Red Meat Villlany?
Red meat is under attack again, this time with a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2009; 169(6):562-571), which made it to the front pages of the newspapers. “Eating red meat increases the chances of dying prematurely,” said the newspaper reports, “Americans who consumed about four ounces of red meat a day were more than 30 percent more likely to die during the 10 years they were followed, mostly from heart disease and cancer” (Washington Post, March 24, 2009). The report itself described the increases in total mortality as “modest,” and a careful reading of the text reveals that compared to those in the lowest quintile of meat consumption, those in the highest quintile were three times more likely to smoke, 50 percent less likely to engage in vigorous exercise, were less well educated, had lower fiber consumption and ate fewer fruits and vegetables. The authors did not explore the possibility that frequent meat eaters were more likely to eat processed vegetable oils and processed food in general. Chris Masterjohn points out that the study was not designed to determine cause and effect, and its ability to determine true meat intake was almost non-existent. “News reports and editorials alike failed to discuss its embarrassing finding that meat intake was associated with the risk of dying from accidental injury, probably because the apparent lack of a plausible mechanism by which eating meat could cause someone to get into a car accident emphasizes the most basic principle of science that they want us all to forget: that correlation does not prove causation. There are thus two important points we need to understand about this study to realize just how little it does to increase our knowledge: the study found a correlation between increased mortality and a population’s propensity to report eating meat, not a correlation between mortality and true meat intake. . . . these may be two completely different things; and correlation does not show causation. There is absolutely no scientific basis to conclude from this study that eating meat increases mortality” (www.cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-blog.html). Meanwhile, an analysis of two hundred studies found no definitive association of meat and dairy consumption with heart health (USA Today, April 14, 2009). What did emerge from the review was a strong association with consumption of “starchy carbs like white bread and the trans fats in many cookies and french fries.”
Barely a month after the U.S. Department of Justice sued Forest Labs, maker of the popular and potentially suicideinducing antidepressant Lexapro, for illegally marketing the drug for children when it wasn’t approved for use in children, the FDA has approved this highly dangerous drug for use in children. The Department of Justice lawsuit alleges that the company essentially bribed doctors to prescribe the drug to kids, so we can expect more of the same now that FDA has given Forest Labs the green light. FDA approval doesn’t make the risk go away. On the Forest Labs’ own Lexapro website, you’ll find this warning: “Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in shortterm studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.” If your child is depressed, Lexapro could send him or her over the edge to suicide. If your doctor recommends this dangerous drug for your child, walk out of his office and find a new doctor immediately (hsibaltimore.com/2009/03/23/fda_children).
Vitamin A Vindicated
Researchers at Tufts University have confirmed a theory first proposed by Chris Masterjohn (Medical Hypotheses December, 2007) that vitamin A protects against vitamin D-induced renal calcification (kidney stones) by normalizing the production of vitamin K-dependent proteins (Journal of Nutrition 2008 Dec;138(12):2337-41). The researchers showed that without vitamin A, vitamin D produces an excess of defective vitamin K-dependent proteins that will not protect against soft tissue calcification and may even cause soft tissue calcification. The study provides additional support for the premise that the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K need to be concurrently present in the diet for optimal health. Vitamin A alone to benefit the kidneys or the lungs. Vitamin D alone causes a remarkable reduction in the ability of carcinogens associated with cigarette smoke to induce lung cancer but by itself causes kidney stones. When vitamin A is combined with vitamin D, lung cancer improves just as much, and the kidney calcification is completely eliminated. This may be because, as the research showed, the activation of normal vitamin K-dependent proteins in the kidney is much stronger with both vitamins than with neither, suggesting that vitamin A prevents vitamin D toxicity in the kidneys and that the two vitamins work synergistically to improve kidney health (www.cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-blog.html). These studies underscore the importance of avoiding vitamin D supplements without supporting vitamin A, or of taking brands of cod liver oil that contain vitamin A but very little vitamin D.
