Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fibromialgia, zinc and magnesium

Fibromialgia is one of those illusive disease that has multitude of different symptom grouping around pain, lark of restful sleep and exhaustion. I suspect that there is multiple reasons for fibromialgia just like there is a multitude of reasons for headaches.

If there are multiple ways to develop this disease it means that there are multiple ways to overcome it. And most importantly some nutritional treatments will only work for those who that specific nutrient problem. Thus increase a nutrient for one person that makes a massive difference may not work for someone else.

This seems to be best shown in vitamin D status. There is conflicting results on increasing vitamin D and decrease in pain symptoms. Some studies show great results other no result at all.

So with this in mind zinc status seems to be inversely associated with number of pain points and magnesium inversely correlated with fatigue.

So if you haven't tried increasing your zinc or magnesium intake, it would be a good thing to try. So the obvious questions are how much should you take ?! Firstly a multimineral would be better than just two nutrients so that your body is still in balance. Secondly remember that amino acid chelates are better than metal salts which are better than oxides.

Zinc in the region of 10mg (5-15mg) is where I would start. The magnesium should be taken with calcium - twice as much calcium and magnesium. If my memory serves me well Metagenics do a calcium/magnesium specifically for large doses of magnesium so find some of this and use as directed.

Hope that this may help !

Friday, December 25, 2009

Did you get an amphetamine high over Christmas?

It would appear that spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and anise have precursors to amphetamine in them. Amphetamine makes you feel perky and mentally more alert. It is in the same family as methamphetamin, or P as it is commonly known as.

It is hypothesized  that the cooking process might takes these compounds and turn them into amphetamine! Thus giving you a natural high and helps you feel good when you eat products that are high in these spices. 

This might explain why I really enjoy aniseed, both aniseed wheels and liquorish, which ironically often has very little liquorish root and lots of aniseed. I also enjoy nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. I wonder if we could somehow cook these spices then take them and make alcoholic drink like a liqueur out of them thus getting two types of "high".  

However it can't be ruled out that the smell of these spices are associated with pleasant memories so the smell of the spices, not the amphetamine makes you feel good. Either way this is a great excuses to use more of these wonderful spices. 

Photo credit: Michelle Meiklejohn

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mental health and feeling pain

Since going on antidepressants many changes have occurred with my body. One of these is that my pain threshold has increased. To the point where I have gone from the worlds greatest wimp to having my last filling done without anesthetic (it was a small filling). 

Serotonin is involved in pain system, with low serotonin levels increasing sensitivity to pain. I have read that people with depression have a much higher probability of back pain. The study concluded that most people who are depressed have back pain because they have a low pain threshold.

Another study has just come out looking a females, pain sensation and emotional "wellness". This was done with the cold pressor test which involves plunging the arm into a bucket of ice cold water. The time elapsed before pain is first felt and when the pain becomes unbearable are measured. This gives an indicator of pain threshold. The results show that women who are emotional "well" experience less pain than those who are less emotionally healthy.

Thus again we see the connection between emotions and the body. This connection is part of the mystery of the body where our mind/heart/emotions are interrelated to the physical body. Thus if we ignore the emotional connection in sickness and wellness we miss a very important area.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If you love anyone over 65 share this post with them - they need to suppliment vitamin D

Hot off the science press supplementing with >700 IU vitamin D reduces falls in those over 65 years of age. Falls have a major effect on the elderly. If/when they fall they are more likely to damage themselves with broken or damaged bones. Thus they have restricted movement while the bones heal. Not only is the healing time longer than youthful people, it also impacts there whole body. This is because their movement is less. This less movement results in less muscle control and strength. Lower control and strength results in higher probability of falling and breaking a bone. Thus the downward cycle continues. This is exactly how my Grandfather died. He had a fall (in Bolivia!) and broke his leg(?). He never really recovered from this and the next few years were a sliding down into death with more falls and complications. So you can see how preventing falls is very important.

A review of the studies on vitamin D and falls gives some very insightful data. The following pointers are very useful in helping choose the best supplement:
  • Need to supplement with greater than 700IU of vitamin D. Below 700IU there was no decrease in falls. However 700-1000IU of vitamin D resulted in significant drop of 19% in falls. This means that what was 5 falls, now became 4 falls. This is a big reduction. 700-1000IU is above the RDI for elderly which is 400-600IU. Therefore you need to supplement with a higher dose than the RDI 
  • The supplement of 700-1000 IU was on-top of what the elderly either ate or got via the sun. 
  • Supplement with Vitamin D3. Vitamin D comes in a handful of shapes (Isomers). They found that vitamin D3 reduced falls by 26% but vitamin D2 reduced it by only 12%. There is debate around which form of vitamin D is the best, interestingly enough most complimentary medicine people prefer vitamin D3.
Reference: Heath V., Nutrition: Preventing falls in the elderly—benefits of vitamin D supplementation revealed.  Nature Reviews Endocrinology 6, 1 (January 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrendo.2009.227. Photo credit.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Sowing and reaping

    One of the the things I love about gardening is that once you have done the work, you can leave the plants and come back sometime later and harvest yummy food. It is amazing how things grow without your input.

    Hadn't had a feed of berries for a few days so went out picking. A big bowl of very bright red strawberries much riper and reder than what you get in the store, so hence much more sweeter. A handful of small white wild strawberries - infinitely sweeter than any other berries I have ever tasted. A handful or raspberries and a bowl of thornless boysenberries.

    Hmmm what a wonderful way to end dinner - fingers stained with red berry juice.

    Why there are issues when Pharmac changes suppliers

    A very short, and not wellness focused blog post today. If you have ever wondered why when NZ changes from drug A to drug B an drug B doesn't work - think of catafalque over asthma med changes   as well MacDoctor has the answer

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Empathy - real emotional and physical pain.

    Empathy is a very important human trait to nurture. I have read about how repeat or psychotic offenders lack the ability to empathize or have empathy for people. Thus they cannot fathom how their actions hurt people. Thus they cannot understand why their actions were wrong. Empathy, to cry when others cry and to laugh when others laugh is a very human, and loving, ability.

    Picture thinkers/dyslexic's/learning "disability" people often have a deep empathy (or ironically enough very poor empathy). I remember in one of my dyslexia books a story about a young kid who would cry when seeing a ambulance racing through the streets as (s)he felt the pain of the people in the ambulance. This is not to surprising as picture thinkers have the ability to put themselves into the situation. (which is why dyslexics often make good actors).

    Well it turns out that some people who observe and/either emotional or physical pain actually feel the emotional or physical hurt. Brain scans showed that the parts of the brain for emotional or physical pain lite up when observing emotional or physical pain. Thus showing once again that the mind is an amazing organ, that we can expereince others pain as ours.

    Personally I experience a large amount of empathy emotionally. It is not the done thing in NZ culture for blokes to have empathy about feelings. So this was kind of beaten out of me through my experiences in life and am slowly bringing to value this gift and be comfortable with it. Part of my depression was that I was not being true to my emotions and pretending that I didn't have empathy. Long term this was not a good idea.

    I don't think I experience physically empathy. I get nausea when talking and thinking about gory bloody things. Which annoys me no end, but it seems automatic. Interestingly enough if I am presented with blood (cuts is worst I have had to deal with) I don't have a problem. 

    Reference: Osborn and Derbyshire. Pain sensation evoked by observing injury in others. Pain :doi:10.1016/j.pain.2009.11.007   

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Thank goodness - heart attacks on Monday mornings is not a urban myth

    I think critics are very important. They show up were your thinking or beliefs are not 100% correct as they will find the chink in your amour. Often males who are older than 40 when finding out what I do, ask if I have formal qualifications of a doctor or a nutritionist. Up to today I have always answers no. This "no" answer has resulted in myself being written off as a quack of no importance, just another mad hatter who has no credibility. It has only taken me about a dozen or so interactions like this for me to figure it out! Thus I will side step the question an say I have training in the biochemistry of cellular and enzymatic processes. This is true and clearly gives me creditability that I know what I am talking about. (As an aside a significant number of major innovations come from outside a field or on the periphery because these people haven't been indoctrinated with the assumptions that under-gird that industry)

    Last night I had an interaction with a critic. Once he had asked the question and figured out that I had no formal training in nutrition that all I said was up to be challenged. So when I trotted out that heart attacks are more common on a Monday morning he counted with that he had been a doctor for 20 years and if there was any variation between days of time he would have noticed it. He had not noticed any variation in heart attacks, thus I was wrong.

