Saturday, October 31, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photo credit: Chemo on Flickr

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Natural sweeteners

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Ethel Aardvak

Have some sodium ferrocyanide in your diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much iodine is in your salt?

Reading the great fountain of knowledge wikipedia. Turns out that depending on your geopolitical background you have different levels of iodine in your salt. North American / USA have 46 - 77 parts per million (ppm) but for other countries that have a UK influence it is only 10 - 22 ppm. Silly me for thinking that there would be common standards for this basic supplementation. At worse case the US standard could contain nearly 8 times the UK. This means you would need to eat 8 times more salt to get the same iodine dose. In some ways it doesn't affect me as our supplement contains iodine. I also make sure that our kids multi has iodine in it as well.

While we are on the subject of iodine, there is a little known fact that iodine consumption in Australia and NZ dropped in the 80's. This was due to the shift from iodine based disinfectants/cleaners to other chemicals in the milking industry. After milking the milking plant is washed. This washing leaves a residual, that is washed off by the next milking. So when the cleaners were iodine based it resulting in milk being a good source of iodine. Thus with NZ and Australian high intake of dairy products we have a healthy intake of iodine. When these cleaners were phased out (for reasons I do not know) this source of iodine was removed from the diet.

Photo reference. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fasinating Listener article

We don't read the listener. This is because we don't have a TV programed in, so we have no need for a TV guide. Was at friends place over the weekend at this weeks listener jumped out at me. The cover story was The Great Food Myths. It is a very worthwhile read, so if you come across a listener with a giant donut on the front grade it for 15 minutes and digest the article.

The listener covers this week's TV (24th-30th Oct) however it appears that Listeners are sold a week in advance so they are no longer in the shops.As for me I will photocopy the article from our library when I am next there. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

History file: Amazing facts about iron

From the history files of 1976 some amazing facts about iron:
  • That men (and women) lose iron everyday. Every cell has a little bit of iron in it, so every day as you shed skin cells you are loosing iron. Also the cells that line your digestive track are lost daily along with some iron in bile and some iron in the red blood cells that leak into your digestive system. This is about 1 mg a day which is about the iron level in 30 grams of lean red meat. This is about a quarter of a medium sized steak. 
  • That iron has low uptake by the digestive system. Only half of iron found in vegetables is absorbed. This is because the iron in plants must first be removed from the plant material it is bound to. Then this iron must be modified by the digestive system into a form that can be absorbed. 
  • The reason that there is high iron uptake from animal products is because the body can absorb haem molecules directly. Heam is the bit in red blood cells that has the iron in it 
  • Most people know that vitamin C increases iron absorption. The reason for this is that the vitamin C helps the iron be attached to small bits of protein forming iron chelates. These chelates are very easy for the body to absorb. Hence vitamin C increases iron absorption. Interesting enough so does fructose the sugar that is found in fruit. 
  • Fish increased iron absorption, it is thought that this is due to high levels of the amino acid cysteine. Also eggs reduce iron absorption as the egg binds to the iron and doesn't release it. 
  • You may have heard (or experienced) that low iron results in low energy. The reason for this is that iron is found in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the power houses of the cells, they produce the energy that the cell needs to function. If you have low iron the mitochondria are not able to produce the optimal amount of energy that your cell needs. If your cells don't have enough energy - you don't either.
I find amazing about older information is that even 30 years later some of this information is not common knowledge. It takes such a long time for research to enter into mainstream information, if it every does.

Reference: Jacobs, A., Sex differences in iron absorption. Proceedings of Nutritional Society vol 35 1976 pg 159

Folate supplements better than natural folates?

One of the fascinating things about folate is that it comes in many forms. Folic acid is the one produced by chemical factory's. Thus it is cheap and plentiful, thus you are likely to have heard of it. However in nature folic acid is bound to other chemicals in many different and unique ways. Folic acid bound to these other substances is called folate.

Typically leafy green vegetables are high in folate. However the different types of folate have differing levels of bio-availability. It is known that folates in food are not well absorbed and have poor bio-availability. Thus there is a possibility if we try to raise our folic acid levels by eating leafy green vegetables that the body will not receive the folic acid it needs.

