Researchers are scratching their collective heads over recent findings that cast doubt on the widespread use of cholesterol-lowering drugs. The first was published in the May 24 issue of the journal Neurology. Scientists in Sweden analyzed data from 392 men and women in Goteborg, Sweden over an 18-year period. They found that high total cholesterol at ages 70, 75 and 79 was associated with a reduced risk of dementia between ages 79 and 88. What this means is that we need to keep our cholesterol levels high if we want to have keen minds well into old age. But scientists wedded to the cholesterol theory dare not make so bold a statement. Instead, they weasel-word. “These findings raise more questions than they give answers,” says Michelle M. Mielke of the Center on Aging and Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the study authors. “Therefore, we strongly urge that consumers not make changes in their diet or medication without consulting with their doctors first.” Rachel Whitmer, a research scientist specializing in cognitive aging at Kaiser Permanente Northern California also specializes in saying nothing with a lot of words: “Lingering questions were not put to rest, but new exciting ones are raised. . . . This study is another example of the importance of timing in terms of when one measures a risk factor, and the need to consider risk factors for dementia over the entire life course.” A second study, which was a follow-up of the Framingham Heart Study and published in Psychosomatic Medicine (2005;67:24-30), found that lower naturally occurring total cholesterol levels are associated with poorer performance on cognitive measures such as abstract reasoning, attention/concentration, word fluency and executive functioning. Once again, double talk was necessary: “. . . competing risks must always be taken into consideration,” said the researchers. “Lower cholesterol values may have modestly detrimental effects on cognitive function for the individual but, depending on the patient’s risk profile, may have beneficial effects with respect to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.” Rather than risk dementia in the elderly (and not so elderly) by force-feeding statin drugs, the medical profession needs to admit that the whole theory is demented.
Vitamin D for Men
Why should men care about vitamin D? How about increased virility, better hair growth and improved athletic performance? Motor function, muscle strength, balance, speed, quickness of reaction, maintenance of muscle mass and reduced pain after injury are all linked to vitamin D status. In one study, a single injection of 600,000 units vitamin D significantly improved reaction times in older adults; in another, higher vitamin D levels correlated wth better gait speed, balance and muscle strength. In a Saudi Arabian study involving 360 patients with low back pain, all responded exceptionally well to treatment with physiological doses of vitamin D (Vitamin D Newsletter, May 30, 2005). Guys, it’s better than steroids, so take your cod liver oil!
And for the Brain
In a study involving rats bred to express symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the administration of DHA, a very long-chain fatty acid, resulted in better markers of memory and learning ability and lower levels of lipid peroxide in the brain. The conclusion: “DHA is thus a possible therapeutic agent for ameliorating learning deficiencies due to Alzheimer’s disease” (Journal of Nutrition 2005 Mar; 135(3):549-55). Another reason to take your cod liver oil, which is a rich source of DHA.
Scientists at the Universtiy of Basque Country have made a discovery that is bad news to the vegetable oil industry. They found that oxidation or thermal degradation causes deterioration of vegetable oils in foodstuffs and the generation of toxic substances. Heating to 70 degrees C created first hydroperoxides and then aldehydes, which are geno- and cytotoxic (poisonous to cells). In foods that were microwaved, the aldehydes were produced immediately. Among the oils tested, virgin olive oil took the longest to produce toxic compounds, and produced them at lower concentrations. More unsaturated vegetable oils produced more toxic compounds (foodnavigator.com May 26, 2005). Just what we’ve been telling folks for years–vegetable oils are bad news.
End of Conventional Farming?
One of the main ingredients in the so-called “efficient” conventional agricultural system, where food is monocropped, centrally processed and then shipped far distances, is cheap oil. The climbing price of energy has suddenly made this system not “efficient” but very expensive. Farmers nationwide have seen the price of fuel more than double, from 96 cents a gallon to $1.97 (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, May 10, 2005). The pain of higher fuel prices has hit both farmers and merchandisers. Driving tractors, trucking food, producing fertilizer, making plastic packaging, shipping and warehousing have all gotten very costly. Suddenly, the local producer has a competitive advantage. Expect big increases in direct-to-consumer sales by farmers, which rose to $812 million in 2002, up 37 percent over 1997 (Stockman Grass Farmer, September 2004).