    I was mortified.  I have included this as an example in a appendix of my book talking about how emotions effect our health. I realized that I had no references to back up my comments. It was a statement that I had heard so many times and repeated so many times I assumed that it was true. Thus I have been looking online today to see if this was an urban myth. Well the good news is that I can still use the example in my book! Like anything in health/wellness it is not as clear cut as one would like, but we can conclude that:
    • That in the mornings Saturday to Monday and the months October to January (Study done in Italy in the Northern hemisphere) are high risk times for heart attacks that kill you within 1 hour. The times of 5:00, Monday and November are also have significantly higher probabilities within this group
    • Another Italian study showed mornings had higher risk than evenings, and that heart attacks increased significantly for non smokers on Monday. 
    • An Auckland study showed the mornings were higher risk, and that Saturday was higher risk for deadly attacks and Monday higher risk of survived heart attacks.  
    • A Fresh study showed hat mornings were higher risk of heart attack. 
    • That monkeys are at more risk of heart attacks when under stress. And that life threatening evens such as earthquakes increase heart attack risk 6 fold and that anger and sex also increase risk of heart attacks.
    • A Tawinise study showed that mornings were high risk and Sundays were low risk for heart attacks
    There are other papers but I think I have made my point. Emotions effect your health and there is an increased risk of heart attacks in the morning with some studies pointed out Monday morning as a high risk time. Got to love critics if I had not had the conversation wouldn't know if it was just a urban myth or based on science. Much better to have this issue raised in a friendly one on one situation than in another setting. 

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Fear not ! fear not the phone and cancer

    Humans seem prone to fear. I fear that I don't eat well enough, fear that I might become obese, fear that I will get diabetes, fear that I am not doing enough to keep my wellness. And this is only in one area of my life.

    People seem to also fear what they don't know or what they don't understand. I remember debating as a form 1 student (year 7) my teacher who was afraid of radiation from microwave. Tried to communicate that microwaves had not nuclear radiation but in my youth couldn't quite articulate why she was wrong.

    Well here is another fear that you can lay to rest. McDoctor has done a excellent post about how cell phone usage does NOT cause brain cancer (and one could also infer that cordless phones do not cause brain cancer).

    So this is one thing that you don't have to fear about. I am learning to fear less, by refocusing on the positive in my past.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Peeing out vitamin B12 is related to total urine volume not vitamin B12 intake

    Doesn't a title like that make you grateful that you are not a nutritional scientist. Imagine collecting nearly 300, 24hour urine samples. When ever I think I might have a grotty task to do I remember when I went through a local testing laboratory and talked to a women who did the fecal analysis for various compounds!

    The background that you should be aware of is that the water soluble vitamins, that is the B family, C, biotin an Choline are pee-ed out of the body in proportion to your daily intake. This is because the body has very little storage, so the theory is that any vitamin intake above what your body needs is removed into the urine. Now this is only partially true. Because as you increase your dose of these water soluble vitamins your urine level does increase. However your retention also increases. However most nutritional experts will point to the increase in urine output and say that this shows you don't need that level of water soluble vitamin. However what they don't tell you is that your intake and use also went up with the increased dose.

    Well it appears that vitamin B12 in urine is not increased by increasing intake. Furthermore the removal of vitamin B12 from the body is related to the total urine produced. This mean that the more you pee the more you loose.

    Now this study was done in both young women and elderly women in Japan so it might not apply to you. However I suspect it would be the same across cultures. Also the dose of the vitamin was 1.5mg. This is a high dose the RDI for vitamin B12 is 6 micro grams, or 0.006mg, so 1.5mg is about 500 times larger. (it was a once off dose)

    How much did the urinary extrication go up by - only by 30%! This tells me that an intake of 6 micro grams, the RDI, is no enough to supply what your body needs.

    Yet another study that shows our RDI's are not giving our bodies what they need.

    Reference: Urinary excretion of vitamin B12 depends on urine volume in Japanese female university students and elderly Nutrition Research. Volume 29, Issue 12, December 2009, Pages 839-845

    It is finished

    Apologies for no posting over the last 6 days. Have been highly focused on finsihing my book late last week and over the weekend. The great news is that it is done! 60 000 words approx 250 pages. I have also picked up a job helping move computers around. Very happy to have paid employment while my other lines of business have there seasonaly lull.

    So postings will be less frequent over the next month or so.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Home grown food

    Working flat out on the book at the moment. So I needed a simple and easy dinner, and a dinner that could be served whenever the girls got home from dancing. Their lessons are a bit longer now near the end of term. Was pleasantly surprised at what I cooked up:

    Free range (organic?!) chicken in the slow cooker, then closer to time grated in section of home grown pumpkin and zucchini. I have bad child hood memories of zucchini and the kids don't like pumpkin. So though good way to get us eating the things we avoid and learning that there not bad. Flavored with lemon thyme, lemon balm and a squeegeed lemon to provide some flavoring. I have to admit I also put in a packet of onion soup for thickening the sauce and adding flavor.

    This was served on brown rice and fresh asparagus (not home grown, but put plants in this year).

    So all and all a very simple meal with minimal prep, maximum flexibility, tasted really good and tender plus high in nutrition.

    Should taken a photo! Sorry didn't think about it at the time

    Massive variation in vegetable minerals

    Variation is a fact of life, think about how many shades of green there are in nature. Trace element variation in food is made worse as they only contain the trace elements that are found in the soil. So if the soil is depleted of these elements then the food produced on that soil is also depleted. As trace elements are not deemed "essential" to cropping they are often depleted in our soils, either by the soil already having a low level, or after decades of cropping the minerals have been removed from the soil. The following graphs show the maximum and minimum levels found in common veges for boron, manganese and iron. As you can see the variation is massive, from the vegetables virtually having no trace elements to a much higher level. The bottom of the line is the lowest mineral content, with the highest being the top of the line.

    You can see how much iron spinach does have (and tomatoes for that matter!) however the spinach you eat to get some iron may have almost no iron in it! For the technical people the change is over two orders of magnitude (which to the rest of us means its big). Again for your technical people you will be asking how many standard deviations this is, regrettably my source does not give means or standard deviations.

    Once again we cannot trust our fresh fruit and vegetables to have the minerals in them that we need. You have two options to get these minerals. (1) Start growing your own fruits and vegetables and make sure you use a high quality trace element mix (one that has iodine and selenium which is not included in the cheaper brands of trace element mixes) or (2) supplement 

    Reference: Thorsons complete guide to Vitamins and Minerals. All you need to know about vitamins and mineral for your health by Leonard 220

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Refining destroy's trace elements as well as vitamins

    The saying "The whiter the bread the quicker your dead" is a bit tongue and check. However like all sayings it has a grain of truth in that refining destroy's nutrients. Most of us hopefully know that refining slashes the vitamin content. This is because the removal of skin/husks etc is removal of the live part. With grains the starch is covered by the seed coat. It is this seed coat that contains the vitamins essential to the seeds germination. Thus refining removes these vitamins.

    However I had no idea how massively the minerals are reduced. Below is a graph on the reduction in trace elements (trace minerals) when refining occurs. Going from brown flour to white flow, brown rice to white rice and raw cane sugar to white sugar.

    The blank spaces is where there was no data available (as of 1986). You can see that most of the trace elements are 90+% removed ! (clicking graph brings it up in higher resolution)

    Reference: Thorsons complete guide to Vitamins and Minerals. All you need to know about vitamins and mineral for your health by Leonard Mervyn. pg 221

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Placebo effect - negative side effects

    Placebos have side effects. I have already blogged about the power of the placebo effect. However it wasn't until today that I read about placebos having negative side effects. If you give a placebo instead of a drug and list out the side effect(s) or emphasize the side effects, people actually physically get these side effects. These side effects are the side effects that people on the "real" medication have. For example if side effect of a pain killer is stomach pains, then some people on placebo experiences these stomach pains. Also the level of side effects is proportional to how much emphasis is placed up on them. If the doctors spend more time talking about the side effects, the side effects are more common.

