Lack of Impulse Control
One of the biggest growth industries these days is special schools and camps for “troubled youths.” The typical student suffers from hyperactivity, has a learning disability, is given to depression and fits of rage and is unable to make friends. The programs range from highly structured military schools to survival camps stressing strenuous outdoor activities. Just ten years ago, there were about two dozen such programs. Today there are more than 250. Typical costs are $17,000 for a five-week wilderness program and $4,200 per month for a therapeutic boarding school. Why such an increase in uncontrollable teenagers needing help? The standard explanation is that “changes in the larger culture make raising children harder than ever. . . . Families are splintered and the influences of media and technology on children are pervasive. In a society marked by affluence and overwork, where therapy is routine, desperate parents will naturally be more inclined to seek outside help for both minor and severe problems. . . .” One thing affluent and overworked parents are likely to do in this technological age is give them convenient, technological soy infant formula, especially when they are influenced by so much media hype for soy. Hyperactivity, learning disabilities, depression, fits of rage and lack of social skills are exactly the symptoms listed by parents of soy-fed youths. Lack of impulse control is also a symptom of manganese poisoning from soy formula—see page 53 (New York Times, 9/10/01).
Black, Black Market
We’ve heard of black markets in drugs, liquor, Rolex watches and other expensive items. But one of the most lucrative black market items these days is powdered infant formula, particularly expensive mixes for babies with special nutritional needs. According to the FBI, the theft of powdered formula, which sells for up to $25 per 14-ounce can, is a multimillion-dollar business for international crime organizations. The stolen powder is repackaged and eventually ends up back on grocery shelves. Losses for the Safeway stores alone total $3 million annually. The stolen formula is put into new cans—a process that makes contamination likely—and then relabeled with new expiration dates and lot numbers, putting babies at risk. Sometimes cheaper soy-based formula is put into cans labeled for hypo-allergenic formula. A spokesman for the International Formula Council advises parents to “ask retailers whether they buy direct from manufacturers.” Our advice is somewhat different: breastfeed your baby, or give him or her homemade formula made from whole foods (Washington Post, 8/4/01).
Human Milk Banks
There are five human milk banks in the United States today, down from about a dozen several years ago. They operate as nonprofit organizations, raising money to cover the costs of screening, collecting, processing, storing and transporting donated milk. (See www.hmbana.org.) Women donating to a human milk bank get no compensation. The milk banks usually charge about $2.75 an ounce plus 25 cents for shipping. Human milk is extremely costly, but this humanitarian system has saved the lives of thousands of premature babies. Now comes a plan to establish a network of for-profit milk banks. Elana Medo is trying to raise $6 million to launch Prolacta Bioscience, Inc., an enterprise that would establish a web of milk banks to provide breast milk to premies and breast milk derivatives that could be used to treat a variety of diseases. There is just one problem with this scheme. In order to ensure that the milk is “safe from contamination” during this AIDS-fearing era, it will have to be pasteurized. Pasteurization, of course, ruins many of the protective factors in human milk, making it less of a boon to premies. Worse, a for-profit enterprise that insists on pasteurization will have the effect of putting the nonprofit milk banks out of business, or making them conform to new protocols. In the past, donated breast milk was simply frozen and then gently reheated (Washington Post, 9/4/01).
A Taste for Fat
How long can medical orthodoxy prop up the lipid hypothesis in the face of contradictory evidence? First comes the realization that mother’s milk is rich in fat; then all those less-than-definitive studies; then the French, Spanish, American, Russian and African paradoxes. Now comes another. Scientists have discovered that the human tongue has receptors for fat. Test subjects showed a response in the blood when they tasted potatoes mashed with butter but no response when they tasted mashed potatoes without fat, or mashed potatoes with fat substitutes. The biochemical response was elevated triglycerides, which investigators say is a bad thing. But if the human tongue has a taste for fat, that must mean humans need fat. Perhaps the fat taste buds steer people toward foods that contain essential fatty acids, say puzzled investigators. Buteven natural non-fatty foods contain some essential fatty acids—even potatoes. The most logical conclusion is that the human body knows better than thousands of politically correct nutritionists that humans need high-fat foods, so much so that it is possessed of a highly sensitive instrument for determining which foods contain lots of fats. So precise is the human taste for fat that it can distinguish real fat from imitation fat substitutes like Olestra. And that’s what really worries the food processing industry (Washington Post, 9/4/01).
