Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Maximize chance of new food being accepted

Been reading my Food Quality and Preference journal. There are lots of interesting tidbits. In one of them Turner and Collison undertook a mathematical study of enjoyment of a meal at a student restaurant. They found that you could model reasonably well (R^2 0.70) the enjoyment of a meal with this formula

Meal Enjoyability = 0.57 + 0.43(entrée) + 0.21(sweet) + 0.14(starter) + 0.14(potato)

This means that the dish that most effects the enjoyability of the dinner is the entrée. This factor is about double the next impact which is the desert, starter or potato dishes.

Know this study was based in America, so for people in NZ we need to unpack the terminology. Starters in this study were things such as soup, grapefruit, shrimp cocktail, stuffed tomato or stuffed eggs. The entrée was what we NZ'ers call the meat portion of the main meal, the study had these dishes:
  • Roast Beef
  • Roast Port
  • Roast Lamb
  • Beef Carbonnade (?!)
  • Chilli con Carne
  • Fish in saucr
  • Fried fish
  • Fried chicken
Unsurprisingly the potatoes variable were how the potatoes were served and same with the vegetable variable and the sweet was unsurprisingly the desert.

Application to optimal health: If for your dinner you are trying a new food, or a new way of cooking something, get the meat dish enjoyable, then your new food has a much higher probability of being enjoyed. This is because the meat portion dominates the enjoyability equation.

Would be very interesting to see if this works in real family homes, not just restaurants.

PS for those who have a polytec or other tertiary trainer that teaches chief/cooking cheap and enjoyable meals can be had - the trick is getting an invite!

Yeah my Yacon's have arrived

I purchased some Yacon tubers from organicsman via trademe. They are supposed to taste like apple and watermelon, so that sold me. They can grow tubers up to 1kg ! And they apparently are better for blood sugar levels as there sweetness comes from an indigestible sugar. Apparently they grow like Jerusalem Artichokes, which I grow down one side of the property.

So the question is where to put them? And next autumn I should be digging up my yummy tubers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Extruded food and nutrition

Extrusion cooking is where a food is cooked (but not always) as it is extruded from a machine. The things that spring to mind are things like "chips" such as Pringles, or a breakfast cereal like WheetBix. However extrusion cooking, or extrusion made food is more common than these things. It covers most rectangle shaped foods e.g. Most muesli bars, fruit bars, square, rectangle, donut or any other shape breakfast cereals, pasta. It also it is used for less obvious food processing like baby foods, sweets, some cheeses. A good explanation of the process is:
extrusion cooking Food, commonly a cereal product, is heated under pressure, then extruded through fine pores, when the super‐heated water evaporates rapidly, leaving a textured product
Image borrowed from here.

This is a great video clip showing the machines in action

Reading through back issues of my journals, and have across an article in Journal of Food Engineering (vol 2 pg 281-3080. It is a rather old paper being published in 1983, but it serves as a good illustration, out of the 23 pages devoted to the topic of effects of extrusion cooking on nutritional value of food only 4.5 pages discuss the impact on vitamins. So this is only 20% of the article. It is a review article and any good review article should cover all the material on the subject. So there are only four and a half A5 pages about how our vitamins are effected by extrusion. To put this in perspective five times more information is known about the effect of extrusion on fat, protein and carbohydrates. This clearly shows the bias in food research towards the fats, proteins and carbohydrates. No wonder we are in the nutritional mess that we are in.

For those who are wondering what the effects of this process are on the vitamins, the results are as bad as you would expect. The highlights (or is that lowlights?) of the review are that there is a lot of variance in vitamin retention, this aside the following information can be gleaned

B Vitamins
  • "Average retention was 54% of Thiamine" for maize extrusion
  • Thiamine lost in potato flakes was 3 - 78%
  • "Under exclusion conditions producing a realistic breakfast cereal... the loss of thiamine and riboflavin was substantial - 90% of the thiamine and 50% of the riboflavin."
  • Substantial loss of thiamine 60-90% in wheat products
  • For maize and soy blends "significantly higher thiamine losses of 25-50% occurred"
And lastly
  • "Riboflavin degradation increased with increasing moisture content and screw speed..... thus for both vitamins an increase in screw speed had a detrimental effect."
Now if you had just purchased a quarter of a million dollar piece of equipment would you run it at a leisurely pace or as quickly as possible to maximize the return on the investment? I think we all know that answer to that.

