America on Parade
What America Eats is the subject of a special issue of Parade Magazine (11/11/01). In it we learn that the average amount of time spent preparing the family dinner is 33 minutes; that one-third of Americans buy more convenience foods than they did just two years ago; that pizza is America’s favorite food; and that 66 percent of Americans eat breakfast at home—usually cold cereal. Sixty-eight percent of Americans eat cold cereal as a snack and 27 percent admit to having cold cereal for dinner. Americans are eating more chicken, fish and veggie burgers. Still, 82 percent of Americans eat cold cuts. Nutrition advice includes eating more fish, more tea and more monounsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil. Since Americans are eating less meat and eggs, foodmakers are fortifying “healthier” foods with choline, a nutrient needed for brain development, which we used to get from meat and eggs. A Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld advises Americans to eat a “good” breakfast of orange juice, skim milk (or soy milk) and cereal, but to avoid bacon, ham and sausages. “Such a breakfast can only lead to diabetes, hypertension, obesity and hardening of the arteries,” he says, and is “. . . worse than no breakfast at all.” “Experts” providing food advice include the CEOs of Nestlé, ConAgra, Kraft and Campbell Soup, who predict that next year Americans will use more processed foods. Interspersed with this ageless wisdom are advertisements for drugs to treat menopause, heartburn and osteoarthritis, and mattress pads for fibromyalgia sufferers.
Broth for Athletes
Few remember the American athlete Gertrude Ederle, cheered with confetti by an estimated two million New Yorkers in 1926. Two years earlier, at the age of 19, she had swum across the English Channel. Because conditions were rough, she did not swim in the 21-mile straight line she had anticipated, but a 35-mile course from Cap Gris-Nez, France to Kingsdown, near Deal, on the English coast. Nevertheless, she set a record—14 hours and 31 minutes, breaking the previous record of 16 hours 23 minutes set in 1923 by Sebastian Tirabocchi, an Italian. What fare gave her the strength to made the arduous crossing? Cold chicken and beef broth, supplied by her companion boat. Back in the early part of the 20th century, athletes recognized the strengthening powers of broth and knew that they needed to eat meat, not candy bars. (Today they’re called “energy bars.”) Earlier, Ederle had won a gold medal at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris as leadoff swimmer of the US 4-X 100-meter freestyle relay team, as well as two bronzes in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle events. In 1933, however, Ederle fractured her spine in a fall and spent the next four-and-a half years in a cast. Perhaps she had forgotten about the broth by this time. Still, Ederle is alive today, at age 94, in a nursing home in Wyckoff, NJ (Chemical & Engineering News, 5/14/01).
Milk and Breast Cancer
A surprising study from Norway found that women who drank more than three glasses of milk per day as children and in adulthood had half the risk of breast cancer compared with women not drinking milk. The researchers studied almost 49,000 women, ages 34-39 (International Journal of Cancer 9/01). Four years earlier, Finnish researchers also found that women who drank milk had lower rates of breast cancer. (Cancer Lett 1997, 114:251-53). Swedish researchers attributed the protective effects to conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is found in milk fat. The problem is, milk drinkers in the US today are unlikely to take in much CLA from milk, partly because confinement dairying methods, which are the norm in America, deny cows green growing grass, without which they cannot produce CLA, and also because most women today are avoiding whole milk. Even if the cows producing our milk are grass-fed, it does no good to drink the milk if the fat is not there.
More Bad News About Vegetable Oils
The Finnish study mentioned above found that women who consumed fried meat had higher rates of breast cancer. While the media may blame the increased cancer on meat, the culprit is more likely to be the fats used for frying—rancid commercial liquid vegetable oils or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Another Finnish study found that children who consumed lots of vegetable oils were more prone to allergies (Allergy 2001;56:425-428). Another study found that mice fed excessive corn oil had increased caloric intake and obesity (Nutrition 2001 Feb;17(2)117-20). Researchers in Australia discovered that consumption of vegetable oils is associated with increased rates of asthma (Thorax Vol 56, p 589). Researchers have also found that high vegetable oil consumption is associated with increased rates of macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in adults (Arch Ophthalmol Aug 200; 119:1191-1199). These are just several of hundreds of studies indicating that modern vegetable oils are bad news indeed—they’ll make you prone to allergies, asthma and overweight, and possibly give you cancer and make you blind as well.