    Apparently this is effect is called the nocebo instead of placebo.

    This just shows the power of the soul/emotions/mind on the bodies health. We neglect this side of our lives to our peril.

    Photo credit 

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Vitamin B6 you need at least 2-3mg a day

    Vitamin B6 is typically not discussed with respect to inflammation. Most inflammation discussion is around antioxidants, vitamin C and fish oils/omega 3's. I have already posted about how vitamin B3 is involved in the antioxidant cycle, well it appears that vitamin B6 may also be involved in reducing risk of heart disease.

    C-reactive protein
    (CRP) is a protein produced by the live in response to inflammation. It is used as a indicator of heart disease. This is because heart disease is caused by fat depositing inside the arteries. This causes inflammation as the body tries to deal with this deposit.

    However CRP increases due to any inflammation, and inflammation increases whenever your body is under stress/sickness. So high CRP does not mean you have heart disease, but a low CRP means that you don't. So CRP is a useful tool to determine risk of heart disease.

    Well a study looked at vitamin B6 and CRP. What it found was a high vitamin B6 intake, 2-3mg per day, was significantly associated with a CRP < 3 mg per litre - this is a healthy level of CRP.

    Other signs that indicated a lack of vitamin B6 were in more than 50% of the people with a CRP > 10mg per liter. (Unfortunately I do not have access to the full paper yet, as it has not yet come out in hard copy print,  so can not say what these signs were!)

    Thus we can conclude if you have CRP that is height, you are very likely not taking enough vitamin B6 and should increase your levels to 2-3mg a day. Hopefully this will result in a reduction of CRP and thus a reduction in the probability of heart disease.

    Now how high is the RDI for vitamin B6? It is between 1 - 2 mg / day, thus it is not high enough to prevent increased risk of heart disease. The next question is how much do you have to eat to get this 3mg per day?
    • 75 grams of yeast, this is 7 and half table spoons of dry yeast. That is a lot of brewers yeast on your sandwich. 
    • 214 grams of wheat bran, now that would keep you regular ! 
    • 5 bananas a day
    • 1.9 kg of vegetables 
    So you might be able to eat this if you use a juicer, eat plenty of bran and drink home made beer that is all murky due to the yeast being in suspension, although I have previously blogged about how the bioavailability of vitamin B6 in foods is likely to be overestimated.

    So in summary you need to supplement with vitamin B6 and eat a healthy diet so you get the best of both worlds.

    Reference: Morris et al  Vitamin B-6 Intake Is Inversely Related to, and the Requirement Is Affected by, Inflammation Status J. Nutr. (November 11, 2009). doi:10.3945/jn.109.114397

      Wednesday, November 25, 2009

      Thats disturbing - turkeys so big they can't reproduce !

      It is around thanksgiving time in the US of A. Here is a very interesting article about how food has changed due to modern genetic changes. It turns out that turkeys are now over double the size there where when the pilgrims ate them.

      The key issue - artificial insemination. When turkeys get to big they can't mate as there bodies are to big to do the act! OMG! But with artificial insemination you can breed really big birds as they don't need to mate.

      Isn't modern breading wonderful. 

      Guess when this was written ?

      "Margarines are replacing butter... fresh fruit is a comparative rarity.... green vegetables are scanty, and such as there are, are often cooked to the point of almost complete extraction of their vitamin-contents.... White bread has largely replaced wholemeal bread... Sugar is consumed in quantities unheard of a century ago.... [our diet] is often dangoursely defiditen in one or more vitamins, in proteins of good biological value, and disproportionately rich in starch or sugard or fats, or in all three.

      Access to abundance of food does not necessary protect from the effects of food deficiency, since a number of factors - prejudice... ignorance, habit - often prevent the proper use and choice of health-giving foods."

      Go on take a guess - when do you think this was written?

      Scroll down

      1921 - amazing comment given that it is nearly a century old.

      Source: McCarrison R., Studies in Deficiency Disease. Oxford Medical Publications. 1921. 

      Monday, November 23, 2009

      Here is the link to the 65 web sites.

      Blasted across the news at the moment is that Medsafe has posted a list of 65 web sites that are selling dodgy herbal products. Herbal medicine often gets "bashed"  by conventional medical people so I was interested to see what was on the list.

      I found the list very difficult to find! None of the press releases included a link to the medsafe list! And a google search was not able to find them either, nor a search of the medsafe site. So unless I am having a dyslexic moment and entering/reading headings wrong the list is hard to find.

      However I have found a complete list on a "news" site that I have never heard of. The list in a single column can be found here or you can read the list below.

      Good news - I have never heard of any of these sites or products. If you look at the web sites (do this only if you have online real time virus checker that vets your sites before you load them - dishonest people have much higher change of nasty bugs that can infect your computer) you find that they are all the same. They just have the name of the condition and drug changed (also surprising is that there does not seem to be any blue pills for mens issues!)  .

      To save you the hassle of looking up the site, have included a screen shot below (click to enlarge). As you can see it is a very professional web site and gives the impression of being a legitimate product. I think that Medsafe was wise to issue this warning (most of the time I think Medsafe is being paranoid and overly cautious) so for once I agree with what they are doing. Next time they might like to include a link to their list!   

      Sunday, November 22, 2009

      Recycling the dregs - blueberries go another round

      We were wonderfully blessed earlier in the year with a 10kg block of blueberries! They were on trademe and advertised as good for wine, and implied that there were one large block. Turns out that they were free flow! So we have enjoyed eating them in many shapes and forms over winter and spring. After enjoying them in deserts, smoothies, pike-lets etc and to be honest were getting rather sick of them - I decided to make some blueberry wine.

      Racked the wine about a week ago - this is when you siphon off the liquid and leave behind the dregs at the bottom, which are the dead yeast cells. I also leave my fruits/petals/leaves in the wine much longer than is typically done. Typically after 3-5 days the fruit matter is removed and the wine left to ferment. However I want to maximize nutrient retention in the wine. Hence I leave the fruit in until very close to bottling when I rack the wine.

      The blueberries still looked like real blueberries when they came out. They were shrunken and looked a bit like sultanas as the sugar inside the fruit had been turned to alcohol. So I kept them after rinsing all the dregs off them. Putting them in the fridge thinking I must be able to use them. Unknown to me Tiffany then put them in the freezer. Last night I was searching through the freezer to use up any remaining frozen fruit, from last summers plenty, before fresh fruit becomes plentiful again. Noticed that there were 2 ice-cream punits full of blueberries. So taking on out I made blueberry and tamarilo crumble (well actually Tiffany makes the crumble bit) as well as blueberry/apple/quince crumble.

      Tiffany mentioned while they were cooking that she had put the blueberries from the wine into the freezer. I realized at that point that I had used the fermented berries as they had looked a slightly different color and texture to the normal blueberries.

      Fortunately they still tasted great. While cooking this gorgeous alcoholic aroma fulled the cooking. Not to much alcohol left after cooking and a nice subtle taste of Christmas pudding from the fermented ingredients. All in all a great recipe/concoction. We felt very proud to have reused a "waste" product. Might have to try that again with other "waste" material from wine making.

      Saturday, November 21, 2009

      Supplementation benefits preschoolers

      We celebrated Yasmin's 5th birthday today. A gaggle of screaming girls invaded our suburban peace fueled by an overdose of sugar and food colorings.

      Reading tonight about papers that will be published in December's Journal of Clinical Nutrition a paper caught my eye about supplementation and allergic reactions in 8 year olds. The study investigated 2423 Swedish children for supplementation habits and allergic reactions.

      In this study there is a few major issues. Firstly collecting data from adults about things that happened years ago can lead to errors. For instance can you remember when or if you supplemented vitamins to your kids 3 years ago? And how regularly you feed them? The human mind is often very poor at accurately recalling this type of data.

