A frequent side effect of elective surgery is postoperative delirium, a serious mental state characterized by disorganized thinking and an altered level of consciousness. A recent study found that the use of statin drugs is associated with an increased risk of postoperative delirium among elderly patients undergoing elective surgery—not surprising given the fact that statins lower cholesterol levels, and cholesterol is essential for normal brain function (CMAJ 2008 Sep 23; 179(7):627). Unfortunately, many elderly patients are put on statins, even if their cholesterol levels are already low.
THE DEADLY FIVE-IN-ONE
The “pentavalent” vaccine combines immunological materials for five diseases in one injection: diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, pneumonia-meningitis (Hib) and hepatitis B. While not licensed by the FDA it is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), who together with the Gates Foundation heavily promote its use in the developing world. Unfortunately, the five-in-one seems to be especially deadly. In an editorial published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME, Vol X, July-Sept 2013), Dr. Jacob Puliyel, head of pediatrics at St. Stephens Hospital in New Delhi, reports twelve deaths and nine other non-fatal serious adverse events following administration of the vaccine. According to local news reports, all the babies who died were in good health prior to vaccination and had serious trouble breathing before dying shortly afterwards. As Dr. Puliyel stated in his editorial asking India to protect the nation’s children from this vaccine, “Trivializing all these deaths as coincidental deaths, or deaths due to SIDS, amounts to obscuring the real picture.” He also crunched the numbers and found that giving Indian children this vaccine didn’t even make any logical sense from a health care standpoint because, “It is apparent that to save 350 lives from Hib disease, 3,125 children will die from the adverse effects of the vaccine.”
TYLENOL AND AUTISM
Babies and children often get Tylenol (acetaminophen) after receiving a vaccination, and today many pediatricians are recommending a dose of Tylenol just before the vaccine, and even on a daily basis up to five days before the vaccine, in order to counteract the frequent post-vaccination high fever reaction. In an October 2013 webinar (www.greatplainslaboratory. com/home/eng/Acetaminophen.asp) endocrine expert William Shaw, PhD, makes the case that it is this allegedly “safe” over-the-counter painkiller that triggers autism in susceptible children, not the vaccination itself. Acetaminophen depletes glutathione, the body’s key cellular enzyme for antioxidant activity. Especially in children, a drop in glutathione may cause buildup of toxins and trigger brain changes. Dr. Shaw points out that in Cuba, the vaccination rate against measles is 99.7 percent, but the rate of autism there is about three hundred times lower than in the U.S. The reason may be that acetaminophen is not given to children after vaccinations in Cuba; in fact, acetaminophen is not approved for over-thecounter use in Cuba.
PASTEURIZED MILK AND ACNE
Milk maids were known for their beautiful skin, but many studies link consumption of modern dairy products with acne and other skin problems. When the link began to emerge between milk consumption and acne back in the 1960s, dermatologists often recommended that acne patients give up dairy foods. With the advent of medications to treat acne (usually synthetic vitamin A), such dietary advice became less common. Still, the evidence continued to pile up. For example a 2008 study found a strong correlation between acne and consumption of skim milk in teenage boys (J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008 May;58(5):787-93). A 2010 review article found a weak association of acne with dairy, especially skim milk, and a stronger association with consumption of refined sweeteners (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology July 2010 63(1) 124-141). Holistic dermatologist Alan Dattner, MD, recommends all his acne patients limit dairy foods—conventional dairy foods, that is. But what if raw milk could actually help prevent acne and contribute to beautiful skin? Fables about beautiful milk maids suggest that this could be the case and modern science gives us the reasons why. Raw milk contributes to gut integrity and supports balanced gut flora, both prerequisites for healthy skin. And European studies indicate that raw milk is strongly protective against eczema in infants, so it is not such a stretch to the premise that raw milk protects against blemishes in teenagers.
