WAR ON OBESITY
Like so many Latin American countries, the nation of Chile is battling an obesity epidemic, which officials rightly blame on the onslaught of unhealthy processed foods, for sale at kiosks and vending machines everywhere. New regulations require explicit labeling and limit the marketing of sugary foods to children. The law prohibits the sale of junk food like ice cream, chocolate and potato chips in Chilean schools and curtails advertising to young children. Sodas high in sugar are taxed at 18 percent, one of the highest such fees in the world. However, the linchpin of the initiative is a new labeling system that requires packaged food companies to prominently display black warning logos in the shape of a stop sign on items high in sugar, salt, calories. . . or saturated fat (New York Times, February 7, 2018)! So the baneful dietary guidelines, which by proscribing saturated fat make people crave processed food, are now enshrined in new labeling laws. If governments were really serious about protecting the health of their citizens, they would promote and fund old-fashioned food carts, rather than eliminate them through onerous health laws, and would embark on a campaign to teach their populations the value of traditional foods, including traditional saturated fats.
Public health officials often express shock that we would recommend homemade formula based on raw milk; but what they don’t tell parents is that powdered baby formula can be very risky. Recently more than twelve million boxes of powdered baby milk formula were recalled in eighty-three countries in a salmonella scandal involving the French company Lactalis. Lawsuits filed by parents who say their children became unwell after drinking the formula are ongoing—at least thirty-five cases so far in France and others in Spain and Greece. The company has stated that they believe the contamination was caused by renovation work at one of their factories. One of the big dirty secrets in the food processing industry is the fact that powdered milk (or powdered anything) is never sterile.
MORE BAD NEWS ABOUT SOY
Researchers in Brazil fed soy milk to two groups of growing rats. One group got soy milk plus glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) and the other group got soy milk without the added pesticide. Both groups exhibited endocrine disruption in the form of decreased testosterone levels, decrease in Sertoli cell numbers (Sertoli cells are involved in the production of sperm) and an increase in the numbers of degenerated Sertoli and Leydig cells. Those animals that also got glyphosate had additional abnormalities (Food and Chemical Toxicology 2017;100:247-252). Yet a recent study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology touts soy milk as the “best alternative to milk” (Jan 2018:55(1)10-20). Researchers looked at the “nutritional profile” of soy milk, rice milk, almond milk and coconut milk and concluded that soy milk was best, largely because of a higher protein content. “Soy milk has been a substitute for cow’s milk for four decades,” said the researchers, “and had the most balanced nutritional profile of the four milks included in the study.” As for the isoflavones in soy that keep boys from becoming men, “these phytonutrients have anti-carcinogenic properties which can help prevent or delay cancer.” The “study” was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and widely reported in the press—a sign that the soybean industry is on the move again to counter years of negative publicity about the tragic health effects of soy.
TOO MUCH PROTEIN
Use of protein-rich supplements and shakes is common among bodybuilders, a practice that we have consistently warned against. Too much protein can deplete vitamin A, leading to burnout, vision problems and many other unfortunate conditions. In the case of bodybuilder Meegan Hefford, the unfortunate side effect was death. The mother of two was found unconscious in her apartment and died in the hospital two days later. She had been ramping up her gym routine in the weeks before her death, living off protein shakes and supplements. According to reports, Hefford had a rare condition called urea cycle disorder, which stops the body from breaking down protein, leading to fatal levels of ammonia in the bloodstream and excessive fluid in the brain. But this could happen to anyone who is taxing their protein-breakdown mechanisms. The final cause of death was ruled an “intake of bodybuilding supplements” (Fox News, Aug 14, 2017).
YOLKS OVER WHITES
Often in the bodybuilding world, protein loading takes the form of eating lots of egg whites and throwing away the yolks. But a fascinating study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that whole eggs are a better bet for muscle building. Subjects consumed eighteen grams of protein from whole eggs or egg whites after engaging in resistance exercise. The post-workout muscle-building response in those eating whole eggs was 40 percent greater than in those consuming egg whites. So score one victory for whole foods. “This work is showing that consuming egg protein in its natural matrix,” said lead researcher Nicholas Burd, “has a much greater benefit than getting isolated protein from the same source” (ScienceDaily, December 20, 2017).
SATURATED FATS AND THE LIVER
Saturated fats like butter, lard, coconut oil and tallow are blamed for just about everything these days, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its precursor nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which are occurring at epidemic levels. Fructose is a more likely culprit since all fructose has to be processed through the liver. Researchers in Belgrade, Serbia fed rats diets high in fructose along with various types of fat. Fructose fed with trans fatty acids resulted in NASH with fibrosis by inducing oxidative stress and inflamation; whereas fructose in combination with saturated fats caused simple steatosis (fat buildup) in the liver (Eur J Nutr 2017 1492-1). Fructose fed with peanut oil (rich in monounsaturated fatty acids) had no effects, but lest we conclude that olive oil is the fat most protective of liver health, another group of researchers found that mice given a diet of starch and monounsaturated fatty acids developed fatty liver disease while mice fed starch and saturated fat had no undesirable effects (CMGH September 2017;4(2)4:223–23). The conclusion for a healthy liver? Avoid too much refined carbohydrate, especially fructose, but not healthy saturated fats.
