Friday, April 30, 2010

Caffeine causes low birth weight babies - Don't have caffiene when you are pregnant !

There are social acceptable drug dependencies. One of these is caffeine, and like any drug you need more of it to get the same fix. I personally would recommend that you don't drink more than one cup of very fresh coffee a day. One that has very recently roasted and ground. Why? well I actually don't  drink coffee and someone I trust in things of wellness taught about this rule.

Back to the point. Caffeine being a drug does stuff to your body. Turns out that consumption of caffeine during pregnancy can have negative effects on baby. Before we list them we need to know how much caffiene is in common drinks. A good list is found here Rule of thumb: a cup of coffee is 75-100 mg, cup of tea 50 mg, can of coke 35-45 mg and dark chocolate 20mg for 30 grams. With this in mind:
  • > 300 mg daily is associated with low birth  weight / fetal growth restriction
  • > 141 mg is reduces birth weight 
  • Maternal caffeine concentration has an inverse association with birth weight
  • > 300 mg daily might be associated with increased probability of a miscarriage or low birth weight, however these conclusions were controversial. 
Caffeine is known to cross across the placental barrier to baby and after caffeine consumption blood flow to baby is reduced. It is hypothesized that this lack of blood flow and hence reduction in nutrients is the reason for the lowered birth weights. A British Medical Journal study did a more robust study than the studies that resulted in the above bullet points. The graph below shows the result. Click here for close up of graph.

The thick blue line is the function that relates fetal growth restriction to caffeine uptake. The dashed lines are the 95% confidence levels. Thus giving the range of expected results. You might think that there is a large variation from person to person looking the range. This is true but is very typical of animal studies, including humans. (People typically have such a wide range of responses to any drug, even simple things like panadol I notice an effect on half a tablet yet Tiffany needs two to kick in).    

 The other thing to note is that there is a very rapid impact on baby growth with only a small intake of caffeine. As the caffeine level increases past this rapid impact zone there is a much less rapid increase of fetal growth restriction. From this data is was sensibly concluded:
We suggest that sensible advice for women contemplating pregnancy is to reduce their caffeine intake from all sources before conception. Once pregnancy is confirmed, they should make every effort to stop or markedly reduce caffeine consumption.
 So put caffeine on the list of things to reduce or eliminate while pregnant. The reason I say reduce or eliminate is that some mums need chocolate to get through the ups and downs of pregnancy and to be kept sane!!! So don't feel guilty about chocolate consumption, just limit it and try not to have it every day. I would suggest the positive emotions created by eating chocolate might cancel out the negative effects of the caffeine on baby. I am totally convinced that negative emotion while pregnant is unhealthy to baby.... so one has to balance the risks!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Treat your liver to some vitamin E

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is a fancy way of saying liver disease that it is not caused by alcohol. Its shows up as fatty liver, inflammation and liver damage. It is also a "silent" disease, that is people don't notice it, nor is it picked up as they are not drinkers (someone who drinks a lot would be suspected of liver damage). 

The New England Journal of Medicine has just published a study that looked at treatment of Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.Currently there is no established method of treating this disease. They tried 800 IU of vitamin E, pioglitazone and of course a placebo. Pioglitazone is a drug that is used to help treat type-2 diabetes and is thought to be possibly helpful for  Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Results vitamin E did better than placebo and pioglitazone was the same as placebo for primary effects of Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.  

Furthermore vitamin E group didn't gain weight like the pioglitazone group (weight gain is often a side effect of medications).

So do your liver a treat and take 800 IU of vitamin E

P.S. this improvement was seen after two years of taking each product, so vitamin E works slowly to improve your liver. Vitamins rarely produce a positive impact in the short time. However long term they can work miracles.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Canning - removes vitamin C and likely many anti-oxidants

On the positive side canning has enabled fruits to be eaten outside of the season and outside of the normal geographic range. For example here in NZ we can purchase canned mangos and litchis that cannot grow in our climate. Thus we can enjoy extra fruits that wouldn't be possible.