A interesting study hints this might be the case. This study was looking at homocysteine levels in the blood. In simple terms homocysteine in blood is bad and increase folic acid causes a drop in homocysteine levels. So this study looked at increasing folate consumption by eating more leafy greens, taking a supplement from yeast and eating food with folic acid added to it (fortified). As you can see in the first graph below that all three groups had higher intake of folates compared to the control (placebo group). However what is fascinating is that only the fortified and supplement group had raised folic acid levels in their blood. Suggesting that the folate from leafy greens was not making it into the body. This is confirmed by the homocysteine levels shown on the second graph. Only the supplement and fortified group had statistically significant drop in homosyteine levels.

Thus folate in our green foods is not as good as chemical folic acid. This is very surprising, however the supplement was made from yeast, so eating yeast product would likely to provide high bio-availability folate. So home made bread (with yeast) and maybe even home brew?! as this uses yeast - although I don't know how much yeast is left in the final product. I also wonder about lactic acid bacteria as a source of folic acid. This is found in live yogurts and sauerkraut. So until this is figured out I would suggest you supplement with folic acid, or even better a yeast based suppliment. I would also reccomend eating more leafy green vege's even though they might not give you folate they are wonderful for a multitude of other reasons.

Lastly for transparency I am a Nutrilite distributor and this study was undertaken by Nutrilite and it was their yeast based suppliments which were used. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gross food - is it more nutritious ?!

Most cultures have high nutrient food that to my cultural "norms" is really gross. Que for deep fried scorpions, beetles etc.

However European culture has some rather unappetizing ones. For instance as a kid we were totally grossed out when we had tongues for dinner. I don't know if it was the thought of it, or the taste as I was 6 yrs old. I do remember being grossed out by heart one time, though ox tail wasn't so bad and nor was eel. What was truly revolting was some brain stew that we had one time. I never remember seeing the brain bits nor what it looked like in the stew..... so it could have been a Calvin and Hobbs joke by my father on me.

Anyway stumbled across a site that has a mixture of western style gross recipes combined with fun gross ones. I like the Swamp Water Punch With the Floating Arm of Death. With stuff like this I could get into Halloween.

But seriously they have some recipes that made me realize my perceptions of historic western culture we not quite right.

In the past all parts of the animal was also used, depending on (a) how hungry or (b) how poor you would have been. Check out these recipes: three variations of how to cook cows lung. Not into lung - well try cows udder ! Sliced and crumbed like thin meat. I'm sure you could adapt jellied moose nose. Totally grossed out yet? There is much worse on the list!

It got me thinking about (a) how monotonous my diet is compared to what it could be and (b) how much nutritious food is lost through only eating the "meat" bits. I'm sure that these body parts would have different nutrients than a steak or a chicken breast.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Food additive that destroys your vitamin E

Sodium Bisulfite as food additive number E 222. It is a very common preservative, it is found in nearly all wines as it is added to halt fermentation, and prevent the wine going off. It is also used in dehydrated fruit to stop them browning, hence why some dried apricots are bright orange and others brown. The bright orange ones have been processed with sodium bisulfite. It is also found in things such as sauces, gravys jams and preserves though to frozen food pastries. So you can see that this is found in a large range of food stuffs. Further foods containing sodium bisulfite can be found here.

How does this relate to vitamins? Good question, when  vitamins were first studied they used laboratory animals to recreate the vitamin deficiency so that they could study the signs and effects of the vitamin deficiency. The animals were also used to test vitamin levels in various foods. Once the proposed vitamin had be extracted from food, or artificially created in a lab it could be fed to the animal to determine if this compound reversed the deficiency disease thus allowing the chemical structure of the vitamin to be found. One of the problems with this method is that it took a long time for the animal to use up there reserves of the vitamin and show clinical deficiency signs. For example vitamin B deficiency showed up quickly, but it was still 1 - 3 months before it showed up. For fat soluble vitamins who's body storage is much higher than B vitamins, it could be 10 months or more before they showed signs of deficiency disease. The photograph below is a swan that has vitamin E deficiency, as you can see it has trouble holding its head up in the right spot.