Onto Vitamin C
  • "Boiling of 2 minutes caused 79% destruction of added vitamin C in a maize/soy/groundnut mixture" when using"Extrusion cooking... only 33% destroyed"
  • "When Vitamin C was added before extrusion, great looses occurred (57-66%)"
  • Vitamin C losses in potato flakes was 14 - 68%
  • Again higher screw speeds lead to higher losses of vitamin C
  • Finally this wonderful piece of news"It should be noted that the snack product that was most acceptable form a sensory point of view had the lowest content of vitamin C." Wonderful do you think produces want to maximize how consumers like their products. I think so.
The fat soluble vitamins
  • In maize 53% of carotene was destroyed
  • Only 26% of beta carotene added to the food was detected after extrusion
  • There were only two studies done on Vitamin E, one stated no loses the other were loses were only 15% in soy flour.
The summary was that "Due to difficulties in the analytical procedures, the stability of fat soluble vitamins needs further evaluation."

So remember this next time someone suggests that modern food processing does not impact on our nutrition!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not all antioxidents are good for you

I though that when a food label said that antioxidant had been added that this would be helpful to my body, as I was increasing my antioxidant intake. We all know that antioxidants are good for you.

Turns out I was very naive.

At one level addition of antioxidants is good, because the product would go off without them. It make sense to better to have fresh oil, than rancid oil, fresh juice than brown juice. So when I purchase something that hasn't gone off it would be better for me.

However in reading an issue of Journal of Food Engineering (Volume 2 pg 26) they look at processing waste citrus pulp from a orange juice factory. To help it stay stable, that is keep it nice orange color, antioxidants were added. So far so good.

Well it turns out that they antioxidants that were used were some chemical made in some factory. It was the Tenox range, which is made by the Eastman chemical company. They do a range of antioxidants for various food manufacturing.

Now we are about to drill a bit deeper into this subject. Firstly do not let big chemical name scare you, remember water's chemical name is dihydrogen monoxide.

The Tenox range is made up of various formulations of butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). These are known as food additives E320 and E321 respectively. Now it gets a bit scary, how about this quote:
Excessive consumption of E321 is thought to cause liver damage and migraines. E321 has also been shown to cause cell division. The EU has now restricted use of E321 to reduce the amount of this chemical in food and drink products
Or this quote from wikipedia
In the 1970s, Benjamin Feingold, a San Francisco MD who established the "Feingold Diet" claimed that BHT could produce hyperactivity in some children. In addition, some controversy surrounds the link of BHT to cancer risk, some studies showing the potential to increase and some showing a decrease in risk. Some food industries have voluntarily eliminated this additive from their products, and since the 1970s it has been steadily replaced with the less studied BHA.
You will be very pleased to now that both E320 and E321 are approved for use in NZ.

Know I will not go on about the nastiness of food additives. There is much controversy over whether they are safe or not. ....

But what I find extremely disturbing is the lack of research into BHA. PubMed is thee database for medical things. A search for "cancer" you get 2 278 482 articles, or for "Vitamin C" turns up only 42 391 articles, panadol gives over 13 000 studies, so you get the picture that this is one huge database. So searching for BHA give a paltry 1 414 and BHT gives only slightly more at 2 556. It gets even worse, a search for either BHA + safety or BHT + safety only gives an astonishingly low 34 articles.

Now reading throught the titles and selecting the ones that are relevent we get down to 13 articles. That is right of the millions of papers in this data base only a handful of papers picked up. Now I should point out that any reseracher worth their salt could take this number of 13 papers and increase it to say 50-100 papers, after all this is what a researcher is paid for.

However I am horrified that we are making decisions about what we feed our children based upon such pittiful evidence.

I find it very disturbing, that these food additives have not been well studied, and they are in a large range of our foods.

Secondly I feel very violated and misled that what I through was good for me as an antioxidant may in fact be reducing the level of wellness in my body. In fact it is highly likely that it is a bad thing. I loath thinking something is good, then finding out that it is not.

PS Tenox is also the name for a very potent drug drug which has a powerful hypnotic effect, so much so that it has been used as a truth serum! It is not the same thing as the antioxidant

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Boys and their Toys

When we had our first child, Victoria, people said boys are different. To which I said all children are different. However as I now have three delightful girls, I totally agree girls are different to boys.

This rather amusing incident (for those who are not the parents) is the above two x-rays. They show to different boys swallowing multiple magnets! "A" slide is from a 9 year old who swallowed 23 magnets! and "B" is a developmentally impaired 13 year old swallowed 15 magnets.

