Choline is an essential nutrient found in cholesterol-rich foods like liver and egg yolks. Among many other roles, it supports neurological development and mental health, and protects against fatty liver disease. So it will be no surprise to our readers that establishment nutritionists have choline in the crosshairs. For example, a recent paper published in Nature suggests that dietary choline may contribute to heart disease (Nature 2011;472(7341):57-63). The authors argue that dietary choline, found mostly in a form called phosphatidylcholine, enters the intestine where our gut bacteria convert it to free choline and then to trimethylamine, a gas that smells like rotting fish. Then our livers detoxify the trimethylamine to an odorless product called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), and TMAO, the authors argue, fills our arteries with plaque. In support of this hypothesis, the authors showed that blood levels of choline, its metabolic byproduct betaine, and TMAO all correlated with the incidence and severity of cardiovascular disease in humans (although this was not prospective data showing that the occurrence of these compounds in the blood early in life predicted the development of heart disease later in life). They also showed that feeding mice phosphatidylcholine did in fact produce TMAO, but only in the presence of gut bacteria. Further, feeding mice five-fold or ten-fold higher concentrations of choline chloride than they would ordinarily receive, or simply feeding them TMAO itself, increased atherosclerotic lesion size, and atherosclerotic lesion size correlated with blood levels of TMAO. There’s just one major problem with this hypothesis. Studies in humans have shown that neither phosphatidylcholine nor choline-rich foods produce detectable increases in trimethylamine. For example, in a 1999 study, researchers fed forty-six different foods to humans and looked at the subsequent excretion of trimethylamine and TMAO. Choline-rich foods like liver and eggs did not produce any increase in urinary trimethylamine or TMAO over control levels. But how should we interpret the correlation between heart disease risk and plasma concentrations of choline, betaine and TMAO in humans? Blood levels of choline are currently considered an emerging marker for destabilization of coronary plaques or ischemia in acute coronary syndrome, as reviewed here. During the process of blood clotting, inflammatory enzymes release choline from membrane phospholipids in order to also generate phosphatidic acid, which is used as an important signaling molecule. Elevated blood levels of choline, then, and perhaps its metabolite betaine, could simply reflect an inflammatory or pro-clotting environment—they are an indicator, not a cause. Elevated TMAO could reflect dietary trimethylamine or TMAO from seafood, but it could also reflect impaired excretion into the urine, or enhanced conversion of trimethylamine to TMAO in the liver. So you can continue to enjoy egg yolks and liver, as we have no evidence that eating choline-rich animal foods increases TMAO at all. For further information, see Chris Masterjohn’s blog, “Does Dietary Choline Contribute to Heart Disease?” at www.westonaprice.org.
Health officials are warning about rising rates of degenerative disease in developing countries. No longer diseases of rich nations, cancer and heart disease are increasing throughout the world. For example, more than half of all people newly diagnosed with cancer in 2008 lived in developing countries such as Nigeria, Egypt and Brazil, compared to just 15 percent in 1970. The projected increase in cancer deaths for 2002-2020 is over 60 percent for South Central Asia, North Africa, West Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, compared with 20 percent for Europe. To explain these epidemics, health officials cite the fact that people are living longer and dying less frequently from infectious disease (Scientific American, December 2010). There is no mention of fundamental dietary changes (such as replacing animal fats with vegetable oils) and heavy use of pesticides and other chemicals as developing nations embrace industrial agriculture and modern food processing technology.
THE STRONG CHIN IMPERATIVE
Psychologists at the University of Toronto and Tufts University have shown that law firms are more profitable when led by managing partners with “powerful-looking” faces. Their studies also showed that an individual’s career success can be predicted thirty to forty years earlier simply by looking at his or her face. Researchers asked participants to judge photos of seventy-three managing partners from the top one hundred American law firms in 2007. They used a scale of one to seven to measure qualities like dominance, facial maturity, likability and trustworthiness. Half the judges rated current photos downloaded from the law firm website, while the other half rated college yearbook photos of the same individuals taken an average of thirty-three years earlier. The researchers found that the managing partners whose faces were ranked the highest for dominance and facial maturity tended to lead firms with higher profits. This also held true with the partner’s yearbook photos (U of T Magazine, Spring 2011, Vol 38, No 3). This study provides a good indication that children blessed to be born into WAPF families today, nourished in such a way to express optimal facial (and intellectual) characteristics, will be the leaders of the future.
STARVATION OF THE UNBORN
One hundred obese mothers-to-be will be given the antidiabetic drug Metformin as part of a three-year study “to tackle obesity rates and reduce the number of difficult births.” Patients at Liverpool Women’s Hospital will be given the drug to reduce the food supply to their unborn babies, although it will not help the mothers themselves to lose weight. Leading the trial, senior lecturer in obstetrics, Dr. Andrew Weeks, said: “It is about trying to improve outcomes in pregnancy for women who are overweight” (May 11, 2011). We’d like for Dr. Weeks to explain how starving the developing fetus can help improve outcomes or do anything but create misery for these poor souls.
The latest craze in nutraceuticals is the melatonin-enhanced brownie. Sold as Lazy Cakes, Kush Cakes and Lulla Pies, the pastries are marketed as a “delicious chocolate alternative to medication and harmful narcotics to help you safely relax and fall asleep.” Two Massachusetts mayors have called for a ban on the products, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has asked the FDA to clarify its regulatory position on food additives as melatonin-laced foods and beverages gain in popularity. Last January, the FDA issued a warning letter to the makers of the relaxation beverage Drank, saying the melatonin it contains is an unapproved food additive (FoodNavigator-USA.com, May 19, 2011). There’s just one little problem with banning melatonin from the food supply—it means that logically all other hormones should be banned as well, such as genistein derived from soy, added to bread, diet replacement drinks, salad dressings and many other food products.
THE LIVER OF BAKED PIG
Our thanks to an astute member for noticing this blurb about a March 1968 National Geographic photo: “Riding a king-size board, the 325-pound [Tongan king] Taufa’ahau surfs in Pacific combers.” The photographer, the late Luis Marden, observed that low calories were not of high importance in Tonga. “Sauntering youths call out to a passing beauty, ‘Foi’atelolo, ta omu’a mata mahina hopo!’ (O fat liver full of oil, let us go and watch the moonrise!)” Noted Marden, “The liver of a baked pig is the choice morsel reserved for chiefs, and so fond are the Tongans of fat and oily food that any right-minded Tongan girl is enormously pleased at such flattery” (National Geographic, November 2007). Note the fine physiques on all the surfers in the photo, not just the plus-sized king.
WHITE BREAD AND PASTEURIZED MILK
WAPF member John Myser has uncovered a copy of the Northwestern Health Journal from June 1929. The first page features a letter promoting the use of pasteurized milk as a protection against milk-borne disease, along with the names of local pasteurizing dairies. “We advocate the use of safe [pasteurized] milk as we believe it to be the best health-building food available and should be included in the diet of adults as well as children.” The rest of the issue promotes white bread as an “essential” in the diet. “The unjustified war on white flour has done great harm to health in many cases.” In anticipation of the USDA food pyramid, the millers of the northwest advocated nine slices of white bread per day— consumed as toast, in sandwiches, and in sugary desserts such as chocolate bread pudding and chocolate soufflé—and to teach infants early to eat bread and cereals. Pasteurized milk and white bread indeed go hand in hand as the wedge that forced processed food on western peoples.
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
A report from Tambul, Sudan describes not bread and cereal as the breakfast of champions, but raw camel liver. “If I eat liver, I can stay out in the sun for a long time without feeling tired,” says Mubarak Mohammed Ahmed. “It gives me a lot of energy and it improves my mood.” The villagers believe that the liver provides the most benefit when eaten unwashed. “It’s very tasty — it’s my favorite dish,” says Abdullah Abdul Mahmoud. “I’ve been eating raw liver since I was born, just like my father and my grandfather before me,” says Abdul Azim Ali. True to form, health officials have focused on raw liver as a health problem, blaming cases of plague in a remote Saudi village from villagers eating infected raw camel liver. Mahmoud disagrees: “I’ve never fallen sick from eating this,” he said. “The liver is so healthy it’s like taking medicine” (www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/20).