Pippi Longstocking and a Cat Named Bits
Swedish farmers were upset in the late 1980s when the Swedish government adopted the toughest animal welfare laws in the world , mandating adequate space and straw bedding for penned livestock, outlawing tethers for poultry and limiting the amount of automation in animal care and feeding. Animal parts were prohibited for cattle feeding and antibiotics were disallowed. The instigator of the drive for animal welfare laws was an employee of Swedish Radio, Erik Fichtelius, whose cat Bits had died from contaminated pet food. He was joined by Astrid Lindgren, creator of the Pippi Longstocking children’s books, who played such an important role in lobbying for the new law that it is sometimes referred to as “Astrid Lindgren’s Law.” The anger of farmers dissolved into extreme gratitude during the European BSE affair. The Swedes enjoyed record profits for their disease-free beef and pork. Anders Olsson, a pig farmer, cursed and re-mortgaged his farm to comply with Sweden’s requirements. Today he is selling his beef and pork at the highest prices ever. “I was angry when the new law came in,” he said, “but in hindsight, I can see it was a very good decision” (Boston Sunday Globe, 3/18/01).
Another Crack in the Dike
The soy industry is working overtime in damage control efforts as more and more studies confirm what has been known in scientific circles for over 60 years—that soy can be toxic except when prepared properly and consumed in small amounts. This news is finally leaking into the mainstream press. “Are Women Overdoing Soy?” was the title of a short article in the November, 2001 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. The article quotes Regina G. Ziegler, PhD, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, who notes that a 1996 study that concluded that soy may reduce the risk of breast cancer was based on Asian women who ate just one serving of soy per day. Ziegler expressed concern that women are consuming large amounts of soy in the form of soy ice creams, burgers, powders and energy bars. “We have no idea what soy can do to the body in large doses,” says Ziegler. The article notes that since 1996, soy’s cancer-fighting ability has come into doubt and that new research suggests that soy in high doses may promote, rather than prevent, breast cancer. Similar concerns have been expressed in the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (May, 2000) where Barry Goldin, PhD, a specialist in plant estrogens, points out that soy may raise the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Ziegler recommends that women have no more than one serving of soy per day and to stay away from soy supplements that contain high levels of isoflavones. She should have added that soy in Asia is usually consumed as a fermented food in a diet that is highly supportive of the thyroid gland, and never as a replacement for quality animal foods.
Symptoms of endocrine disruption continue to emerge. Wise Traditions readers are aware of the large number of girls showing signs of early puberty, such as breast development and pubic hair, before the age of 8. Another sign is the declining ratio of boys to girls in live births and the increase in birth defects among male children, especially in areas where there is a high usage of hormone-disrupting pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Now we learn that boys are entering puberty at earlier and earlier ages, particularly African-American boys (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, September, 2001). The study found that 21 percent of African-American boys had developed pubic hair before their tenth birthday. Researchers speculate that exposure to environmental chemicals that mimic estrogens—everything from pesticides to hair-care products—is the cause. The isoflavones in soy also mimic estrogens and in studies with animals, consumption of high levels of isoflavones often manifests in very early development in males. The coloring up of tropical birds, a process governed by hormones, occurs much earlier than expected when the birds are fed soy. In humans, soy infant feeding seems to have two distinct results—sexual development that is either precocious or inhibited.