However the down side of this is when we rely of canned foods or have canned fruit as a significant source of fruits. This is because the nutrients are destroyed in the canned process. An example of this is shown below. This is what happens to the vitamin C level in canned goods. (it also shows irradiated and frozen effects). Again clicking on the graph should make it larger. You can see that the vitamin C is massively reduced. Furthermore vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient like a large group of additional nutrients. These are called by a number of names such as bioflavonids or phytonutrients..... they make up a large proportion of the antioxidant levels in fruits. Therefore we can theorize that if vitamin C is massively reduced then the bioflavonids are also likely to be significantly effected. Hence canned food is a great treat but you should rely on locally grown fresh fruits for the majority of your fruit intake.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Readers question part 2: validity of studies

Would suggest you read part 1 before you read this post. The reader has come back with a question regarding the study used on the web page which started the original discussion. The question was asked: can you find the original study? I side stepped that issue in the previous post as to the suspected complexity of the situation........ however I have relented and here is the research:

Background: rats were feed extruded wheat products eg cornflakes or fruit loops etc. The rats feed these die before the rats feed nothing, or card board box.... or whatever the control was. Furthermore they didn't die of starvation but from cancers, heart disease etc.

There are two studies mentioned. The first was written in 1942, and read by Paul Stitt who wrote about it in his book published in the 70's. There the trail stops.... as it was his story, remembering that in the 70's the lack of photocopies, scanners, digital cameras etc made duplication of material difficult. So we cannot conclude anything concrete. 

The other story was written by Sally Fenton. Couldn't find any information about it and snoops was critical of the story. Again nothing concrete, however nothing to say it wasn't true either. 

So in conclusion there might be true, but could well be old wives tales. What I find fascinating is that I couldn't find any resent study that duplicated the results. One would think that a study such as the two above would be simple enough to replicate - or disprove.

As these studies were done decades ago they could have been influenced by contaminates in the grain. For example mold on the grain can release toxins such as Furomoisin's which are highly toxic (and not observable to the eye) Contaminates could have easily been in the grain as the detection methods could have been primitive to non existent. As humans have to eat a lot more to get sick due to their body mass low levels of these toxins could have been present in the food killing the rats but not making enough people sick to have the product recalled.

Interestingly enough there is research exploring how to extrude wheat products that minimize the toxins. Looking at what salt and malt levels reduce the toxins. It has also been shown that these toxins can survive the extrusion. Furthermore furomonisin causes DNA damage oxidative stress and is toxic to the liver in rats. The oxidative stress can lead to all sorts of issues such as cancers, heart disease etc.  Thus it is plausable that furomoisins could have been in the wheat, got processed into breakfast cereal which was then feed to the rats, causing the "Western degenerative diseases" that were observed in the autopsy.

Therefore I would conclude that the two studies probably occurred with results closely aligned with the stories on the internet. It is also highly likely that they couldn't be replicated (although I note that no one seems to have tried to replicate them). And that the results were caused by other toxins such as furomoisins.  

In saying all this I don't consider extruded breakfast cereals a wise choice to feed to yourself or your family.  

Reader question: Breakfast cereal's

What to feed ones children for breakfast? And is the article based upon truth? A read recently asked this question. So here is the answer.

Firstly the article linked to is written by Sally Fallon, who I have previously mentioned in a blog post. I have a very high regard for Sally and the Weston Price organization. Therefore the article is likely to be accurate. However the specific example used about mice being feed puffed breakfast cereals dieing before the mice with no food seems a little extreme. And saying the studies were not published, leads to the obvious question about were did they come from, and where is the original. So I have serious questions about the study and the results.

However I totally support Sally's criticism of extruded breakfast cereals. I have a simple rule, which I will restate:
 If it looks like how Nature (or God if you prefer) made it, then it is highly likely to be good for you. Conversely the more it looks modified from the original, the more it is bad for you. 
I would say that if it looks like nature made it then it is good for you. But clearly one gets stuck with poisons plants!  So hence highly likely to be good for you.

Applying this test to:
  • Cornflakes
  • Rice puffs 
  • Honey puffs
  • et
These all look highly modified. Sure some are the same shape as original but that is about it. Therefore these are highly processed food..... so they are bad for you. Most muesli are not much better. Toasted normally means high in oil (eg almost deep fried) and a lot have very high sugar content. The sugars come from the dried fruits as well as sugar, syrups etc. Although at lead some muesli's you can see what the grains an some fruits used to be!