      Secondly and maybe most importantly it lumps all multivitamins into one group. If you answered that you fed your children multivitamin your kids would go in the supplementation group. However this completely ignores the supplement quality. For instance poor quality supplements often not include vitamin B12 as it is expensive. Another example is bioflavonids/compressed plant extracts. Vitamin C is used better by the body when it also has bioflavonids/plant extracts with the vitamin C. Another important indicator of supplement quality is the level of the nutrients. I once read a calcium supplement label that had used different units. Calcium supplements should also have magnesium in them, at approximately 50% of the calcium level. For example this supplement had 500mg of calcium and 250μg of magnesium. At first glance this appears to be the right ratio until one realizes that 250μg is actually 0.25mg. So it virtually had no magnesium in the supplement compared to the calcium. Thus the level of vitamin C which has an anti-inflammatory property is unknown.

      Thus with these design constants of the study we would expect that any advantage of multivitamin use will be diluted out due to the error/noise in the data caused by the above mentioned factors. Thus it is not surprising that multivitamin use does not decrease allergy in the 8 year olds.

      However what is very interesting is that:
      [Children who] started taking multivitamins before or at age 4 y had a decreased risk of sensitization to food allergens

      This makes me feel good that our girls all had supplements from a young age. It is very interesting to see that increase in vitamin intake before four years old reduced food allergy's. I wonder why this is? There could be a number of reasons. It could be that parents who give supplements to their children are very health conscious so they raise their children with a healthy lifestyle eg exercise, fresh vege's, limited food additives, emotional wellbeing, etc etc thus these children are less likely to have allergic reactions. Or it could be a biochemical effect. That one or more of the vitamins are used by the body to reduce the inflammation pathways found in the body.  My guess is on the second.

      Update: After discussion with Tiffany we realized that for Trinity, or middle child, we didn't purchase formula. We made our own up by placing a multivitamin in with her milk at the start of the day. We would use the same cup for the whole day so by the end of the day the majority would be gone. Must have tasted rather gross but she thought it was normal :) Yasmin who has just turned five was breast feed uptil she was a year old, so we went to a chewable multivitamin plus formula.

      Thursday, November 19, 2009

      Child obesity - are we part of the problem?

      I am mortified, though not surprised to find out that we might be part of the childhood obesity epidemic. Our eldest has genetics that helps her gain weight. She is always hungry and her body can convert any excess energy into fat. When she was small a week at the Grandparents she would come home clearly putting on weight. Trinity has chosen her genetics better and carry's almost no body fat. We sometimes look at Trinity when she is contorting her body on a playground and wonder if we are feeding her enough. She is all muscle and bone. You can count her ribs and when she bends over her back bones look like a row of dinosaur type spines! She will be very pleased about her genetics when she grow up!

      Our diet has been nutritional poor this year. Thus we have all gained weight over winter. As it have got warmer and Victoria has been in her togs and lighter/smaller clothes we have noticed that Victoria has put on weight around her tummy area. We have not mentioned anything to Victoria because we don't want to give her a complex - nor have her worry about her body. Like any teenager she will have enough anxiety about her body, so why bring this forward.  

      Spurred on by an article regarding measuring obesity in children. It turns out that childhood obesity is not measured in the same way as adults. Adults obesity is defined as:
      Mild obesity (BMI 30+), morbid obesity (BMI 40+), and malignant obesity (BMI 50+)

      Were as children are considered obese if they are heavier than 95th percentile. What this means is that given an average population of 100 kids, 5 will be overweight/obese.  As you know the age of the child combined with the weight you can read the percentile from this graph. Now I read a study once that stated that parents were very poor at picking up obesity in their own children. This is not really surprising as we all look at our children with rose colored glasses. So I thought that I should find out if Victoria is actually overweight/obese. Well it turns out she is right on the 95th percentile.

      However she has always been around the 95th for both weight and height ever since she was born over 10 pounds. She clearly has the tall gene that comes from my side of the family. So we are left with a problem - we can't use the overweight definition - as we are already outside the "norms".

      We are trusting that over summer we will all become more active, thus losing our winter weight gain. As we sort out our diet back into a low sugar and lower fat diet as a family we should become more healthy and as a result hopefully we will all lose our excess body fat. Thus we will not say anything, nor worry about Victoria. However it does concern me that there are not better tools for evaluating obesity in children. 

      Tuesday, November 17, 2009

      Tips for increasing your variety of foods.

      In todays news it is stated that the British housewife only use 9 different meals to feed her family. Now apart from the sexism that it is the women who cooks the meals got me thinking about what we eat. I was asked by a good friend the other day what is our typical dinner. He said he cooks some chicken thing and listed of a couple of recipes that he cooks, so what were my/our recipes. I really struggled to answer this question. We do not have a collection of recipes that we regularly eat. Without trying we have quite a large variety of food/meals.

      Let me say that our diet has significant gaps, the one we are currently workings on is quick dinners. Often come dinner time neither Tiffany of me feel like cooking. So we through some nutritionally poor meal together like cheese toasties, 2 minute noodles or some pasta (our kids love pasta), and at worse case some takeaway food. This would happen about 2 types a week - so we have food issues! However lack of variety is not one.

      So thinking about why we have a wide variety of foods I come up with this list:
      • Local in season fruit. Most of our fruit intake comes from locally sourced fruit trees. This is because we love fruit and buying 10kg of fruit at the supermarket is not going to happen. This means when cooking we will change pudding dishes with season. Traditional puddings are a rarity. However like tonight we had grapefruit for pudding. When apples are in season we have lots of baked and crumble apple based desert etc 
      • Home grown vege's. We do purchase a large amount of vege's from the shop. However when ever it is my turn to cook I go for a wonder through the vege patches and figure out what we could have. We only have cabbage/cauliflower etc over cooler months so don't have problems with caterpillars. So at the moment we are having cauliflower, cabbage and broad beans (there nice young, if get old and leathery we don't eat them!). Thus we are always changing the vege's we have. 
      • Home grown fruit. As time goes on we will have more home grown fruit.... at the moment we have wild strawberries and typical strawberries. So we have had fresh berries once / twice a week. Soon other fruits will be coming into season as the years go by and the planted trees start producing. 
      • Purchase meat on special. We tend to purchase meats that are on special. This means that we have a variety. This forces us to try different things. For example we have had lots of salmon since moving to Huntly as this is regularly on special at our local supermarket. We also have adventures when friends and acquaintances have home kill. For example we have some mutton in the freezer along with turkey breasts. Had a friend who shot turkeys as they are a pest on the local farms. So what do you do with 90 turkey breasts that you have collected in a day?! Give them away. 
      • Lastly I do like variety. I am into new stuff, so when I cook I often at the internet for a new recipe. Fortunately Tiffany doesn't mind when the innovations don't turn out as expected. (Once I made a chilli with tablespoons instead of tea spoons of chilli. tsp and tb look really similar to a dyslexic) 
      So after reflection it is the habits that we had developed, more to do with having fresh food on a small budget, than consciously cultivating a culture of new and different foods.

      Hopefully you can adopt one or more of these ideas into your families food.I am told that farmers markets are a great way to get good value fresh local in season produce. We don't really have a local farmers market so I wouldn't know.

      Monday, November 16, 2009

      A Brazil nut a day keeps the free radicals at bay. Selenium - NZ'ers need to increase their intake.

      10 years ago there was an article published looking at Selenium in NZ population. This study found that NZ'er need to take an additional 60 micro grams of selenium every day to maximize enzyme and antioxidant function. This 60 micro grams is on top of the 30 micro grams that is estimated to come from dietary sources. This 30 micro grams is from consumption of eggs, poultry or bread/wheat products made with Australian wheat. So if you are avoiding gluten then you would need even more selenium.

      To increase your selenium intake by 60 micro grams you would need to eat daily an additional:
      • Either 1 fresh Brazil nut. Even though the selenium level in Brazil nuts is variable, hopefully they would even out over time. (calculated from here and here)
      • Or 4 eggs 
      • Or 6 slices of whole grain bread from Australian wheat.
      Or you can supplement with it. Make sure your supplement is bioavailable. Interestingly enough I have just checked out what my suppliment contains as it was formulated for Australian and NZ populations. It has 52 micro grams of selenium.