One of the reasons given for the superiority of commercial baby formula is that it is sanitary. But doctors have discovered that exposure to the right kinds of bacteria during the birthing and nursing process can help prevent eczema and asthma in babies. The “dirt hypothesis” suggests that our immune systems fail to develop properly unless they are exposed at birth to common benign bacteria that have lived in the human gut since the dawn of time. Doctors gave women with a family history of eczema, asthma or rhinitis either a dose of lactobacillus rhamnoses or a placebo for six months before giving birth. Infants were then exposed to these bacteria during the birth process and in their mothers’ milk. Children of non-breastfeeding mothers received spoonfuls of bacteria or a placebo. Only 23 percent of the children exposed to the common gut bacteria went on to develop eczema, compared with 46 percent of those exposed to a placebo treatment. Formula, of course, is sterile, but raw cow or goat milk is rich in friendly bacteria (The Lancet 357:1057-1076).
Cholesterol and the Elderly
Damage control experts are dealing with yet another study that disproves the theory that high cholesterol levels are a bad thing. Researchers participating in the Honolulu Heart Program measured cholesterol levels in 3572 Japanese American men (aged 71-93) and compared changes in cholesterol levels over 20 years with all-cause mortality. In general, cholesterol levels fell with increasing age, but the researchers were astounded to find that the earlier patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations, the greater the risk of death. Furthermore, those with higher levels of cholesterol had better haemoglobin status and hand grip strength. In other words, when cholesterol levels go down in the elderly, so does physical function and they become frail. “We have been unable to explain our results,” said the investigators. They urged “a more conservative approach in this age group.” What that means is that it is not a good idea to put the elderly on lowfat diets and cholesterol-lowering drugs, but don’t expect to see this translated into medical policy anytime soon (The Lancet 8/4/01 358:351-355).
More Fluoride Folly
Drugs based on fluoride usually have lots of side effects. One of them, a cholesterol-lowering drug called Baycol, was removed from the market after causing a muscle-wasting condition called rhabdomyolysis and at least 31 liver-failure deaths. On June 10, 1999, the FDA issued warnings about Trovan, a fluoride-based antibiotic drug it had approved just a year earlier. The FDA said it was aware of 14 cases of acute liver failure. Six of those patients have died and three required liver transplants. Recently thirty Nigerian families sued Pfizer, the maker of Trovan, saying that the company conducted an unethical clinical trial of the drug on their children in 1996. Eleven of the children in the trial died, while others suffered brain damage, were partly paralyzed or became deaf. A fluorinated drug called Fluconazole has been donated by Pfizer to South Africa, supposedly to treat AIDS-related infections. The medication has been shown to cause craniofacial, skeletal and cardiac anomalies in babies born to mothers who take the drug through the first trimester of pregnancy. Other fluoride-based drugs that have been withdrawn include Cisapride (it caused severe cardiac side effects); Mibedrafil (higher mortality in patients with congestive heart failure); Flosequinan (higher rate of hospitalization); the allergy drug Astemizole (serious life-threatening cardiac adverse events); the weight-loss drug Fenfluramine (caused serious adverse dardiac effects); the diabetic drug Tolrestat (liver toxicity and deaths); Temafloxacin (liver dysfunction and deaths); and Grepafloxacin (serious cardiac events) (www.7amnews.com/2001/features/081801.shtml).
