Thursday, July 30, 2009

Great Fungi book

After a lifetime of wanting to, but never quite getting around to it I visited Tirtiri Matangi a while back with St John's trip (Tiffany is leader with elder two girls going).

Purchased a great book on New Zealand Fungi it has been a wonderful book as it is designed for laymen such is myself. It has been great to explore our gardens with the kids and finding all sorts of fungi then finding them in the book. Also doing spore prints for the first time - they produce wonderful patterns. We use chipped wood as a mulch, and this mostly comes free from arborists working locally. Thus a truck load has a large variety of different woods, from various locations. Thus in Autumn our gardens are a treasure trove of fungi.

Once knowing the name then find interesting stuff for example a few years back I was tramping in to the Aunanui falls in the Kiamia's. We came across a piece of what looked like white coral, but it was a fungi growing on tree (picture to left from Wikipedia). Turns out it is called
hericium coralloides (not coral in its name) with common name Icicle Tooth. Well a quick web search reveals that this a edible fungi. And apparently a good on to boot.

Things like this intrigue me. Clearly extreme caution needs to be exercised in eating fungi that are found in the wild. I wonder what nutrients we are missing by not eating them. I wonder about growing things like this commercially so that people around the nation and world can have more variety in their food.

As a husband and father the risks of trying new fungi, even ones that should be clearly distinguishable like this coral like fungi, outweigh the possible nutritional benefits. However in saying that I can collected and fryed up wood-ear jelly also known as Taraniki Wool this was an important export crop from Taraniki as the land moved from bush to farm. Mixed in with other mushrooms it was ok, but looking like and having texture of leather, I doubt it would make a tasty dish by itself. This fungus is easy to identify, as it is the only wood ear fungi in NZ (picture below, pic credit)

The price of fruit

Early in the year Tiffany arrived home from the supermarket with a bag of passion fruit. She had miss read the label. They were reduced stock and for about 8 the bag was marked as $11.99 a kg. However she had miss read this as $1.99 for the bag (so did I when I first saw the bag). So she nearly had kittens when it cost her about $7, instead of $2. But she decided to purchase them anyway cause they are sooooooo yummy.

How the price of what was effectively $1 a passion fruit - and this was on special got me thinking. Over the last few months I have checked out prices of fruit that can be grown in our region. I have been surprised to find out how expensive "non standard" fruit is. For example tree tomatoes / tamarillos, fejioa, persimmons are all way above the standard fruits like orange, apples or kiwifruit.

Tiffany uses the rule of thumb that if it is <$3 then this is great value and buy lots. We then supplement this what I ferret out locally. As I have a mental "map" of what is in our area, and when it comes ripe we have quite a variety of in season fruit, hence successful days of gathering produce.

So checking the prices of in season fruit in the supermarket was quite an eye opener. I have come to the conclusion that large orchards produce things for export market. In doing so it (1) produces crates full of fruit that is not up to export standard so is sold domestically and (2) if they cannot get a good price for it overseas that they then dump it on NZ market. This then results in supermarkets and fruit shops purchase large volumes through auction houses like Turners and Growers. (3) large volumes of fruit come in cheaply from overseas as NZ purchases fruit that is in season from other areas. Because this is done in bulk it results in cheap prices.

So there is no space for the family orchard that produces a small volume to see on the local market as there is no way to interface with the national supermarket chains or the fruit shops. For example we live close to a persimmon orchard. They produce for export.... thus while hundreds of fruit rot on the ground local people are starving their bodies due to low nutrient diets.

This upsets me. I know that people have a choice, and they could bike (or travel by car) to the orchard and collect things for their families. But if you have a habit of purchasing at the supermarket you are locked into a low variety of fruit, that is not sourced locally, is picked green and has spent an undermined length in cool storage.

To finish the story Tiffany and I are hoping for our first crop of passionfruit this coming summer/Autumn. We have two vines climbing up the north face of my shed. One is they typical purple fruit, the other I have grown from seeds that a neighbour gave me and this is a yellow variety.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hormones in breast milk prt1: "Typical' hormones

While I was at EIT I was asked about hormones in breast milk. I was unable to answer it on the spot, so here is.

This post will look at Nonpeptide hormones. This group of hormones are the ones which do not contain or use proteins. (peptide is the name for a small protein). These makes most of them fat soluble hormones, which most of us think of when someone says hormones. Start with the more familiar hormones, and ending on the least familiar. I have tried to pick up the functions of these hormones that might be important to baby.

