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Start the new year 
on a healthy kick!
In This Issue
Amazing Amino Acids!
Meet a Registered Dietitian
Have a comment?
Agave Nectar
Recipe Round Up
Volunteer for a Clinical Study!

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Essential Amino Acid Profile:  Phenylalanine

Amino acids are the building blocks for protein.  Most amino acids can be converted into glucose, or energy that our body needs to function. Essential amino acids cannot be made by our body so we must get them through food sources.         

What does Phenylalanine do?

Phenylalanine mainly acts as a 'building block' for other proteins.  It can be converted into tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline). 
Top Food Sources: most protein sources, including red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, soybeans.

Did you know .....Individuals with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) are not able to breakdown phenylalanine.  As a result, phenylalanine can build up in the blood and become toxic! To prevent this, a low phenylalanine diet must be followed at all times. 

Discuss your Diet with a Registered Dietitian! 

Confused about calcium? Lost about leafy greens? Questions about quinoa? A Registered Dietitian (RD) can answer all these questions and more in a nutrition consultation.  You will review your diet and exercise regimen and focus on behavior modification.  It's all part of small steps towards a healthier you! As a service to the community, Diablo Clinical Research's nutrition consultations are specially priced at $50/hour. For more information, please contact our Registered Dietitian, Kelley Bradshaw MS, RD. 

Phone: (925) 930-7267  


Suggestions Please!

As an avid reader of our monthly newsletter, we value your opinions.  What nutrition and health topics are you most interested in? If you have any ideas or suggestions, please send an email to: 

Advancing Health Newsletter January 2012


When's the last time you were asked, "How is your relationship...with food?"  Have you ever asked yourself this question? For most of us, our relationship with food is 
askew.  At best, it is a neutral party, filled with indifference; at its worst, it's a love-hate relationship that can consume a majority of our thoughts.  But does either option really benefit us or our health--mentally or physically?

When we are indifferent about our food choices, we may be given (temporarily) peace of mind but our health is sacrificed in both the short and long term. If we don't care at all about what we eat, at some point, our health will suffer. Denial may be easier on the conscience, but it's brutal on the body.  At the same time, when food becomes our obsession, it can take a toll on our mind and body. For some, this can turn into disordered eating or even more serious forms of eating disorders.  For a majority of us, a love-hate relationship with food is a life-long, mostly uphill struggle. Rarely does this type of relationship benefit our physical health and it ends up driving us crazy.                                                                                                                                                          
Your goal should be to have a happy, peaceful relationship with food, one in which you consciously choose to nourish your body with healthy foods a vast majority of the time.  If you're not sure where your relationship with food stands, ask yourself a few questions:
  • What type of eater am I? Do I eat out of boredom, frustration, sadness, stress, habit?
  • What does nutritious food mean to me
  • How do I feel (physically, emotionally) when I consume nutritious food? 
  • How much of my day is spent thinking about food?
  • Do I constantly refer to food as 'good' or 'bad'? How do I treat myself when I eat one of these foods?
  • Do I ever justify or rationalize my food choices or use food as reward? 
Thoughtfully examine your answers and if you don't like what you're seeing, your relationship with food may be a bit off. Make it a goal in 2012 to get your relationship with food back on track.  The best relationship is the one you have with yourself, including how you view and treat food.

Agave nectar and Health Concerns

In the past few years, nutrition headlines about agave nectar have resulted in the sweetener taking up more shelf space at the grocery store.  Often used by vegans and those on a raw food diet, agave nectar comes from the agave plant.  Originally cultivated in Mexico, the agave plant is also grown in the southern and western United States and is often used to make tequilla. The plant contains several edible parts: the flowers, the leaves, the stalk and the sap.  Agave nectar itself does not come from the sap, but rather its juice is extracted from the root bulb of the plant. The juice is then  heated so that the polysaccharides (complex sugars) are broken down into simple sugars, such as inulin, a type of plant sugar that acts as a fiber. The filtered juice is then reduced to a concentrated syrup, which is what we see on the grocery store shelf.  


However, the processing of agave is actually similar to processing of corn and/or cornstarch into high fructose corn syrup (HCFS) and thus has similar nutrition concerns. Depending on processing methods, agave nectar's fructose concentration can range from 55-97%, where as HCFS typically averages 55% fructose.  Most manufacturers of agave nectar don't list the percentage of fructose in their product. Agave nectar's high concentration of fructose is what makes this so-called 'healthy sugar' not so healthy after all.  Small amounts of fructose are generally not harmful, but with the increased manufacturing (and consumption) of processed foods, we've seen an increase in added fructose (usually HFCS) in our diet.  Excessive amounts of fructose have been linked to numerous health problems, including insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome.  It has been linked with increased risk of gout (in males), increased risk of kidney stones, increased levels of uric acid and can negatively impact post-meal triglyceride levels, which may be a more reliable indicator of dyslipidemia than fasting triglycerides.  


Additionally, the processing of agave into 'nectar' is intense and hardly 'natural'. The juice is heated, reducing it to simple sugar.  Chemicals such as activated charcoal, fructozyme, clarimex(activated charcoal used to remove pesticides), inulin enzymes, cationic and ionic resins(used for juice purification and sugar manufacturing), sulfuric acid and hydrofluric acid are also used in the processing of agave. The end result is mostly fructose. Other potential concerns about the processing of agave nectar include minimal quality control, pesticide residue, saponins (naturally occurring chemical compounds that create a soapy consistency and may be toxic for some individuals) and hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF),  plant-derived compounds that arise when sugar-containing foods interact with heat during cooking. HMF can breakdown into 5- sulfoxymethylfurfural, which may negatively affect DNA and protein strands. A few animal studies involving HMF and high fructose corn syrup have shown to be toxic, but additional studies are needed to truly understand the impact of excessive HMFs in humans. Due to processing, HMFs are prominent in high fructose corn syrup, which is widely used as an inexpensive replacement for sugar and is predominant in the average American diet. As agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup are both heat treated and processed, it is probably that HMFs are also present in agave nectar. 


One reported advantage of agave nectar (compared to other sugars) is that it has a low glycemic index, which is the measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar). However, this index is not without its own flaws and limitations.  It is important to remember that agave nectar is still a type of sugar--it has carbohydrates and calories that are of no nutritional value. In particular, if you have diabetes, you should not use agave nectar as it can negatively affect your blood sugar levels. Limiting all types of sugar and sugar substitutes is a healthy choice for all of us. 

For an engaging insight on the dangers of excessive fructose intake, please watch this lecture from UCSF Professor Robert H. Hustig, MD.
Sugar: The Bitter Truth
Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Recipe Roundup:  Garlic-spiked Broccoli & Mushrooms with Rosemary   



Type II Diabetes and Nerve Pain study
If you have nerve pain from your diabetes you may be interested in learning more about a clinical research study that we are conducting of an investigational drug. Individuals may qualify for this clinical study if they :
  • Are 18 years or older
  • Have type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Have had pain from peripheral neuropathy for at least six months
  • Have an HbA1c of less than or equal to 10%
Qualified participants will receive:
  • Study-related medication
  • Study-related laboratory testing
  • Study-related physical and neurological exams

Please inquire at:  (925) 930-7267     

or email:  studies@diabloclinical.com  


Love healthy cooking? MORE recipes are available on our website at  http://diabloclinical.com/subcat_studyvolunteers_health.php
And don't forget to check out our blog,  http://diabloclinicalresearch.wordpress.com/, for health,nutrition & fitness articles!