      Reference: Anna J Duffield, Christine D Thomson, Kristina E Hill and Sheila Williams An estimation of selenium requirements for New Zealanders. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 5, 896-903, November 1999

      Sunday, November 15, 2009

      Get red peppers instead of green ones

      Sitting at my desk yesterday while wrestling with computer problems. While waiting for things to install I randomly picked up a journal and started reading....... this is what I found:

      Red peppers have just over 7 and half times more caroteniods as green peppers!

      The public health message has moved from 5+ a day, to 5+ a day with a range of colors (as an aside it should be 6+ a day of vege and 3+ a day of fruit, with 15-20 different food groups and peppers are technically a fruit not a vege!). Anyway I expected red peppers to be more nutritious than green peppers. This is because we eat a lot of green vegetables already and less red vegetables so moving from green peppers to red peppers would be a good step. However I didn't expect red peppers to have 7.5 times caroteniods as green ones. This is a staggering increase.

      Not only is there an increase in caroteniods, there is an increase in the types of caroteniods. Beta-carotene increases "only" 5 times. There is at least 5 more additional caroteniods in the red peppers than the green peppers. Now there is a drop in the lutein levels which make up 35% of the green pepper caroteniods. So if you are after lutein then eat the green ones. However I will be going for the red peppers as they have so much higher carotenoid levels, and many more types, thus are much more nutritious.

      Now for the shocker: When do you think this article was written? It seems very topical and a rather important piece of information. I know that it will affect both when I pick my peppers and what I purchase. If I was a grower I would be putting a premium on red pepper and selling them as highly nutritious. Ready for the date? ....... drum roll please...... 1978 ! Yes folks this research is 30 years old and the odds are that you have never heard this. There is so much life changing research out there that is lot in the mists of time.

      Reference: Camaraa and Monégera Free and esterified carotenoids in green and red fruits of Capsicum annuum. Phytochemistry. Volume 17, Issue 1, 1978, Pages 91-93.
      Picture credit here and here

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Classic example of poor western medicine - oral health and western disease

      This is the mirror post of my previous post about how wonderful western medicine is. So if you haven't read my previous post, please do it now. In the same paper as the wonderful article about western medicine creating miracles is an article titled "More benefit to brushing your teeth." It goes on to open with with the following:
      Good oral care such as regular brushing, flossing and trips to the dentist, may help aging adults keep their thinking skills intact, according to a US study. Research has already established an association between poor oral health and heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as Alzheimer's disease.

      But researchers from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York found gum disease could also influence brain function through several mechanisms, such as causing inflammation throughout the body, a risk factor for loss of mental function.

       Then concludes:
      "Although our results are preliminary, they suggest that further exploration of relationships between oral health and cognition is warranted," they concluded.

      This is a classic example of western research where the researches have great intention. However as they have focused in on the detail they have not stepped back to ask what is the connection between oral health and western degenerative disease. Or even worse they think that poor dental hygiene causes the western degenerative diseases.

      Lets take a step back and look at some historic research:

      High nutrient intake = healthy teeth/gums/mouth. Early in the vitamin research Albert Szent-Gyorgyi the person who won a Nobel Prize for his vitamin C work noticed that bleeding gums, a sign of poor oral health was correlated with lack of vitamin P. Turns out that vitamin P is not a vitamin, but is a a bioflavonid that is associated with vitamin C. Thus people on a high bioflavonid diet do not have bleeding gums

      Also early on in vitamin research, scientists noted that teeth degradation occurred with with lack of nutrients. This was even proposed as an indicator of vitamin levels (or lack off).

      Lastly at a Sally Fellon lecture, she talked about how Weston Price traveled around the world about a century ago. He was a trained dentist and as he traveled he noticed a very strong correlation between a healthy diet and great teeth, this was across all nationality's/ethic groups. Conversely a poor western diet, high in sugar and processed foods produced bad teeth. Given how much more processing goes on now compared to 100 years or more ago explains why everyone has fillings today. 

      Thus poor oral hygiene is caused by poor diet. Western degenerative disease is caused by poor diet. Therefore it should be obvious that they will be related.

      The sad thing is that the newspaper article implies if not outright stating that poor oral hygiene causes these other diseases. For this is not a causes/effect relationship between oral health and degenerative disease. They are sympotms of the same root cause. A lower nutrient intake and high sugar/processed food intake.

      Western medicine works miracles - a heart warming story

      People, including myself, in complementary/alternative medicine are at times critical of Western medicine. Most of the criticism is how Western medicine doesn't see the body as a whole unit, but breaks it down to small individual details. Resulting in specialists who are experts in one tiny area, thus they can't fix the real problem, but only mask the problem with drugs or other tre

      However we must not forget what wonders western medicine has given to us. Our wives no longer die in childbirth, our children live through the first year of life, and are not struck down in their prime of life. We don't die of infected wounds (more people died from wounds than bullets in WW I) nor do we fear that a broken bone doesn't set right.

      So in this light, here is a wonderful story about how a mum got to see her child again after waking up blind one morning!

      I would be heart breaking not able to see your child and we are truly blessed to live in a place where these kind of miracles can occur.

      Three cheers for western medicine

      Wednesday, November 11, 2009

      Love your kids: Give them a supplement

      Giving your children (or yourself for that matter) a supplement is not an indication that you are a poor parent or that you have somehow failed to provide them with a healthy diet. Firstly the food you have purchase may not have enough nutrients in it.

      Secondly our lifestyle does not lend itself to healthy eating. Take today, as soon as the kids where home, it was grab a sandwich and off to dancing. Now the sandwich was made from Vogels (or equivalent). But the spreads of peanut margarine (peanut butter for those who don't know that peanut butter is actually peanut margarine) or jam were hardly nutritious. Come home at dinner time, everyone hungry, wife is working late so she hasn't prepared anything. So it was instant noodles for dinner. However tonight I got clever and made a salad from red cabbage, lettuce/salad greens from a packet, tomatoes, canned beetroot. They did have to eat it before the noodles. But the point is our lifestyle doesn't lead itself to carefully prepared meals that use home grown or locally sourced food.

      So don't see the fact that you feed your kids a supplement that somehow you have failed. Look at it as an insurance policy. Insurance that if their diet is lacking then you are just making sure that they don't miss out on the nutrients.

      What sparked this post. A review has come out that looked at kids intelligence and supplementation. The reviewers looked at the literature from 1970-2008 extracting all the controlled studies that randomly allocated test subjects to either a placebo or a supplement that had great or equal to 3 different nutrients. Now I would point out that having 3 different micronutrients in a supplement is going to massively reduce any positive effects of supplementation. Let us say hypothetically that a child is low in zinc, thus they have problems generating new brain cells. This impedes intelligence. If they get a supplement that has iron, vitamin C and vitamin B12 there is going to be no improvement in the childs body chemistry, thus no improvement in cognitive function.

      Personally I would have only included supplements that provided all the vitamins and a cross section of minerals all in a bioavailable form. Thus you would give the childrens biochemistry all it needs to perform at the maximum capability.

      Anyway back to the review. They conclude:
      Multiple micronutrient supplementation may be associated with a marginal increase in fluid intelligence and academic performance in healthy schoolchildren but not with crystallized intelligence.
       In plain English, fluid intelligence is the:
      ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems. It is the ability to draw inferences and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge
      And crystallized intelligence is
      the ability to use skills, knowledge, and experience. It should not be equated with memory or knowledge, but it does rely on accessing information from long-term memory.
      So supplementing your kids (1) gives them better ability to understand new information, (2) improves their academic/school performance. However it does not give them increased ability to use the information they have already.

      What really upsets me that the study ends with "More research is required, however, before public health recommendations can be given". How many kids will be performing sub optimally while scientists dilly dally around figuring out exactly what level of each nutrient needs to be taken. A poor supplement or poor choice of nutrients is still going to be better than nothing at all. 

      Tuesday, November 10, 2009

      Stomach staple: Get some multivitamins / multiminerals !

      I had a work colleague who was morbidly obese. Over time I got to know him quite well and he told me how he got to be so overweight. He had thyroid issues. His thyroid wasn't working right, so his body burnt huge amounts of energy as the basal metabolic rate was way to high. He was literally dieing from malnourishment although he eat large volumes of food.