Sexual hormones
  • Progesterone. Although it is the drop of progesterone is one of the triggers for birth and it is this drop that allows lactation, progesterone is still present in fill breast milk. Like any hormones it has a gizillion functions. Somewhat ignoring its sexual functions it is thought that is hormone could be modified to a hormone that might improve brain development and memory. As it relaxes smooth muscles tissue it helps reduce spasms, regulates mucous production and enlarges bronchial tubes. This has got to be great as when baby gets all clogged up in air passage ways it makes life much harder for parent(s)!
  • Estrogens. There are three major types of estrogen. They increase bone formation, help with blood clotting and promotes wound healing (this could tie into, or even overcome lower vitamin K levels?!)
  • Oral contraceptive hormoes. Although this is not surprising, it is disturbing that these are found at "biologically significant levels" in breast milk. Not only is it the increase in hormone levels of estrogen, it is that progesterone used in contraceptives is a synthetic types, instead of a natural type. Progestin instead of progestorne is used, likely because it is cheaper.
Adrenal gland hormones:
  • Cortisol. This is the "stress hormone". This is fasinating as when mum is stress or upset baby tends to become this way also. I had assumed that this was an emotionally driven change, but cortisol may also play a part in this. Cortisol also increases copper carrier proteins, which are thought to play a part in immunity. It also helps with detoxification.
Thyroid hormones:
  • Thyroxine. This hormone is made using iodine, and is carried about the blood in a special protein. Interesting enough it is said "Lack of iodine is a major problem in developing countries and is considered to be the world's number one cause of preventable intellectual disability in children." I wonder if baby receives more iodine via this hormone? Anyway this hormone is associated with increasing Nerve Growth Factor (a Nobel prize was given to the people who discovered this factor) which make the Sympathetic and Sensory neurons grow. The sympathetic nerve system is like the autopilot of the body, it keeps everything ticking over without any input. The sensory nerves surprise surprise are the nerves that take the five sensory information and transports it to the central nervous system. As baby is growing both of these nervous systems rapidly it would be logical to assume that thyroxine is an important hormone!
  • Triiodothyronine. Some quotes from Wikipedia sums this hormone up "It is the most powerful thyroid hormone, and affects almost every process in the body, including body temperature, growth, and heart rate." and it "increases the basal metabolic rate and thus increases the body's oxygen and energy consumption. The basal metabolic rate is the minimal caloric requirement needed to sustain life in a resting individual. T3 acts on the majority of tissues within the body, with a few exceptions including the spleen and testis". Also "affects the cardiovascular system. It increases the cardiac output by increasing the heart rate and force of contraction." Lastly "has profound effect upon the developing embryo and infants. It affects the lungs and influences the postnatal growth of the central nervous system..... It is also important in the linear growth of bones". I guess it is important then!
  • Reverse Triiodothyronine. This hormone blocks the above mentioned hormone. I am unsure if it does anything else.
Now the next logical questions would be:
  • How does this compare to formula, cow or sheep? And what about rice or soy "milks"?
  • What hormones does baby make? And are they enough to swamp/counter act/make milk levels trivial in comparison?
These are very good questions and unfortunately the answers to them may not even be known right now. It is not yet agreement on what the "normal" levels of the above hormones in breast milk are.

Hormone list taken from the wonderful reference text edited by Robert Jensen titled Handbook of milk composition.

Needles for depression?

A review has just been published which has looked at all the studies of acupuncture and "major depressive disorder." This is of interest to me as I am doped up to my eyeballs due to my major depressive disorder. I am not complaining about the medication as it works! However it has a number of side effects that I am not enjoying.

I figure better be alive and happy with side effects, than dead as worst, and at best a volatile and disruptive moods that effect all areas of my life. So I am very interested in complimentary interventions so that over time I can start to come off the med's.

What the study found that acupuncture was "was comparable to antidepressants" was "safe and effective in treating major depressive disorder." However the results were not statistically significant from sham acupuncture. Now sham acupuncture is were the needles are put in different places than the acupuncture points that are used to treat depression. The patient would not be told that they were on the "real" or "sham" list.

So what this review is saying is that acupuncture is as good as medications, but it doesn't matter where the needles go. Now would acupuncture work for me know I know that it doesn't matter where they go? And is there more going on - like the caring touch of another human....

If you are in NZ and would like to try this treatment, Vitalis Skiauteris might be a good place to start.

Ref: Chena et al The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture therapy in depressive disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis Journal of Affective Disorders

When height is not an advantage

I found out through personal experience that young tall thin males are in the high risk group for spontaneous Pneumothorax. In plan English - a popped lung, with no cause !

Well I am no longer young, nor as thin as I used to be. But I am still tall.....

It turns out that the results of a population study "suggest that tallness is associated with increased risk for younger onset aggressive prostate cancer"

For the sake of the study tall was 190cm+ and not tall was >170cm. So I am in the tall group. It is concerning that there is many prostate cancer deaths in NZ, as there is breast cancer deaths.

Swine flu vaccination

I said that I was only going to discuss swine flu once...... well it appears that I might have lied. I strongly suggest that you read my original post before reading this on.

One of the key messages of the book Death by Prescription is that you should avoid at all costs a medication that has not been around for a few years. This is because it takes a while for all the drug interactions, side effects and other negative things to be known. And nearly most of the time there is a older drug that works just as well.

So bearing this in mind, before you go and get a swine flu vaccination, you should at least make an informed decision, weighing up the pros and cons or each decision. As part of this process I would suggest you read this doctors post.

Update: It appears that it is not only American doctors who are concerned about this, our very own and very astute Macdoctor has some things to say on this issue.

The emotional connection

Today Tiffany is away in Wellington for a conference. It is when she is not around to help carry the load I am much more aware of how I eat to feel good. The emotional connection with food is very strong, and using food as a mood altering substance is something that [nearly] all of us undertake to some degree or another.

Posting over the last two days has been minimal, and we are going away to a wedding (yeah!) over the weekend so it is likely to be minimal for the next few days.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Growing banana's in the Waikato NZ

Have always been fascinated about growing bananas in NZ. On my last hunter - gathering day I obtained a bunch of bananas. I had heard that wrapping bananas in plastic bag and putting in a warm spot they will ripen instead of dieing with the frosts. Checked my bananas yesterday. They have yellowed up nicely.

However upon opening you can see all the black hard seeds, which makes it inedible. Nibbling on the banana flesh gave an almost acceptable flavor. It left furry feel in the mouth, like when you bite a slightly unripe banana from the shop.

The good news is that bananas can be grown locally, and ripened in doors. I have also been told that if you removed the flower from the end of the banana bunch they bananas get much bigger, so reasonable sized fruit might be obtainable.

All that is left is to choice the variety. However there are quite a few banana varieties to choose from.....

My it bring a smile to your face

Wellness encompasses you whole, including the emotional and spiritual side as well as the physical side. This blog focuses on the physical, however occasionally I will meddle in the other areas.

This video is worth it. May it bring joy to your day, and smile on your face.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maybe the most important post of your decade: Antioxidants and vitamin B3

Every know that then we find new information that helps change our paradigm and/or significantly alters our actions. I believe that this post is one of these seminal moments.

