Researchers presented the results of the Stroke Prevention by Aggressive Reduction in Cholesterol Levels (SPARCL) with a lot of fanfare at the 15th European Stroke Conference in Brussels, Belgium, in May, 2006 (theheart.org). The study enrolled 4731 patients who had suffered a recent stroke and assigned them to receive a strong cholesterol-lowering statin drug or a placebo. LDL-cholesterol fell by 38 percent in the statin group compared to 7 percent in the placebo group. Those treated with statins showed reductions in fatal and ischemic stroke, but experienced a significant increase in hemorrhagic stroke. When it came to overall deaths, the SPARCL Trial really fizzled—216 deaths among those taking statins versus 210 in the placebo group. So taking statins after a stroke increases your chances of dying by 3 percent. . . after several years of suffering from the effects of drastic cholesterol lowering. But the study report makes no mention of side effects—apparently the researchers didn’t ask the participants how they felt. And then there are the costs to consider. Even defenders of using statins for stroke prevention note that based on SPARCL data, statin therapy costs $203,000 to prevent one stroke in five years (Stroke, online publication February 1, 2007).
One of the most delicious foods that you can buy in Europe is the traditional sausages—juicy, flavorful and satisfying because it is loaded with fat. These are a treat for American tourists since US manufacturers have reduced the fat content of sausage here, resulting in a product too dry and insipid to eat. It seems that European food engineers are hell bent on accomplishing the same feat on the continent. Citing “rising interest in reduced or no-fat foods” because of “ever-increasing concerns about the obesity epidemic,” Spanish researchers have developed a sausage product in which a portion of the fat is replaced by “orange fibre.” In taste tests, “the sausages made using the orange fibres had odour values that exceeded all others, including the control sausages, but the orange fibre sausages were associated with a slight reduction in juiciness.” According to the researchers, “. . . sausages with 30 percent reduced energy content can easily be formulated without significantly affecting the sensorial aspects of the resulting sausages” (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, April 11, 2006). What the poor European stiff doesn’t realize—apart from the fact that a traditional food that once gave him great eating pleasure now has a “slight reduction in juiciness”—is that oranges are heavily sprayed with some of the worst neuro-toxic pesticides out there. These pesticides will be part of the parcel of “orange fibre” added to his sausage. And with the reduction in fat, his system will be much less able to handle the poison with which the food scientists have adulterated his traditional mortadella.
A Different Point Of View
Our eagle-eyed webmistress Jill Nienhiser has found two extremely different reports on the 1998 death of star athlete Florence Griffith Joyner, who also modeled and appeared in advertisements for the milk industry. According to Robert Cohen of notmilk.com, “Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo Jo) died with finger marks on her throat, evidence of how, in her final moments of life, she had choked herself, gasping for precious breath. She had no chance to survive. The bronchioles of her lungs were filled with mucus, and on his autopsy report, the coroner described her internal organs as ‘acutely congested’. . . Flo Jo’s last meal was pizza. Fifteen hours after ingesting that mozzarella cheese, a brick-sized lump (250 cubic centimeters) remained undigested in her stomach, causing systemic distress and congestion. . . . The autopsy revealed: ‘Kidneys: Section shows marked acute congestion. . . the pyramids of the kidneys are congested.'” According to Cohen, this kidney congestion was one of many symptoms of cheese consumption. According to Cohen’s logic, “Flo Jo tested positive for one over-the-counter drug in her system, Benadryl, an antihistamine. Eighty percent of milk protein is casein. Casein triggers histamine production, which in turn, triggers mucus production. Flo Jo choked to death on the internal secretion of her own thick, viscous body fluids.” Cohen then concludes that all asthma is caused by dairy foods. Wikipedia puts the death of Flo Jo in a different light: “In 1998, Griffith Joyner died in her sleep at her home in Mission Viejo, California. On October 22, the sheriff-coroner’s office announced the cause of death as: 1) positional asphyxia 2) epileptiform seizure 3) cavernous angioma, left orbital frontal cerebrum. The cavernous angioma referred to a brain abnormality discovered during the autopsy that made Joyner subject to seizures. It is, in fact, a congenital defect, having developed at birth. In 1990 she had, according to a family attorney, suffered a grand mal seizure and had been treated for seizures in 1990, 1993 and 1994.” According to the autopsy, “The stomach contains 250 cc of digested material including some yellow flecks, possibly cheese.” What needs to be explored is whether some of the ingredients in pizza, such as MSG and the additives in cheese, could have exacerbated her tendency to seizures. As for dairy foods causing asthma, research indicates a correlation with lowfat dairy products and asthma, but not with full-fat dairy foods.