More and more evidence is emerging about the dangers of fluoride—fluoride depresses thyroid function, inhibits numerous enzymes and has been associated with increased levels of hip fractures, dental fluorosis and cancer. But our government is still pushing fluorides as beneficial. According to Jeffrey Koplan, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control, “many areas of the country don’t receive the benefits of fluoridated water.” The CDC recently issued new guidelines on fluoride in response to widespread use of bottled water. Key recommendations include the expansion of water fluoridation efforts, frequent use of fluoride products such as toothpaste and professionally applied gels, and labeling bottled water with fluoride amounts. The new guidelines are available at www2.cdc.gov/mmwr.
More Poisons in Soy
A new toxin has been added to the long list of antinutrients in soy foods. In addition to phytic acid, isoflavones, protease inhibitors, nitrates, lysinalanene, aluminum, fluoride and MSG, soy also contains a human carcinogen called 3-MCPD. The substance is created during the manufacture of soy sauce and hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP). The New Zealand Ministry of Health and other health agencies worldwide have acted to withdraw several brands of soy sauce from sale because of the presence of 3-MCPD. It is also present in soy sausages and other imitation foods. Tests showed that consumption of just one sausage by a 25-pound child could result in exposure above the safe level (soyonlineservice.co.nz).
Present in numerous plant foods, oxalate is a compound that can bind with calcium in the kidney to form kidney stones. People prone to kidney stones are advised to avoid high-oxalate foods such as spinach and rhubarb. Scientists at Washington State University in Spokane tested 13 types of soy-based foods and found they contained enough oxalate to cause problems for people with a history of kidney stones. Some of the foods contained 50 times more than the suggested limit of 10 mg per serving. According to Linda Massey, PhD, head of the study, “Under these guidelines, no soybean or soy-food tested could be recommended for consumption by patients with a personal history of kidney stones” (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 9/2001).
And More Bad News for Soy
A stinging editorial in British Medical Journal says that estrogen compounds in soy have no proven benefit in the treatment of hot flashes. “Phytoestrogens have not been shown to improve other symptoms that characterize the menopausal transition, such as anxiety, mood changes, arthralgia, myalgia and headaches.” The report also dismissed claims that soy protects against osteoporosis and heart disease. Said the authors, “That phytoestrogens prevent breast cancer also cannot be substantiated” (8/18/2001 323:354-355).
Bad Fats, Bad Advice
It is extremely difficult for researchers to determine accurate measures of food intake in test subjects, especially over a period of many months. But the fatty acids in the fat tissue taken from the buttock reflect the dietary intake of fatty acids over the previous year. Investigators in Norway analyzed the buttock fat of 100 heart attack patients and an equal number of controls. Those with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids had only a 20 percent risk of heart disease. Those with high levels of trans fat had double the risk. The problem is that people wishing to avoid saturated fats—as medical science advises them to do—are much more likely to consume trans fats. And saturated fats work synergistically with omega-3 fatty acids, helping to maintain them in the tissues where they belong. So, while dietary trials can be fudged and tweaked to get politically correct results, analysis of buttock fat tells it like it is—for protection against heart disease eat saturated fats and take fish liver oils. . . and avoid imitation foods loaded with trans fatty acids (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 8/2000).
The US government will be issuing new dietary guidelines later on this year. The last guidelines, issued in 1995, simply recommended that Americans “choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.” “The scientific evidence that has accumulated since the guidelines were last issued shows that a diet low in total fat is not necessarily the best way to remain healthy,” concluded the expert panel convened to write the new guidelines. “Recommending a diet low in total fat may have backfired in some ways by prompting people to consume more calories overall,” said Professor Cutberto Garza, chairman of the panel. Unfortunately, the new guidelines may also backfire as they continue to be based on the premise that saturated fats are bad. At least the experts finally admit that trans fats should be avoided. The new guidelines recommend more fats “such as those in olive oil, fresh fish, lean meat and poultry, and lowfat dairy products.” Confused by this last statement? We think the experts are confused and predict that revisions will continue to be needed until they all go back and study basic, correct nutrition (Washington Post 2/2/01).