TOXINS TIED TO INCOME LEVEL
The bodies of the rich contain unique chemical pollutants, according to new research reported at qz.com. Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researcher Jessica Tyrrell and colleagues from the University of Exeter found that most Americans, both rich and poor, are walking waste dumps for toxins like mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and bisphenol. The buildup of environmental toxins in the body afflicts rich and poor alike, but the type of toxin varies by wealth. America’s rich are harboring chemicals associated with what are normally considered healthy lifestyles. People who can afford sushi and other sources of aquatic lean protein appear to be paying the price with a buildup of heavy metals in their bodies, said Tyrrell. The rich had higher levels of mercury, arsenic, caesium and thallium, all of which tend to accumulate in fish and shellfish. (Not mentioned: the rich may have higher exposure to mercury from vaccinations and dental fillings, and to arsenic through consumption of chicken.) The rich also had higher levels of benzophenone-3, an oxybenzone, the active ingredient in most sunscreens. By contrast, America’s poor have toxins associated with exposure to plastics and cigarette smoke. Higher rates of cigarette smoking among those of lower means seem to be associated with higher levels of lead and cadmium. Poor people in America also had higher levels of bisphenol-A, used to line cans and other food containers, but is banned in the EU, Malaysia, South Africa, China and, in the U.S., in baby bottles. Previous research has established that well-off Americans are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables and less likely to eat “energydense” fast food and snacks, but this work establishes that in some ways, in moving up the economic ladder Americans are simply trading one set of environmental toxins for another.
GUT BACTERIA AND THE BRAIN
The notion that our gut bacteria can affect brain function, even to the point of causing autism in cases of severe gut dysbiosis, attracted heaps of scorn when first proposed, but accumulating research continues to reveal the fascinating connection. In experiments with mice, researchers have found that changes in gut bacteria can cause changes in both brain chemistry and behavior. One experiment involved replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice. The mice became less anxious, more gregarious and vice versa—bold mice became timid when they got the microbes of anxious ones. Furthermore, aggressive mice calmed down when the scientists altered their microbes by changing their diet, feeding them probiotics or dosing them with antibiotics. To find out what might be causing the behavior changes, the researchers then measured brain chemistry in mice. They found changes in a part of the brain involved in emotion and mood, including increases in a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which plays a role in learning and memory (Current Opinion in Microbiology Jun 2013 16(3):240–245). The research is stimulating scientists to propose probiotic therapy for treating behavioral disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression—something you read about in these pages several years ago.
TEDx talks on the Internet have brought much fascinating scientific work to the attention of the public. But a recent letter from TEDx director Lara Stein and Emily McManus, editor of TED.com, to the various organizers of TEDx talks demands the exclusion of speakers on subjects like GMO dangers, food as medicine, especially food to treat a specific condition, and the relationship of vaccines and autism. The letter implies that subjects such as anti-vaccination and alternative health are not backed by science or data. Speakers with nonstandard degrees, not affiliated with a university “with a solid reputation,” or who created their own websites should not be considered for the TEDx spotlight, say McManus and Stein. TEDx talks that are already posted, but that reflect “bad science” or “pseudoscience” will be taken down.
DEPRESSION, PREGNANCY AND BABY’S IQ
Pregnant women who are depressed often turn to junk food for comfort, but they could be damaging their children’s brain power in later life, warn researchers. A new study found a link between unhealthy eating in pregnancy and depression, which can affect a child’s IQ scores at the age of eight. The research team studied almost seven thousand women and their children, who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the UK. The women were assessed for symptoms of depression five times between the period when they were eighteen weeks pregnant and when their child was thirty-three months old. They were also asked to complete a food questionnaire to assess their eating habits when they were thirty-two weeks pregnant and again when their child was forty-seven months old. The children’s cognitive function was assessed when they were eight years old by using tests of performance IQ and verbal IQ. Women who had symptoms of depression were more likely to eat an unhealthy diet, the study found. This meant they were mostly eating processed food such as chips, crisps, meat pies or pasties and junk food, defined as chocolate bars, cakes, cookies and white bread, which are high in unhealthy trans fats. These factors linked to their eight-year-olds having a lower IQ than children of mothers eating a more healthy diet (www.dailymail.co.uk, Oct 9, 2013).