Clearly it is difficult to study something if you are waiting 10 months before you can start your experiment and if you have trace amounts of the vitamin still in the animal food you might not get deficiency disease at all and you would have to wait a year to figure this out. Therefore it became important to have ways to accelerate the vitamin loss. In 1955 they found such a thing. They found that sodium bisulfite accelerated the time taken for chicks to show signs of vitamin E deficiency.

I am amazed that sodium bisulfite is allowed into our food. This is because vitamin E is the hardest vitamin to get your RDI intake. And we are allowing a chemical into our food that destroys our vitamin E. If this is not a sign of madness I don't know what is.   

Miller et al Studies on the effect of sodium bisulfite on the stability of vitamin E, Journal of Nutrition vol 55 no 1 1955
McCarthy and Cerecedo Vitamin deficiency in the mouse Journal of Nutrition
McCarrison Studies in Deficiency disease Oxford Medical Publications 1929

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vitamin C is higher in organic USA oranges

Digging through my files the other day and stumbled across some 2002 research on organic oranges. The American study showed that even though organic oranges were half the size of conventional oranges they had 30% more vitamin C. Yep more vitamin C even though the volume eaten is less.

Now there could be a myriad of reasons for this. The researches stated "we speculate that with conventional oranges farmers use nitrogen fertilisers that cause an uptake of more water, so it sort of dilutes the orange. You get a great big orange but it is full of water and doesn't have as much nutritional value

Reference: American Chemical Society, Public release date 2nd June 2002. Poster presentation Minneapolis

Monday, October 19, 2009

Understanding Genomics - its actually quite simple

Visited a brilliant doctor, Dr Bill Reeder, last week with Tiffany who has some long term health issues. We were in the presence of greatness, as the saying goes. For the first time ever I felt I have visited a doctor who (a) really cared about us and (b) new more than I did about optimal health, nutrition and wellness.
Here is a  doctor who treats people holistically. Bill spent about an hour and a half with us.

Discussed everything from metabolic systems to practical ways to reduce stress. Amazing knowledge and understanding of the way body works and about how the systems work together. He understands how the bodies systems all interrelate and how if something goes wrong there is a bunch of knock on effects in the body. Bill also explained the why behind some things we had been told before. If we had known the why we would have made different choices at the time. To be honest if I could pick any job in the world to do, I think doing what he does would have to be close to heavenly. My problem is that I don't want to undertake decades of training and practice to earn the right to do what he does.Would love to give you specific details about the insightful and wise states that Bill made but as we were discussing Tiffany's health I cannot give specifics.

So if you are in New Zealand and have an issue that is not being answered by conventional medicence, but you still what someone with a medical background and grasp of the science behind your problems I highly recommend Dr Bill Reeder of the Biomedical Therapies for Optimum Health at the Narrows Hamilton.

On Bill's walls were posters and diagrams that I would have loved to removed and taken home with me. Wonderful diagrams showing how things worked, what they did and how they could be measured. He had even made up his own diagrams to explain to people the biochemical pathways in your body. He said that you can have a Genome test, which is analyzed in the states. This shows areas that genetically you body is not good at, so instance a particular enzyme or structure that your body has issues creating. Then he uses the diagrams that he has made up to show what the lack of these enzymes/structures will lead to in your body. Thus you get to understand the basic biochemistry in a easily understandable way with wonderful diagrams.

Then it hit me - this is Genomics in action. I have heard about genomics and how it is the next big thing. However I never really understood what it meant and how it might affect me. Then by "coincidence" I was reading today again thinking about the post I did yesterday and bang there is was:
Definition of the adequate amount of vitamin D, however, is still uncertain; polymorphisms of the gene encoding the vitamin D receptor might be responsible for this uncertainty. People carrying less efficient variants of the receptor might need higher amounts of vitamin D.
Your optimal level of vitamins is dependent upon your genome. It's that simple. Want to find out what level of nutrient you need. You only need to know your genome data and you should in theory be able to determine what your optimal level should be. Now the science behind doing this may still be worked out but the theory is all there. And there is the issue of lifestyle choices, the high stress worker who lives in a big city will have higher nutrient need that the lower stress country person.

The next trick would be to have a blood or urine test that determines if your lifestyle is providing you with enough of the nutrient. It is one think to know that I need a particular amount of a vitamin, it is another thing to know what I am actually getting of that vitamin. 