Common sense tells us that the vitamins work together. When you eat nutritious food, you get a wide range of vitamins and hopefully minerals. It is very rare (non existent?) in nature to find a single vitamin all by its self. People who are diligent in their study of antioxidants and wellness know about the vitamin E and vitamin C synergy. Up to this point that was about all I knew. The current paper I am studying has the following diagram. (picture credit) Don't be put off with the scientific speak. Think of it as three gears, the vitamin E cycle starts the gears turning with a pro-oxidant event. This then turns the vitamin C cycle, which in turn rolls the Thiol cycle.

Three gears turning, real simple. Now clearly if one of these gears stops turning, then all the gears very quickly stop turning. Furthermore if one of the wheels is turning slowly, then the whole system has a lot lower efficacy, and work at sub optimal levels.

So the above diagram shows the vitamin E and vitamin C synergy. When vitamin E gets oxidized (it's job) then it is revitalized by the vitamin C. Thus if you have high vitamin E levels but low vitamin C levels the protection system cannot work optimally. Thus your antioxidant protection is significantly reduced.

Now here is the new information.

The Thiol cycle is limited by vitamin B3 levels. Vitamin B3 (niacin/nicotinic acid) is an essential component of NAD(P). NAD(P) is made from NAD (fancy that!). The full name of NAD is Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide. Take a close look at the Nicotinamide, it has very similar name of vitamin B3, Nicotinic Acid. Yeap you guessed it - nicotinic acid (vitamin B3), is an essential part of NAD, which is made into NADP.

If you look at the top right of the above diagram you will see that the last step is turning NAD(P)H to NAD(P)+H. Thus if you don't have optimal vitamin B3 levels you will not have optimal NAD(P) levels. Without these levels being optimal your antioxidant status will be lowered.

I have always believed that taking a signal vitamin in high doses is not as healthy as a high quaility multivitamin. As mentioned above healthy food always has an array of nutrients. However I had no scientific evidence to back my belief that non antioxidant vitamins were part of the bodies antioxidant defence.

Therefore this shows that most antioxidant trials will not show good results.
Now apart from that fact they tend to use cheap vitamins, which are synthetic, thus are not as "good" as natural ones (more on that another day). But that aside, the above diagram shows that large dose of vitamin E is going to be of limited value, as it cannot be recharged by vitamin C. So this is why most trials with vitamin E alone do not show any signifcant health benefits.

Like wise trials with vitamin E and C will not show optimal results as the metabolic pathway is hindered from working due to non optimal vitamin B3 levels.

I am astounded that no one seems to have grasped this fact. The only thing I can assume is that these studies are done by "experts" that "know" that the RDI is enough to provide maximum saturation/maximium enzyme activity. Which is not the case (see my book when it comes out)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Depression happens to successful people

Depression is often not well understood. Some people think it is when people are negative and sad. I'm sure some people are like that when depressed. Others were a mask of positiveness and good attitude hiding the "black dog" from view.

Great to see this article is helping break this miss understanding.

Online garden calender with reminder emails

Have just found this very helpful site. It is simple and effective, telling you what you need to do in your veg patch this month. It even divides NZ into three climatic areas. I like the reminder email ability - cause I am not good at remembering what I need to do when!

Wonderful Water

Had a wonderfully serendipitous event today. In the right place at the right time got a technical tour of Hamilton Water Treatment Station. (Thanks Mark and Carl).

A couple of things I was very pleased to know:
  • Incredible amount of effort goes into producing potable water. It goes through screens, filters (three kinds, floating, sand and carbon), UV and finally chlorine.
  • That they measure the level of fluoride in the water, before dosing up to 0.75ppm that the regulations say (I don't agree with this, but that will be another post)
  • They add aluminum sulfate / Alum in the initial stages as - it is a critical part of the filtration. However most of it comes out with the sludge (it is a flocculation devise) which gets sent to the wash water treatment station, so doesn't get back into the water. This is important as Huntly water intake is considerably down stream, and I don't want extra aluminum in my water !
  • They dose lime back into the water. This is because after the processing (mainly the Alum) the water is slightly acidic. Therefore this would attack the metal pipes. The lime slightly raises the pH to stop this, but if to much lime is added then the pipes have a scale build up. So it is a delicate balancing act. From human point of view, this adds extra calcium to the water, which is great as we all need more calcium.
And found these things shocking
  • That in the 2008 drought they max'ed out at 88 000 m^3 of water supply, 90 000 is considered total possible max. Thus that day implemented total sprinkler ban. The day that the ban kicked in the water consumption dropped down to 55 000 m^3. (Note these numbers might not have the right unit or right number of zeros). The point is that this an incredible amount of wastage. If people mulched and used permiculture principles there would not be the need for so much watering, abit 2008 was an exceptationally dry summer.
  • Think of the energy wasted in filtering and pumping the water, and all the wear and tear on the equipment that is unnecessary.
  • Lastly think of all the chlorine that is being pumped into the soil. I would expect this to have a detrimental effect on the microbes in the soil, thus impacting the plant nutrition. This could well be important when growing vegetables!
I have already blogged about water treatment on this blog and it was not in a very positive light. However this trip has made me appreciate how complex createing potable water really is and how it is as much an art and knowhow, as it is scientific rules.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When was oxidative stress model of aging first proposed

I find it amazing how slowly the wheels of information and culture change. Did you know that it was in 1959 that the oxidative stress model or aging was first proposed. This is close to the birth date of my father. Yet is has only been in the last 5 years that this has become widely known by the public. This is an approximately 50 year time lag.

Cell integrity and why vitamin E does not have a carrier protein

Carrying on from yesterday's post vitamin E, unlike the other fat soluble vitamins, does not need a carry protein. Your body is mostly water and as we know water and fat doesn't mix well. So the carrier proteins are need to carry the fat soluble vitamins around the body. The simplest way to imagine this is that the carrier proteins are like a small parcel. The inside of the parcel has fat loving proteins which attract the fat soluble vitamin. The outside of the parcel is water loving proteins allowing it to travel in the body.

