WHY CONSUMERS ARE CHANGING
Apologists for Big Ag can’t seem to figure out why more and more consumers want clean, pasture-raised animal foods. They seem to be oblivious of ongoing research showing many reasons to be wary of industrial food. For example, using sophisticated new detection methods, scientists in Spain and Morocco found up to twenty painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones in a glass of milk. The drugs included anti-inflammatories Phenylbutazone and Naproxen, several forms of estrogen, the antibiotic Florfenicol and the anti-fungal drug Triclosan (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011:DOI:10.1021/jf2013919). Then we have the following revelation from a 2010 USDA report: “Residues of drugs, pesticides and heavy metals differ from microbiological pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, which the public more readily associates with food safety. While cooking meat properly can destroy these pathogens before they are consumed, no amount of cooking will destroy residues. In some cases, heat may actually break residues down into components that are more harmful to consumers” (http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/24601-08-KC.pdf). Antibiotics in cooked meat degrade into toxic components as well. The transformation “of structure by heating is relevant to public food safety in that consumers might be exposed not only to residual antibiotics, but also to their possibly toxic degradation products generated after heating (Veterinary Medicine 2011;56(6):274-285). So we have more and more reasons for purchasing meat and milk from conscientious farmers practicing pasture-based agriculture—but is anyone in positions of power listening?
While USDA continues to promote large-scale confinement agriculture, which is necessarily dependent on heavy use of antibiotics, the agency’s Food Safety Research Information Office has published a report on the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). A single antibiotic-resistant pathogen, MRSA, now claims more lives each year than AIDS. The report blames AMR squarely on the “use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animal production and human medicine. . .” Posted at http://fsrio.nal.usda.gov/nal_web/fsrio/fsheet_pf.php?id=235, it has been subsequently removed. The researchers note ominously that “The persistent circulation of resistant bacterial strains in the environment leads to possible contamination of food and water. In addition, food animals, when exposed to antimicrobial agents, may serve as a significant reservoir of resistant bacteria that can transmit to humans through the food supply.” The most common vector of AMR is meat and cheese. Three outbreaks, in 1997, were attributed to unpasteurized Mexican style cheese, but others occurred in pasteurized cheese or milk, which the agency explains by claiming the milk was inadequately pasteurized: eight-five cases in Illinois due to “inadequately pasteurized milk” used to prepare Mexican-style cheese; almost seventeen thousand cases in 1985, attributed to “mixing of raw milk and pasteurized milk;” and eighty-six cases in England attributed to “failure of on-farm pasteurization of milk.” What government researchers refuse to admit is the fact that heating of milk, even if not to pasteurization temperatures, compromises the superb antimicrobial system in raw milk. Raw milk also builds the immune system so that it can take care of even the worst opportunistic bacteria.
PATENTED FISH PROTEIN COMING YOUR WAY
A new food-grade facility in Peru will soon start production of “fat-free, membrane-refined fish protein and fish peptide products,” offering the food industry “new opportunities and applications.” The company uses a “patented membrane system” to produce fish protein isolate in powder form for inclusion in products such as breads, pastas and soups. The technology removes the fish oil and fishy taste. (Probably the fish oil will be sold separately as fish oil supplements.) The facility can produce up to nine thousand tons per year so look for fish protein isolate-fortified food products in a supermarket near you (www.nutraingredients-usa.com, May 27, 2011).
ANCIENT FOOD TRADITION
A pot of what seems to be bone broth soup from twenty-four hundred years ago has been found in a tomb near the city of Xian, China. The find was made when Liu Daiyun of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archeology removed the lid from the three-legged bronze cauldron. To his amazement, it was half-full of liquid. Scientists are expected to conduct further tests to confirm the liquid was indeed soup and to identify the ingredients. Xian, one of the oldest cities in China, is located at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road (www.thirdage.com/news, December 13, 2010).
LOW CHOLESTEROL AND IMPULSIVITY
Low cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk for attentional impulsivity in patients with mood symptoms, according to a recent study carried out at the University of Rome. “Impulsivity is directly mentioned in the . . . diagnostic criteria for several disorders and is implied in the criteria for others, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorders, mania, and substance abuse/dependence,” writes study author Alfonso Troisi in the journal Psychiatry Research. Troisi notes that “evidence linking impulsivity and cholesterol levels to suicide risk attests to the clinical relevance of studying the relationship between cholesterol levels and impulsivity.” In the study of three hundred one patients in psychiatric institutions, after accounting for factors such as age, gender, diagnosis and current mood symptoms, the researchers found that lower total cholesterol levels were significantly associated with increased attentional impulsivity, particularly among patients with levels below 165 mg/dl. Troisi concludes: “The current study adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to the association between serum cholesterol and mental health. . . . Considering that attentional/ cognitive impulsivity is a demonstrated risk factor for suicide, patients presenting with low cholesterol and mood symptoms may warrant increased clinical attention and surveillance” (www.medwire-news.md, June 9, 2011). But who is telling patients that lowering cholesterol by diet or drugs may have these dire consequences?