EXTRUSION TO THE RESCUE
“Human beings eat 183 billion pounds of chicken every year, and just about nobody thinks that the way we grow and process these living creatures is sustainable,” writes chef and Food Network host Alton Brown. The solution, of course, is pasture feeding, which produces healthy meat while revitalizing the soil, but food manufacturers see the unsustainability of modern chicken production as a golden opportunity to market fake chicken meat. Replicating meat flavor is easy—just throw in a truckload of fake chicken flavors. Replicating meat texture is the hard part and this is where the extrusion process saves the day. Food processing company Beyond Meat has come up with a process they say reproduces the texture of chicken exclusively. In a puff piece published in Wired Magazine, which could have been lifted straight from the pages of the satirical publication The Onion, Brown describes Beyond Meat’s fake chicken-making process as follows: “The extruder . . . uses steam, pressure and cold water to knead and knit the proteins and plant fibers in the Beyond Meat mixture into a specific physical arrangement. . . . This is what separates Beyond Meat’s chicken analog from Tofurky. . . . Fresh out of the extruder, a strip of Beyond Meat not-chicken is warm but not hot, striated like meat, and to the touch feels animal in origin. . . It’s more like meat than anything I’ve ever seen that wasn’t meat. Looking closely I can see a repeating pattern, like a subtle honeycomb, that reminds me a bit of tripe. I close my eyes and smell, but since the strip hasn’t received any flavoring at this point, I detect only subtle hints of soy. I take a bite. While the unflavored product tastes distinctly vegetal and still has a bit of what I’d call tofu-bounce, a hint of the spongy, the tear is … meaty.” Beyond Meat claims their goal is to reduce the environmental issues associated with industrial agriculture, and to get meat eaters to cut down on their meat intake. “In a few generations, vegetable-based meats may be the only meat some young people have ever experienced,” says Brown (www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/09/fakemeat/). And won’t the soy industry be happy about that!
HOLES IN THE DIKE
While Americans may remain fat-phobic, the anti-saturated fat mantra is crumbling in other parts of the world. In the UK, the British Medical Journal has published an article by cardiologist Aseem Malhotra, who blasts the notion that saturated fats cause heart disease, noting that when you take satisfying fats out of the diet, the food tastes worse and you compensate by replacing saturated fat with sugar (BMJ 2013;347:f6340). Following Malhotra’s article, Joanna Blythman, writing for The Guardian, staunchly defends butter. “The anti-sat-fat message has been used effectively by food manufacturers to woo us away from whole, natural foods such as butter, which is only minimally processed, on to their products, which are entirely the opposite, such as margarine,” she says, noting that a 2010 review concluded that there is no convincing evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease (Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46). In Australia, ABC’s Catalyst TV program, “Heart of the Matter” sent the Internet abuzz with its challenge to the lowfat agenda; this brave program was followed by Part II, “Cholesterol Drug War,” which challenged the notion that we should be taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. And finally, Sweden has become the first Western nation to reject lowfat diet dogma in favor of low-carb, high-fat nutrition. The switch in dietary advice followed the publication of a two-year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment, which reviewed sixteen thousand studies. The conclusion: butter, olive oil, heavy cream and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight. And there are no connections between a high-fat intake and cardiovascular disease (sciencenordic.com/low-carb-diets-hold-sway-short-term).
With the crisis at Fukushima, we are often asked for advice on protection against radiation damage. A kind reader has send us an article from 1984 which suggests that our old friend vitamin A may be a key vitamin in protecting against injury from radiation. This study looked at vitamin A for protection against radiation injury and poor wound healing. Rats whose diets were supplemented with 150,000 IU vitamin A per kilogram of diet showed protection against thymic damage, adrenal emlargement, leukopenia, gastrointestinal ulceration and impaired wound healing—overall a lessening of the aderse effects of radiation (Ann Surg 1984 Oct;200(4):494-512). So in these perilous nuclear times, be sure to eat liver and take your cod liver oil!