Why doesn't vitamin E need these carrier proteins? And why does the paper state
The majority of the functionality of vitamin E is through its role as an antioxidant, maintaining the structural integrity of virtually all cells n the body.
It is the "structural integrity" bit that I find new. We all know that Vitamin E is an antioxidant but I didn't realize it was about maintaining structural integrity.

However both bits of information, (1) Vitamin E doesn't need carrier protein and (2) maintains structural integrity, seem to be related. Have a look at the following picture of vitamin E (picture credit) . On the left hand side you can see some O's which indicate oxygen and these are water loving. The long tall on the right side is a a fatty acid (eg bit of fat).

Now lets look at a cell membrane component shown below. Again on the left hand side we see some O's and also a hexagonal structure (it is a different way of drawing it than above). On the right hand side is two fatty chains. These molecules call phospholipids and pack in to make cellular walls/membranes (picture credit)

So a cell membrane has lots of these phospholipids joined together (see diagram below) One set of phospholipds are facing out of the cell, and the other facing inside the wall. This is shown in the picture below. The red balls are the water loving bits (bits to left above), and the yellow tails are the fatty tails. So you can see that vitamin E would fit really nicely into a bilipid membrane. This is because Vitamin E has a more water soluble head, and a fatty tale. Thus they do not need a carrier protein as it can "pop"into any cell in the body with ease. And this explains why they are needed for cell integrity. Because they will be the major antioxidant in the cell wall. And without this antioxidant the cell would self destruct so to speak. (picture credit)

The only question I have now is how does vitamin E find it's way into every cell in the body? Presumably vitamin E can be easily absorbed by the stomach cells, and passed onto blood cells. But how is it unloaded from the blood cells into other cells?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vitamin E direct action on your Arteries (adult only!)

Vitamin E, no other vitamin appears to cause as much controversy. I am digesting an article titled "Regulation of cell signaling by Vitamin E". It is a very meaty article and I feel a wee bit over my head. As I digest and understand it will be posted.

For a long time Vitamin E was seen only as an antioxidant. This we all should know! However it was not until 1991 that the level of vitamin E had a direct effect on a protein that caused smooth muscle proliferation. In simple terms smooth muscle is the muscle that makes up the middle layer of your veins and arteries. This is shown in the figure to the left, called the Middle Coat. The figure down and to the left is a diagram of small artery and vein of a child. The top diagram is a small artery and shows only a very small middle layer. Where as the veins middle layer is much thicker.

So as you can imagine when this layer grows (proliferate) the blood vessel becomes smaller. And this is related to heart disease and other issues.

What vitamin E was doing, was reducing the level of Protein Kinase C. Protein Kinase C is an enzyme that acts on other proteins which are then switched on and cause all sorts of things especially in your bodies smooth muscles. You will be fascinated to know that Protein Kinase C:
  • Act on the smooth muscles in the seminal tract to cause ejaculation
  • Are involved in relaxing the muscles so you can go for a pee
  • It is also involved in the constriction of your Iris in bright light
Any way back on topic. The vitamin E directly reduced the level of Protein Kinase C. Therefore the smooth muscle lining of the blood system was not being told to grow and proliferate. So this was a very important find.

So since 1991 there has been much research in this area, and this review article is published in 2002, so further work will have been done. However due to the complexities of the article I will just unpack this article so we all have a good foundation for any future work.

Full reference. Gerald Rimbach, Anne Marie Minihane, Jonathan Majewicz, Alexandra Fischer, Josef Pallauf, Fabio Virgli and Peter D. Weinberg. Regulation of cell signalling by vitamin E Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Volume 61, Issue 04, Nov 2002, pp 415-425

Cell phone ban in car - are they really that bad?

This post is right on the edge of wellness..... but is a passion of mine so please indulge me.

I am all for public education and creating laws to help prevent people from injuring them selves. These however should be based upon firm statistics. Unfortunately often the law makers do not seem to understand this.

Case in point is kiwiwblogs comments regarding the cell phone ban in cars:

In 2007 cellphone use contributed to 94 out of 11,667 crashes. That is 0.8% of crashes. And only 3.2% of crashes are fatal, so that suggests three fatal crashes a year have cellphone use as a factor (that does not mean no cellphone use would have resulted in no accident – there are often many factors).

But let us look at all things that are cited as having caused a distraction that was a factor in a crash:

  1. 262 – cigarette, radio, glove box
  2. 130 – scenery
  3. 122 – passengers
  4. 96 – cellphone
  5. 30 – animal/insect in vehicle

So are we going to ban radios? Are we going to ban passengers? How about banning animals – that may stop 30 crashes a year.

These statistics make sense to me. I am aware of the alarming numerous times I am changing a CV, or turning in the radio etc and I suddenly realize that I can't remember driving for the last few seconds, or 10's of seconds, I had been driving on subconscious only!

Scenery also gets me. I really enjoy admiring God's creation. It seems to be ever changing.... right know I am enjoying looking at the structure of deciduous trees. They all look so different and so beautify. Next month it might be clouds or blossoms. Either way I am very aware that sections of my commute into town is "missing" bits as I got sidetracked.

Passengers - I have always said to Tiffany that kids are much worse distraction than cell phones. Nothing like having a screaming or fighting children when you are the only adult in the car to completely destroy any focus on the road!

Banning cell phones will not actually fix real problems. We need to learn as a culture not to drive while distracted. Program in the radio in a rest area. Stop the car when the kids are going awok. I suspect most people are like me - they keep on driving while distracted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chickening out on slaugtering chickens

We have a feral chicken problem. We have always had wild and semi domesticated chickens in West Huntly. As I mulch in the summer when bugs etc are at a low point due to dryness, my soil nicely protected by a layer of wood chips becomes a attraction to them. I have turned a blind eye in the past as the destruction of seedlings and plants was minimal. Plus I am sure they eat bad bugs, like caterpillars etc.

However this winter they have become a real problem. First population is up, with at least 3 if not four distinct flocks, numbers in the 9-12 range. I think this is a combination of breeding success and escaping/being released from other cages.