They were successful operated for magnet removal. Apparently ingestion of metals is ok because they pass on through. However as magnets stick togeather, they can damage tissue on the way through. I think that "A" traces out the pattern of his small intestine.

They look very much like the magnets that my girls (and I) like play and build with.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine article.

Vege's and Fruit increase T-cell levels, which is a great thing

There is a special group of cells called T cells these are a subset of white blood cells (lymphocytes). There are six types of T cells, each with its own unique function. They are named either for the function they perform or the parts of the cell that make them unique. One of the six groups is named after the unique proteins that are on the cells surface. One of the two cells that make this group up are alpha beta T cells. The other cells are called gamma delta T cells, which are at a much lower number than the alpha beta T cells.

A 3-D representation of the gamma delta proteins is shown to the left.

These gamma delta T cells are found mostly in the cells that are in mucous areas of the body. That is the gastrointestinal tract and reproductive tract, however they are also found in human blood.

What does all this science have to do with nutrition?

Well a study when these gamma delta cells are removed from mice, they develop “a rapid tumor onset and increased tumor incidence.” Thus these cells are thought to reduce incidence of cancer in humans and it is thought that higher the gamma delta cell levels reduces probability of cancer. Excitingly it is known that the level of gamma beta cells can be increased in humans by eating particular foods.

One group of foods that increase are ones containing alkylamine compounds. These compounds are produced by bacterial in gut and also the following foods kola nuts, green tea, apple skins, red and white wine, mushrooms (Badius sp), and certain edible cucumbers.

Another study that feed healthy volunteers either a placebo or a fruit and vegetable tablet, that was made from juice and juice powder or “primarily fruit and vegetable juice powder concentrate derived from acerola cherry, apple, beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cranberry, kale, orange, peach, papaya, parsley, pineapple, spinach, and tomato. The capsules provided ~7.5 mg ß-carotene, 234 mg vitamin C, 45 IU vitamin E, 420 µg folate,”

They found that those on the fruit and vegetable tablet had significant increased in gamma delta T cells. Additional good news was the significant increase in antioxidant status. Also of interest 2 people from both placebo group and the fruit and vegetable group became sick during the 77 day trial. The two who where on the fruit and vegetable group got over their sickness faster.

How to get rid of Chickens?

Very very annoyed today. The feral chicken family of a male, female and teenager have been hanging around our chicken coop of late. I didn't mind until this morning. The chickens over night have turned my vege garden. Wreaking a number of growing seedlings in the process. Including a large area that had a carpet of self sown lettuces who I was looking forward to harvesting as micro greens.

Not to sure how to dispose of them. Can't use a gun in a the town. My brother has a cross bow, but again could be an issue with using it - espeically if we have to track them through the shrubs and tress in the park very close to our place. Maybe I could catch them in a cage..... but then I would have to terminate them with an axe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Worse to have depression than a broken body

Wading through this abstract, which is about correlation between mental disorder and physical disorder,that is mental health issue and other medical issues. the data was gleaned from"National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative household survey", a USA study . It is a bit hard to understand however I have gleaned this from the abstract:
  • That mental disorder is more impairing to the person than the physical disorder for 74% of the study group.
  • Severe impairment was significantly higher for the mental disorder group (42%) vs only 24.4% of the physical impairment group.
  • The impairment area was different for both groups. The "chronic medical disorders were most likely to be associated with impairment in domains of work and home functioning, mental disorders were most commonly associated with problems in social and close-relation domains." This is not to surprising that physical disorder hinds people actually doing something, and doing stuff is work or home related. Mental issues are inherently embedded in relational issues.
  • Treatment was significantly lower for the mental disorder (21.4%) vs physical impairment group (58.2%)
This relates well to my experiences, both dyslexia - which may or may not have been included in the study as a "mental disorder" and with my depression. I was whining one day to the elder statesman of the business I once worked for. Whining about how I would much prefer to have a physically disability than the mental issues I had. After I said it I though, foot in mouth disease alert because he had a son in his early 30's who had a genetic dwarfism condition which was in effect killing him early and was a significant impairment. Instead of the polite telling off that I thought was coming, he actually agreed with me. This was the first I realised how difficult mental disorders really are. As he had seen both my struggles and his sons, and had realised that mine was harder to deal with, less support etc. I think it because they were not visible, so people assume you "making it up" or can't relate.

Thinking of the times that I have been physically disabled eg broken limbs, it was not as significant as not being able to fill out the form at the clinic. Under stress my dyslexia returns with a vengeance - I think being sick is stressful.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Can't cry over the spilt milk, if there is no milk !

