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Caustic Commentary, Summer 2010

FOOD POLICE TARGET TWO-YEAR OLD

Two-year-old Jack Ormisher was left in tears as nursery school staff confiscated his “unhealthy” cheese sandwich. His mother sent a homemade lunch because she suspected that school food was causing him stomach problems. Although his lunchbox also contained vegetables and a piece of melon, school staff offered Jack fruit, nuts and seeds, while informing his mother that future cheese sandwiches must contain lettuce or tomato to pass muster. Instead, his mother moved him to a new school. One blogger posted the following comment on the incident: “If he was older, he might have had the wherewithal to shout back at them: ‘Do I look like a bloody chaffinch, you self-important, doctrinaire Stalinist harridans?’ But he didn’t, because he was only two years old, so he just cried his eyes out instead. What can we do about these people?” It’s a good question, because the food police are determined to eliminate every real, nutritious morsel of food that goes into our mouths—and especially into the mouths of children. Parents need to take a very firm stand against these Food Puritans, and insist on their right to give their children healthy traditional food, with or without lettuce and tomatoes.

FAT TAX

A proposal to tax butter has been floating around for awhile, but the idea is so ridiculous that few people have taken it seriously. However, a Danish correspondent reports that the Danish People’s Party has agreed to introduce a tax on butter and fatty meat because “saturated fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.” Ironically, proponents of the tax cite the work of researcher Arne Astrup, who has recently backtracked on his opposition to saturated fat and admits that high-fat cheese has many benefits and may even protect against heart disease (www.dr.dk/Nyheder/Indland/2010/03/12/05347.htm). The Food Standards Agency in Britain is also discussing a fat tax, ostensibly against “junk food and sugary drinks” but also against full-fat milk, butter and cheese “to encourage a switch to products with less saturated fat” (dailymail.co.uk, May 11, 2010).

PASTEURIZATION AND LISTERIA

While public health officials harp on the alleged dangers of raw milk, in Europe six people have died from listeria in pasteurized milk cheese. Four of the deaths occurred in Austria and two in Germany, all traced to cheese made by dairy giant Prolactal. Will health officials give the same treatment to Prolactal—which has an annual revenue of sixty-five million Euros—that they mete out to small raw milk producers in the U.S? Not at all. Production will be renewed “once the causes have been fully clarified.” News of the incident did not appear in U.S. newspapers, while the European press simply noted that listeria can contaminate “a range of foodstuffs including . . . plants, meats and dairy products. . .” with no singling out of raw milk. Austrian health officials reported a total of forty-five cases of listeria-related illness in 2009, of which eleven resulted in death, none of which were caused by raw milk (dairyreporter.com, February 17, 2010). Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intention to close down a New Jersey cheese maker in the wake of listeria contamination and an alleged failure to correct unsanitary conditions at the plant. The company manufactures and distributes soft, semi-soft and hard pasteurized Mexican cheese throughout the Mid Atlantic and New England. The announcement about the decision included figures from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing twenty-five hundred serious illnesses from listeriosis each year, of which five hundred die (dairyreporter.com, January 5, 2010).

IMPOSSIBLE STANDARDS?

Doris E. Travis, the last surviving Ziegfeld girl, has died at age one hundred six. For a quarter century, Florenz Ziegfeld auditioned thousands of young women vying to become chorus girls. What caught our attention in the news report about Travis was the fact that Ziegfeld wanted girls with the exact measurements of 36-26-38—in other words, girls with generous hips (New York Times, May 12, 2010). Today, young women feel compelled to fit a more slender and far less attainable measurement of 36-24-36.

VITAMIN A IN THE NEWS

In humans, the formation of the heart occurs within the fourth week of development. Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California have pinpointed the mechanism that guides embryonic heart tissue formation— it is retinoic acid, an isomer of vitamin A. “This exciting research shows how retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative, acts to guide cells in the embryo to form parts of the heart and the major blood vessels that emerge from it,” said a spokesman for the research. “Defects in this developmental pathway can result in serious congenital malformations in the heart in the fetus and newborns, that may be fatal if not corrected surgically” (sciencedaily.com, March 10, 2010). Nepalese children whose mothers received vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy had better lung function compared to those who received a placebo. Children whose mothers received beta carotene supplements did not experience any benefits. “The greater bioefficacy of preformed vitamin A as compared with beta-carotene may stem from differences in absorption and metabolism,” explained the researchers. While warning American mothers to avoid vitamin A, health officials admit that vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries in the world, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia where it results in 500,000 cases of blindness each year (New England Journal of Medicine May 2010 362(10):1784). Vitamin A not only guides the development of the fetus, it also assists in the production of cellular energy throughout life. According to findings published in the FASEB Journal, vitamin A may play a role in the synthesis of ATP in the mitochondria—the power plant of our cells. When vitamin A is deficient, the production of energy is reduced by 30 percent (FASEB Journal 2010 24:627-636). In spite of these and numerous other findings showing the importance of adequate vitamin A in the diet, the public continues to hear warnings against the consumption of vitamin A-rich foods like liver and cod liver oil. Yet the levels were certainly very high in primitive diets. We recently stumbled on some information from 1972 showing very high levels of vitamin A in foods prized by primitive people—foods like fish liver oils, polar bear liver, seal liver, the livers of land animals and surprisingly high levels in oily fish (see below).