Secondly in winter when the is a food shortage they are attracted to our chicken cage where they can stand on the outside of the cage and peck through the mesh to the feed inside. After eating at the cage they then lay into my gardens. They had demolished loads of seedlings which is especially annoying at growth at the moment is very low. And otherwise made a big mess of them.

So I have been catching them in a possum cage. This is done by putting food inside the cage and hiding round the corner and waiting to set the trap off. I have tired putting them in with our chickens (only the hens). This doesn't work - they get pecked badly by existing hens, and they find ways to escape as they are smaller (and more motivated) than ours.

So I have taken to slaughtering them. Now you should know that:
  1. I love animals.
  2. I don't want to
  3. That I make it as quick and painless as possible (though it is hard to tell what is moving due to being alive, and to do with death!)
  4. I cover the cage with a towel once the chicken is inside. Thus reducing stress for the chicken as they cannot see me, nor what is going on until they met their fate
  5. If I don't slaughter immediately, I supply food and water
  6. I feel very guilty about slaughtering them, so I skin them and put all in the freezer, thus pretending that their life was worthwhile
  7. As I want to maximize their life I also keep the heart(s), hopefully I will find something I can do with them.
  8. It seems wrong not to use the feathers. Can't think of any use, but there are some wonderful colors and softness - suggestions?
  9. A rooster I slaughtered the other day (very much like one below), after waiting two days while it was in the cage wracking my brains about what I could do. While on of its hens spent the whole day, and the next wandering around where the cage had been, and where I had killed and dressed it. Clearly it could smell its mate (and made me feel stink

I have also found that:
  1. I hate killing the chickens
  2. I feel very guilty about doing it
  3. That skinning is relatively easy to do (I'm getting better with practice)
  4. That I don't mind dealing with cold meat but when the meat still feels warm it just feels wrong
  5. That gutting a chicken on an empty stomach produces nausea
  6. That smell of blood in guts is gross. I have been around slaughter houses and forget how bad they smell
  7. That biology / atonimany lessons are far more interesting when you have the real deal in front of you. Yes the kids have watched at least one gutting. I tried not to let my revolution come to the surface.
It has made me realize how far removed we are from the growing and harvesting of our food, especially our meat. I am sure even 50 years ago most people would have killed chickens for dinner, or have watched it. Thank goodness for the internet otherwise I would have more trouble skinning them. I will blog at a later date about the differences between these chickens and store purchased ones.

If anyone has any other options for feral (eg not tame) chickens I am very open to suggestions.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Different types of vitamin B6 and why it matters

People who have a reasonable grasp of vitamins know that they come in different forms. I would suspect that they widest know example is synthetic vitamin E and natural vitamin E, if you are not familiar with this see this article for an introduction.

However most people, me included, don't really know how complex this issue really is. This blog post will hopefully help you understand of the issues around vitamin B6.

If you google Vitamin B6 you will quickly find out that its chemical name is pyrodoxine. Dig a little deeper and you will find that it goes by three different names:

Structure of <span class= Structure of <span class= Structure of <span class=

Pyridoxine (PN)

Pyridoxal (PL)

Pyridoxamine (PM)

Picture credits

A close look at the three mentioned vitamin B6 pictures, they all look the same except for the letters that are at the very top of the diagram. What happens is the building block of vitamin B6 is the lower part (the same part on each diagram) this is the essential vitamin B6. Now the body takes the above mentioned molecules and from them creates the molecule that your body needs. This is shown below. You can see the vitamin B6 molecule like above, but it has a cluster (a Phosphate group, hence the name) to the right.

Structure of <span class=

Pyridoxal Phosphate (PNP)

Thus there are four different types of molecules that contain the essential part of Vitamin B6.

There are at least three other types. PLP and PMP which unsurprisingly have the same group of chemicals on the side of them as PNP, but instead of having this group on a PN molecule they have it on a PL or PM molecule. The other type is called PA. This is appears in urine when other types of vitamin B6's are broken down for removal from the body.

So what set this blog post off? An article I was reading. It looked at PN-glucosid which is yet another type of vitamin B6. And as you would expect it is a PN molecule that instead of being attached to a phosphate group like PNP it is attached to a glucoside, which is a glucose molecule with a fatty tail.

The study investigated how much of this PN-glucoside was in various foods, and how the body absorbed/used it.

What the study found was that there was no PN-glucoside in breast milk, or cow's milk. This is important because breast milk and untreated cows milk have what baby and calf need, More importantly the body and cow tend not to put in things into the milk that are not useful. Therefore the complete lack of PN-glucoside tells you that babies and calves don't need or can't use PB-glucoside. This points to PB-glucoside not biologically active in people. The study said it like this:
"It was particularly noteworthy that PN-glucoside was not detected in any of the human milk samples, regardless of the diet of the donor."
The study found that in their plant based samples: broccoli, peanut butter, raw green beans, raw carrots, orange juice had 35-80% of there vitamin B6 as PN-glucoside. They went on to say:
"Most information concerning the content of of vitamin B6 in foods has been derived by microbiological growth assays using vitamin B6 dependant yeasts"
This is very disturbing as the standard method for determining the vitamin B6 involves a process that would remove the glucoisde and turn the PN-glucoside to just PN. Thus
"Microbiological assay procedures such as these would overestimate the biologically available vitamin B6 in foods"
"The high concentration of PN-glucoside in many plant derived foods suggest a widespread incomplete bio availability of the vitamin in human diets, which could not be evaluated accurately by current food composition tables."
Thus this means all food tables constructed up to this point could well be out by 35-80%. To me that level of variance makes the food table somewhat redundant.

This study was published in 1987. Since then there has been massive jump in analytical techniques. The computer has revolutionized laboratory work. So in the last 20 years have the food tables been completely rewritten? No not from my knowledge. I cannot find any evidence that vitamin
B6 food tables were all reanalyzed in light of this rather fundamental issue.