Reference: Kidney International (2009) 76, 931–933. doi:10.1038/ki.2009.312 Chronic kidney disease and vitamin D: how much is adequate? Marco Ruggiero and Stefania Pacini

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New standards for vitamin D

The lack of vitamin D causes rickets. This is where bone gets soft and then deforms as it has lost its strength. An x-ray of a child with rickets is shown to the left. (Picture credit).

Up until 1997 rickets was the sign of vitamin D adequacy or lack. This resulted in the belief that nearly everyone in the western world had adequate levels of vitamin D.

However with the rise of obstreperous vitamin D was revisited, relooked at from a modern perspective. It because clear that lack of vitamin D was aggravating and maybe even causing osteoporosis.

So in 1997 the standard changed from rickets to measuring a blood component. The blood compound is called 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, stated in short hand of 25(OH)D. It is the biologically active form of vitamin D found in the blood.

This leads to the point that if you are at risk from osteoporosis that you should get a blood test to measure how much vitamin D you have in your blood. 

Now interpreting the test, "normal" range is 20–150 nmol/L (30.0 to 74.0 ng/mL). Levels below 80nmol/L are often seen as deficient. So if you have blood levels below this you should be taking a supplement of 10–30 µg/day or 400 - 12 000 IU's per day. Otherwise spend 15 minutes a day sitting in the sun with arms and legs exposed, doing this outside of high risk of sunburn time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brilliant research - you can make healthier meals

Ever so often a brilliant scientific study comes up. Today a paper like this was published in Food Control. The study looked at meals produced by a bulk catering company. Thing hospital kitchen or boarding school kitchen. They followed vegetables through the process, measuring vitamin C at the various stages. As expected there were a few critical steps that if not done right lead to large drops in vitamin C level of the food. Thus there were able to focus on these few steps and as a result reduce the vitamin C loses. The improvements are shown in the graph below:

The darker columns are the original reduction, and after improvements the were made the results are the lighter column. So you can see massive improvements of 20-30% across all vegetables except for white cabbage and tomatoes.

This is fantastic news. What this means that changing how we obtain and process foods before they appear on the table we can increase their vitamin retention. So what were the key issues. They were unsurprisingly the length of time that the vegetables were at room temperature (eg not in the fridge). Reduction in cleaning and cooking temperature, time and total water volume.

So applying this to the home situation, the following points should be followed as much as possible:
  • Choosing produce that has not warmed up to shop temperature. This is done by never choosing the produce that is at the top of the pile as this has had a chance to warm up. So go for the colder stuff below.
  • Keep all colder foods together eg produce and dairy products
  • Minimize the time that the produce sits in the car / kitchen before going into fridge
  • Keep produce in the fridge as long as possible before serving. And if it is made in advance keep things in the fridge 
  • Try not to peel or prep things that need to sit in water before you cook them. For instance peeling potatoes and putting them in water so they don't brown enables the vitamin C to be leached out into the water. 
  • Reduce the time you spend washing your vegetables 
  • Reduce the time you cook and temperature that the produce is cooked at.
  • Steaming instead of boiling. 
Lets hope there is more and more research looking at how we can decrease the lose of nutrient until we eat them.

Reference: Rodrigues, C., Control of vitamin C losses in vegetables prepared at a food servic. Food Control vol 21, 2010 pg 254-271

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My take on Gobal Warming - Strongly suggest you read this.

Slightly off topic, but I have been seeking this article for a while. The good folks at American Reference Center, Office of Public Affairs in the USA embassy at Wellington have kindly sent me through a Newsweek article I requested:

There are ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only ten years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the north, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas - parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia - where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant over-all loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree - a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in thirteen U.S. states. 

Trend: To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth's climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. "A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale," warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, "because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century."

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3 per cent between 1964 and 1972.

To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be lighly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the earth's average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about 7 degrees lower than during its warmest eras - and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average.Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the "little ice age" conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern American between 1600 and 1900 - years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. "Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data," concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. "Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions."

Extremes: Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short-term results of the return to the norm of the last century. They begin by noting the slight drop in over-all temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases - all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.