VITAMIN K AND CANCER

In a study involving over twenty-four thousand subjects, dietary intake of vitamin K2 was found to protect against cancer. The subjects were free of cancer at enrollment. On follow-up over ten years later, over seventeen hundred cases of cancer occurred, of which four hundred fifty-eight were fatal. Those with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had the lowest incidence of cancer, and the lowest cancer mortality, especially in men. Said the authors, “These findings suggest that dietary intake of menaquinones, which is highly determined by the consumption of cheese, is associated with a reduced risk of incident and fatal cancer” (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 24, 2010). Cheese is probably the best source of vitamin K2 in the western diet, but the Diet Dictocrats seem determined to take it away from us, citing the risk of saturated fat.

PESTICIDES AND THE BRAIN

Repeated exposure to pesticides is associated with an increase in the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in late life, according to an observational study published in Neurology (May, 2010 Vol 74, pp 1524-1530). According to the study authors, commonly used organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides inhibit acetylcholinesterase—needed for learning, memory and concentration—at synapses in the somatic, autonomic and central nervous systems and therefore may have lasting effects on the nervous system. In the study, the most common route of exposure was farming. Here’s yet another reason to purchase organic foods. The more we eat organic, the fewer people will be forced to work in agricultural jobs that expose them to pesticides.

MORE STATIN RISKS

While the FDA recently approved use of cholesterol-lowering drugs for people with normal cholesterol levels, and whose doctors haven’t diagnosed them yet with heart disease, the agency has also warned that statins can cause muscle damage as well as severe and potentially lethal muscle damage, especially at high doses. A study just published in the British Medical Journal (May 20, 2010) found that people taking statins at a range of doses have a higher risk of liver dysfunction, kidney failure, muscle weakness and cataracts. Did the study authors call for a ban on this dangerous drug? No, they just equivocated: “Our study is likely to be useful for policy and planning purposes,” said the lead researchers “. . . [and] for informing guidelines on the type and dose of statins.” Another study found that statins could raise a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 9 percent (The Lancet, 2010 February 27 375(9716):735 – 742).

CHOLESTEROL SUPPLEMENT

Sometimes it’s hard to believe a government agency can be so contradictory. The FDA recently approved a cholesterol supplement to improve the retardation, hyperactivity, irritability, poor attention span and tendency toward aggressive and self-injuring behavior seen in children with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, a genetic disorder that prevents the body from manufacturing all the cholesterol it needs. And following research showing impaired cholesterol pathways in the brains of autistic children, researchers are now conducting a study to determine whether children with autism spectrum disorders and low cholesterol can benefit from increasing their dietary cholesterol intake. It seems like the entire government is suffering from autism spectrum disorder if it can’t make the connection between irritability, poor attention span and aggressive behavior in cholesterol-deprived children and irritability, poor attention span and aggressive behavior in adults on cholesterol-lowering drugs.

PRAISE THE LARD

Super chef Michael Symon, winner of numerous awards and owner of five restaurants in the Cleveland and Detroit areas, gets top billing for his juicy high-fat burgers—made from a 75/25 blend, rather than the usual dry 90/10 blend. He also likes to prepare variety meats like cheek, tongue and heart and, best of all, he cooks only in lard. “All our fryers are filled with lard and only lard. We use that at all of our restaurants. For one thing, it tastes better. Two, it’s natural, it’s not hydrogenated. People are just now figuring that out—all these over-processed fats are way worse for you than the animal fats, whether it be lard of beef tallow” (cattlenetwork.com, April 9, 2010).

 


SIDEBAR

VITAMIN A CONTENT OF TRADITIONAL FOODS

Vitamin A (IU per 100 gm weight, fresh)

Cod liver oil 200,000
Halibut liver oil 4-6 million
Shark liver oil 3 million
Polar bear liver 1.8 million
Seal liver 1.3 million
Tuna 800,000 – 8 million
Sardines 4,500-54,000
Herring 9,000
Liver (sheep and ox) 4,000 – 45,000
Butter 2,400 – 4,000

Source: N Sapekia, Food Pharmacology, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois, 1972.

Sally Fallon Morell is the founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and founder of A Campaign for Real Milk. She is the author of the best-selling cookbook, Nourishing Traditions (with Mary G. Enig, PhD) and the Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care (with Thomas S. Cowan, MD). She is also the author of Nourishing Broth (with Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN).

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© 2015 The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts.