VACCINES OVER BREASTFEEDING
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an excellent example of the distain of scientists for the natural world. Entitled “Inhibitory effect of breast milk in ineffectivity of live oral rotavirus vaccines,” the study claims that the immune-boosting effects of breastmilk are detrimental to the efficacy of vaccines (Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2010 Oct;29(10):919-23). And rather than side with nature and recommend letting breastmilk do its job without interference from vaccines, the researchers suggest withholding breastmilk to let vaccines do their jobs. The CDC researchers began their investigation by noting that children from underdeveloped countries typically do not respond as well to the live oral rotavirus vaccine as do children in developed countries. They concluded that the various components of breastmilk, such as immunoglobulin A, lactoferrin, and lysozyme, inhibit the vaccines from working. Oral rotavirus vaccines contain live viruses, have questionable efficacy in all circumstances, and are linked to a variety of negative side effects, including diarrhea, a condition the vaccine is supposed to prevent. But scientists adhere to the philosophy that drugs and vaccines are superior to nature’s perfect food: breastmilk. Or perhaps we should say “raw milk,” because all unpasteurized milk contains the immune components found in human breastmilk. We wonder whether public health officials will begin warning people not to drink raw milk because it will keep their vaccines from working!
Children in U.S. schools are not allowed to have whole milk on the premise that the butterfat in whole milk causes them to gain weight. Instead they are given lowfat or skim milk― which they hate―or flavored dairy beverages made from reconstituted dry milk and loads of sweeteners―there is more sugar in dairy drinks for school children than is found in most soft drinks. It turns out that this insane policy has no scientific basis. In a recent study, researchers from the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that after adjusting for ethnic and economic factors, children who drank skim or 1 percent milk had higher body mass index scores that those who drank whole or 2 percent milk (Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild- 2012-302941). “We found that among pre-schoolers, consumption of 1 percent skim milk was associated with overweight and obesity,” concluded the authors. These results are consistent with an earlier study from Sweden, which revealed that lower fat intake in children was associated with higher body mass index and greater insulin resistance (Am J Clin Nutr November 2006;84(5):1021-1026). Many children compensate for fat deprivation by binging on ice cream, which with its load of sugar is bound to contribute to weight gain. We suspect that there are higher profit margins on butterfat when it is put into ice cream rather than just left in the milk where it belongs. This would explain the dairy industry’s complicity in the current lowfat-milk policy; after all, why waste the profits from vital butterfat on growing children when the industry can make a lot more by putting it in ice cream.
Cartoon by Richard Morris
THE BUTTER POLICE
Meanwhile, in New York, the butter police are on the job. New York City school kitchen managers said they’ve being targeted and “bullied” by bureaucrats who have threatened “disciplinary action” for buying butter, in violation of a five-year-old policy against using or offering it in cafeterias. The policy prohibits school kitchens from cooking with it, or giving it to students for their bread. A recent email from one food manager to officials who oversee twenty-five schools screamed “Please explain why your managers are ordering BUTTER!!!. . . Every manager on this list has to get a disciplinary letter by close of business next week.” Schools chancellor Dennis Walcott got into the act by procaiming, “We have lofty guidelines that we set to make sure we reduce obesity and contribute to the health of our children. People shouldn’t be ordering butter.” Schools can order it on occasion for different types of events if the event doesn’t involve a child, explained Walcott, “But for our recipes during the day, in our cafeterias, it is not part of our recipe option at all.” Of course, the carcinogenic alternatives are fine. “You could get the same delicious product by cooking with vegetable oil instead of butter,” says Shara Greenspan, a registered dietician for Brown & Medina Nutrition in Manhattan. “And if it’s better, then why are we fighting it? I think that it’s a healthy move” (New York Daily News, May 10, 2013).
A just-published study should pour cold water on the vegetable oil zealots. The study looked at clinical trial data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study, first collected in the 1960s. The researcher found that substituting omega-6 linoleic acid (that is, commercial vegetable oils, which are almost 100 percent linoleic acid) for saturated fat increased the rates of death from all causes, including coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. “These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega-6 linoliec acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fat,” said the study authors (BMJ 2013;346:e8707). But the food Puritans are sticking to their guns, with just a little hemming and hawing. Catherine Collins, principal dietitian at St. George’s Hospital London, suggested boosting monounsaturated fat consumption, which “helps stabilise artery walls and make them more resistant to damage. Should we be concerned about our current intake of omega-6 polyunsaturates, linoleic acid in particular?” questioned Collins. “As a dietitian, I think not” (FoodNavigator.com, Feburary 11, 2013).