The headlines today of kiwi's not affording milk, and purchasing soft drink instead for the kids to drink. Like any news paper article once you read he article it is not as drastic as first appears. Firstly that this is low income families, and secondly it is drinking the milk, not having the milk on breakfast, it is having milk drunk throughout the day.

A couple of points the farmers get paid approximately $5 a kg of milk solids.
Approximately milk as 10% solid content, so the farmers get paid about $0.50 per liter of milk. Thus there is a significant mark up to the supermarket which charges $2.00 a liter. I am surprised by the mark up between farmer and consumer. However as there is little competition, and no farmer has gone through expense of supplying direct to consumer it tells me that there are significant costs getting milk to consumers.

This raises the point of gates sales. It is illegal for farmers to sell unpasteurized milk unless it is at the farm gate, and is less than 5 liters. Fortunately there are rumblings that purchasing of unpasteurized milk is becoming more important to people.

You should be told where your food is from

I am amazed that we don't know the country of origin of our food. A article today in the HoS states:

But a supermarket visit reveals many come from China - untested and without labels to identify their country of origin.

Why is this an issue? Ethics and Opinions are my answer. We all have opinions and ethical assumptions about particular people and/or cultures. That is what makes up a brand and we use these paradigms to make decisions. How can you make an informed decision when you don't have the right information?

For example do you purchases the lowest priced frozen vegetables that may come from country A or a more expensive that comes from country B. For me it is important that I try to get the highest nutritional value from my food dollar. And I am aware that very very limited food testing goes on, that is testing for things such as pesticide or other chemical residues. Or for health hazards such as E Coli. Basically there are to many products to test, and if people are not falling over dieing then there is not going to be any more testing. So without any country of origin I might assume that these two products provide the same nutrition, so choice the lower priced one. Where as I might make a different choice if I new the lower priced one had lower value to my body and family.

PS It is even more mad as our clothing has to have a country of origin. So what you put on your back has to be labeled but not what goes into your mouth.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mint slices - would have been healthy once

I love mint products, especially mint and chocolate. One of my most favourite bustiers is Arnotts Mint Slices. I love to pop the whole biscuit in at once and chew it. I love to bite chunks off and slowly dissolve them in my mouth. I love to scrap and suck the tops and bottoms off till all that is left is the biscuit. Did I mention that I love mint slices.....

I can't say that Arnotts has been compared with the other brands, but as I was sharing the packet with my brother this week, something caught my eye. See close up to the right "with pure mint oil". This got me thinking - are other brands made without mint oil? And if so what gives them the peppermint flavor? Something that is completely manufactured in a lab?

Peppermint is a wonderful herb. I have a mint garden with apple mint, common mint, basil mint, my afterdinner mint is on its last legs and is trying to decide if it is going to completely die or come away. My peppermint is dead. I'm not to sure why the issues I have never had any problem growing mint before.

Anyway back to the point. Mint biscuits one day would have had mint in them! Peppermint has health benefits. The most commonly known benefit is that it helps in digestion and settles the stomach. Hence we have after dinner mints or peppermint tea after a large meal. Especially if the meal is high in fat.

Mint leaves also that the following properties "Antioxidant, antiulcer, cytoprotective, heptoprotective, cholagogue, chemopreventive, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetogenic etc. "

Clearly it is good to eat mint. However the biscuits that we devoured likely didn't have any medical value, and I suspect that after we ate them our bodies were worse off, not better off. So instead of eating a health food product we ate a "death food" product.

PS last Christmas I dipped After Dinner Mint leaves in melted dark chocolates. This made for a Divine special treat. The best part was eating the chocolate left on the sides of the bowl after all the leaves had been dipped. The chocolate had absorbed large amounts of peppermint flavor and was heavenly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own - book review

Been reading Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own

It is a fantastic book and highly readable with quirky descriptions such as peaches go of faster than hand grenades. It is however written from a UK perspective with comments such as growing citrus in a bucket/container so you can bring them undercover in winter so they survive, and all dates/seasons out by six months. I have glended the following points:

  1. Pickling can be done really easily by pouring vinegar over the veg/fruits !
  2. That distilling cider, or other fruit brews/wine brew, makes Brandy, with the flavor of the original product. Now I had never seen the point of distilling at home, however I know have reason. On of my Dad’s colleges has a distiller so later in the year I might give this a go.
  3. Plums can be pickled by pricking them, soaking (in brine?) then cooking and bottling with vinegar
  4. Salted plums, my dad like these as they had them while in Tonga. So I should give this a go
  5. Salted beans, this looks very interesting. Three lots of beans to one lot of salt. The salt draws water out, so you can top jar up with 2nd lot before sealing
Brew related:
  • Sauerkraut – another reminder that I would like to have a go
  • Liquors. It talks about adding fruit to white rum to make liquors. I will modify this by adding fruit to my wines, to increase nutrient value. I have a stash of loquat wine that is a bit bland and insipid, so this would make an excellent base. I think I will try blueberries and yellow zest (not together) and maybe some herbs
Fruity pancakes – make a slightly thick pancake recipe poor about half into hot pan. Turn down the heat, place sliced fruit on the pan cake. Once this mixture has almost set/cooked, pour in remainder mixture and cook on low heat.

That I could get mushroom spores and grow them on my wood mulch. You can make mushroom antipasto by soaking in brine, then cook with vinegar, garlic ,peppercorns etc, summer until softened, drain and pack into jars, fill with very hot olive oil and seal. Waste vnegar can used to flavor other dishes.

Broad beans. We grew these for the first time last winter, surprisingly everyone enjoyed them. This was because we picked them when they were still quite small, so they tasted more like peas and we soft and juicy not hard and rubbery. Broad been pate sounds interesting. 750 grams of broad beans, cook sated water 5-6 mins, cool remove skins. Sauté an onion, small red and green pepper (all chopped small) in olive oil. Add broad beans tablespoon of tomato t water, bay leaf and summer savory (what is this?) simmer, remove bay leaf and any savory stalks, blend it up tip into bow with 75g of bread crumbs, 2 eggs (whisked) and back in medium over for 40 mins. I would like to give this a go for our next family event to see if people like it.

I need to get into growing nasturtiums. They grow like weeds and are self seeding. You can use the leaves as a salad green, can stuff the flowers and make the seeds into poor mans capers. You can also pickle them by brining for a few days, drain, rinse pack into jars, add vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaf etc.

Moving the cycle of fruiting/cropping. I had never considered that you could move the time when fruits and vegetables come into season. However it is now obvious. If you plant early varieties or plant things in the north facing they will fruit/grow earlier. If you do it south facing then it would be slower. You can speed things up with mini greenhouses. Thus you avoid some of the glut as everything comes on at once.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Depression cure by using neddles?

As tempting as it is this post is not about being happy thought drug injecting. It is instead about using acupuncture to help remove depression. This article looks at using acupuncture on the regulation of the liver points. Out of the 440 patients with depression, a third got acupuncture for liver regulation, third got "random" acupuncture ie not the liver points and a remaining third got prozac. The conclusions were:

"The therapeutic effect of acupuncture on depressive neurosis is better than or similar to that of Prozac but with less side effect."

Data such as this confirms how complex our bodies area, and that we know so little about how it works. Or the other conclusion could be it could just show how bad prozac :)

PS for those who want to know more about the points they were "bilateral Hegu (LI 4) and Taichong (LR 3), Baihui (GV 20) and Yintang (EX-HN3) plus ear-acupuncture" Interestingly enough they are not what I would have called the liver points. There are 14 liver points yet only of the the five points is a liver point.

Hunting and Gathering day

Yesterday was a hunter gather day. I went hunting for fruit, and this is the stash that a collected. Across the top (from L to R) red apples, granny smith apples, more granny smith apples, and two different types of grape vine cutters (in the white/yellow bag), a rose for my wife and banana’s.

Second step is oranges, red apples, persimmons, some fejioa and apple juice and lastly rose hips.

Apart from the obvious eating of the fruit – last time I got apples I ate all the granny smiths from the big blue bucket single handled as they are my favorite late season apple, as the stay nice and crisp the longest. I will process them in the following ways:

Rose hip wine. Tried this last year, but I didn’t cut of the black bits of the rose hips so the wine had a bitterness that is slowly disappearing as it ages.
Persimmons will go into wine, juice and fruit stews.
Grape cuttings will go into pots, and if/when they take they will be planted with the other grape variety on the very sandy soil out the back.
Red apples – kids favorite, will go in vege juices to make them more palatable. Will also use these apples with rhubarb from our neighbors, and orange tamarilios from our tree. Sweet apples balance the tartness of the rhubarb/tamarilios.
Might use so of the apples to make cider if any remaining
Banana’s – apparently in NZ you can pick them at this stage, wrap them in plastic wrap to keep in the ripening gases and place in a warm spot. Upon opening one of the banana’s they seem to be high in seed level, so I will be interested in how this goes. I am after a banana palm that will fruit well in NZ.