If you listen to establishment nutritionists, you’d think that raw milk was the most dangerous food you could possibly consume. “I’d rather jump off a ten-story building than consume raw milk,” is a statement that has been reported to us. Yet raw milk has been commercially available in California for decades, with not a single adverse result. In the meantime, cases of foodborne illness from contaminated meat products continue to mount. In December, 1998, Sara Lee Corporation recalled 35 million pounds of hot dogs and luncheon meats because of Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Fifteen people died, six miscarried and 80 became seriously ill as a result of eating infected food. Sara Lee recently pleaded guilty and agreed to a $200,000 fine, plus a $1.2 million settlement in a civil suit with the US Department of Defense. The company also agreed to bestow a $3 million grant for food safety research to Michigan State University—an institution characterized by its implacable opposition to raw milk consumption. Another food recall occurred in the southern states as Excel Corporation, a Georgia firm, voluntarily recalled approximately 190,000 pounds of fresh ground beef and pork that may have been contaminated with a virulent strain of E. coli. The meat products were sold at Kroger stores in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee (Nutrition Week, 7/2/01). Last year, Iowa Beef Processors was forced to recall 500,000 pounds of ground beef from 35 states and the District of Columbia because of possible contamination with the same deadly strain of E. coli. Yet no one is talking about prohibiting the sale of fresh or processed meats. Instead, raw milk serves as the scapegoat, on which the food industry heaps all the sins of dirty processing plants.
Dominating the Dairy Industry
Suiza Foods Corporation, a multinational corporation based in Texas, dominates milk sales in the US. Together with Parmalait, another multinational, the two companies control 80 percent of market share in America. A recent antitrust settlement between Suiza and the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont has blocked an agreement between the corporation and Stop & Shop Supermarket Company that would have strengthened Suiza’s dominance even more. The agreement between Suiza and Stop & Shop would have provided the chain a supply of Suiza dairy products while prohibiting the sale of certain other branded dairy products. In addition, the agreement required Stop & Shop to sell their dairy processing plants to Suiza. Under the settlement, Suiza will offer 30 million gallons of its New England milk processing capacity to competitors over the next five years. It also requires Stop & Shop to sell its dairy plant to another party. Suiza must also notify the Attorneys General in the New England states of future acquisitions or plant closures in that area (Nutrition Week 7/2/01). There are big stakes in the dairy business and lots of money being thrown around for worthless products. There is only one way to get big business out of dairy farming and that is to buy Real Milk straight from the farmer—something that is easy to do in most New England states.
Most of the milk, cheese, chicken, eggs, pork and salmon consumed in the US comes from animals raised in confinement. Such factory farming is said to be more efficient and more profitable than old-fashioned mixed farms. When all goes well, confinement animal production can indeed provide good profits to investors. But things do not always go well, and mother nature has a way of exacting revenge on those who abuse her. The scourge of the factory farm is disease, which can wipe out huge investments overnight. Several large salmon farms have recently been hit with infectious salmon anemia, a virus that is harmless to humans but kills fish. At one facility in Maine, the infection carried off 45,000 salmon. The disease, which causes internal bleeding and eventually destroys organs, especially the kidneys, has also been found in wild fish, but wild fish can be expected to have more resistance. With every generation of farmed fish, however, resistance is likely to decline, leading to the eventual demise of confinement fish-breeding. The demise of the dairy industry is also imminent as the average dairy cow now lives only 42 months and the cost of replacement cows can be as high as $4000 each. Perhaps this is why Horizon, Suiza’s brand of organic milk, is putting its dairy farms up for sale—including a 465-acre farm in Colorado, a 600-acre farm in Sacramento and a 1000-cow operation in Hall, Idaho. The industry is learning the hard way that nature must be obeyed. And that means that cows cannot eat grain and soy and give 30 to 40 gallons of milk per day, generation after generation, when they were only designed to eat grass and produce a fraction of that amount.
In our last issue we listed the various recalls of defective infant formula over the last twenty years. Add another one to the list. Mead Johnson recently recalled certain batches of Nutramigen powder and Nutramigen ready-to-use infant formula because the Spanish-language label for both products gave incorrect preparation instructions that could lead to serious adverse health effects. If not properly prepared, children could suffer seizures, irregular heartbeat, renal failure or even death. The English-language instructions are correct, according to the company, and present no danger (Nutrition Week, 7/16/01).