Further more 10 years later in 1997 a paper was published that looked at the same issue with radioactive PN and PN-glucoside. Not only was the PN-glucoside not biologically active (eg not able to be used by the body) They found that the PN-glucoside was even blocking the uptake of PN. So this gets even more complex and indicates further that when it comes to vitamin
B6, the food levels of this vitamin are even less accurate.

Article reference: Gregory & Ink.
Identification and quantification of pyridoxine .beta.-glucoside as a major form of vitamin B6 in plant-derived foods J. Agric. Food Chem., 1987, 35 (1), pp 76–82

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Calories are not measured properly, let alone vitamins

Over in nutrition blog they have measured the actual calories vs the calories displayed in Mexican type takeaways. The calorie counts were all underestimated on the menu and sometimes only 50% of the actual calories. Well worth having a look as they have a wonderful graphic.

The point I would like to make is that calorie estimation is one of the easier things to measure in food. You basically burn it, and see how much heat it gives off. This is far simpler than some of the procedures needed to analysis vitamins in food.

Thus if people can't get the calorie amount right, then they most unlikely to get the vitamin level correct.

Mass dosing - why I don't support compulsory folic acid in bread

There are a number of reasons why I don't agree with mass dosing of folic acid (Vitamin B9) in bread.

Let me stay straight up that mum's to be should take a multivitamin of which folic acid of at least 400 micro grams. I might also say that research is also showing that other B vitamins, include B12 are very important in stopping birth defects. But this will be covered in another blog post.

Back to the question, why do I disagree with this legislation:

1) Mass dosing.The ethics of mass dosing is very dubious. Think over your life time. Have the health "experts" changed their tune. In my short life I have seen margarine go from health food to poison. Seen eggs go out of fashion, and now back in. Oil was bad, now oil high in plant factors (eg olive oil) is now seen as healthy. This is not including various "fads" that come along...

So what would have happened if they experts could control our food by their standards. We would have been dictated to may times, and many times come of worse. Science is always growing and changing, so people should be able to make their own choices. To sum it up, the crew at Health Freedom have this to say:

“If we agree that it is acceptable to dose over four million New Zealanders to protect a handful of pregnant mothers per year, it naturally follows that this will lead to medicines being added to our food for many other diseases. Where does it stop?”

2) Quality of folic acid. Folates and folic acid absorption is not well understood. There is great complexity in various bioavailability of folates and folic acid. This is far more complex than most people realize or understand. One day I will do a post and try to unpack some of this complexity. But right now you will need to take my word on this. Now if you were a bakery owner and the government dictated that you must put folic acid in every loaf would you choise the most expensive or the cheapest. I would choose the cheapest as it was not my choice to do this. Thus the cheapest folic acid will go in. In the vitamin industry you do get what you pay for, so getting the cheapest will result in a poor choice. For example if you reduce mixing times, you reduce cost, but increase risk of inhomogeneities. Thus you will end up with some batches bread having more folic acid, and some less.

3) Lull into false sense of security. As you need to eat 11 pieces of bread a day before the 400 micro gram intake is achieved (assuming no folic acid from othe substances such as vegetables, but as point (2) states the absorption from these vegetables is still being determined). Thus people who know about issues around birth defects and folic acid will still take a supplement. However I live in a suburb that has a very high percentage of lower socio economic class. From my observations they are not proactive in taking measures to make their life more healthy. Thus my concern is that they will be lulled into not seeking folic acid as they will assume that get enough through bread. Thus you my run the risk of actually increasing birth defects, instead of reducing them.

If you want to read more about this topic, I would suggest the article over at Health Freedom would be a very good start.

PS I am not even going down the road of what happens to your folic acid when you toast or cook your bread.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Artificial ripening of tropical fruit rapidly reduces their vitamin C level

What do the following have in common:
  • Avocado
  • Babaco
  • Feijoa
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwifruit
  • Kumquat
  • Litchi
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Pineapple
Yes they are all tropical fruit but that is not why they are on the list..... A study looked at how artifice ripening affected their vitamin C levels. One of the reasons for the study is that tropical fruit, like most other fruit, is picked unripe. Then they are artificially ripened. This is done to (1) allow fruit to be exported/travel long distances without going off and (2) when picked unripe they don't bruise as quickly, so they are not damaged by the machinary / people involved in the picking, sorting and travel processes.

This is what the study found:

"there is a remarkable loss of AA content (usually 30–40%) after the one-week period of artificial ripening, in all the different tropical fruits considered"
I find this very disturbing, firstly that this study was only done in 1995. Secondly it was across all the fruit studied, indicating that it is highly probably that most tropical fruit follow this trend. And lastly these types of tropical fruit are available, and hence purchased, in our local supermarket.

Another reason to eat local food

Giuliana et al Ascorbic acid in exotic fruits: a liquid chromatographic investigation Food Chemistry Volume 53, Issue 2, 199

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making Human Cheese - or not

There are many articles online discussing human cheese ?! Let us investigate like good myth busters!

Casein's are defined as the proteins in milk that precipitate out at pH4.6. In cheese making lactic acid bacteria is added to the milk. As a waste product they make lactic acid. This acid drops the pH of milk below 4.6. The solid matter, called curds, is then sieved out, compacted and left to age in brine - or whatever aging process is. The fluid that is not the curd is called whey.

As part of the EIT talk I did a live demonstration for the first time. It went really well - and worked. Had four groups each with two bowel and a table spoon. Got them to put a a table spoon of cows milk in one and human milk in other. Then adding table spoon of vinegar.

You can try this at home, very simple as the photo to the left shows.

We made cows cheese (well curds and whey) and human cheese (well you can't). This is a dramatic illustration of how different Human and other milk is. Human milk has very little. The shot to the left is what happens with cows milk. The curds are the speckly white bits, and the whey is the liquid part. Unfortunately I don't have a breast milk and vinager shot. But imagine a watery milk, with very very little solid curd bits in it.