The American Council on Science and Health tracks nutrition reporting in major magazines. In their latest report, 14 of 20 magazines were rated as “excellent” or “good” sources of nutrition advice. (The three magazines rated excellent were Parents, Cooking Light and Good Housekeeping.) The report recorded as good news the fact that “for the first time since these surveys began, no magazine ranked as a poor source.” What this means is that the food industry now has control of all the major magazines and not one of them can be expected to publish anything but the party line—lowfat, lots of soy, everything pasteurized, and for all ages, even babies and little children (www.acsh.org/publications.reports/surveysum2001.html).
Thank You for the Honor
The Tufts University Nutrition Navigator has reviewed the Weston A. Price website and given it a “Not Recommended” rating. We were contacted by email about this honor by Jeanne Goldberg, PhD, RD, Director, Center on Nutrition Communication. The stated goal of Tuft’s Nutrition Navigator “is to help the public quickly obtain accurate, trustworthy nutrition information on the Internet.” The criteria for review “were developed by a prestigious advisory board of US and Canadian nutrition experts.” Dr. Goldberg has invited us to make revisions on our website and then contact them again. Instead, we invite all our readers to contact Dr. Goldberg at navigator (at) tufts.edu and tell her what our website has meant to them.
A Mother Gone Mad
“What Made Andrea Yates Snap?” Lots of people are asking this question after the tragic death of five children at the hands of their mother. In the throes of postpartum depression, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub, one after the other. The media explanation is that her drugs were unwisely discontinued, leading to psychotic behavior. Others blame lack of support, fatigue and overwork. But no one is mentioning nutrition. Andrea Yates had five children in quick succession, with little time to build up nutritional stores between pregnancies. Almost certainly she was on the standard American diet, lacking fat-soluble vitamins and long-chain fatty acids. Is she to blame? Or does blame rest with the whole medical establishment that has promoted industrial agriculture and soul-numbing lowfat diets all these years? Had she been treated with cod liver oil instead of antipsychotic drugs, this tragedy might have been avoided.
Another Attack on Farmers
A correspondent from British Columbia reports that many islanders there used to buy free-range farm eggs from various stores, and these eggs were also used in local restaurants. However, after pressure from the egg board, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency decreed that such eggs could only be purchased at the farm. The inspectors have decreed that all eggs sold to retail or food service have to be washed and graded. The general consensus is that under the guise of health regulations, the mass producers are trying to drive farmers delivering a higher quality product out of business.
The olive tree is said to be the gift of Athena to the Greeks. It grows in dry regions, needs little care, protects the Mediterranean hills from erosion and provides beautiful, healthy oil. Unfortunately, intensive farming is changing the olive groves of southern Europe from havens of wildlife to agents of soil erosion, habitat loss and desertification, according to a report from the WorldWide Fund for Nature and Bird Life International. The ancient groves of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, with their gnarled trees and stone walls, are being replaced with olive “plantations” where frequent tillage, pesticide use and irrigation are the norm. According to the report, up to 80 million tons of topsoil are being lost every year from olive plantations in the Spanish region of Andalusia alone. Furthermore, irrigated olive plantations are expanding in areas with serious water shortages such as Crete, Puglia in Italy and Andalusia, exacerbating the problem. The report blames European Union subsidies, charging that most of the almost $3 million budgeted for olives is spent on production subsidies. These encourage intensification of production, irrigation and the expansion of olive growing. According to Richard Perkins of the WorldWide Fund, “Intensive olive farming is a major cause of one of the biggest environmental problems facing Europe today. Olive farming could be a model for environmentally and socially sustainable land use in the Mediterranean region. Instead, EU subsidies are driving the environment to ruin” (The Independent 6/19/01).