’s perception of beauty. Although I don’t think of myself as someone who consumes a lot of media (i.e. I don’t watch TV, and only a few movies a month), I know that I am still bombarded by media messages every day- through internet, magazine advertisements, billboards, and even simply those repeated by my friends. When we hear these things: are we critical consumers of the information? Do we blindly accept what we hear, or do we think about the truth of what is being conveyed.

The National Eating Disorders Association Media Watchdog program organizes volunteers to report TV, radio, newspaper, magazine and internet ads or programs that are “worthy of praise or protest”, in order to bring concerned citizens together with companies and advertisers in order to send healthy media messages regarding body size and shape.

Here are some tips from the Media Education Foundation that can help us to deconstruct the messages being sent in a print ad.

  1. Make observations: List 5 adjectives, and evaluate the aesthetics of the ad- camera angles, lighting, gender and age of subjects, etc.
  2. Determine the purpose of the ad: The definition of an advertisement is that it’s out to sell a product. But what is being sold? Who is the target audience? What emotional appeal is used?
  3. Determine the assumptions the ad makes, and the messages it sends: What assumptions are made about gender, race, and class?
  4. Consider the possible consequences of these messages: Do the messages create unrealistic expectations for people? Is this ad socially responsible?

Source: The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

Media messages may not directly cause eating disorders, but they certainly help to create a context in which people place value on the size and shape of their body.

If you suspect that someone you know has an eating disorder, I suggest that you take a look at this handout. Learn about eating disorders, know the facts and myths about weight, nutrition and exercise, be honest, be caring but firm, compliment their personality, successes or accomplishments, be a good role model, and tell someone!