The reason for this difference in the composition is to do with growth patterns. Looking at the baby growth chart below, boys go form about 4kg to about 8kg at 6 months. So babies approximately double their weight in the first six months.

Where as calf growth rates are shown also below. In 6 months they go from about 25kg to 125kg, or 5x their birth weight in 6 months.

Therefore cows milk is high in casein which turn to curds in their stomach and as they slowly digest this large lump of cheese, putting on muscle and growing quickly. Where are babies get their short term energy needs from milk, plus a small amount of protein for muscle growth.

So this is a great illustration that you can use to show the significant differences between breast and formula milks.

There is even a mum who has tried to make human cheese and failed for the above reasons.

Thought I had died and gone to heaven

As the Brain Adams song goes.... and so this was how Tuesday was for me. As I already have mentioned I spent Tuesday at EIT teaching at their postgraduate Certificate in Breast Feeding and Lactation.

Along with the half a dozen or so post grad students there were some extras from a range of professions that came along also, so great class size of just under 20. This is a few more than last time, which as a speaker is always good cause people are interested, and must have done a good job last time (2 years ago) otherwise no extras would have come.

To me these teaching/training sessions are truly wonderful. You have interested and appreciative people who treat you with kindness and respect. And they like to engage, and asked some very hard questions which over the next few weeks I hopefully will answer on this blog. Couldn't think of a more wonderful bunch to talk to.

First time for me was a young baby we sat/slept/feed with mum at the back. Great to see this happening and it was great to be with an audience who didn't mind the occasional cry. I am lucky that I grew up around babies cause I can tune their noises out. Didn't realise I could until I stopped presenting for some reason, and realised that baby had been swarking and I hadn't even noticed.

Kathy the course coordinator who was hovering throughout the day making sure that everything ran smoothly (its a hard job to make sure everything works and is well facilitated and doing this without being intrusive.) She gave a most wonder gift of some Manuka and some Rewarewa Honey from Honeyland and some apple syrup (like maple syrup). Truely heavenly gifts not only is it localy produced but honey is food of the Gods, just like milk. I feel truely blessed to know such wonderful people.

The icing on the cake was the trip home. As been over two years since I have been on a road trip with my MR2 sports car. Vertually no traffic (well none that I couldn't quickly overtake thanks to the turbo) and a wonderfully windy road, part of the reason why I liked the MR2 was how it handles the courners. I "chicken" out far earlier than the car's inability to corner. There was snow on the hills/mountains which made magical sencary and I blasted out the cobwebs and enjoyed the pure drive home.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to tell if your multivitaminis worth its salt

There are a number of rules of thumb that your can follow to know if you have made a good choice in a multivitamin. Leading on from yesterday's post about copper and its bioavailability, copper is involved in one of these rules of thumb.

Read your multivitamin label, (hopefully before you buy it). Follow these simple steps
  • If it contains no copper then don't buy it.
  • Does it contain copper oxide, this can be written as chemical formula as CuO or CuO2. If so don't buy it, cause you cannot absorb this type of copper
  • Is it a copper salt, this would be things such as copper chloride, copper sulphate, copper carbonate. In chemical terms this is CuCl, CuSO4 CuCO3. Copper salts is the minimum standard for purchasing a multivitamin
  • It is even better if it is a copper chelate. For example copper gluconate, copper glycinate, and others, sometimes they are written as amino acid chelate, or amino acid bound to copper.
Some place in my filling system there is a paper that investigated copper in American multivitamins. It talked about why copper was important eg we have a low intacke, then it looked at what was on the market. If my memory is correct about 30% didn't have any copper, 30% had copper oxide(s) which cannot be absorbed. The remaining had either copper salts of copper chelates.

So this provides a very good rule of thumb.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Copper - worth it's salt or even better worth it chelate

There is a general rule that states:

Metal oxides are less absorbed than metal salts and metal salts are less absorbed than metal chelates.

And that metal oxides are cheaper than metal salts and metal salts are cheaper than metal chelates.

Let me help you understand with an illustration. When copper comes out of a factory it is all shinny, like the copper T junctions shown below. Then as it is exposed to air it oxides and goes the black color (thinking like rusting copper) showing in the blackish copper sheet with animals on it (the middle picture below). If the copper is left out in the rain or other environments instead it may create a copper salt instead of a copper oxide. This is illustrated in the vase/container that has the top part polished, and thus copper color. The lower half is a mixture of copper sulfate (blue), copper chloride (green) and copper carbonate(green). The copper sulfate and copper chloride are called salts. (Those who connect dot's know that table salt is sodium chloride).

Lastly if copper is taken up and used by a plant, yeast or animal, it will be bound to protein (think meat) and this is called a metal chelate.

As each of these different things have different absorb ability. The copper and the copper oxide (black copper) and not absorbed by the body. The copper salts are absorbed by the body, but not as much as the copper bound to some protein in much more absorbed because it is already bound to a protein which the body finds much easier to pull it across the intestinal lining.

The amount that the body can absorb and use is called bioavailability.

Now logically copper and copper oxide is the easiest to produce. The copper salts are somewhat more difficult, but still not that hard, something that you can do in a laboratory. Making copper chelates are harder. Because you either need to bind them to proteins in a lab or feed plants or yeasts the copper then harvest these plants/yeasts and pull out the copper chelate.

Thus you can see that copper/copper oxide is going to be the cheapest, the copper salts more expensive and copper chelates quite expensive. Thus you get what you pay for in supplements. Cheak out a multivitamin ingredients list. Some don't have any copper, others use copper oxide, others copper salt (copper sulphate, copper chloride copper citrate), and others copper chelate. The chelate often goes by the protein name it is bound to eg copper gluconate, copper glycinate.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Higher Vitamin C in Breast milk reduces allergy

Next week I am down at EIT teaching on biochemistry of breast feeding as part of their Postgraduate Certificate in Health Science (Breast Feeding and Lactation) run by Kathy Manhire. To me it is a great day where research and biochemistry is communicated to people who make a difference in the community. And even better this helps the next generation of babies.