      Once the doctors figured out the problem, he got his thyroid zapped and got pills to take instead. This regulated to his hormone levels properly. So he went from eating huge high energy diet to stay healthy to a much slower metabolism.

      So with dramatic change such as this it should be no surprise that he was morbidly obese. It took some time to change his eating habits, and by the time this occurred he was very over weight. He has tried to loose weight, and would loose 20kg and you couldn't tell ! so it was very demoralizing. In the end he got a stomach staple. When you have had the operation you literally can't eat more than a mouthful. Over the next few weeks you can slowly move up to a very small sized meal. Thus he lost a huge amount of weight and although still not skinny, he is much better.

      What I found really disturbing though was he showed me his finger nails, they had big dents/dips running across all of them. This was caused by nutrient deficiencies! The guy had such little nutrient intake that his finger nails were deformed. I thought it would have been a no brainier to give these patients some supplements for the weeks/months when they unable to eat enough to get basic RDI

      Stop the downward mental health spiral - get a multivitamin/multimineral supplement

      Mental health illness are exceptionally challenging. Appetite regulation and diet is strongly tided to mental health. There are a number or reasons for this, in no particular order they are:

      1) Eating for comfort. High fat and high sugar foods make the body feel good. Mood disorders / mental health issues mostly make people feel like s**t. So do anything to feel better including eating high sugar/high fat food. Think chocolate (although that also has come caffeine in it which help people feel good). High sugar / high fat foods are always low in micro nutrients.

      2) Serotonin also controls appetite as it is released into the stomach to help with stomach clearing. Thus if you have low serotonin you often have low appetite. A low appetite results in less food, and with less food you reduce the ability to absorb nutrients.

      3) Some of the first signs of vitamin inadequacy is the loss of appetite. This may or may not be related to serotonin levels. Most of the work that show this lose of appetite was done over 50 years ago so modern biochemical methods were not available.

      4) Again some of the first signs of vitamin or nutrient inadequacy is mental health issues. Such as lethargy, headaches, malaise etc.

      Thus a self perpetuating spiral downwards occur. You feel like s**t as you have a nutrient inadequacy because you feel this way you have a reduced appetite or eat the wrong foods. Thus you reduce eating foods with nutrients. This makes you feel worse...... go to jail of you pass go do not collect $200.

      The first step in any mental health healing should be a good quality multivitamin / multimineral ( I am working on a post about what I recommend). This goes to depression and bipolar. I would also recommend it for areas where low food intake/retention is a problem, for example eating disorders and stomach staples.

      Monday, November 9, 2009

      Lets face it we're not eating enough good stuff - even in pregnancy

      You might be eating healthy, even healthy enough that you don't need supplements. However if you are reading this blog you are likely to be eating healthier than the general population. The general population has a poor diet.

      There are many studies that show we are not eating enough healthy foods to obtain our Recommended Daily Intake/Allowance. All studies that I have read show that a large percentage of the population does not eat the RDI. In this case looking at pregnant women (bit redundant as men don't get pregnant) in South Carolina, USA. The results are shown in the graph below. Each cluster of bars is a measure of a nutrient that was measured. The hieght of the graphs is what percentage achieved either >100% of RDI, 50-10% and <50%. (Clicking on graph will enlarge it)

      What this tells us is that over 50% [that is 36% who in 50-100% group added to the 25% who are getting <50% a day] of the study group is not eating 5 veges a day, and that just under 50% are not eating 4 fruit a day.

      What I find very scary is that I would be counted in these lower groups. I do get 4 fruit a day when we have heaps of fruit around that we have picked ourselves or when fruit we like is on special. I know we don't eat 5 lots of veges a day. (we need more veg's at lunch)

      The folate RDI is higher in pregnancy, and just under 60% don't eat enough to get the RDI and about 80% are not getting enough iron. The good news is that over 50% are getting enough calcium.

      These statistics are shocking. Only about 50% of the mum's are eating enough to get the RDI. This is staggering as mum's tend to eat more healthy when they are pregnant. It raises the question about how well they eat when the are not pregnant! It is also based up the RDI, and not the optimal intake. The RDI is about stopping serious signs of deficiency. Not about having optimal life.

      The sad thing is there is more and more data showing what mum eats (or doesn't) impact the baby's health long term. 

      Reference: Bodnar and Siega-Riz A diet quality index for pregnancy detects variation in diet and difference by sociodemographic factors. Public Health Nutrition vol 5 no 6 pg 801-809 2002.

      Friday, November 6, 2009

      B vitamins and osteoporosis

      I have never agreed with the sentiment that increasing your calcium intake is the solution to preventing osteoporosis. Your body is not that simple. You body has a host of nutrients that it needs to undertaken any function.

      Hopefully you are aware of the need for magnesium and vitamin D in bone health. You need to have 2 lots of calcium per 1 lot of magnesium. That is 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. You also need lots of vitamin D. Either by spending 10-15 in the sun showing legs are arms every day. This should be in the time of day that risk of sunburn is low. Otherwise you need to supplement.

      Now reading a paper today it appears that the B vitamins are important for bone health. They looked at markers for bone health and some vitamin B levels in the blood of nearly 100 men and women who had hip replacement operations. I assume that these operations were carried out on people who had arthritis, not osteoporosis, otherwise the study wouldn't make sense. They took the hip bone and analyzed it for its mechanical properties to determine how healthy the bone was. They concluded:
      The results of the present study indicate that low serum folate and vitamin B-6 concentrations, but not low serum vitamin B-12 concentrations, are associated with an altered morphology of human bone.
      I am unsure why the looked at only these three vitamins. The question I have is B vitamins come from fresh green vegetables. So do these results tell us that people who have lots of fresh green vege's live healthier lives, thus have better bone health. Or does it say that folate and B-6 are essential for bone health.

      I would suggest that we all eat more green vege's and go and increase our B supplements!

      References: Joerg H Holstein Low serum folate and vitamin B-6 are associated with an altered cancellous bone structure in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 90: 1440-1445, 2009. First published September 16, 2009; doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28116
      Picture credit wikipedia

      Wednesday, November 4, 2009

      Rational behind pasteurization. Why it was a good idea 50 years ago and why it should be stopped

      I believe that people try to make the best decisions they can with the information they have. From my previous post(s) you have picked up that I am think that milk should not be pasteurized. This is because it turns a health food into a death food. Well not quite death food, but no where near as nutritious as unpasteurized milk. I will post another day about why unpasteurized milk is more nutritious. However today I will discuss the history and information that drove the need for pasteurization. Like I opened with I believe that people made the best decision over 50 years ago to pasteurize milk. Once you know the reasons the decision was made we can then revisit the topic and determine if pasteurization is still necessary.

      Bacteria/viral contamination of milk comes from two places. Firstly milk produced by the cow when she makes milk. If a cow has a virus it can find its way into the milk. This is nearly always due to a break down between the blood and milk barrier. I would be very surprised if the virus can migrate from the blood into the cell, and from the cell into the milk. It is for this reason that the WHO recommends that mothers with AIDS/HIV breast feed there infants. However if mum has mastitis, looks to wean baby, or has any other inflammation of the breast they need to immediately stop feeding baby. This is because these conditions cause break down in the milk blood barrier and allow the HIV virus into the milk. Due to this process cows milk could contain nasty viruses that the cow had. Have a look at the following graph, click it to make it bigger. It is about how long and how high the temperature needs to be to kill the common viruses found in milk. Take note the common viruses are tuberculosis (TB), diphtheria and typhoid.  These are very nasty viruses and we would associate these with the 3rd world / emerging nations. There is also the streptococci, which is a bacteria that gives you sore throats.

      Given that there was no antibiotics and not cure for these things, if I was raising kids 100 years ago I would be championing for pasteurization as I would hate them to die from one of these infections.

       Well has anything changed over the last 100 years? Yes! Since early 20th century (eg before WWII) major advances in cow health have occurred. Firstly diphtheria and typhoid infections have disappeared, TB is massively reduced. Bacteriology can quickly determine types of infections and disease. Antibiotics and other interventions are now common place. Cows have much reduced bacterial infection rates thus reducing chance of any disease, if the cow has any, making it across into the milk.  