This leads onto the question - what to have for breakfast..... but first let me confess that our family's breakfast is far from ideal. Me and the kids normally have weetbix and Tiffany has a better option of a omelet with mushrooms. The weetbix is pure convenience.... and for its fiber. So here are some ideas:
  • Free range, outdoor living, hens egg's with vege's. (free range often is walking around inside.... chicken need grass, bugs, sunlight to produce healthy eggs)
  • Soaked whole oats. Soaking oats in raw milk, live yogurt or lemon juice overnight before eating
  • Ground nuts. Grind up in a coffee grinder raw nuts (not cooked, not salted). linseed-sesame-almond combo provides balanced protein, I also put in any other seeds we have, often pumpkin, sunflower.... I tend to eat my Brazil nut (for selenium) and cashews whole cause they are yummy. You can then mix this with yogurt, fruit, add to a fruit smoothly etc etc. I find this very fulling and sustaining for a long time. 
  • Vege jucie. Breakfast doesn't have to many vege's in most homes. Therefore when I am feeling low on vege's I will make juice to have with breakfast. I find that the rest of the day I tend to eat healthier as I started on a good way. 
Therefore there are other options....

Picture credit 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Babies bones depend on mums vitamin D

Pregnancy and neonatal care (new born care) is a very important time. One of the hardest things I personally find is the worry that mums (and dads) work up. So many things are based around fear, don't touch, don't eat, don't, don't, don't. Nature (or God) has done a wonderful job looking after babies for millennium so it is going to be ok. I suspect that the biological changes that occur when people worry is more damaging than that occasional glass of wine or walking past smokers.

That all said nutrition while pregnant and breast feeding can have a massive impact on that child. The latest research has looked into babies bones and mum's vitamin D status. They looked at the bone density and bone size of the lower shine bone. The bone size was how "round" the bone was i.e. cross section area.

Surprise, surprise the higher the vitamin D level of mum, the more density the bone was and it had a larger cross sectional area. Thus when baby "bounces" as often they do in the first year or so of life they are less likely to fracture a limb.   

So mum's here is your excuses to pamper yourself when you are carrying child.  To get optimal vitamin D content you need to sit in the sun, exposing your arms and legs, for 10 minutes a day. Clearly not in the harsh midday sun of summer! The 10 minutes should be outside high burn time!Therefore on sunny days you should be siting in the sun, reading or relaxing for a good 10 minutes. Enjoy :)

Nature Reviews Endocrinology 6, 240 (May 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrendo.2010.30

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Storm in a teacup - NZ Herald article

A day or so ago NZ Herald printed an article that had the title "Major research finds link between multi-vitamin pills and breast cancer." I ignored it because it smacked of sensationalism. Well it turns out I was right....
MacDoctor has posted a rebuttal of the news article explaining why the study shows nothing of the sort. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Great news: Reduction in heavy metal intake and other nasties

Some very positive news - your daily intake of nasty stuff is likely to be decreasing. I apologize that I don't broadcast more positive news via this blog. My main aim is to encourage high nutrient diet, which supplementation should be a part of. Therefore most posts aim in this direction.

However came across some somewhat dated news, but good news non the less. It shows the dramatic drop of nasty intake in 16-19 year old males from Netherlands from 1976 to 1989. Lets home that in NZ and your country similar drops have occurred. Lead dropping I can understand as people move to lead free petrol. The same goes with DDT which has been outlawed.Malathion is a insecticide.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vitamin A, D and calcium help keep your skin healthy.

Your skin in a very important organ. As a speaker once said without your skin your intestines would fall out and you would have to duct-tape them back in. Quick a interesting mental picture! Apart from holding in your intestines skin is a important barrier to bugs! When the skin gets infected it is rather nasty.......

A study that came out recently that showed vitamin D, A and calcium helped the skin stay healthy. What these micro nutrients did was increased the Cathelicidin level in skin. Cathelicidin is a protein that acts as an antibiotic. They are produced in every cell buy the lysosome. The lysosome in each cell is like a factory that makes proteins and enzymes, such as Cathelicidin.