MORE DIET WARS
The latest salvo in the diet wars is an article by Jane Brody in the New York Times, “Good Fats, Bad Fats” (January 29, 2018). Brody, as you may know, has been tireless, no, relentless—writing for the New York Times since 1976—in pushing the mantra that saturated fats (including coconut oil) are bad, bad, bad. In an attempt to stem the public realization that it’s all been a big fat lie, Brody reports on a twenty-six-page advisory released by the American Heart Association (AHA), prepared by a “team of experts” led by Dr. Frank M. Sacks of Harvard University. The report “helps explain why the decades-long campaign to curb cardiovascular disease by steering the American diet away from animal fats has been less successful that it might have been and how it inadvertently promoted expanding waistlines and an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes.” The reason: the public did a very bad thing by replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates when they should have replaced those calories with vegetables, spreads and polyunsaturated oils! (Never mind that the AHA gives its seal of approval to high-carb foods like Cheerios and orange juice.) Dr. Sacks’ team summarized the results of four cherry-picked “core” trials conducted in the 1960s, which found that replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil “rich in polyunsaturated fat,” primarily soybean oil free of trans fats “lowered coronary heart disease by 29 percent, similar to the benefit from taking a statin to reduce cholesterol.” But as Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, points out, those core studies do not show that reducing saturated fats (along with dietary cholesterol) will prevent heart attacks (LA Times, July 23, 2017). And data from several studies indicating that the diet-heart theory is just wrong were not published. Teicholz notes the AHA’s “longstanding reliance on funding from interested industries, such as the vegetable-oil manufacturer Procter & Gamble, maker of Crisco, and Bayer, owner of LibertyLink soybeans.” The truth is that we are not going to make any progress in dietary science until we call out the American Heart Association for what it really is—the marketing arm of the industrial seed oil industry—and reveal the likes of Jane Brody as a mouthpiece for commercial interests, not a legitimate journalist.
As the lipid hypothesis continues to unravel, we detect a note of panic in the medical journals. Recently a program blasting the use of statins called “The Big Bluff” aired on Franco-German public television and the response came in the form of an article published in the European Heart Journal (Feb 2018;39(5):335-336). Authors François Schiele and Steen D. Kristensen wrote that the program “encouraged physicians and patients to interrupt lipid-lowering treatments and avoid blood lipid assessments.” The broadcast, they said, “was dangerously irresponsible. After antibiotics, statins may have contributed more to prolonging life expectancy than any other type of medication. . . It’s time to set the record straight because the repercussions for the misinformed are potentially catastrophic.” So how catastrophic would it be if the public stopped taking statins? The truth is that statin drugs have never been shown to prolong lives, and their benefits even for those who have had a heart attack are minimal. Statin use is associated with increased risk of cancer, neurological disorders and muscle degeneration, and study after study confirms the fact that high cholesterol is associated with a longer life, especially in the elderly. As one researcher stated, “Statins do not have a proven net health benefit in primary prevention populations, and they when used in that setting do not represent good use of scarce health care resources” (Therapeutics Letter 77/March-April 2010). In fact, a 2015 paper published in Expert Reviews in Clinical Pharmacology (2015 Mar;8(2):189-99) proposed that statins actually cause atherosclerosis and heart failure. Meanwhile, new National Health Service guidelines in the U.K. recommend giving statins to children “who have inherited the risk of high cholesterol” (The Telegraph Science, November 2, 2017).
NOT SO GOOD FOR THE BRAIN
Canola oil is touted as heart-healthy because it can reduce your levels of LDL-cholesterol (the kind that carries nourishment to your cells), but a new study suggests that the oil can hasten the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Two groups of mice, selected for a tendency to Alzheimer’s but without any symptoms, were give either a normal diet or the normal diet plus two tablespoons of canola oil each day. Six months later maze tests revealed the mice on the canola diet showed a decline in their working memory capacities compared to the other group. The canola oil group had also gained more weight. The canola oil mice had an increase in amyloid plaques in the brain, a substance which decreases the number of contacts between neurons. By contrast a similar study using olive oil showed a reduction in amyloid plaque. The results are surprising because canola oil contains, in principle, omega-3 fatty acids, said to be important for neurological function. But of course, high temperature processing damages omega-3 fatty acids, creating breakdown substances that could be very detrimental to brain health (Nature Scientific Reports 2017;7:article17134).
We tend to think of dental emergencies as something only encountered in the Third World, not something that happens in the West where we enjoy the latest in dental care. But in the U.S., the number of root abscesses increased by 41 percent from 2000 to 2008 (the U.S. population rose only 8 percent during the period) and emergency room dental visits rose by 50 percent from 2005 to 2011. The truth is that many Americans lack dental care and suffer from embarrassment and even unimaginable pain. We need more dentists, for sure, but what’s needed most of all is education about the tragic effects of sugary foods and lowfat diets on our teeth (New York Times, May 23, 2017).