I found an article that looks at vitamin C levels in breast milk and there correlation with allergy. The use the word atopy which is "an allergic hypersensitivity affecting parts of the body not in direct contact with the allergen." So think of things like eczema, asthma, food allergy's, allergic rashes etc. These allergy's have been on the rise in the Western world over the last few decades.

The article discusses how vitamin C is an antioxidant and allergy disease effects are reduced with increased vitamin C intake. And that people with allergy need more anti oxidants to keep their free radical level down. So they looked at relationship between vitamin C in the breast milk and babies with atopy. They defined atopy to be dermatitis in the first 12 months of life and a positive result to an allergy test (pin prick test) at 12 months of age.

Interesting enough there was very statistically significant result. Those who children had developed atopy, their breast milk was 5.2 mg/100ml of milk with a 95% confidence level of 4.6-5.7. That means that 95% of all samples would fall in the 4.6-5. 7 range.

The children with out atopy had breast milk vitamin C levels of 6.2 mg/100ml milk with a 95% confidence levels of 5.8-6.6.

Below is a graph that I created for my book, I have changed the milk scale to make it the same scale is the above numbers. The lines are not lines of best fit, but my eyeballed approximation. You can see there is a a rapid increase phase followed by a phase of minimal increase. This would hint at a active process getting vitamin C into the milk, followed by a passive process, likely diffusion.

So zooming into the area of interest, we get the following graph (this is now a line of best fit). Drawing on the graph the lines for the 5.2 and 6.2 mg/100ml of milk levels discussed above, we get the following graph:

So what does this mean is real life? So what we are talking about is a rise in maternal intake of 35mg per day, or a total intake of 165mg per day. I have already shown how ridiculous the food tables are for vitamin C in oranges. However currently this is all we have to go on. So using the previous post's level of vitamin C in oranges of 70mg/orange, the 35mg/day increase is only half and orange. Or a total of 2 1/2 oranges a day. Now I would only rely on citrus fruits for vitamin C when they are in season.

Other fruits and vegetables sit in the 30-40 mg/100 grams range. So you would need to eat 550-400 grams of in season fruits and vegetables a day. A standard cup measure is 250ml, so you would need to eat two full cups of vegetables a day. I suggest that you got get a 250 ml cup and full it to the top with something like frozen vegetables which pack together really nice, and then tip this out onto a plate. A 250ml / 250gm serving of vegetables or fruit is a rather large serving, far greater than a serving under the 5+ a day marketing.

In conclusion I would hypothesis that the increase in allergic reactions over the last decades has been in part (health is more complex than we think) caused by a decrease in the vitamin C in the food, and a decrease in our culture of eating fresh, locally grown produce in season. Hence a drop in vitamin C in breast milk.

PS My book (yes it is coming) unpacks why the vitamin C level has dropped in food, so I will not explain it here.

Full reference:Hoppu U, Rinne M, Salo-Väänänen P, Lampi AM, Piironen V, Isolauri E Vitamin C in breast milk may reduce the risk of atopy in the infant. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;59(1):123-8.

Didn't like the taste, but it became a habit anyway

Do you remember when you first tasted beer? For me it was in the senior years in high school. Went to a party with a bunch of classmates at the house of the local tough guy, Scott. Opened a can and took a swig trying to look nonchalant. Hated the taste, tried to not let it show, struggled through half a can, before Scott shot a BB pistol down towards the hallway. The bullet (abut it was plastic) and nearly took out Brendon's head. Thus I found an excuses to pop out on liquor run with Lance a sober driver. When I came back they had spiked the can with rum and it tasted even worse.

The interesting thing is that I now really enjoy a beer. The local supermarket put beer from broken or damaged cartons etc on sale individually. Which is great as I get to try a whole range of different beers without having to purchase large amounts. I also dabble with brewing my own beer.... I will post of this another day.

So somewhere I went from not enjoying the taste at all, to really enjoying it. You are likely to have similar stories were something you didn't like decades ago, you know take for granted.

Stumbled across a interesting article from 1990. It was looking at consumer preference between sugars and artificial sweeteners. In the introduction it talked about a study done in 1984 comparing sugar with aspartame and saccharin that concluded that:
There was no completely acceptable low calorie substitute for sucrose [sugar] available to consumers
And the 1990 study went on to agreeing with this statement, the conclusions for the 1990 study stated:
Sucrose was significantly preferred over aspartame and acesulfame K. Women showed more discriminant preference than men, preferring sucrose over aspartame and acesulfame k in all four foods.
So let us recap, in eighties people didn't like artificial sweeteners, in the early 90's they still didn't like artificial sweeteners. However walking down the supermarket isles product after product has artificial sweeteners contained on the ingredient list. Furthermore Looking at what people around me drink, they more often than not are drinking a produce with artificial sweeteners.

How did we get from disliking artificial sweeteners 20 years ago to them being main stream today? Well the last sentence of the study was eerily prophetic when it asked this question:
Would a switch from one sweetener to another in a subject's diet cause a shift in his/her preferences?
Yes would be my answer. Many people have switched to artificial sweeteners and now prefer the taste of the artificial over sugar. How did this happen - marketing. Marketing changed peoples perceptions, which changes habits and these habits now trap people in unhealthy lifestyles.
So remember just has you might have learned to like artificial sweeteners you can unlearn it. And if you don't like artificial sweeteners, remember this story when you are making a positive change in your diet. You can learn over time to enjoy the taste of new food(s) and the new ways of preparing them. And in 20 years you will struggle to remember when you didn't like that food, or that habit.

Reference: Hossenloppa, Tournierb, Tharraulta and Palagosc Preferences for foods sweetened with sucrose, aspartame or acesulfame K. Food Quality and Preference Vol2 pg 63 1990

PS I will save my rant against artificial sweeteners for another day. Let me just say I would prefer to have diabetes than cancer.