2-3 hours of time
$10-15 of petrol
$5 for oranges
$4.60 for the 2 liter juice (stopped into the manufacturers shop)
Interesting enough it is the time that is the most valuable commodity. Most people don't have/make the time for such things. I wouldn't mid this if most people purchased large quantities of fruits to eat at home. I haven't seen to many 10 or 20kg bags of produce for sale at the supermarket/fruit store.

I made a couple of observations about this hunter gather mission.
1) That NZ’ers are very generous. The only fruit I had to purchase was only $1 a kg. The rest came from three different places and the people were happy to let me collect for free.
2) That I don’t remember names well when I am nervous. In meeting new people to ask them for fruit I am anxious to make sure I get my story right (my words seem to be harder to communicate when I am nervous) that I don’t have the mental processing to catch the name. I need to remember to relax and “lock in” peoples names.
3) Much fruit goes to waste. Only the best fruit gets picked for export or sale. It is clearly no cost effective to gather in the “blemished” fruit. This really concerns me. I don’t like waste. Makes you wonder if there would be a business in stripping the late season fruit and turning into juice or cider or persimmon fermented drink.
4) That there is no new orchards coming on line. All the orchards I visited were run with by people who were rapidly approaching “retirement”. I know of no new orchards going in. A lot of the orchards I remember as a kid have been ripped out and replaced with pasture or maize. I suspect that the land value is such that orcharding does not make high enough returns to service the debt of the land purchase. Hence they are going into dairying or sub division, not into orchards. This concerns me as purchase of local produce is something that I think is important
5) That people like to be listened to. In talking to the owners of the orchard most enjoyed being listened to and having questions asked about their orchard. Maybe this is why they were so generous?
6) Gleaning. This was the name given in biblical times to people picking up the "excess" fruit. The fields / orchards where to only be harvested once. The remaining fruit or grain was left to the poor to pick and use. The of course was before any government social welfare. However I can now understand how it would work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Food as an addiction

We all would have experienced that warm cosy feel good feeling from eating. Whether it is a piece of chocolate, or a comfort food that mum cooks, or the simple pleasure of a favorite beverage.

Like anything that give pleasure, one can come addicted to it. Commonly accepted ways of dealing with addiction is cold turkey. Come off the stimulus and stay off it.

However how does this work for food? or sex? or exercise? These are all capable of giving an endorphin hit, all capable of giving pleasure. Therefore it is no surprise that they can be addictive. However the standard abstinence don't work, its one thing to give up drinking, another to give up food.

Interestingly enough the latest International Journal of Obesity is completely devoted to the concept of food addiction, publishing papers from their conference. There are many papers which discuss various physiological effects or mechanisms in relation to food as an addiction. I would just like to quote one paper:

"The termination of intermittent access to sweet substances produces symptoms that resemble those observed during opiate withdrawal."

The bottom line is that everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions and their own addictions. However in my personal experience much freedom is brought to the situation when one realizes that an addiction, is that just and addiction. Instead of seeing your self as a failure because you can't stop doing a behaviour, one can see that you are a wonderful person, who is the clutches on an addiction. Thus you can address the addiction, as that an addiction, not a flaw in your self.

Also those who have battled an addiction know that there is an addiction cycle. And the secret to breaking the addiction is actually addressing the start of the cycle, with self esteem and thought issues, instead of the end of the cycle with the negative behavior. One this is understood then breaking the addiction cycle is much easier, though it is never easy.

thus I would fully support the recognition that food addiction is real and is just as challenging to break as something like alcoholism.

Yet another wellness myth - stretching

We all know that you should stretch before and after exercise.

Turns out that this could well be just a myth. Apparently two thirds (or is it only one third?) of all medical beliefs or procedures are not backed up by rigors science. Turns out that stretching is not all it cracked up to be, as this newspaper article outlines.

On of the things that I learnt as a researcher is that on the surface things look well explained but as soon as you drill down for detail it rapidly becomes apparent that no body really knows.

This was first introduced to my at second year of physics and university. Up to this point we assumed that Newtonian physics was true. Newtonian physics is named after Newton, and explains things like projectile motion, things falling under gravity, forces on bridges etc etc. Well our bubble was popped. It became apparent that Newtonian physics didn't work on a small scale, nor did it work on a very large scale, in fact it didn't actually explain anything particularly well as it couldn't explain friction at a small level or things like air resistance. The "hard" data of even physics as a significant amount of hand waving and fudge factors, to make the data match reality.