STATINS AND DIABETES
The studies are clear: taking statins raises the risk of developing diabetes. Researchers at the Toronto General Hospital found a 10-22 percent increased risk of diabetes for some statins (BMJ 2013;346:f2610). A study published last year found a 48 percent increase in risk―an increase that researchers described as “small” (Arch Intern Med 2012 Jan 23;172(2):144-52). But don’t expect any establishment warnings against taking statins any time soon. “We’ve known about this issue for several years,” said Steven Nissen, MD, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who argues that the benefits of statins far outweigh the risks―not surprisingly, since Nissen’s job is to promote statin use. “It is not a major consideration in deciding whether and who to treat,” he said. “Patients are not hurt” (Everyday Health, May 23, 2012).
BEADS ON A STRING
Statins are also associated with memory loss, which physicians usually insist is due to aging. But a team from the University of Arizona has documented pathological changes in brain cells treated with statin drugs: unusual swellings within neurons, which the team has termed the “beads-on-a-string” effect. “These very, very dramatic and obvious swelings are inside the neurons and act like a traffic pileup that is so bad that it disrupts the function of the neurons,” said Linda Restifo, lead researcher in the study. When the statins were removed, the beads on a string disappeared and normal growth was restored. But rather than make the obvious suggestion―don’t take statins!―the researchers, who have “multiple grants pending,” hope to do genetic studies “to come up with a predictive test so that a patient with high cholesterol could be tested first to determine whether they have a sensitivity to statins” (Sciencedaily.com, May 10, 2013).
PEOPLE GETTING DUMBER
A provocative new study suggests that human intelligence is on the decline, and in fact indicates that Westerners have lost fourteen IQ points since the Victorian era. The researchers looked at studies on visual reaction times―how long it takes to press a button in response to seeing stimulus. Reaction time reflects a person’s mental processing speed, and so is considered an indication of general intelligence. Since the late nineteenth century, visual reaction times have increased from an average of 194 milliseconds to 275. According to the head research, Dr. Jan te Nijenhuis, the decline is due to the fact that women of intelligence are having fewer children; in fact, he says, the decline may be even greater than what the study results suggest because environmental factors, “such as better education, hygiene and nutrion,” may mask the true decline in “genetically inherited intelligence in the Western world” (Huffington Post, May 22, 2013). No one is considering the possiblity that nutrition is a bigger factor than genetics when it comes to intelligence, and that in fact, our nutrition is getting worse. How can we expect anything but decline when our babies and growing children are deprived of the very things they need to develop normal brains: cholesterol and saturated fat.
NO BENEFIT TO SALT REDUCTION
Current dogma, promulgated by the American Heart Association and other groups, insists that reducing salt consumption to about one-half teaspoon per day would dramatically reduce high blood pressure and deaths from heart disease. But a new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found no reason to reduce salt consumption from current levels of 2,300 mg sodium (about one and one-half teaspoons per day). “As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. The committee noted possible harms from drastic salt reduction, including increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death. However, the American Heart Association reaffirmed its position in favor of dramatic salt reduction, even in light of the new report (New York Times, May 14, 2013).
ATTACK OF THE SLIME
Minnesota researchers are trying to figure out the source of a greyish-brown foam forming on top of manure pits that’s causing hog farms in the Midwest to unexpectedly explode. Farmers first noticed the issue in 2009 when incidents of pit foaming resulted in barn explosions that killed thousands of pigs. The foam, which can reach up to four feet high, captures methane, which becomes explosive when ignited by anything from an electric spark to a cigarette (Businessinsider.com, February 10 2012). Scientists think it could be caused by a new species of bacteria that forms in the manure pits. . . . but maybe it is just nature’s way of telling us that confinement farming is a thoroughly gross idea.
PESTICIDES IN PRODUCE
Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes test results for pesticides in conventionally grown produce. Of the forty-eight fruit and vegetable categories tested by the EWG for their 2013 guide, the following fifteen fruits and vegetables had the highest pesticide load, so best to opt for organic versions:
|Grapes||Hot Peppers||Nectarines (imported)||Peaches|
|Potatoes||Spinach||Strawberries||Sweet Bell Peppers|
|Kale||Collard Greens||Summer Squash|
The safest conventionally produced fruit and vegetables are listed below. Note that a small amount of sweet corn and most Hawaiian papaya are genetically engineered. If you are unsure of whether the sweet corn or papaya is genetically engineered, it’s best to choose organic varieties.