      The second other source of contamination is from outside the cow, entering into the milk via the milking process or on its way to the consumer.An example is shown below. This shows a dairy that was infected with typhoid which caused a typhoid outbreak in  a city. This occurred due to the women who canned the milk worked a nurse, thus transferring the virus to the milk. Once this had stopped a typhoid stopped. So this was not some academic exercise, but a real problem.     

      Another issue was the hygiene of the cows. Different pints (600ml) of milk were obtained from commercially available milk. They were then strained. Examples of the dirt and fecal matter are shown below. You can see that the amount of filth that was removed was up to 0.5 of a gram. This is up to 0.1% of the weight of the milk was the weight of the dirt, poo and god snows only what else!

      How did this crud get into the milk. This fell of the cows udder, into the bucket, while being milked. Cows were often kept in atrocious conditions. The two photos below illustrate this. Although they are in black and white it shows how dirty the areas were. The outdoor pen where the cows would be kept and feed in is run down, muddy, rubbish and curd everywhere. The cows in this place would have been filthy as they often would have there udders on the ground. Firstly from laid down to chew their cud and rest. Secondly when it got muddy there feet would sink into the mud thus lowering the udder allowing it to scrap along the dirt. A photo of the inside of a area such is this is shown. See the cobwebs, dirt, the complete lack of cleanliness is continued inside the barn.  

      If my milk came from such a place as this I would want it pasteurized! However such places have been outlawed. Since these photos were taken about a century ago hygiene standards on farms have massively increased. Thus contamination in raw milk has massively decreased.  

      Thus pasteurization was solution to a hygiene problem. They took a two pronged approach. One was to pasteurized and the other was to clean up the farms. Now the farms are healthier (and if they shipped raw milk the farms would have to be an even higher standard) we on longer need to pasteurize the milk and destroy a lot of its nutritional value.

      Graphics from Boyd Preventive medicine 6th ed. Saunders (c) 1920 - 1942. Used by kind permission of Boyd family.

      Amazing wisdom from 3/4 of a century ago

      A wise man once said "There is nothing new under the sun." When it comes to nutrition there have been people drumming out the importance of vitamins to all who can hear since time immortal. Well not quite, but since vitamins were discovered. I came across a most wonderful book published in 1929 about the vitamins. Unusual for me I have no idea were I came across it (normally I can tell you what shop and when). The Dr McCarrison who holds no fame in discovering the vitamins, was one of the many workers who were researching the topic of the vitamin in the early 20th Century. However his published book speaks his words from beyond the grave. 

      Let me quotes some passages.
      I the dietary does not contain a fair proportion of protective foods it will be faulty in one ore more of the following (1) deficiency of vitamins (2) deficiency of protein in good biological value, (3) deficiency of inorganic salts [minerals] (4) excess of carbohydrates and (5) excess of fat. (pg 238)
      Have you heard this before, to eat more vitamins, eat more high quality protein, eat more minerals eat less carbohydrates and fats?! That is exactly what we are still trying to do over 75 years since he wrote the book.

      He discussed a patient that he was asked to see because of general mishealth. Nothing in particular but in continual state of poor health. After looking at his diet and adding more wholesome animal products (raw milk, eggs, meat, liver) and fresh fruits and vegetables (apple, fresh orange juice, lettuce, fruit) he health made a dramatic recovery. I quote the following:
      He is most certainly better in every way, more vigorous, a better colour and eating splendidly. He has had had no night terrors and no abdominal pain..... the boys general health had greatly benefit... The identity in kind of his symptoms to those of my monkeys fed on autoclaved [highly cooked/processed] food is remarkable.....
      He ten talked about how other children might have thrived on his initial diet, but is was deficient for his needs. He also goes onto dig at the medical profession for prescribing the removal of adenoids, tonsils, stretching of the jaws by an elaborate ontological device, the two hours spend in a recumbent position on a hard surface. None of which helped.

      Another patient who had "perpetual indigestion" health that had steadily run down, headaches loss of concentration, feeling dull and irresponsive, nervousness in meeting people, lack of energy, drowsiness etc. In modern times we would likely to label this lady as depressed. This what the good doctor observed about her diet:
      On examining it I found it to be markedly deficient in the "protective foods" [raw] milk, eggs [these would have been free range/organic], wholemeal bread, glandular organs [liver etc] [raw] butter, fresh fruit and vegetables [also likely to be organic]. It was composed for the most part of tea, coffee, white bread, cake, jam margarine, bacon, derived eggs, frozen meat, sugar, rice tinned fish and pastries.
       Does that sound like the western diet - I think so! The doctor noticed that her symptoms were very similar to that of the monkeys on a vitamin deficient diet. This being:
      (1) anemia (2) loss of weight , (3) gastro-intestinal disorder, (4) increasing weight of the brain, (5)atrophy of the thyroid, (6) adrenal insufficiency.
      Again these are what we would not a depression. The weight loss and trouble in intestines is caused by lack of Serotonin. Which also contributes to brain issues. After changing diet her headaches disappeared, circulation improved, felt "extraordinary well", looked of good color, looks many years younger, body functions were all back to normal.

      And another quote:
      Unfortunately milk, butter, fresh eggs, raw fruit and leafy vegetables are at the time or writing both costly and difficult to procure.
      Do we hear the same thing today?! And
      Each vitamin is but a member of a team, and the team itself but a part of a co-ordinate whole.
      Which means that you can't take a vitamin out in isolation (at the time or writing there were only 3 recognized vitamins).

      Now I could rabbit on some more with some more beautiful statements from the book. I will save these for the next installment of historical studies and wisdom.

      Monday, November 2, 2009

      50% of drugs used today had their origin in plants

      I new from my readings that a number of drugs today had origins in herbs and plants. I new that foxglove, a potent and poisonous plant was used in treating heart conditions. Today the drug is still used under brand names such as Crystodigin and Lanoxi. But I never new it was so high until I read today that about 50% of drugs used had their origins in plants. This includes:
      • Aspirin - this was named by Bayer in 1899, A from Acetyl and "Spirsäure" from an old (German) name for salicylic acid. As it was a combination of the two. Salicylic acid was obtained from the bark of willow trees, which are classified with the Latin name Salix
      • Morphine - from the opium poppy
      • Quinine. This is the miracle substance that healed malaria. It comes from the bark of the Cinhona tree. This cure was discovered by the indigenous people of South America and the Spanish in  took it back to Europe in the 16th century.
      • Taxol. This is a significant anti cancer drug original from the Pacific Yew tree.
      This was from a 1989 article so is 20 years old. The amount of effort that has gone into exploring further drugs from plants used in folk lore has increased dramatically over the last few decades. So I suspect that this figure would be true today. A significant issue with developing drugs from plants is figuring out what the active ingredient(s) are so it can be standardized and mass produced. It was not until 1971 that a Britsh scientist figured out how Asprin worked in the body and he was awarded the 1982 Nobel prize in medicine for this discovery. This was nearly 100 years since the drug made it to market!

      Reference: Semple S., The antiviral properties of traditional Australian Aboriginal medicines. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society Australia, Vol 22 1998. Picture credit.

      Sunday, November 1, 2009

      The time lag in science

      Been reading a journal, it has the papers from two conferences. The conferences were about:

      1) Mediterranean diet
      2) Problems that diabetes causes and how to understand them

      These seem rather topical with the Mediterranean diet being praised and diabetes gaining a higher profile.
      The question I have for you is: How long ago do you think these conferences were held?  

      2008? or 2005... maybe even year 2000? Nope, keep on going back.... 1995, nope even further.... 1991. Yes nearly 20 years ago in 1991 they were discussing how great the Mediterranean diet was and the issues with diabetes. Yet is was not until at least year 2000 before it became common knowledge that the Mediterranean diet was good for you (I  don't actually know when it happened, do you?)