Vitamin D appeared in increase the cathelicidin levels in a different way to the vitamin A and calcium. Thus it would appear that there are more than one way to increase cathelicidin.

I have heard that vitamin A decreases acne. Some anti acne creams have mega high levels of vitamin A, or vitamin A analog (something that behaves like vitamin A but is not vitamin A). The acronym for intact that helps acne is ACBE. Just replacing the n with b, so vitamin A, C, B and E help with overcoming acne.

I have also observed that when someone is on a healthy diet they tend to not get acne - or other skin infections.... these micro nutrients may be why...    

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How much lead are you eating?

Many foods contain lead and other heavy metals. There is pretty much nothing you can do about this, these metals are ubiquitous in our culture. After decades of leaded petrol, consumer electronics and other pollution it is not surprising that heavy metals would be in our food chain.

One has to be careful that you don't fall into the trap of saying "we can measure it, so it must be bad". I remember stories in my university studies about people who change reference methods. The old equipment never detected any of the bad stuff. However the new equipment was 100 times better at measuring, thus over night the factory went from having no problem to everyone panicking as they now had contaminates that never used to be there.

So whole bread from Madrid has 59.2 micro grams per kg of lead. So I didn't want to fall into the trap of being hysterical about this level, where the body can easily cope with this low level. So I wondered what is an ok level of lead? A quick wikipedia check we get:
No safe threshold for lead exposure has been discovered—that is, there is no known amount of lead that is too small to cause the body harm.
So if I read this right the lead intake from bread / cereals even at low levels is bad for us. And yet our cereals (flour, rice, etc ) contain lead and we know that. The only disclaimer is that zero lead blood level is what is acceptable. The body might have ways to excrete lead as fast as it is consumed at this low level.

If I ran a "organic" business or other business selling "health" foods I would get the heavy metal concentration measured. Thus if it was high, I could find ways to rectify this. One way is to use lime, hence I always give a sprinkling of dolomite  lime (it doesn't alter the pH to much) when I plant anything to bind up any bad metals, so they are not up-taken by the plant.

If my heavy metals were low - I would use this as an advertising point. Low heavy metal food!

Reference: Cuadrado et al Cereals contribution to the total dietary intake of heavy metals in Madrid Spain, Jounral of food composition and analysis vol 13 g 495 2000. : 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Carrots are better for you than I thought

Carrot juice - a staple of all wellness people. I have always been a bit wary of carrot juice because people tend to drink only carrot juice. Variety is very important even with juicing. So I think that beetroot juice should be drunk as much as carrot juice. Also vary additional things in the carrot juice. eg putting in herbs / spices. We use lemon grass or lemon balm to give a lemon twist to our juices. Also use green vege's (NZ spinach or silver beet that is red/orange) to add variety. The green stuff makes the juice look brown and discussing, however as long at the green juice is less than 25% of the juice it takes ok.

The other reason I was wary of carrot juice is that I thought it only provided beta carotene. This is because everything you read about carrots talks about beta carotene. I though other vegetables would be better as the have a larger mix of carotenoids.

However it turns out that carrots have more in them than beta carotene. They have:
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin. It is only a very small amount, but still measurable and worthwhile to have
  • Alpha carotene. It have very high levels of alpha carotene, about half the level of beta carotene. 
  • Beta carotene. Carrots have almost double the level of other vegetables. 
So carrots have really high alpha and beta carotene as well as low levels of lutein and Zeaxanthin. So it makes them much better than I thought. So enjoy your carrot juice.

PS Beetroot wasn't analyzed in this study, so can't tell if beetroot is better! When I find out I will post.

Reference: Murkovic et al Development of an Austrian carotenoid database. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis vol 13 pg 435 2000.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We don't know the micro nutrient levels in cooked food

Yet another disturbing revelation about how little we know about the micro nutrient levels in the food we eat. Here are some juciey quotes from a 2000 paper.
The majority of nutrient databases provide information mainly on the nutrient composition of raw foods
So at the year 2000 nutrition information was still unavailable for cooked foods. I find this very bizarre cause most food is cooked before eating in places like hospitals were ones nutrition is very important. The article goes to say that due to costs in analyzing foods one is forced to estimate the nutrient levels in foods. How good is this estimation? Well its pretty bad...... In the study they looked at vitamin B1 and B6 in rice, broccoli , chicken and pork comparing estimation to actual level. They found that B1 if was overestimated by 23% in rice and 16% in broccoli. For B6 overestimated by 80% in rice and underestimated by 11% in chicken and 28% in pork.

