Ask the EN Experts: New Type of Transplant; Benefits of Smaller Plates

You’ve probably heard someone going on-and-on about their favorite new kitchen appliance—the electric programmable pressure cooker. If not, brace yourself for a life-changing (or at least time-saving) gadget that you might want to add to your own kitchen arsenal. This appliance is similar to a slow-cooker or crock pot and can take the place of a rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and more. This novel piece of equipment is able to create a plethora of meals, snacks, drinks, and desserts in a fraction of the time.

Most models available on the market come with program settings that you can use depending on your meal cooking needs and they offer step-by-step instructions providing you with the guidance needed to branch out and try one. One of the most popular features is that even hard-frozen meats and poultry can quickly be defrosted and then fully cooked for use in a meal or snack—we all know that this translates to savings in time, money, and energy. If you’ve been wanting to try one out, what are you waiting for?

—Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, EN Editor

Q: I keep hearing about fecal transplants—what are they?

A: We tend to squirm when thinking of poop (especially someone else’s). If we put that unease aside, transplanting healthy stool and its bacterial ecosystem can be an ideal solution for patients with life-threatening infections.

The Rewards: Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) involve the transfer of a healthy donor’s stool to a patient’s gut via nasoduo-denal catheter or enema. Currently, FMT have the most potential for treating Clostridium difficile infections. C. difficile is a bacterium in the gut and feces that causes serious intestinal conditions such as diarrhea and colitis. The goal of FMT is to restore balance to the patient’s intestinal bacteria to better fight infection.

The Risks and Regulations: Donor screenings can help reduce risks, but stool is a complex living mixture of bacteria and other organisms that can contain dangerous pathogens. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently views FMT as a “last resort” investigational therapy when all other antibiotic therapies fail. While not all insurance companies cover FMT, growing research efforts can help to increase access to this useful and unique therapy.

—Bridget Cassady, PhD, RDN

Q: What are the reasons to use a smaller plate at meals and snacks?

A: A common dietary tactic often recommended by dietitians is to eat meals and snacks on a smaller surface—think salad plate, not dinner plate. One of the ideas behind this concept is fairly simple—we are attempting to “trick” our minds into thinking that we are getting more food, when in fact, the portion we are eating might be less than before. Imagine serving up a balanced, portion-controlled meal on a large dinner plate where you might be seeing a lot of “white space” around the plate. It may not seem like enough food, right? Now picture the exact same meal but, instead, imagine it on a smaller salad plate. The portions of food are now grouped closer together, perhaps even resembling heaping helpings and there is minimal unused space on the plate. The same amount of food looks like more! For some people, the visual impact of eating from a smaller (and more full-looking) plate can increase feelings of fullness and satisfaction with the meal and may, in turn, help reduce the likelihood of returning for second and third helpings of a food. The repeated impacts of this small change may have benefits in attempts at controlling food or energy (i.e., calorie) intake and possibly assist efforts in weight management.

 —Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN

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