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan has introduced a bill in the California state legislature that would ban bisphenol A, a chemical used in liners inside canned food and water supply pipes, some water containers and, most importantly, numerous products that are intended for use by infants including baby bottles, pacifiers and teethers. The chemical is also an ingredient in dental sealants coated on children’s teeth for the “prevention of cavities.” The bill, AB319, would also ban certain forms of plastic softeners called phthalates in toys and child care articles. Chan became aware of these chemicals’ possible hazards to hormone balance and the nervous system through her work on the Select Committee on Children’s Health and School Readiness. It was Chan’s legislation that led to the banning of two forms of flame retardant two years ago. Naturally, the industry, which produces about 2 billions pounds of bisphenol A yearly in the US, opposes the bill. “You can’t make polycarbonate without it,” says spokesman Steve Hentges, adding, “. . . the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which people might be exposed.” However, a study published February 2005 in the journal Endocrinology showed that exposure of lab animals to bisphenol A altered the ability of thyroid hormone to correctly regulate brain development. Other studies indicate that at very low doses the chemical inhibits the positive role of estrogen in enhancing neural connections in the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in the formation and retention of memory (San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2005).
Soy to the Rescue
Food manufacturers that use eggs extensively in products like baked goods, mayonnaise and salad dressings have seen profits threatened by fluctuations in egg prices. The decimation of millions of birds through avian flu led to an increase in yolk prices from L1700 per ton in 2002 to L2250 per ton in 2003. Alleggra Foods is seizing the opportunity to promote its new soy-based egg replacer, Alleggra, developed by food scientists at Unilever. The product is composed of soy protein, whey proteins, vegetable oil (sunflower oil but can be varied) and egg white and will be marketed as a “fully functional replacer of egg” with “seventy-five percent less saturated fat than an egg and 10 percent more protein.” “Alleggra has clear advantages in terms of cost and health,” says Gavin Hays, chief executive for Alleggra Foods. “Alleggra is not only cholesterol free, but is actively cholesterol lowering.” The product is currently in two development trials with food makers for muffin and quiche products and aimed at replacing eggs in other products later in the year. In 2004, the firm signed a L350,000 contract with Britain’s Ministry of Defence for Alleggra to replace powdered egg rations for the military (Ingredients.com, 20/04/2005). Expect to see this ingredient in a grocery store or PX near you.
From the Frying Pan to the Fire
Clothed in good intentions, a nutrition program spearheaded by the St. Louis-based Parents as Teachers and St. Louis University’s School of Public Health, “seeks to improve the lives of preschoolers” by promoting a High 5 Low Fat nutrition program among families in the St. Louis area. Funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and designed to address “diet-related cancer disparities among the black population,” the program encourages “strategies on buying food cheaply while boosting nutrition.” Susie Nanney, manager of the Obesity Prevention Center at the university and the original project manager for High 5 Low Fat calls the program “realistic.” “We’re not telling people to clean out their cupboards and throw out the candy bars. We’re not saying line your refrigerator with just broccoli and tofu,” she said. “If a family enjoys macaroni and cheese, they can be taught how to make it with less fat and to add a vegetable to it. Or a boxed meal might be prepared with skim milk and less butter” (WebMD, January 14, 2005). In other words, the program doesn’t teach people how to make simple, wholesome meals, but how to remove the few real foods they are incorporating into a diet of processed foods.
More GM Concerns
Seven years ago, research by British scientist Arpad Pusztai found that rats given GM potatoes suffered damage to their health, with a “huge list of significant differences” between rats fed GM and conventional corn. For his discovery, Pusztai was vilified and forced into retirement. On May 22, 2005, the Independent, a British publication, revealed details of secret research carried out by Monsanto, the GM food giant, which shows that rats fed GM corn had smaller kidneys and undesirable changes in the blood. Although Monsanto has dismissed the results as meaningless and due to chance, the discovery has put renewed focus on the safety of GM foods in Britain and puts the onus on world governmental bodies to subject all genetically modified foods to a process of thorough testing before granting approval for their use.
Autism and the Amish
One in every 166 children born in the United States is afflicted with autism, a living-death condition characterized by “markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests.” While most parents of autistic children have reported the onset of symptoms immediately or shortly after a dose of vaccines, the pharmaceutical industry denies any connection between this epidemic and the load of childhood vaccinations to which modern children are subjected. What’s needed in this debate is a look at the rates of autism in an unvaccinated population and one reporter, Dan Olmsted, has done just that. Among the unvaccinated Amish of Lancaster County Pennsylvania, there should be well over 100 children with some form of the disorder if autism has nothing to do with vaccination. What he found is that in all the Amish schools, there is one classroom with about 30 “special needs” Amish children and of these, one is autistic. Another autistic Amish child does not go to school and a third is a pre-school-age girl. Olmsted found that all three had actually been vaccinated; two were born to Amish parents who gave in to the constant pressure to vaccinate their children. The third and worse case was a girl adopted from China, who received many vaccinations in one day, at age 15 months (UPI, April 18, and June 7, 2005).