"The world's food-producing system," warns Dr. James D. McQuigg of NOAA's Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, "is much more sensitive to the weather variable than it was even five years ago." Furthermore, the growth of world population and creation of new national boundaries make it impossible for starving peoples to migrate from their devastated fields, as they did during past famines.

Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or divering arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

The Cooling World PETER GWYNNE Pg. 64 1974

So the world was in danger of cooling 30 years ago, now it is in danger of warming. What most people don't understand is that there is a self perpetuating cycle around the science of global warming. Global warming is politically correct. Therefore the is funding money for those studying it. Therefore scientist bend there research to fit the funding. For example a team at our local university got a big grant (over a million dollars) to look at ways to reduce global warming by better energy efficiency on some dehydrator plants. Now when you want to research money you have to speak the same language. This then snow balls as the papers come out with grant to combat global warming. So the public then thinks it is true, so it becomes a more important political issue. So we carry on down the loop. 

For the record I strongly support energy efficiency, recycling, reducing environmental impact etc. I think that global warming might be true. However there are serious issues with it - like volcanoes and how much gas they release compared to humans, sunspot activity etc etc etc. There are a lot of variables that could explain the data we see.

Personalized suppliment packs

If you have been to the doctor lately you may have seen a add for pachaging your drugs into a blister pack. So all you need to do is pop all the drugs out of the blister pack and take them. It takes the hassle out of taking a collection of tablets. Remembering that older people tend to be large takers of pills. Avoids fiddling around with bottles - being older eye sight might be poor, or weaknes in the wrists can go making unscrewing bottle lids challedging. Not to mention wondering if you have taken todays pills - something I even struggle to remember.

So this blister pack simplifes things. I have heard that individual blister pack for vitamins was coming out. Well I have just stumbled across a site that does this. You can choose from groups of vitamins and herbs and they will package them into your own blister sheet. This has a number of advantages:
  • Easy to remember if you have taken them today. If todays pack is not open you haven't
  • Makes ordering simpler. Because of the range of supplements we take they run out at different times so we are often running low or short because we haven't got around to getting that specific supplement.
  • Transportable, it means you can cut out you pack and take it with you. Thus you are not carrying around small bottles/holders all the time (and loosing them). It also makes going on holiday easier - we have to pack a small box of pills and such as it is simpler to pack all the bottles instead of sorting the right number out. 
So I think is a fanastic concept. May it reach NZ soon (or maybe we will all change to ordering from America!)  

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The wonders of nature - yet another thing that is good for you

Reading about Tannins. These are the group of chemicals that give wine it smoothness as it ages. If the food is to high in tannin it gives the dryness/pucky taste that is not sour, but bitter and astringent. Tannin also makes the water in bogs and streams brown, like you can see on the left. Photo credit

My interest in tannins come from wine. when you drink new wine ie wine before it goes into the bottles, the tannin levels make it astringent. This coupled with the harshness of the alcohol makes these new wines very undrinkable. If drink a new wine you think how revolting, lets through it out. Yet 6 - 12 months later it becomes very drinkable.As the wine ages in a oak barrel the tannins from the wine, plus the tannins seeping from the oak  modify to become the rich smoothness of a great wine. You don't need a oak barrel if tannins are high enough in the original wine. However I am experimenting with adding oak chips into selected bottle.

Well it turns out that these tannins are beneficial to your health. It can draw out poison from a bee sting as it makes the skin contract and squeezes out the poison. It has anti inflammatory properties, stops bleeding helpful with bowel issues and the list goes on.

Everywhere you look there is so much goodness in the plants the surround us. The issue is having a lifestyle that integrates all these wonderful natural substances into our body.

Right them I think I will go and have a nice glass of my oak leaf wine (yep you can make a wine from fresh new oak leaves!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gecko on the inside of an egg OMG !

In the back of my mind there was something about eggs being slightly hazardous. Apparently 1 in 10 000 eggs is contaminated with Salmonella.  However you have to eat 10 000 eggs to get a bad one, furthermore cooking the eggs destroys the Salmonella. If the Salmonella didn't get killed your bodies defense system might overcome the infection before it gets bad. So the odds of being made sick from an egg is rather low.

What I didn't know until today is that the Salmonella is on the inside of the eggs shell, so no amount of washing can remove it. Yup you read that right - it is on the inside. The chicken may have contamination with Salmonella and contaminate an egg with it on the inside. Furthermore you can get other things on the inside of eggs and this photo shows!