Healthy Outliers Eat Lard
In the 1950’s, the residents of Rosetto, Pennsylvania baffled researchers with their exceptionally low rates of heart disease. In his new bestselling book Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell notes that those under fifty-five years old had almost no heart disease whatsoever and those over sixty-five suffered roughly only 50 percent as much heart disease as did average Americans. The experts looked at genetics, geography and so forth, yet nothing explained why the inhabitants of Rosetto were “outliers,” that is, statistical anomalies. They tended not to be magically thin, in fact were quite often obese. They didn’t exercise much either. Then the investigators looked at diet. People in Rosetto ate a lot of lard. They piled pepperoni, sausage, salami and sometimes eggs on their pizzas. And they ate lard. Over 40 percent of their caloric intake was from saturated fat. And they ate lard. Of course, good dieticians can’t even say the word “lard” without clutching their chests in pain. So they concluded with perfect political correctness that diet was not a factor either. Of course, those who have some scientific background in the subject of fat would know that in the U.S., from 1920 to 1960, heart disease skyrocketed while animal fat consumption (especially lard consumption) dropped equally drastically (USDA-HNI), not to mention many other studies which contradict the notion that animal fats cause heart disease. If the politically correct pundits understood that fact, they wouldn’t have to reach so deep into their barrel of lame explanations and pull out things like strong family and social ties. To the scientifically correct, there are no mysteries in Rosetto. Residents’ obesity was probably due to their lack of exercise and the sweet desserts they liked, but their hearts were strong because they consumed plenty of the ideal fuel for the heart—saturated fat.
Vegetables Flunk Again
Another study on vitamin K has found that vitamin K2, the animal form of vitamin K, decreases the risk of heart disease. Vitamin K1, the plant form of vitamin K, provided no benefit. The findings emerged with an analysis of the Prospect-EPIC cohort, consisting of 16,057 post-menopausal women, aged between 49-70, none of whom had cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. Those who got their vitamin K by eating lots of green leafy vegetables did not fare better than the general population but those who got their vitamin K by eating the forbidden foods like egg yolks, cheese, animal fats and goose liver had substantially reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease (Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Feb 28, epub). Commenting on the research, Dr. Leon Schurgers from the University of Maastricht said: “This study confirms our findings in the Rotterdam study, showing that increased vitamin K2 strongly reduced the risk of coronary heart disease.” Unfortunately, the researchers can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that it is the fatty animal foods that protect us against heart disease. Instead they are calling for vitamin K supplementation. According to Gerrie-Cor Gast, lead author of the study, “Vitamin K2 might be, for instance, more relevant in the form of a supplement or in lowfat dairy” (www.nutraingredients.com, February 12, 2009).
Brown fat is a type of adipose tissue which has the sole purpose of expending energy. Biologists once thought that brown fat disappeared after infancy, but new studies show that most adults have unexpectedly large and active deposits of this calorie-burning fat. According to scientists, the only safe way to activate brown fat is to stay chilly, right on the verge of shivering, for prolonged periods. This causes the fat to use up calories to keep us warm. As expected, leaner people have more detectable brown fat than overweight people. Studies show that stimulating the production of brown fat in mice—which can be done by injecting them with a growth factor called BMP7—makes them resistant to gaining weight or to developing diabetes when fed a high-calorie diet (Washington Post, April 9, 2009). Naturally, scientists are looking for ways to increase brown fat in humans—by injection or pill—the typical reductionist mentality. What would be really interesting to know is what kind of nutritional support allows us to carry large amounts of brown fat from infancy into maturity, so that we know how to ensure that lucky condition of being able to eat lots of food but not gain weight.
“Scientists studying a mysterious neurological affliction in cats have discovered a surprising ability of the central nervous system to repair itself and restore function.” Thus begins a ScienceDaily report (March 31, 2009), “Cats’ Central Nervous System Can Repair Itself And Restore Function,” on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (March 30, 2009). The report describes remyelination in cats recovering from a “severe neurological disorder” indicating “a profound ability of the central nervous system to repair itself.” It’s only well into the report that we learn more about the “mysterious neurological disorder” and the finding that should really have made headlines. The cats that developed this “mysterious” affliction had been fed irradiated food during pregnancy! Within three or four months, the irradiated food caused neurological dysfunction, movement disorders, vision loss and paralysis. “It’s a very puzzling demyelinating disease,” said Ian Duncan, the lead researcher. Cats put back on a normal diet recovered, but here’s the really important part: the recovery of the cats was not a rapid one, but slow, and the restored myelin in the sheaths was not as thick as healthy myelin. In other words, irradiated food caused irreparable damage to the myelin sheaths. So much for spin-doctored headlines. What’s mysterious is how researchers could be so suborned by political correctness that they refrain from warning the public about the very real dangers of irradiated food uncovered in their research. “We think it is extremely unlikely that [irradiated food] could become a human health problem,” says Duncan. “We think it is species specific. It’s important to note these cats were fed a diet of irradiated food for a period of time.” Maybe they have been eating too much irradiated food!
New Look at Diabetes
In the Spring, 2008 issue of Wise Traditions, Dr. Tom Cowan describes research showing the link between our immune system and our emotions. When we experience emotional pain, our immune system suffers, leading to immune dysfunction and autoimmune disease, and illnesses like cancer, Crohn’s disease and type 1 diabetes. The standard explanation for type 1 diabetes is malfunction and death of the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. A recent study points to the model described by Dr. Cowan. Researchers Hans Michael Dosch and Michael Salter from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have found that malfunction of the pain nerves surrounding cells in the pancreas can cause type 1 diabetes. Dorsch had observed in previous research that islet cells in diabetics were surrounded by an “enormous” number of pain nerves that signaled to the brain that pancreatic tissue was damaged. When Dosch and Salter injected capsaicin (hot red pepper extract) into mice with type 1 diabetes to kill the animals’ pancreatic pain nerves, the islet cells began producing insulin normally almost immediately. Further research uncovered the fact that the pancreatic nerve cells were a vital part of the functioning of islet cells, secreting neuropeptides that tell the islets to release insulin. When the researchers injected the neuropeptide into the pancreases of the diabetic mice, their islet inflammation rapidly cleared up and, again, their diabetes disappeared. Some mice have remained “cured” for up to four months with a single injection. The capsaicinneuropeptide treatment also helped curb the insulin resistance that causes type 2 diabetes. Human trials are forthcoming (www.naturalnews.com/z021345.html). The real question is what causes the pancreatic neurons to malfunction in the first place? Several explanations come to mind: trans fats (which inhibit receptors and chemical reactions), lack of fat-soluble vitamins (needed for the production of neuropeptides), poor diet in general and childhood emotional trauma. While researchers will be looking for a magic, patentable fix, this research cries out for a truly holistic approach to diabetes.
Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star and SoBE, and herbal supplements like guarana, are increasingly popular among young people. Increased consumption of these caffeine- containing beverages may explain the rise in emergency hospital trips for caffeine poisoning. When people indulge in caffeine at toxic levels, the amount found in two to three cups of coffee or more, they can experience anxiety, headaches, dehydration, tremors, heart palpitations and nausea. The problem of caffeine overload is particularly harmful to still-developing teenagers and people with heart conditions. More than half the calls made to poison control centers regarding caffeine over indulgence were made on behalf of young people under the age of nineteen. Regular sodas also contain caffeine—a visit to Starbucks, a soft drink, an energy drink, a bar of chocolate can all add up to a life-threatening jolt to the adrenal glands and a trip to the emergency room.
Property owners in Ireland who obtain their water from private water wells are at significant risk of infection from virulent E. coli O157:H7. Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre reported five cases of kidney failure in children associated with the bug in 2007. The risk is much greater in rural than urban areas (www.independent.ie/health, April 14, 2009). Ireland is the European country with the greatest increase in confinement agriculture in recent years. Coincidence?
Trailing too closely behind trucks taking broiler chickens from factory farms to the slaughterhouse could expose motorists to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health took samples from cars that had driven two or three lengths behind flatbed trucks carrying open crates of conventionally raised caged chickens over a distance of seventeen miles and found increased levels of disease-causing bacteria in air samples from the outside and the inside of the cars. The study was carried out on the Delmarva Peninsula, which has one of the highest densities of broiler chickens per acre in the country (Washington Post, December 1, 2008).
Portent of Things to Come?
Two recent agricultural calamities—one with corn and one with cows—have ominous implications for the future of the industrial agricultural model. In three South African provinces, farmers planting genetically modified corn have suffered up to eighty percent crop failures. Three varieties of genetically modified corn did not pollinate properly. According to Monsanto, producer of the corn, the problem was just a mistake in the laboratory—hard to believe when three different varieties of corn were affected (www.digitaljournal.com/article/270101). In Germany, a mysterious illness causing calves to bleed to death has veterinarians stumped. The two-to-three-week-old calves begin bleeding massively and are often dead within hours. Theories as to the cause include vaccinations, radiation from cell towers, decades of inbreeding and genetically modified soy in the feed (www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,615962,00.html). Desperate farmers are turning to prayer, but it might be better to just turn the cows out on grass. Are these two events harbingers of industrial agriculture’s collapse? If so, the renaissance of small, pasture-based farms represents more than just a niche for yuppie consumers, but the difference between eating and starving.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2009.