LOW VITAMIN D
Another mental illness linked with modern dietary advice is schizophrenia, a disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions and paranoid behavior. Schizophrenics may have trouble maintaining jobs and social relationships. Researchers in Australia have found that newborn babies with low levels of vitamin D—due most likely to mom avoiding animal fats and sunlight—are more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life. Following on previous research showing that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be born in the winter or spring, a team of scientists and doctors at the Queensland Brain Institute looked at routine blood samples from Danish babies. The study found that babies with low levels of vitamin D had twice the risk of developing schizophrenia as did babies in the healthy control group (Archives of General Psychiatry 2010;67(9):889-894). The study reminds us of the Inuit condition called pibloktoq. Occurring in late winter or early spring, the disorder involves several days of irritability or withdrawal, a sudden excitation wherein the victim flees the camp and engages in irrational and dangerous behavior, convulsive seizures, a twelve-hour period of coma or stuporous sleep, and a return to normal. The best explanation for this schizophrenic behavior is vitamin D deficiency (http://westonaprice.org/mental/emotional-health/the-pursuit-of-happiness).
SENIORS BENEFIT FROM HIGH CHOLESTEROL
A Finnish study, reported in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care (2010;28:121-127), has found that the general health status of seniors with high cholesterol far exceeds that of their counterparts having low cholesterol. The study population consisted of four hundred ninety seniors who lived on their own or with relatives. In every marker of health and morbidity measured—mortality, strokes, myocardial infarction, infectious disease or dementia—the seniors with the highest cholesterol fared far better. Nevertheless, the study’s authors concluded that is was not possible to make any conclusions about the benefits and harms of lipid-lowering in the elderly, claiming that “the scientific evidence strongly supports lipid lowering for primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in the general population.” Which just goes to show that old paradigms die hard!
It’s hard not to be doubly caustic with the continuing examples of political correctness that pass for science in our universities and in the media. “Fats stimulate binge eating” was the title of a report in Science News on a study with rats carried out at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, Italy. Researchers fed rats one of four liquid diets: “fat” in the form of corn oil (technically an oil, but the article calls it a “fat”), protein, sugar, or a “nutrition” shake combination of fat, protein and sugar. To insure that the body’s digestive signals wouldn’t interfere with the experiments, a surgically implanted valve in the rat’s upper stomach drained the food once eaten. Then the team measured endocannabinoid activity in the brain and other tissues. Endocannabinoids are chemicals produced in the body identical to those found in marijuana. The rats given corn oil had a surge of endocannabinoid activity in the gut and wouldn’t stop eating the corn oil until given a compound that blocked the cellular receptors for the drug-like compounds. Then the rats stopped eating immediately. The study is interesting for several reasons. First, it shows that feel-good chemicals can be produced in the gut in response to certain foods. Second it shows how the main conclusion of a study can be twisted by less-than-honest reporting. It was not fats like butter and lard that caused the binge eating, but corn oil! And rather than state the obvious conclusion—that corn oil could make you overeat, so you shouldn’t eat it at all—the researchers are now looking for a drug to interfere with endocannabinoid activity in the gut (www.sciencenews.org, July 8, 2011). Drugs that interfere with endocannabinoid activity in the brain make people anxious and irritable, so why should researchers expect different results with drugs that target gut endocannabinoid receptors?
HIGH-FAT REVERSES KIDNEY FAILURE
The tragic epidemic of kidney failure, so common in diabetics, puts a huge burden on our health care system, by some estimates accounting for half of all medical costs. What if a simple diet could reverse kidney failure? A recent study on mice indicates the possibility. Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York used mice with both type-one and type-two diabetes. Once kidney damage had developed, half the mice were put on a ketogenic diet, low in carbohydrates and very high in fat. After eight weeks, the researchers noted that kidney damage was reversed in those on the high-fat diet. Such exciting results should be shouted to the skies but health officials are administering a large dose of cold water. “This research was carried out in mice so it is difficult to see how these results would translate into any real benefits for people with diabetes at this stage,” said Dr. Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK. “It is too simple to say that kidney failure could be prevented by diet alone and it is also questionable whether the diet used in this model would be sustainable for humans, even in the short term” (PLoS ONE 2011;6(4): e18604). Of course Diabetes UK and its counterparts in the U.S. have been pushing a lowfat, highcarb diet for diabetics for decades; this study suggests that this disastrous advice may hasten kidney failure in these patients.
ONE MILLION LIVES PER YEAR
While health officials warn women in the U.S. against vitamin A supplements, a new Cochrane Review concludes that vitamin A supplement is effective in reducing all-cause mortality in Third World countries by 24 percent, mainly via reduced occurrence of measles and diarrhea. The researchers reviewed data from forty-three randomized trials, representing more than two hundred thousand children, ages six months to five years. According to Professor Zulfiqar Butta, “More than 190 million children are vitamin A-deficient around the globe; reducing their risk of mortality by 24 percent could save almost one million lives per year.” Vitamin A also helps prevent blindness in Third World areas. These researchers recognize the major public health problem posed by vitamin A deficiency “in low and middle income countries,” but not in high income countries like the U.S.