Don’t Have a Cow, Mom
According to an article in the Washington Post (“Don’t have a cow, Mom,” October 31, 2006) vegetarianism among teenagers is increasing. Vegetarian families eat a more varied diet, we are told, which includes such yummies as rutabaga and tofu. Not to worry, Mom, says the American Dietetic Association, “. . . a well-planned all-veggie diet for children and adolescents can be nutritionally sound. . . ” as long as teens consume soy beverages and cereals fortified with vitamin D and B12. The dietitians claim teens can get adequate calcium, iron, zinc and protein from vegetables, grains, fruit, and, of course, soy foods. No mention is made of vitamin A, so necessary for reproductive health, nor of the downside of all those soy foods. So, don’t have a cow, Mom. Just don’t expect to have any grandchildren.
A Plague of Flies
In the latter part of spring in the year 2000, a farmer working for a factory farm near Naples, New York, spread about 200 tons of manure from his 100,000-hen egg farm on his land and plowed it in as he had done for many years. What happened next had never happened before—a tremendous number of flies bred in the manure. The reason is unknown—perhaps the fly eggs were in the manure before it was spread, or perhaps the manure was not plowed in deep enough. Whatever the reason, the results were disastrous. The whole community around the farm was attacked by swarms of flies, flies so thick they crawled into every crevice of people’s homes and cars. A local health official declared the situation a health hazard—not only did the flies present a health problem but so did the quantities of insecticides needed to overcome the swarms of flies. Such problems don’t happen on mixed, grass-based farms where, with proper grazing techniques, chickens can help keep the fly population at bay by consuming the fly larvae in cow manure. Commentators have noted that we can expect more such incidents if USDA has its way and imposes the National Animal Identification System on America’s farms. Expect swarms of bureaucrats to create mental health problems for the nation’s small farmers, more and bigger factory farms and more unexpected hazards like the plague of flies (DispatchOnline, June 23, 2000).
We Have Ways of Making You Worry
UK citizen Josh Bassett, age 34, is six feet tall and weighs a perfect 176 pounds. But Medical Research Council scientists have found a way to make him worried about his weight. After taking an MRI scan, Mr. Bassett learned about the fat “lurking deep inside the body.” Doctors were able to show him “how much fat is coating vital organs like the heart, liver and pancreas.” The “experts” say he needs to reduce his four liters of internal fat to only one. That “lurking” internal fat provides energy to our organs, cushions them against shock and produces important hormones, but now Bassett thinks he needs to change his diet and exercise more (BBC News, December 10, 2006). The “experts” are making children worried also, with a new practice of reporting students’ body mass scores to parents “as just one tactic in a war on childhood obesity that would be fought with fresh, lowfat cafeteria offerings and expanded physical education” according to an article by Jodi Kantor, “As Obesity Fight Hits Cafeteria, Many Fear a Note from School” (New York Times, January 8, 2007). The result is six-year-olds worried about their body mass index after receiving a note from school and then refusing to eat the dinner Mom has prepared. Meanwhile, the schools continue to serve up funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast. “Even health authorities who support distributing students’ scores worry about these inconsistent messages,” reports Kantor, “saying they could result in eating disorders and social stigma, misinterpretation of numbers that experts say are confusing, and a sense of helplessness about high scores.”
Another great tidbit spotted by Jill Nienhiser: A 1913 book called Don’t be a Faddist: Eat, Drink and Live Long provides lists of Foods Unfit for Habitual Use, Foods to Be Eaten Sparingly and Foods That May Be Eaten Confidently. The authors then provide a list of Questionable Articles. Number 5 is lettuce, “Declared by some authorities as likely to generate cancer by means of a poison indelibly impressed on its leaves by earth worms; otherwise generally acceptable.” Regarding tomatoes: “Long believed, as now, by many excellent authorities to at least encourage cancerous degeneration.” Vinegar, say the authors, “is tabooed by some; recommended, if made from pure wine or cider, by others; more frequently favored by brunettes than blondes.”
The Incredible Madness of the Nanny State
Cheese is to be treated as junk food under new advertising rules for children’s television in the UK. The Food Standards Agency used a nutrient profiling model “to distinguish junk food from health food.” It assessed the fat, sugar and salt content in a 100g or 100ml serving of a food or drink. Using these parameters, cheese comes up unhealthier than sugary cereals and snack chips. According to Anthony Gibson, national director of communications for the National Farming Union, the new rules represent “dietary nannying gone mad” (news.scotsman.com).