      Now it has taken at least a decade if not 15 or so years for this information to be commonly known. This is the time lag effect in science. Modern science has a very large time lag. This is due for a number of reasons, including at least the following:
      • Research is often done by students or post graduate fellows. This means that the supervisor who will often write up the work, or the student who does, will only write up near the end of their study's. With a Ph D taking 3 - 5 years there is a few years between results and publication.
      • Peer review process. This is when other scientists review the publication and discuss it's worthiness of being published. The process of submitting a paper, having feedback and resubmitting, then waiting for publication would be almost always longer than a year. 
      • Idea dissemination. Like any group of people ideas and new concepts are like viruses. They infect groups of people, in specific areas. Thus if you have a new idea, it takes time for the "infection" to flow through the scientific community and become accepted as an idea. This is why so many people die before there great contribution to science is recognized (this does not only happen in science).
      • Popular press. Once an idea has caught on in academic and science circles someone then has to write a book explaining the concept into everyday terms. Again this takes time. Time for the writer to understand, write the book, publish it and get it into book stores.
      So you can see that there is a significant time lag between discovery of an idea, to acceptance of this idea in scientific communities and then onto public eye. This is why it took over a decade from having a conference on how great the Mediterranean diet was, to when you heard about it.

      Thus it is one of the purposes of this blog to speed up the time from the idea to be researched to the time your life is impacted by postive change. 

      Saturday, October 31, 2009

      Vitamin C levels - finally understanding that we need more than the RDI.

      Great to be back. The last few days has been manic as I put together a Ph D application for a well funded scholarship with very short notice..... so posting has been light.

      The vitamin C RDI ranges from 45 - 90 mg/day depending on your country. This fact alone should send off the alarm bells. How can one country specify half of another when they level when it is supposed to be scientifically determined?. This issue aside there has just been published a study that looks at vitamin C and parenteral nutrition. Parenteral nutrition (PN) is where you receive your food, typically by drip, because you can't eat it. This often occurs due to trauma or injury. Clearly when someone has a major trauma or injury they can be/put into a coma, or don't have the strength or ability to eat and process food.

      As this nutrition is all that a person is obtaining it is important to have the right vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbo's.....The paper asks the obvious question. Given that these patients bodies are under significant stress, as they are repairing themselves, does the body need more vitamin C? (the paper only looked at vitamin C).

      Well what do you think? It is clear the body needs more nutrients in this state, so the answer is YES.

      PN currently has 100mg/day for Vitamin C for patients at home. This is because these patients are not in major trauma but have difficulties eating or need PN for other reasons. The standard dose in hospital is 200 mg/day because if you are on PN in a hospital you have more problems or issues. It is good to see that someone has thought through the issues and done the logical thing.

      The paper goes onto discussing the vitamin C needs for very sick or injured people. It states that vitamin C blood levels drop through the floor as the body uses up its vitamin C. To main the blood vitamin C levels in these very sick or injured people need 3 000 mg a day. This is clearly much higher than the RDI of 45-90 mg, or current PN of either 100 or 200 mg. The paper states:
      [vitamin C] requirements have been shown to be higher in perioperative, trauma, burn, and critically ill patients, paralleling oxidative stress...... Large vitamin C supplements may be considered in severe critical illness, major trauma, and burns because of increased requirements resulting from oxidative stress and wound healing.
      Parioperative is the time before, during and after a operation. Application: If you are going to have any operative procedure you should be on 3 000 mg a day, before, during and after the operation. Also in any major trauma or injury you should take 3 000 mg a day.

      This shouldn't be to surprising work done on guinea pigs in 1967 found that strength of scar tissue healing was proportional to their vitamin C level. Guinea pigs RDI is 45 mg vitamin C a day. They found that increase their intake to 2 000 mg a day provided the strongest jhealed scar. So a figure for humans of 3 000 mg a day, when there RDI is 45-90, makes sense. Lastly I can't help but point out that according ot the USA Dietary Reference Intake that the upper limit of vitamin C intake is 2 000 mg and should not be exceeded! To their credit these dietary reference intakes are for healthy 25 year old males. However people often take this 2 000 mg level as any you shouldn't have more than this.

      M., Berger. Parenteral Nutrition Vitamin C Requirements in Parenteral Nutrition. Gastroenterology Volume 137, Issue 5, Supplement 1, November 2009, Pages S70-S78

      Baker, E., Vitamin C Requirements in Stress. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol 20 No 6 pg 584

       Photo credit: Chemo on Flickr

      Wednesday, October 28, 2009

      Natural sweeteners

      I have a distinct sweet tooth which is convenient to blame on my Grandfather who had a sweet tooth. The down side is high intake of sugar leads to diabetes. I could in theory switch to artificial sweeteners but these worry me worse. There are a number of natural sweeteners however refined sugar in my book is not "natural" because it has been heavily processed and refined. Anybody who has chewed a lump of sugar cane will know there is a massive difference between refined sugar and sugar cane. As an aside I have purchased  a sugar cane plant and hope to make a beer from the canes in late summer.

      Anyway there are a number of natural sweeteners. I have recently purchased a Stevia plant (see picture to left). If you chew one of the leaves you taste nothing then a long and strong burst of sweetness. It is 30-45 times as sweet as sugar/sucrose. If the sweet part is extracted from the plant, which is done in Japan, the substance is 300 times as sweet as sugar. As a reference saccharine one of the artificial sweeteners is 500 times sweeter than sugar. The stevia plants sweetness comes from a substance that is not turned into sugar, thus is safe for diabetics to use. I have found that adding stevia to cups of tea sweetenes them. I hope to try more uses for this over the summer. 

      The bizarre thing is that in Japan since 1971 have been able to purchase an extract of stevia to use as a sweetener. Then in 1991 the FDA banded the plant, unless it is taken as a supplement, even though it has been demonstrated that it is safe since 1950's. And low and behold when a US company has isolated a  steviol glycoside rebaudioside A (Reb-A), and now markets this as a sweetener to use in food, and at the same time the FDA have now approved it. Dodgy things like this makes me suspect of regulators.  

      I have also done a bit or reading on natural sweeteners. There are compounds in citrus skins, especially kumquat, that are very sweet. For example Naringenine dihydrochalcone is 500 times sweeter than sugar and Neohesperidine dihydrochalconeis 1000 times sweeter.

      So there are plenty of substitutes for sugar. The best thing would be wean myself of sugar and allow the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables to come forth and enjoy these healthy food..... However until then there should be in the very near future substances that are sweet and not bad for you.

      Picture credit: Ethel Aardvak

      Have some sodium ferrocyanide in your diet

      Building upon my last post regarding salt on wikipedia it caught my eye that sodium ferrocyanide is an approved anti caking agent for addition to salt. It caught my eye as cyanide is not a healthy substance at all (it is what makes peach stones poisonous and kill possums). It turns out that this type of cyanide stays well bound and is passed out in urine without being modified. 

      Further wikiwpedia digging  and some WHO documents it turns out that the acceptable limit is 0.025mg/kg/day. A 100kg person can have 2.5 mg a day. This is a rather small amount - think of a 1ml syringe. These have 0.1ml divisions along it. 2.5 mg would be a quarter of one of these 0.1ml divisions (assuming the salt is the same density as water, which it is not, but lets not get to complex).

      This by itself does not concern me, there are more things to worry about nutritionally than a bit of anti caking agent. However what I find deeply disturbing is the following two facts. Firstly that no long term animal or human studies have been carried out. The longest animal study was 13 weeks in duration and human studies were based upon one off injections. Secondly that this data was collated in 1974 and human work was published in 1942, 1951 and 1956.

      The reason I find these two points deeply disturbing is that over the long term you reap what you sow. For example if I drink 4 bottles of wine a day it will take years maybe decades before the long term effects of alcohol abuse shows up. eg lose of brain function, destruction of hormones etc etc. Thus we don't know what the long term effects could be of this anti caking agent. We have no idea at all about what happens over a lifetime of having such compounds.

      The second thing is that science has come a very long way since 1942, 1951 and 1956. To base our intake on data that is over 50 years old is skating over thin ice. One would expect work to be done with modern equipment to confirm that there are no issues with this additive.

      Now like I said there are more important things to worry about nutritionally and to be honest my intake of sodium ferrocyanide does not concern me. However the issues highlighted about sodium ferrocyanide are indicative of the issues we face in most food additives. We don't know the long term effects (let alone any interactions) and data is often based of decades old science.

      No wonder we are in so much trouble with our food and health.