Greetings from Las Vegas: Love your endothelium

May I just say that I don’t like paying $2 for a banana? But when you are grabbing breakfast at the Mirage Starbucks before jogging across the street (and through Harrah’s) in heels to catch the shuttle to the Convention Center, and you find that your only breakfast options other than pastries are a yogurt parfait and an expensive banana, that’s what you get. At least I have a per diem.
Lunch wasn’t much better…my choices were hot dogs, pizza, questionable tuna sandwiches and a sardine can of a cafeteria that Yelp users labeled as sad and scary. So I nibbled enough samples at the Food Expo until I got sick of them (they ran heavily to granola and meal-replacement bars). I have a better plan for today! Acutally, this tiny handmade tortilla (with almond meal replacing some of the traditional masa harina and all of the traditional lard) with carne asada was pretty awesome.
The conference sessions, however, were great. And that’s what I was really there for (although I was feeling a little nostalgic for the awesome food at the BlogHer Food conference).

The morning started off with a keynote speech by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about innovation. He’s a dynamic speaker (I’ve heard him speak at a few Starbucks annual shareholder meetings), and this time was no exception.

The first panel I went to was “Childhood Obesity Solutions: What Industry Can Do.” It featured the chair of the UW Nutritional Sciences department (and my current advisor) Adam Drewnowski, and Barbara Rolls (author of the Volumetrics books, among other achievements).

Dr. Drewnowski pointed out that the “eat less, exercise more” message is not resonating with the general public, largely because people don’t want to eat less. “To solve the global obesity epidemic will require common effort” from academia, the food industry and government, he said.

Contrary to what is often reported, he said, the obesity rate, while being a serious problem, especially in some parts of the world, has actually been stable over the last several years in the United States, the United Kingdom, and a few other areas. This may be just a temporary breather, he said…one that could give concerned parties a chance to regroup and come up with a new strategy. “Something may have been done right, but perhaps we need to do something more.”

The afternoon panel was “Endothelial Function: A New Health Claim Target For Functional Foods?” It featured discussion of my old friends, flavonoids and polyphenols (aka, a few of those natural compounds found in plant foods that research has linked to reduction in cardovascular disease, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and other nasty things you don’t want happening in your body).

Your endothelium is the lining of your blood vessels, and if it’s not functioning well, its surface is more easily breached by oxidized LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and from there it’s onward to atherosclerosis and heart disease. So you want your endothelium to be healthy and functioning well! Here are some tips: Drink green and black tea, drink red wine (in moderation), eat dark chocolate (also in moderation), exercise, and don’t eat more calories than you need. I could add don’t smoke, etc., etc.

In a nutshell, the health of your endothelium is just one example of what a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle can do for you. Preventing heart disease is not like going from Point A to Point B. It’s like going to Points A, B, C, D, E and so on. One of those points is your endothelium. Voila!

Anyhoo, after the conference wrapped for the day I put in a few hours of post-conference work (blogging and thesis stuff) before nearly getting heat stroke walking down the strip to meet Jeff. We ended up at the Aria buffet for dinner because I was badly craving veggies, which I got first in the form of a mixed salad plate:

And then an entree round of some roasted chicken, Mediterranean-type stuff (olives, hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush and marinated grilled vegetables) and a pile of green beans that you can’t see in the photo. 
Contrary to what some people say, you can find vegetables in Nevada.