Yes that is the remains of a gecko!

Photo credit

Choosing a suppliment is hard !

I had forgotten how difficult it was to select which supplement to purchase at the supermarket. It has been a long time since I have stood in a health shop or a supermarket trying to decide what supplement to purchase. I don't purchase my supplements through these channels. Mainly because they are cost focused, that is consumers compare the supplements based upon price. However as a rule of thumb you get what you pay for with supplements. Therefore a cost focused sales channel focus on making things cheaper, thus reducing quality, instead of focusing on best thing for the customer.

So we use Nutriway, a MLM supplement, thus has to be ordered posted out which takes a few days, or we purchase things from The Herbal Shop, who do both herbal supplements and one range of vitamin supplements. As we don't often get sick we purchase what we need in advance or for a specific application. 

However last week I got sick. It was my fault I could feel my body working against a viral infection. Tiffany went away to a conference and while she was gone my eating went to pot and I had a lot of what sugar and very little nutritious food. Therefore the virus got the upper hand.

So I went to the supermarket to get some vitamin C to help my body recover. Wow that was a challenge! First thing I noticed was that the supplements were grouped via producer, not by supplement type. When you go to purchase a canned product they don't lump all Watties products in one aisle, all home brand in another and Heinz in another. No you get the beetroot grouped in the same place with Watties next to the home-brand next to Heniz. This enables quick and easy comparison and helps decision making. However this is not done in the vitamin section.

Thus I was overwhelmed with brands, red seal, blackmores, barocca, plus a whole lot more that I can't remember their names. I had to attempt to find each vitamin C product from each brand. As I was under the weather and not good at finding stuff at the best of time this was very challenging. Once I had determined which vitamin C products existed I tried to compare them. However they seemed to be all different, trying to be better than all the other products. It was a challenging decision, this is how made it
  • No artificial colorings, flavoring or sweeteners. It makes no sense in my mind to purchase a product that you want your body to use to get better and at the same time challenge your body with some extra poisons. 
  • Minimal extra's. I already had a supplement that provided enough B's and other nutrients so multi package deals were no needed.
  • Not just vitamin C. Although I already take a supplement that has bioflavonids in it, thus helping my body use the vitamin C, I think that have bioflavoinds means that the product has higher quality. Thus these products made it onto the possible list
  • Price. Once I had narrowed it down to these few items it came down to value/cost. Fortunately the best vitamin C tablets that I could find was on special which made it one of the cheaper options 

What did I end up with? Blackmores Bio C 1000mg. It has a high level of vitamin C and a bunch of compounds that are normally found in with vitamin C in nature. Citrus bioflavonoids extract, rosehips extract and Acerola extracts along with other specific bioflavonoids

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strawberries after dinner are best.

Have been watching my strawberries ripen, a week or two and we will be enjoying delicious berries. Found out today that strawberries vitamin C (55-90 mg per 100grams fruit) is highest just after a sunny day. Therefore picking strawberries after dinner for a delicious desert maximizes their vitamin C.

As most of you have seen commercial strawberries are picked early morning to maximize their shelf life as this is when the fruits have the maximum amount of water in them.Thus they are able to stay "fresh" for longer.

The question I now have is teh cup and half of strawberries that decreases colestrol picked in the morning or afternoon? And is there a difference?

Reference Lyle S. Discovering Fruits and Nuts. pg 215

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vitamin K, extra needed !

Vitamin K is a vitamin that is not talked about often. It is a very important vitamin being called K for Koagulation by its German discoverers. Without this vitamin you would bleed to death. It is manufactured by intestinal bacteria/flora and for a long time it was thought that the bacteria produced enough to keep you healthy. After all it produced enough to keep your blood clotting.

As it turns out vitamin K is used in 16 different proteins in the body. The roles of these functions were tested in mice. The mice can be manumitted so that they do not make these proteins. The researches were successful in making 11 mice that were unable to make one of the 16 proteins. Thus they could determine what function these 11 proteins had in the body.

Five of the proteins were critical to health and clotting. This was shown as none of these mice made it to being born. Five were very important to the body but the mice survived to weaning. For example one of these five proteins was a protein that controlled growth.

