News of a study linking egg yolk consumption with heart disease hit the Internet and print media August 13, with sixty-five articles posted within a day of release, and over one hundred fifty articles by the time the egg bashing had played itself out. “Newly published research led by Dr. David Spence shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes,” was the lead sentence in the articles. Turns out this study, published in Atherosclerosis (2012 Aug 1 [Epub ahead of print]) is one of the worst examples of junk science we’ve seen, carried out by doctors with ties to Pfizer Canada, AstraZeneca Canada and Merck Frosst Canada. Patients coming into the authors’ Canadian clinic with a recent stroke and transient ischemic attack were given a dietary recall questionnaire, from which the staff estimated their “egg-yolk years,” the number of egg yolks eaten multiplied over the number of years. Not surprisingly, they found that older patients had more “egg-yolk years” than younger patients because they were. . . well. . . older. To be fair, the analysis was adjusted for age, but as author Zoe Harcombe points out in her blog on the study “the authors could have picked broccoli and measured broccoli years and the top quintile group of seventy-year-olds would have had fourteen years more broccoli consumption than the fifty-six-year-olds.” Oddly, the team fingered egg yolks when they were really asking about whole egg consumption, reporting “eggs” as “egg yolks,” presumably because we already “know” that there’s nothing wrong with egg whites. Of interest is the fact that the team found no correlation between egg consumption and cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Nor did they find an association with frequency of egg intake. This means that the association was driven primarily by the “number of years consumed” for eggs, after adjusting for age. Another point: the actual egg consumption for all the men was less than one per day—the top consumers were eating an average of two-thirds of an egg per day, which provides less than a teaspoon of fat, most of it supposedly heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. We challenge researchers like Dr. Spence to look at the heart health and overall health of those who make a point of eating at least two egg yolks per day—along with bacon and butter as part of a good breakfast. For more information, see blogs by Chris Masterjohn (www.westonaprice.org/category/blogs/cmasterjohn) and Zoe Harcombe (www.zoeharcombe.com/2012/08/egg-yolkconsumption-carotid-plaque-bad-science).
Speaking of butter, this natural fat is making a comeback with consumers. Butter sales at grocery stores increased by more than 2 percent in the year ending May 13, while margarine sales decreased more than 6 percent, while olive oil sales remained steady. Overall butter led with $1.5 billion in sales during the period compared to $1.4 billion for margarine and spreads and $706 million for olive oil (vafarmbureau.org, August 16, 2012). Since this is not the healthy direction the food industry (not to mention the health care industry) wants us to go, look for a major study bashing butter some time soon. By the way, a new website, www.naturaltransfats.ca, helps consumers know the difference between harmful industrial trans fats and beneficial natural trans fats found in butter and meat fats.
A PERFECT FAKE OUT?
“It has a plumpness to it, what they call a ‘mouthfeel,’ like a kind of fattiness,” muses Bix Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, who is a vegan. “When you eat other leading meat analogues they’re delicious, but you kind of know they’re not real. They’re missing something that’s hard to identify. This has a very realistic, meaty, delicious quality.” Farhad Manjoo of the Washington Post coos: “. . . I’ve never tasted anything as realistic as Beyond Meat. The chicken strips look, feel and taste closer to real meat than any other food I’ve eaten” (August 5, 2012). Manjoo is not a vegetarian but he tries to eat less meat for “various health and ethical reasons.” The biggest problem, he says, is that it is hard to get this new wonder product. Beyond Meat’s chicken strips are available only at Whole Foods stores in Northern California; later this year the product will be sold in select supermarkets; a national launch for the ersatz product is planned for 2013, with fake beef to follow. Backed by a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Beyond Meat plans a marketing strategy emphasizing the superiority of fake chicken strips to real chicken. Founder Ethan Brown is confident of success. “It requires far less energy to produce, it’s got no saturated fats, no antibiotics and no animals are harmed in the process.” What the product does have is phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, oxalic acid, hemagluttinins, and isoflavones galore because the product is made from soy protein isolate that is formed into a liquid paste, heated and extruded; no doubt it is loaded with fake flavors and laced with soybean oil to give it its feeling of “plumpness and fattiness.” There is nothing healthy or ethical about these chicken strips, and we predict the product will fade into oblivion after just a brief sizzle of marketing blitz.
BPA—short for Bisphenol A—is now a household word. A building block of the polycarbonate linings in many food and beverage cans, and of the coatings that make inks appear in most cash register receipts, BPA is under the spotlight because of its potential adverse health effects, in particular its ability to act as an endocrine-disrupting chemical. As a result, manufacturers of baby bottles, sippy cups, reusable water bottles and many other products are switching to “BPA-free” materials. The problem is that avoiding BPA in the vast array of plastic products and coatings will require some kind of new polymer. One of these is called Tritan copolyester, which has no toxicity data, but also has never been tested. The same is true of all the other BPA-free alternatives (The Atlantic, April 2011). Obviously an extensive testing program is needed. In the meantime, the best course of action is to avoid plastics as much as possible, using products made of real rubber, glass, ceramic or stainless steel.