Thus since medical and health issues develop over time, so people assume that the procedure has robust science behind it otherwise we wouldn't be doing it. Thus the myth perpetuates itself.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is chocolate cake a health food

Tiffany and I had our 13th wedding aniversary yesterday. We celebrated it over the weekend by going to a play that I got complementary tickets for, as they used the "whips" I made for Stations of the Cross.

The kids saw the anniversary on the birthday calendar (I put it on this year, so I am not caught out). They decided that there should be a celebration (aka party) as kids always want an excuse for pigging out on junk food!

Tiffany negotiated them down to a uniced chocolate cake. And as Tiffany is great at baking low and behold a wonderful cake appeared. Got me thinking later in the night that baking need not be so bad for you, it comes down the right ingredients. I am not a baking person, so my list might be a bit out...... but a close approximation.
  • Wholemeal flour (fiber and B vitamins). We don't have white flour any more in our cupboards. Once you switch after a few months you don't even notice it
  • Free range eggs from outdoor cages. This gives high quality protein plus in the yoke vitamin D (as hens in sun light), possibly vitamin K from insects eaten, vitamin E from grass etc along with a whole bunch of carotenoids from grass and waste/grain from the kitechen. Unfortunately our hens are not laying at the moment so we have eggs from the supermarket, they unlikely to have any of the goodness that is mentioned above
  • Butter. As this comes from free range, grass feed cows it is full or antioxidants and good stuff.
  • Raising agent. Now the standard would be baking powder. However if yeast was used, it would add much more value. Yeast is full of B vitamins.
  • Milk. If this was a free range animal (goat or cow) it would be full of antioxidants like the butter. If it was unpasteurised it would have lots of bio available calcium and protein.
  • Salt - sea salt with lots of trace minerals
  • Vanilla - instead of the chemical stuff, real vanilla could be used which would have a bunch of great bioactives.
  • Cocoa. We all know that cocoa is good for us in small doses, after all it is a ground up seed.
  • Sugar. I have noticed that there is unbleahed organic sugar at our local Bin Inn which is not much more expensive that white death (white sugar). Even if we used the Bin Inn organic sugar, I stuggle to justify how this is nutrious.
I think that this all the ingredients. Now the tragedy is that our modern diet and lifestyle have produced cakes that are not made from nutritious ingredients so instead of a healthy cake that increases your nutrient level in your body, your nutrients in your body are at best unchanged and at worst decreased.

PS I would upload a photo, but all there is left is crumbs!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Would you like some E Coli with that?

We should be very grateful that our bodies generally have very good immune systems. A study of 1213 kebab take-away restaurants in UK found a disturbing number with significantly high levels of Escherichia coli (E coli) and Staphylococcus aureus organisms. Most people will be aware that E coli makes you sick and has been associated in the USA with massive food recalls over the last few years.

Staph Aureus is a rather nasty bacteria. It is the main culprit for boils and infections in the body. A low percentage of humans are unwittingly carriers of Staph Aureus (typically in nasal passage or other damp areas). These people have much higher probability of post operative infection, but that is another story.

The highlights of the study:
  • 5% had unacceptably high levels of E coli / Staph Aureus
  • 6% and 4.5% of cucumber sampled had unacceptable levels of E coli and Staph Aureus respectively
  • The worst sauce was chili with 8.7% samples contaminated
To be objective I don't know percentage of homes would be contaiminated in this way..... but it does make me realise that there are risks in eating out that I had never considered.

2 month old pasta is fresh?

This is like a Tui advert,

It's only 2 months old, that means its still fresh. YEAH RIGHT.

An article in the latest Food Microbiology is titled "Combined effects of chitosan and MAP to improve the microbial quality of amaranth homemade fresh pasta"

As an aside chitosan is a substance that comes from "skin" of crustaceans (craps, shrimp etc) once it has been processed it has anti fungal activity. MAP is short for modified atmosphere packaging, and as the name suggests it is when the packet is fulled of a specific gas that extends shelf life.

I was very mortified to find out that the "fresh" was at best a stretch of the truth. The result of the study was that these preservation techniques enabled "extension of the microbial acceptability limit beyond two months."

Great - I obviously was naive in my believe that "fresh" pasta that is sold was actually made a few days ago...... I don't think so any more.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Depression and nature vs nurture

The nature vs nurture debate will always be something that is never completely answered. Life is to complex to pigeon hole such things.