The paper then goes to talk about how the essential proteins are made in the liver, where as the five non essential proteins are not made in the liver. Vitamin K is collected and stored in the liver to make sure the essential proteins can be made. Therefore if vitamin K levels are sub optimal the non essential proteins will not be made, or will be at a sub optimal level.

However when these important, but non essential proteins, were not working at optimal levels there was an increase in cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease. Wow look at that, non optimal levels lead to western degenerative disease.

Apparently if you are on long term use of anticoagulant (warfarin/coumadin) therapy the vitamin K lost is significantly higher.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Choline in mental health

One of the fascinating things I found doing research for my book is that Choline is now classed as a vitamin. For a while I got confused as I read choline and chlorine..... and wondered why a rather nasty chemical was a vitamin. It is part of the B vitamin family.

As part of the bio chemistry of choline is its use in brain function. Therefore it would be logical to suspect it plays a role in mental health.

A population study looked at blood choline level and signs of mental health. Low choline levels were associated with anxiety, but not with depression. So if you have an anxious personality try eating more live and egg yokes or get some lecithin and sprinkle this over your breakfast.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

They actually reccomend suppliments now !

There is an ingrained belief in some sectors/groups/families/individuals that supplementation is not needed. It is clearly has an emotional connection, because these people seem to become slightly irrational when they encounter the message that we need to supplement.

I put it down to the underling issue - that if I accept that I need to supplement - it means I have not looking after myself/my partner/my family properly and that I have failed to feed them a healthy meals. To me it must be something like this otherwise people would not be so irrational in denying the need to supplement.

More and more evidence is pointing to supplementation as being important. For instance of the top of my head:
  • Iodine in salt. We do not get enough iodine in our diet, hence iodine is added to salt to stop us getting goutier. Thus we are indirectly supplementing.
  • Iron is often taken as a supplement by women, often recommended by a doctor. Especially when they are pregnant.
  • Folic acid is highly recommended to be supplemented before and during pregnancy. This is because we don't get enough folic acid/folate in our diet to reduce risk of neural tube birth defects.
Well it turns out that we can now add vitamin D to the list of things the medical profession are telling us to supplement with. A paper has come out that states that:
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread among women with breast cancer. Guidelines currently recommend daily supplementation with 400 IU vitamin D3; however, attainment of a circulating level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D defined as sufficient (that is, greater than or equal to75 nmol/l) might not be possible with this level of supplementation,
So if you have breast cancer you have low vitamin D levels and you need to suppliment them to . I wonder if this is causative, does the low vitamin D level cause cancer, or does cancer cause low vitamin D levels?

Reference: Bruce W. Hollis Nutrition: US recommendations fail to correct vitamin D deficiency. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2009 p534 | doi:10.1038/nrendo.2009.178

Monday, October 5, 2009

Iodine for soil?

My previous post about sub optimal iodine levels got me thinking about our soil. I add a trace element mix into our soil to increase levels of minerals in plants that we eat. However this trace element mix only has the elements that make the plants grow better or look nicer.

Therefore it doesn't have selenium nor iodine. I have am struggling to purchase some selenium based fertilizer. I can purchase 25kg bag for about $200, which is made for farmers to put on their soil, so their livestock stay healthy. However I only need 1kg which should do our soil for the next few years! It also doesn't have iodine.

Seaweed extract may contain iodine, so I think I will use this more, along with gathering seaweed when I goto the beach. However I am unsure if seaweed extract contains selenium.

Our kids are iodine deficient !

Flicking through The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was very surprised to see a NZ study based in Dunedin. It looked at mild iodine deficiency and brain function. The 10-13 year old kids had no obvious signs of iodine deficiency (eg goutier), however from urine analysis they had sub optimal iodine levels.

After 28 weeks of supplementation the supplementation had improved two out four tests for intelligence/brain function. Thus improving their cognitive function. Lastly it was a placebo double blind trial so this result is very trust worthy.

I find it very disturbing that our children here in NZ are not getting enough iodine. This is very god timing as we have just run out the kids multi-mineral tablets (actually a combination of multivitamin and multi mineral as I have been unable to find a kids multi mineral, chewable tablet) So I will be making sure that this suppliment contains iodine.