So the two vitamins looked at had a error of >10% for 5 of the 8 tests. This is shocking. The paper goes onto say these errors are erratic. What this means is that they are random and uncontrollable, so we really have no idea about why the are so difference.    

Then the paper looked at the effects of food method for nutrient levels of chicken. The table had white area, for things well known and grey areas for nutrients that we estimated as there was not enough data to firmly conclude anything. The following nutrients were grey
  • Zinc
  • Trace elements
  • Retional
  • Carotene
  • Vitamins D, E, K
  • Vitamin B12, folate, pantothenate, vitamin C  
This is like nearly all the vitamins...and don't even get started on other phyto-nutrients. There was no data at all for vitamin C levels for boiled, steamed, braised, pan fried roasted or deep fried chicken. That is right folks no studies have looked at how vitamin C changes when you cook chicken. Now granted that chicken is hopefully not your major source of vitamin C! But the point remains that we now very little about how nutrients change in cooking.

Yet we allow "experts" to say that extra vitamins are not needed?! Not even the researches know what is in cooked food. The only reason they can say this is that people don't get scurvy..... so all must be well. 

Clearly good food eg fruit, vege, high nutrient animal products, are still going to be good for you no mater what you do. Bad food like sugar, processed foods are still going to be bad for you. However any processed food that has micro nutrients listed are likely to be no better than a random money. 

Reference: Guidelines for recipe information and calculation of nutrient composition of prepared foods (dishes). Jounral of food composition and analysis vol 13 pg 391, 2000. Picture link

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spuds - exactly what was the vitamin C level in last nights nosh?

Potatoes are thought to be a major source of vitamin C in the western diet. The potato promoters state that new cooked potatoes, with skin on, have 15 mg of vitamin C per 100 g. Without the skin this drops to about 4 mg per 100 g. So practical application tip - always leave the skin on potatoes - even for mashing them. 

Nutrient levels in food range widely, thus making a mockery of food tables. An example of this is potatoes grown in Norway (didn't know they did grow them until I read the study). What they found was:
  • That same potato variety varied from 8.4 - 18.7 mg / 100 g depending on location. To put it another way there is 220% variation in vitamin C content due to farming location
  • Different breeds of potatoes had different levels of vitamin C. Breeds had averages of 9 to 19 mg / 100 g. the highest level was more than twice the lower level. (and these are averages, individual samples would add extra variation).
  • Furthermore the breeds were affected differently by different locations. Depending on location this variation was approximately 6, 8 or 10 mg / 100 grams.
  • Vitamin C levels decreased with storage. They compared fresh potatoes to three month old cool store potatoes. They found that the absoulte lose was  approximately 4mg of vitamin C / 100 g. However due to the different starting levels of vitamin C the losses were 36%, 33% and 26%.
So yes the vitamin C level in potatoes are about the 15 mg level quoted at the start of the article. However there are significant effects of growing location, breed and storage. Given that nearly all the vitamin C is in the peel you could make high value hash browns from food scrapes! Nearly all the potato crisp and deep fried potato chips have been peeled. Thus there must be a mountain of peels that go to waste (likely sold as animal feed). Therefore you could purchase these scraps and turn them into a high value nutritional food.

Reference: Nordbotten et al Sampling of potatoes to determine Representative values for nutrient content in a national food composition table. Journal of food composition and analysis vol 13 pg 369, 2000.
Picture credit

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Candied peel good for you?

C-limonene has been shown to prevent develop and cause regression of chemically induced cancers. Therefore maximizing your consumption of this would be a very good idea. Limonene is found in many fruits and vegetables and as its name suggests it is found in citrus.