PROTECTION AGAINST ARSENIC
We are all exposed to arsenic, via some water supplies, but more so from the diet. As chicken producers have striven to reduce the use of antibiotics, for example, they are now using more arsenic. Arsenic is a component of some pesticides, such as those used on rice. Long term exposure to high levels of arsenic can cause skin lesions, cancer and cardiovascular disease; it also affects fetal development. The body does have ways of getting rid of arsenic, through a process called methylation, excreting it in the urine; arsenic also has an affinity for keratin and can be deposited in the hair and nails as they grow. Researchers from Dartmouth College and the Geisel School of Medicine looked at levels of arsenic in toenails of residents in New Hampshire who all use private groundwater wells as their household water source. The interesting results showed that levels of arsenic in nails were positively associated with greater consumption of alcohol and omega-3 fatty acids. Those who ate more dietary vitamin B12 and animal protein had lower levels of arsenic; total dietary fat, animal fat, vegetable fat and saturated fat were also associated with lower levels of arsenic. Association does not prove causation, of course, but these results warrant more study, and certainly seem to support the hypothesis that saturated fats and animal foods support the body’s detoxification mechanisms (Science Daily, June 28, 2012).
A theme in these pages is the importance of lacto-fermented foods to provide beneficial bacteria to the intestinal tract. These bacteria form a biofilm lining the entire small intestine, which provides us with 85 percent of our immunity, protects us against toxins, helps digest our food, produces important vitamins and even creates feel-good chemicals. All traditional cultures consumed lacto-fermented foods―from the semirotten fish of the Alaskan Inuit to the fermented taro root of the South Seas islanders. As modern science has discovered the importance of intestinal bacteria, researchers have formulated probiotic pills to help populate the gut. Recently Dr. Joseph Mercola tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures (such as homemade whey). The lactofermented vegetables had ten trillion units of colony-forming bacteria. One serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of high-potency probiotic. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/06/27probiotics-gut-health-impact.aspx). So rather than spend a lot of money on probiotic pills, why not enjoy delicious lacto-fermented condiments daily, at a fraction of the cost.
MORE WOES FROM GMOS
Scientists from Russia have discovered that hamsters fed GMO soybeans as part of their normal diet eventually develop infertility. An Austrian study found similar harm in mice that consumed GM corn. Farmers across the U.S. have reported infertility among pigs and cows that consume GM feed. And in India, a research team observed infertility and other serious problems among buffalo fed GM cottonseed (Naturalnews.com, August 6, 2012). Now another problem with a GM crop has emerged. Corn modified to stand tall and tough against pests is wreaking havoc on tractor tires. The leftover stubs in the fields are like little spears, so tough that they can puncture thick rubber. Tractor tires can cost thousands of dollars, and some tractors have as many as eight tires. Instead of tractor tires lasting the usual five or six years, they’re getting chewed up after just one or two. Some farmers are turning to Kevlar tires, which can only add to their costs.
HEALTH BENEFITS FROM SOURDOUGH
Researchers at the University of Guelph tested four types of bread to ascertain the effects on blood sugar levels. Using white, whole wheat, whole wheat with barley and sourdough white breads, the team of researchers examined how subjects responded hours after eating the bread for breakfast and again just hours after eating a standard lunch. The subjects, who were overweight and ranged between fifty and sixty years of age, showed the most positive blood sugar responses after eating sourdough white bread. With the sourdough, the subject’s blood sugar levels were lower for a similar rise in blood insulin, and the positive effect remained during and after the second meal. What’s really interesting about this study is that the whole wheat breads—supposedly full of fiber that controls blood sugar levels—had the worst effects, causing blood sugar levels to spike, and these high levels lasted until well after lunch. Professor Terry Graham, head of the study, suggested that the poor response from the whole wheat bread was due to the milling process; but an equally likely explanation is the many anti-nutrients in whole grains that cause a stressful rise in blood sugar. These irritating and difficult-to-digest compounds are neutralized by the sourdough process. The team will soon be testing sourdough whole grain bread (www.uoguelph.ca/news/2008/07/sourdough_bread.html).