Cancer incidence has increased steadily since 1973, when the government began to keep track of cancer rates. The overall incidence in the US rose 1.1 percent per year between 1973 and 1996, about 11,000 more cancers per million people each year. While for some cancers the increase appears to have leveled off, for many others, particularly breast and prostate cancer, the levels continue to rise (NCI 1996, NCI, 1997). Is the increase in cancer rates just a sign that we have better detection methods and an aging population? The answer is no. According to the National Cancer Institute, all of the rates represent the increase after accounting for an aging population. And better detection cannot explain the overall dramatic climb that has occurred during the past 30 years. The most tragic increases have occurred in childhood cancers. In the 20 years from 1975 to 1995, childhood cancer rates rose 20 percent from 128 cases per million children in 1975 to 154 cases per million in 1995. Between 1992 and 1996, 20 out of every 100,000 preschool-age children were diagnosed with cancer. Childhood leukemia increased by about 17 percent between 1973 and 1996 and childhood brain cancer rose 26 percent between 1973 and 1996 (EPA 2000). The culprit is first and foremost the adulteration of the America food supply—including the presence of MSG and other neurotoxins in infant formula and baby foods—coupled with a huge increase in pesticide use. In 1990, there were 100,000 percent more chemical residues on farm products than in 1945. According to the Environmental Working Group of Washington, DC, “Millions of children in the United States receive up to 35 percent of their entire lifetime dose of some carcinogenic pesticides by age 5. At just one year, the average US child will already have received the acceptable lifetime doses of eight pesticides from just 20 commonly eaten foods.” Truly the sins of the fathers are visited on the children (and on the fathers also.)
Yikes! The Yoghurt Is Spiked!
Properly fermented yoghurt is rich in lactobacilli which contribute to the health of the intestines, aid digestion and even act to prevent cancer. Studies have shown an antitumor activity of lactobacilli in colon cancer and reduced risk of breast cancer in women who consume fermented milk products. Therefore, the consumer is not expecting that the yoghurt he consumes might actually contain compounds that are harmful. But believe it or not, the National Yoghurt Association petitioned the FDA to allow aspartame in yoghurt un-labeled—and the FDA approved their request! Those who are sensitive to aspartame have reported headaches and other adverse effects upon eating certain brands of yoghurt. Yoghurt-eaters need to be very careful about the brands they buy—or make their own with whole milk. (Reduced-fat milks have added powdered milk which is rancid and contains MSG!)
Fair Is Foul
Does the smell of microwave popcorn make you nauseated? Do you have to cover your nose when entering and leaving a movie theatre lobby? You may be reacting to artificial butter flavoring. Workers at a microwave popcorn plant in Jasper, Missouri, who are exposed to the flavoring eight hours per day, have developed a rare lung disease that investigators believe was caused by breathing vapors from artificial butter flavoring. Eight employees at the Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation have developed bronchiolitis obliterans, a type of irreversible lung damage—four of them need lung transplants—and an additional 21 of the plant’s 117 workers show signs of lung problems. Tests with rats found similar effects. Specialists assure us that the problem is limited to workers who inhale large amounts of the butter flavoring vapors from big vats and that there is no danger to people who work in theatres or who microwave popcorn at home. But just in case the specialists are wrong, we suggest you make your popcorn the old fashioned way and toss it in real butter.
Now for the Good News
The natural activities of growing plants can help clean toxic chemicals, heavy metals and even radiation from contaminated soil and water. The process, known as phytoremediation, is an increasingly popular choice for restoring polluted sites around the world. Some of the species now being studied or already in use include mustard, alfalfa, tomato, pumpkin, bamboo, cord grass, sunflowers, willows and poplars. Certain varieties of the mustard plant accumulate metals from contaminated soils and are even being used to absorb radioactive particles from soils around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Other plants are being used to clean up pesticides and fertilizers. Selected species planted in wetlands can filter contaminated runoff from mines (Environmental News Service 2000). These low-tech solutions to the problems caused by mechanization suggest that we should use similar low-tech approaches to solve other problems of the industrial age—nutrition to solve chronic disease, for example, and a return to mixed farming to combat world hunger and poverty. There is no problem that does not have a solution and we predict that the low-tech, old-fashioned approach will save the day.