From my personal observations I ere on the side of nurture. A example I have seen is that a father of an acquaintance died early, and his siblings are at high risk of heart disease due to being overweight. It will be no surprise if they die early from heart disease. However from observation the "normal" dietary habits were passed through the family to the kids. It is one of high fatty meat products and particular "junk" food. I strongly suspect that if the kids had been brought up in a healthy eating environment their current risk would be significantly less.

I also believe in personal responsibility, and not using genetics as an excuse for any behavior.

In saying all that so you know the background because depression is one of those difficult and sensitive issues.... I have also noticed that parents of young adults that suffer from depression often have a parent(s) or grandparent(s) who have battled with depression as well. Again my observation is that families that don't deal appropriately with emotion(s), produce parents who pass their lack of dealing with emotions correctly to their children and the cycle continues.

This all leads to i In the latest edition of Neuropsychopharmacology there are two fascinating papers. One of these papers compared teenagers from high risk depression group whose parents had had/have depression and another group that didn't have any family history of depression. They followed these two groups for five years and found that the higher risk group took shorter time to enter into REM sleep and they also lasted longer in REM phase.

One of the hall marks of people with model disorders is that they have more REM sleep than those who have healthier moods. In fact it is even hyposthised that to much REM sleep caused depression, instead of depression causing the higher REM sleep.

Thus these teenagers, inspite of not having a clincial mood order, have a measureable differnt sleep even before they might be clinically depressed. This points to a link between genetics and depression.

The other article discusses that mice with a particular gene (CNR1) is more likely to display depression "symptoms" to stress than other mice. Using this information they undertook some data mining and gene work with humans. They were able to show for the first time that CNR1 gene in humans is significantly assoicated with depression in adults.

Thus if you didn't choose your parents well, you might be more suseptable to depression.

Why life expectancy / medical prognosis is negative

Been thinking about negative medical prognosis lately. Yesterday NZ Herald ran a story about a brain injury patient, quoting the relevant paragraph:

Driving to work from Dunedin on a Monday morning in 1987, he received a major brain injury in a serious car crash just south of Timaru. The injury left him unconscious in Dunedin Hospital for more than four months. "They said to me, 'Ali, you are never going to be able to walk, talk, see. And if by chance you can walk and talk, it will be a miracle."This miracle happened." Dr Danesh, 69, can walk with the help of a frame, talk, see, read and write

That got me thinking about friends of Tiffany. One of their premature twins got infected with meningitis while in an incubator in hospital. They were told that Danella was effectively "brain dead" and was going to be a vegetable all her life and there would be no development.

Three years into this experience Daniella has made significant progress, sure she is still very "behind" in her development, but she is developing none the less. She is able to continue to sit up when placed sitting. She is able to turn her head towards people who talking to her - she is blind and only one ear hears with the help of a hearing aid. She is able to push buttons on musical toys to make them play and repeat (she loves music) and she also responds to touch......

Got me thinking about medical prognosis..... what would you prefer:

1) Be told that your mum (or who ever) had terminal cancer and had 6 months to live, yet she lives 9 months
2) Be told that your mum (or who ever) had terminal cancer and had 12 months to live, yet she lives 9 months

One diagnose you would feel blessed because of the extra time, other option you would feel robbed and upset as had less time than expected.

Thus if I was a doctor or medical person giving negative news, I would always give a worst case outlook so that if the outcome wasn't as bad as expected people would feel positve. Thus we have the situation where the worst case is expected. Thus any negative diagnosis from a medical person should be seen as a worst case scenario.

Was is especially tragic there is another child who lives in the same geographical area as Daniella, who is the same "age" who caught meningitis at the same time. However the parents of that child are still bitter and angry about the infection, and their child is a vegetable just like the doctors predicted.

Take home message: When you are given a pessimistic medical outcome, this is the worst case, and your mental attitude will play a big part in whether this is true or not.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Two blog aims

This blog has two core aims, they are:

1) Provide easily understandable commentary on health and nutrition topics. This will includes unpacking new research into easily understandable and applicable information. I will also review older work as I slowly work through the written journals that I had the good fortune to appropriate. Lastly I will comment, were applicable, on wellness topics in the news.

This also has a benefit for me, as it records were I found data and stories, because in the past I know some data but struggle to remember where I read it. This is not very helpful when I want to revisit that topic or idea.

2) Journey back to wellness. This will be my personal and my families journey back to a wellness lifestyle. We used to have a lifestyle that was centered upon wellness. However a number of significant events happened five years ago that through this lifestyle into disarray. Thus we are now seeking to find that lifestyle again. The purpose of this is to give you hope that you can also make this journey.

I look forward to jorneying with you through this blog....