The number one item in the dogma of conventional nutritionists and medical professionals is—and has been for over fifty years—to substitute polyunsaturated vegetable oils for saturated fats. By so doing, we are told, we can prevent heart disease, our number one killer. This premise has sent billions of souls into the aisles of processed foods, with horrendous consequences, particularly for the next generation. And what if such advice is wrong, completely wrong? A new study should give believers a sinking feeling. The Sydney Diet Heart Study involved four hundred fifty-eight men aged thirty to fifty-nine. One group was advised to replace dietary saturated fats with omega-6 oils, while the other received no specific dietary advice. The result: all-cause mortality and mortality from coronary heart disease were higher in the intervention group than in controls. These findings are the more remarkable because the researchers lumped “common margarines and shortenings” with saturated fat, so the intervention group avoided not only saturated fat but trans fats as well. “These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega-6 linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fats (BMJ 2013;346:e8707). Not a peep from the media, of course; the worldwide dietary advice to substitute vegetable oils for animal fats is not likely to end any time soon.
MORE REASONS TO AVOID POLYUNSATURATED OILS
In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, polyunsaturated oils increase the risk of obesity. Researchers in Southampton, U.K. found that mothers who have higher levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in their bloodstream during pregnancy have fatter children (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism January 1, 2013 vol. 98 no. 1 299-307). Additionally, new results from experiments using animal models show that a high intake of omega-6 led to overproduction of signaling compounds that stimulate the appetite, with the result that the animals ate more and developed obesity (sciencenordic.com/vegetable-oils-promote-obesity).
AND MORE WRONG ADVICE
Type-2 diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease and most diabetics are put on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to lower that risk. But new research has conventional cardiologists scratching their heads. Researchers analyzing results for one hundred ninety-seven participants in the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial looked at frequency of statin use and coronary artery calcification, a strong indicator of cardiovascular risk. The results showed that more frequent statin use is associated with accelerated coronary artery calcification, even though LDL-cholesterol levels were “nearly optimal (Diabetes Care.2012 Nov;35(11):2390-2). Said the researchers: “. . . accelerated progression of calcified atherosclerosis in [type-2 diabetics] by statins may have the effect of lessening these medications’ overall benefit.”
SATURATED FAT AND SPERM COUNT
“Eating a fatty diet could reduce a man’s sperm count by 40 percent,” declared the Daily Mail, “enough to put every man off his bacon and egg.” This dire warning referred to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (ACJN.112.042432v197/2/411), which claimed that saturated fat was associated with reduced semen quality among seven hundred Danish men. Zoe Harcombe of the U.K. has produced a brilliant analysis of the document (www.zoeharcombe.com, January 10, 2013). She found that the researchers jumped to sweeping conclusions about differences in fat consumption that were actually very small, and that they could have equally concluded from the data that monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat also lowered sperm count. The interesting finding was that the period of abstinence for those consuming more saturated fat was less, which could explain the lower sperm count. A much more interesting headline would have been: Men who eat more saturated fat have sex more frequently!
UNHEALTHY VACCINATED CHILDREN
New data provide justification for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. An ongoing study out of Germany on childhood illness has found a clear disparity between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. The survey includes data on eight thousand unvaccinated children, whose overall disease rates were compared to disease rates among the general (vaccinated) population. Vaccinated children were nearly twice as likely as unvaccinated children to develop neurodermatitis, characterized by chronic itching and scratching. Vaccinated children were about two and one-half more likely to develop migraine headaches, and vaccinated children were about eight times more likely to develop respiratory problems like asthma and chronic bronchitis. They were three times more likely to develop hyperactivity, four times more likely to develop hayfever and a shocking seventeen times more likely to develop thyroid disease. Most importantly, only four of the eight thousand unvaccinated children had severe autism (.05 percent), while the rate among vaccinated children is about one percent, or twenty times higher. In a similar but unrelated survey conducted in the 1990s, researchers found that the death rate among vaccinated children from diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough was twice as high as that of unvaccinated children (http:// journal.livingfood.us).
From a foodsafetynews.com report we learn about a June conference of the Institute of Food Technologists in New Orleans. Hundreds of Chinese vendors working in small clusters beneath bright red banners offered for sale “almost any spice, food-processing substance or additives a food processor might want and promises of concocting anything else they could dream of—all FDA approved.” According to the report, “One salesman quickly jerked back his business card when a reporter pulled out a tape recorder to capture the man’s promises offering a ‘nanoparticle sweetener for honey that cannot be detected. .’” (www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/08/honey-laundering/#. URHooKW9f95).