Special treat for the midwifes/lactation consultants

Vitamin K in neonates (new borns) is a topic that is challenging. This is because 1 in 10 000 babies that are born develop significant internal bleeding, that without extra vitamin K will kill them. This is done via inject of 0.5 or 1.0mg of vitamin K. However in the NZ context were child birth is as natural as possible (and thank God for that, as in the USA they still give birth in stirrups!) there is the questioning of why such an invasive procedure is needed.

When I was up at EIT I was [again] asked about the vitamin K issue and [again] I side stepped it. Well it gives me great pleasure to have an answer! The folloing is a quote from my book, as I have just reworked this section so I am happy with it from a scientific perspextive. Please take note that it has not yet gone past my editor so will be cleaned up when it appears in print. Also my foot notes and ref's have been taken out....


As with other vitamins that we have looked at, one way of estimating an ODA for vitamin K would be to examine breast milk levels. It has been established that newborn infants are deficient in vitamin K because the placenta acts as a barrier to that vitamin in the womb. Therefore there is a risk of baby bleeding to death, with risk being about 1 baby per 10 000 born. Current recommendations are for either 0.5 or 1 mg of vitamin K to be administered to the baby normally by injection .

To avoid these problems, it would seem that the best solution is to administer vitamin K naturally through the mother’s milk. Some studies have proposed providing supplements or vitamin K booster shots to expectant mothers when the women arrive at the birthing facility. However this is unlikely to result in a massive increase in breast milk levels, especially if the mother’s own vitamin K levels are not already at an optimal level. Furthermore, for many vitamins, there is often a delay between taking the vitamin and a corresponding increase of vitamin levels in the organs. In other words, a big dose of vitamins administered on one day may not rise vitamin levels in an organ, whereas a smaller dose taken over a longer period may provide a corresponding increase.

Baby needs 15 micro g of vitamin K to achieve a normal blood clotting level. So instead of injecting baby, would increasing vitamin K in mothers diet increase breast milk levels. The 15 micro g would need to be delivered in breast milk within 48 hours when the risk of bleeding is the highest. Vitamin K is unusual in that it does not seem to be concentrated up in colostrum, where as other fat soluble vitamins can be found at higher concentrations. Assuming an “average” milk intake for baby of 500ml in first 48 hours, what level of vitamin K does mum need to consume to deliver enough vitamin K in the milk to baby. The answer is just over 2 000 micro g/day.

When baby is no longer a new born the recommendation for a baby’s vitamin K intake is 1 micro g a day per kg of weight. Typically western breast milk does not contain high enough levels to reach this target. However a “normal” diet supplemented with 800 micro g/day had enough to give slightly under 2 micro g/day per kg. Therefore assuming linear dose response the level to give baby enough vitamin K would be an increase of 400 micro g/day over a western diet .

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Introduction to Inulin

Inulin is NOT insulin! Being dyslexic I took a while to figure that on out. Insulin is the stuff that regulates sugar levels (or doesn't in diabetes). Inulin is a natural sugar. The good thing about inulin is that it adds sweetness, but typically is not absorbed by the body as the sugar molecule is to complex or unable to be processed by the body.

I came across inulin when I planted my Yacon, (pic to left) also called ground apples due to their sweet taste. Very excited that my yacon's and now sprouting and so are my Jerusalem artichokes (which are nothing to do with Jerusalem or artichokes!). Jerusalem artichokes (JA)also contain inulin, but not as much as the yacon's.

It is this reason that diabetics can handle yacons and JA, as they don't play havoc with blood sugar levels like potatoes or other cooked starches do.

Now the reason for this post is that a paper has just been published that looked at feeding pigs inulin. Pigs are a similar species to humans so are often used in animal studies that are looking for effects that could help human understanding.

It turns out that inulin helps iron uptake and decreases inflammation. Therefore eating food contained inulin are good for you as the western diet is full of pro inflammation foods. It is this inflammation which ultimately causes heart disease and strokes.

Refererence: Yasuda et al Supplemental Dietary Inulin Influences Expression of Iron and Inflammation Related Genes in Young Pigs J. Nutr. (September 23, 2009). © 2009 American Society for Nutrition. Image Source