COCONUT OIL VINDICATED
Scientists in Brazil looked at the effects of coconut oil on waist circumference in women with abdominal obesity, that is, with waist sizes greater than forty inches. The randomized, doubleblind, clinical trial involved forty women aged twenty to forty years. Groups received two tablespoons of either soybean oil or coconut oil over a twelve-week period. The subjects were instructed to follow a “balanced” low-calorie diet and to walk for fifty minutes per day. Calorie intake and carbohydrate intake in both groups diminished over the trial whereas the consumption of protein and fiber increased; fat consumption remained unchanged. At the start of the trial, there were no differences in biochemical or anthropometric characteristics between the groups, but by the end of the trial, the coconut group had higher HDL levels and a lower LDL-HDL ratio. Both groups lost weight but only the coconut users exhibited a reduction in waist circumference. The researchers concluded, “It appears that dietetic supplementation with coconut oil does not cause dyslipidemia and seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity” (Lipids 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601).
SKIN DAMAGE WITH ENERGY-EFFICIENT BULBS
The hype on energy efficient, “curly” fluorescent light bulbs, which fit into an incandescent light bulb socket, is fading. Once slated to completely replace incandescent bulbs, a planned phase out on old fashioned light bulbs was postponed due to impassioned testimony from individuals highly sensitive to fluorescent lights. Now new research funded by the National Science Foundation has scientists warning consumers about the potentially harmful effects these energy-saving bulbs can have on the skin. Conducted by Stony Brook University and New York State Stem Cell Science, the study found that UV light emitted from the bulbs can cause skin damage. The researchers found that cracks in the fluorescent bulbs’ phosphor coatings yielded significant levels of UVC and UVA in all of the bulbs. Skin damage from exposure to the bulbs was consistent with harm caused by ultraviolet radiation. These bulbs also contain mercury, which can escape if the bulbs are broken. So much for the argument that these bulbs are environmentally friendly. By the way, skin damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nano particles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure. TiO2 is a chemical found in sunblock (Photochemistry and Photobiology 20 Jul 2012 DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.2012.01192.x).
IS PELLAGRA THE ROOT CAUSE OF VIOLENT SHOOTING RAMPAGES?
Why don’t more public health experts examine the root causes of the mass violence incidents happening across America and around the world? School shootings, church shootings, and now a theatre massacre. Are they too readily accepting these outbreaks of madness-induced mayhem?
The medical system gets the blame for not “catching” these perpetrators before they strike. The gun lobby gets criticized for fighting tougher regulations. Violent video game producers feel the heat of stinging criticism.
But what if the solution is right under our noses? If only someone would bother to sniff it out!
What if our heavy reliance on processed and fast foods is leading to widespread nutrient imbalances?
Dr. Weston A. Price found that primitive tribes eating a whole foods natural diet high in animal foods and animal fat had no need for prisons. The moral character of these isolated people was strong. They were not incapacitated mentally or physically. In his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price describes his travels around the globe, and he marveled at the stellar character of these people who had no access to modern manufactured foods.
Could the cause of this violence be niacin deficiency? Consider the fact that while pellagra was being investigated as an interesting curiosity in Europe, it was becoming a way of life in the southern United States. The general diet consisted of cornmeal and grits, soda biscuits, corn syrup and salt pork; and even when they had enough food, the southerners developed sore skin and mouths, became thin and listless, and suffered from depression, hallucinations, irritability and other mental disorders. The clinical description of the typical poor southerner any time between about 1900 and 1940 comes alive in the novels of William Faulkner—the brooding sullenness, suddenly shattered by outbursts of irrational anger, persecution mania, the feeling of people living in a cruel and demented world of their own. Doctors knew very well that diet was at the bottom of all the misery they saw around them and that disease could be kept at bay by a balanced food supply.
Compare the modern junk-food diet to the diet of poor southerners: cereals, food bars, corn chips, crackers and the high fructose corn syrup found in energy drinks and sodas. Not too dissimilar! Vitamin B3 or niacin deficiency is the cause of pellagra.
Google “pellagra” and “violence” and you will find a letter to a U.S. senator by Barbara Stitt, an author who once worked as a probation officer. She found that changing the diet of ex-offenders eliminated the hostility and other symptoms that would lead them to act in a criminal fashion. Her book is aptly titled Food & Behavior: A Natural Connection and her work seems to confirm the findings of Dr. Price on nutritional injury and the role it plays in juvenile delinquency and adult crimes.
A review of Barbara’s book mentions her concern about reactive hypoglycemia, sub-clinical pellagra and vitamin B deficiencies being at the root of violent actions. She writes, “The startling part of sub-clinical pellagra, like hypoglycemia, is that the symptoms also mirror those of schizophrenia, a problem so widespread that those who suffer from it occupy one out of every four hospital beds in the United States.”
As Stitt points out, the symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders are similar to those of vitamin B deficiency: fears, fatigue, depression, paranoia, confusion, anger, hostility, rage, suicidal tendencies and anxiety. B12 deficiencies, for example, are well known for causing mental disturbances such as paranoia, mental confusion and dementia.
by Kimberly Hartke, the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Visit her website at hartkeisonline.com.