Pesticides and GM Crops
A recent study carried out by scientists at Cornell University has undermined one of the major arguments in favor of growing GM crops, namely that genetically modified plants require lower amounts of pesticide. A detailed survey of 481 cotton growers in China found that although they did use fewer pesticides in the first few years of adopting GM plants, after seven years they had to use just as much pesticide as they did with conventional crops. Before the introduction of GM cotton into China, farmers in the country had to spray on average 20 times each growing season to control bollworm, but with GM cotton, the average number of treatments fell to below seven and the amount of pesticide needed per hectare decreased about 71 percent compared to previous years. However, the Cornell researchers found that all those benefits have since been largely lost due to the rise of other pests not formerly considered a problem for cotton. Seven years after the commercialization of GM cotton in China, total pesticide expenditure for GM cotton farmers in China was nearly equal to that of those growing conventional cotton (The Independent UK, July 27, 2006).
Some good news from the town of Tavistock in the county of Devon, UK: after seven years of struggling to make ends meet, McDonald’s will close its outlet there. The reason: the food is just too good in Tavistock, which recently won the title of “Best Food in the South West.” According to John Taylor, chairman of the Tavistock EatWise Campaign, “Because of the quality of our local food, McDonald’s has not been able to compete.” The nail in the coffin for McDonald’s was the introduction of healthy school meals. “Children no longer needed to go there because they were being fed properly” (Daily Mail, December 6, 2006).
Are We Really Living Longer?
An astute member has sent us some interesting statistics about centenarians. From a video segment recently aired on Nova, we learn that only one in 10,000 Americans will live to age 100. US census data indicates that in 1990, there were an estimated 37,306 centenarians out of 248,709,873 or one in 6,721 people. According to numbers compiled at the University of Virginia, in 1830 there were 2,600 centenarians out of 12,866,020 people, or one in 4,956, more than twice as many as a percentage of the population than there are today. So much for assurances that this generation will live longer than ever.
New From the Food Scientists. . . And The Just Plain Crazy
YUCK: Unimills, a Dutch company, has invented an “ice cream” with a lower level of saturated fat. The firm is not divulging the ingredients list but says it will use enzymes instead of chemicals to reduce saturated and trans fat levels in vegetable oils added to the popular dessert (Reuters, June 19, 2006). Another new industrial process involves “a protein cloned from the blood of an Arctic Ocean fish,” which allows manufacturers “to produce very creamy, dense, reduced-fat ice creams with fewer additives” (New York Times, July 26, 2006).
DOUBLE YUCK: A company called Eggology has launched several new products based on egg whites including On-The-Go, a quick-serve food product with a shelf life of three months that comes to life in the microwave “looking and tasting like fresh scrambled eggs,” Simply Sensational, a line of “gourmet, all-natural” muffins fortified with egg white protein, and Cool Cravings, an ice cream version featuring egg whites instead of yolks “for higher protein content and a lighter texture.”
HIDDEN YUCK: A new “mystery fat” called Z Trim is now available for schools to use in lowfat salad dressings and mayonnaise, to make them more acceptable to students. The product actually contains no fat, but is made from the hulls of corn, oats, soy, rice and barley. Sold as a gel or powder, it can be used in dressings, dips, sauces, baked goods, processed meats, snack foods, cookies and pies. The Center for Science in the Public Interest said it has no safety concerns about Z Trim (Associated Press, January 18, 2007).
SOY YUCK: Archer-Daniels-Midland has patented a “soy-containing chocolate product having qualities akin to milk chocolate. . . prepared from a mixture of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, a sweetener and whole soybean powder” (soyatech.com). Soy Coffee, LLC, now produces a coffee substitute made from soybeans. “My product tastes almost identical to coffee, if not better,” says Marina Kushner, founder of the company. Kushner started her company in 2001 when she found she could not drink coffee anymore because caffeine and acids upset her stomach. “I suffered from difficulties with concentration,” says Kushner, “and I was looking for a brain support formula” (Entrepreneur.com). Someone needs to tell her about studies showing that soy foods contribute to early dementia.
SOFT DRINK YUCK: A new version of Diet Coke will appear in 2007—fortified with vitamins and minerals. Next year, Pepsi plans to introduce a line of “enhanced” sodas called Tava (CNN; Beverage Digest, December 11, 2006). Meanwhile, a computer analyst from Dallas has come up with a crazy and definitively fattening recipe for fried Coca-Cola—a batter mix made with Coca-Cola syrup, a drizzle of strawberry syrup and some strawberries. Balls of batter are then deep-fried, ending up like ping pong-ball-sized doughnuts, which are then served in a cup, topped with Coca-Cola syrup, “whipped cream” (probably imitation whipped cream), cinnamon sugar and a cherry on top. Gonzales ran two stands at the State Fair of Texas and sold up to 35,000 fried Cokes over 24 days for $4.50 each—and won a prize for the “most creative” new fair food (Reuters, October 27, 2006).