Don Huber, a noted plant scientist from Purdue University, is putting himself in the line of fire by warning about newly discovered dangers of the herbicide glyphosate. Marketed as Roundup, the herbicide was applied to the tune of 185 million pounds in 2007, mostly to genetically engineered Roundup-resistant corn and soy beans. According to Huber, the problem with glyphosate is that it weakens the plant’s defenses, making it more susceptible to pathogens, particularly to an extremely tiny pathogen that Huber’s team has discovered. This pathogen causes infertility and spontaneous abortion in animals that eat Roundup Ready crops. In January, Huber sent a letter to USDA, urging them to delay approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa until studies could be carried out on this vital perennial crop. But USDA approved Roundup Ready alfalfa anyway, paving the way for a massive crisis in animal agriculture. No farmer can stay in business with the high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortion that the new organism seems to be causing in cattle, pigs and poultry.
Even more ominous is a new study showing that pesticides implanted into genetically engineered food crops are reaching the bloodstreams of pregnant women and their unborn babies. Researchers at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada, found that 93 percent of blood samples taken from pregnant women and 80 percent from umbilical cords tested positive for traces of the toxins (Reproductive Toxicology, 2011 Feb 18). The study shows the fallacy of claims that these toxins are destroyed in the gut—industry assurances that food safety authorities in Britain and Europe have accepted as valid. Scientists speculate that the toxins could lead to allergies, miscarriage, abnormalities or even cancer.
VITAMIN A SUCCESS
Misinformation about vitamin A abounds, but one thing is certain, vitamin A saves lives in Third World countries. A recent Cochrane review estimated that vitamin A supplementation programs for children under five could save one million lives per year. The researchers reviewed data from forty-three randomized trials, representing more than two hundred thousand children. They concluded that vitamin A supplementation is effective in reducing all-cause mortality by 24 percent, mainly via a reduced occurrence of measles and diarrhea. Head researcher Butta noted that vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in low and middle income countries (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 12 doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008524.pub2). Meanwhile, signs of vitamin A deficiency in rich countries like the U.S. are ignored in favor of pharmaceutical interventions. Establishment nutritionists continue to insist that vitamin A is toxic, or that we can get vitamin A from plant foods like orange fruits and leafy green vegetables. Plus many vitamin A supplements use beta-carotene rather than true vitamin A.
DAIRY FATS AND HEART DISEASE
An excellent source of vitamin A is butterfat, found in whole dairy products, cheese and, of course, butter, which many people avoid in the belief that they cause heart disease. However, recent evidence indicates that these dairy foods could actually benefit the heart. A team of researchers from Sweden measured blood levels of two biomarkers of milk fat in over four hundred heart attack patients and over five hundred healthy controls. The markers, pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid, provide a good indication of how much dairy fat a person has been eating. The researchers found that people with the highest levels of milk fat biomarkers were actually at lower risk of heart attack; for women the risk was reduced by 26 percent and for men the risk was 9 percent lower (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2010 92(1):194-202).
COD LIVER OIL AND CRAYFISH
Claude Stanley Choles, the last World War I combat veteran, died in May at the age of one hundred ten. When asked his secret for longevity, he sometimes chalked his good health to cod liver oil. According to his children, it was the love of his family that kept him going for so many years (Star Tribune, May 5, 2011). But maybe taking cod liver oil makes one loveable! Choles also enjoyed crayfishing. The combination of cod liver oil and crayfish ensured plentiful amounts of vitamin A and D to support a long and happy life.
THE FOOD RAVE CRAVE
The latest trend in food is underground night markets for foodies, with live music, disco balls, bouncers and dozens of unlicensed food vendors—called “civil disobedience on a paper plate.” The underground market seeks to encourage food entrepreneurship by helping vendors avoid roughly one thousand dollars worth of fees—including those for health permits and liability insurance—required by day time farmers markets. Originating in San Francisco, where vendors selling delicious foods attract thousands of nocturnal foodies, the trend has migrated to Chicago, Washington and Atlanta. Typically vendors pay fifty dollars to reserve a cooking space and 10 percent of sales over five hundred dollars. Market organizers sidestep city health inspections by operating as a private club. Promoters attribute the success of the markets to consumers searching for healthier alternatives to commercial industrial food (New York Times, April 15, 2011).