Lemons and lime juice was made from lemons purchased at the supermarket. There average limonene level was 83 and 65 mg/L respectively. However commercial juices purchased had much lower levels of lionene with some having none. Juice was made by blending up whole lemons and limes, adding water then straining to obtain a juice. The lemonade made this way had an average level of 1027 mg/L and limeade had levels of 402 mg/L.

We can conclude from this, that (a) commercially prepared citrus drinks have lower level of limonene than fresh juices. Secondly that limonene is found at much higher levels in citrus peel. This is because it is found in the oils in the citrus peel.

I made candied grapefruit peel before Christmas. This was driven by (a) never had made candied product before and (b) had a whole heap of grapefruit skins as I had made a grapefruit salad which used up a lot of grapefruit. I froze the majority of  the peel as I didn't have a use for it! Make me wonder if the limonene remaining in this peel (if there is any) out ways the negative impact of the high sugar level.

Next time I squeeze citrus fruit for a sauce I will finely grate the rind (not the white stuff!!) and include it the sauce adding significantly higher limonene levels. 
Reference: Hakim et al Assessing Dietary D-Limonene. Journal of food composition and analysis vol 13 pg 329 2000.
Picture Credit

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vitamin K - another reason to avoid margarine

Vitamin K is one of the vitamins that people rarely hear about. This is because it is produced by bacteria in your large intestine. Therefore it is difficult to produce clinical deficiency in humans. Signs of clinical deficiency center around lack of blood clotting as vitamin K is an essential part of the blood clotting cascade.

However more research is coming out suggesting that intake of vitamin K is desirable. For example bone strength is dependent upon a enzyme that is powered by vitamin K. Sub optimal levels of vitamin K, leads to sub optimal bone strength. Clearly sub optimal bone strength is, or leads to, osteoporosis.

Because the belief that increasing vitamin K intake is a new thing, there is less known about information on vitamin K levels in foods than the other vitamins. Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin. Thus oils are a source of vitamin K in the diet.

If the oil gets turned into margarine eg hydrogenated, the vitamin K is also hydrogenated. It turns out, somewhat unsurprisingly, hydrogenated vitamin K is less biological activity than unhydrogenated vitamin K. What this means is that ingesting hydrogenated vitamin K leads to less enzyme activity than the same amount of normal vitamin K. Thus hydrogenated vitamin K is not as good for you. Furthermore in some enzymes hydrogenated vitamin K was unable to make some enzymes work.

Just another reason to avoid margarine.......

Reference: Booth et al A Hydrogenated form of vitamin K: Relative bio-availability and presence in the food supply. Journal of food composition and analysis vol 13 pg 311, 2000.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Beta carotene levels in carrots - massive differences

Are your carrots the ones that have a 4.82 mg of beta carotene per 100 grams of the ones that have 11.3 mg of beta carotene per 100 grams?

These are two readings obtained from carrots purchased from supermarkets or vegetable retailers. Yet one is more than double the other. Yet another example about how food tables are rather pointless as there is so much variation that they can't account for.

Reference: Zakaria et al Caroteniod bioavailability of vegetables and carbohydrate containing foods measured by retional accumulation in rat livers. Jounral of Food composition and analysis 2000 vol 13 pg 301

Ben-Amotz and Fishler. Analysis of carotenoids with emphasis on 9-cis beta-carotene in vegetables and fruits commonly consumed in Israel. Food Chemistry, Vol 62 pg 515 1998.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

cooked Capsicums likely not to be a good source of vitamin C

Those who have read about vitamin C in foods would be aware that capsicums (not hot peppers) are high in vitamin C. A capsicum contains 205 mg of vitamin C, where as a large orange only has 98 mg. 

What happens when we cook these capsicums? Well it appears that this has not be studied (well I couldn't find it ) However as we know capsicums are of the same family as hot chillies. chillies have been investgated for looses in cooking. Cooking jalapeƱo peppers results in destruction of 75 % of vitamin C. And in eight chillies that are common in African cooking loose between 66 - 98.3 %.

Therefore we can conclude that cooking capsicums is likely to be highly detrimental to their vitamin C. The great news is that capsicums taste great raw, in a salad or even by themselves. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Can this be an April fools joke?

Found this on Failblog. 

Given it is close to April fools day - is this a joke? Or is this real?