While consumers fight for labeling, and activists publicize the adverse health effects of consuming genetically engineered food, it looks like the genetically engineered seed industry may be taken down by the most powerful force of all: economics. Some U.S. farmers are considering returning to conventional seed after increased pest resistance and crop failures resulted in smaller yields globally for GMO crops compared to their non-GMO counterparts. Farmers in the U.S. pay about $100 more per acre for GM seed. Many have begun questioning “whether they will continue to see benefits from using GMs,” according to Farmers Weekly. Countries around the world that do not use GM seed are outperforming U.S. farmers. The largest crop yields last year were in Asia, particularly China, where farmers don’t plant GM seed (www. fwi.co.uk, February 6, 2013).
VITAMIN A FOR THYROID FUNCTION
We often report on vitamin A in these pages, because it has so many roles in human biochemistry, and because it is the most neglected and maligned vitamin in the popular literature. New research corroborates the fact that vitamin A is needed for thyroid function. In a four-month trial, fifty-six obese thyroid patients were randomly allocated to receive either 25,000 IU vitamin A per day or a placebo. In addition, twenty-eight non-obese thyroid patients received the vitamin. Vitamin A caused a significant reduction in blood thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations in both obese and non-obese patients along with an increase in T3. The researchers concluded: vitamin A supplementation might reduce the risk of subclinical hypothyroidism in premenopausal women. How about suggesting the consumption of vitamin A-rich food instead? Let’s reduce the risk of thyroid problems in everyone by encouraging the consumption of foods like liver, cod liver oil and grass-fed butter.
Researchers at Cornell’s College of Agriculture, a bastion of industrial agriculture, have identified spore-forming bacteria that not only survive milk pasteurization, but are able to germinate as a result of the heat. Certain bacteria have the ability to form a tough, protective endospore that allows them to survive extreme conditions. The researchers identified Paenibacillus bacteria as the most important spore formers in dairy products, and say that strains of this bacteria can survive extreme conditions and have adapted to survive both high heat and refrigeration. The health implications of prolonged consumption of these spore-formers are not yet known, but research shows that they can foul milk and other food products. The lab at Cornell’s college found that reducing the refrigeration temperature can decrease the growth of the bacteria, especially when the product is kept for a long time after pasteurization. Some dairy processors have increased the pasteurization temperatures further, in an attempt to kill spore-formers. Early reports indicate that these measures only result in more spoilage. Nature has a way of foiling our most vaunted technologies (www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July12/FoodSpoil.html).
NEW GUIDELINES FOR BABIES
For years, governments have recommended puréed vegetables and cereals as baby’s first foods. In a major departure, new Canadian guidelines say parents should be offering their six-month-old infants puréed meat, fish and poultry two or three times a day. (Unfortunately, they also allow “meat alternatives” for baby.) According to the guidelines, these iron-rich foods should be the first that babies consume. “Traditionally, we’ve been telling parents that meat is the last food to introduce,” said Daina Kalnins, manager of clinical dietetics at the Hospital for Sick Children. “But when you look at why, there is no reason to do that.” Iron is critical for a baby’s growth and cognitive development. By about six months, a baby’s iron stores start to diminish and those solely fed breast milk will not meet their iron requirements and are in danger of becoming anemic or iron-deficient. According to Kalnins, iron deficiency during infancy and childhood may affect proper brain development. Interestingly, the guidelines mention that meat and fish have been traditional first foods for some aboriginal groups. Parents are urged to make baby’s food, puréeing meat and fish with water. Unfortunately, they recommend leaving out salt. Still, the recommendation to introduce meat early is a real step forward in baby care (www.thestar.com, September 24, 2012).
EXTRA POUNDS HEALTH ADVANTAGE
After years of browbeating to get people to be extra thin, researchers have discovered that being moderately overweight does not automatically make a person at high risk for early death. The analysis of nearly three million people was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers pooled data from ninety-seven studies in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil, India and Mexico (2013;309(1):71-82). As expected, they found that people who were significantly obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of thirty-five or more, had short life spans compared to people of normal weight. But the scientists also found that people classed as overweight (with a BMI of twenty-five to thirty) died at slightly lower rates―not higher rates―than those of so-called normal weight. And those who were mildly obese (with a BMI of thirty to thirty-five) died in no greater numbers than did their normal-weight peers. Lead author Katherine M. Flegal said that smoking, which raises the risk of early death but also tends to keep people thinner, doesn’t appear to be the explanation. It appears that you can, indeed, be too thin.
Didier Bellens, president of Belgacom, the Belgian mobile communications company, explains to school children that Wi-Fi is dangerous. He uses a landline in his office and provides DSL service, not Wi-Fi, to employees working on the twenty-seventh floor of his cellphone company’s skyscraper. According to a Belgacom spokesperson, “Didier Bellens is only indicating the precautionary principles recommended by the World Health Organization” (Sudpresse, November 25, 2011).