Monday, October 31, 2011

Scientific proof our tangelos are sweeter than shop produce

Purchased a refractometer a few weeks ago. This device uses the change in refractive index in liquids due to sugar concentration. A simple and elegant device it is very enjoyable to use.

Measured the sugar content (it has units of Brix) of two of our tangelos as we picked for Ooooby. The order was for 140 kg, so can't say that our testing was statistically valid. However both measurements came back at 16. Now commercially tangelos can be picked at 8.5 or 9.5 brix depending on country. Therefore our tangelos may have nearly double the sugar levels of products picked for the stores.

Interesting enough I also measured a grapefruit. It had a reading of 12. This means the grapefruit should be sweet. After juicing the grapefruit the juice is indeed sweet. It just has a bitter aftertaste. Paradigm shift for me, as I always thought that grapefruit were sour and needed sugar (or maybe I have tried grapefruit to early in the season). 

I hope to track and measure the Brix levels to see if I can increase them via great soil/tree management.    

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Iowa Study and why it shows no benefit in supplementation

 The Archives of Internal Medicine has just published a paper in which the authors look at the Iowa Women's study and analysis the results with respect to supplementation. The conclusion to this analysis was:
In older women, several commonly used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased total mortality risk; this association is strongest with supplemental iron. In contrast to the findings of many studies, calcium is associated with decreased risk   
As the media doesn't thoughtfully critic such articles it is highly likely that you will seen in the health section of your media headlines that scream "supplementation increases risk of death in women" or other such sensationalist, emotion creating bylines.

So lets dig a bit deeper and see if this conclusion is valid. Some background. The Iowa study was a massive study which studied 41 836 post menopausal women. This study was started in 1986 and had five follow ups over the next two decades (last follow up was 2004). The initial and five follow ups consisted of quite extensive questionnaires around lifestyle. Therefore this data gets "mined" regularly by scientists who are looking for impact of a behavior on mortality risk.

So know we know a bit about the study, why do I think that the conclusion "supplement increase mortality" isn't a valid conclusion?

[I also must confess at this point I haven't read the whole article, just the abstract. I am not motivated to purchase said article at US$30, just to more robustly critic it. I would much prefer to put this into my organic orchard that I am setting up. However if you want a more detailed analysis of the paper feel free to purchase a copy and send it to me!]  

The following reasons leap out at me:
  • Three data points. The supplementation question was asked in 1986, 1997 and 2004. Even though the Iowa study sounds impressive, which to some degree it is, the supplementation question has approximately a ten year interval. What this means is that there are errors due to peoples memory and accuracy of reporting. For instance can you remember exactly what supplements you were taking five years ago? I can tell you what multi I took, but couldn't tell you anything else even though I now I took more than just a multi. I am rather brand loyal, but wonder if the "average" person like my mum, who is post menopausal she has taken at least three different general supplements in the last 6 years. Therefore you can see how errors in studies such as this creep in. Know due to the studies size errors such as these may "average out" so that data may be trustworthy.  
  • Take them as sick. I got interested in various supplements as I had health issues. There must be a section of society, like me and my mum, who started to take supplements as their health was no longer optimal. I wonder if this effected the results. Being elderly something goes wrong, they try some supplements. These might help, might not, but soon they pass away. Therefore supplementation could be correlated with trying to get better once ill (which is harder to do, better to take supplementation preventativly, instead of re-actively, to stop body getting to the point were clinical symptoms are detected)      
  • Self reporting. I take my vitamins every day, day in, day out. However many people who I have sold them to, or know take them (including my wonderful wife who I berate regularly for not taking them to schedule) don't religiously take them. Therefore if you are supplementing say once every few days, this is going to be different from twice daily.    
  • Differences in nutrient levels. You need high enough values of a nutrient to make a difference. An example off the top of my head is vitamin C. For shortening the length of cold you need to be taking at least 1 000 mg (I think) daily before you get the cold for it to have a shortened infection time. A lot of studies in vitamin C, don't give a high enough dose to be significant ie they look at supplementing 60 mg. At this level it isn't going to make a big difference in your health. The same goes for other vitamins and some minerals. Therefore to ask "are you taking zinc?" is very difference from "are you taking 5 mg or 50 mg of zinc?" You cannot group both zinc takers as being the same, yet this study does so.  
  • No break down of bio-availability. Classic issue. For those of you who have read my book will know that I give a couple of examples of this. Copper for instance is often not in multi's. When it is it is often in a bio unavailable form as a copper oxide. Therefore if you take copper supplement (which was one of the mineral supplements asked about) is it one that you can absorb? There is differences in bio available of nearly all minerals and some vitamins. The bio-available wasn't studied the data and hence conclusions will be suspect.        
  • Break down of individual supplements. Saved the best to last. This is a MASSIVE concept. Let me give you an example. For some time I took a zinc only supplement to help with depression. I found this helpful in my journey to wellness. However I would never every recommend zinc to someone with depression. Why? A high quality multi is the first thing to take for any health improvement. The biochemistry for serotonin/melatonin creation is complex. Sure zinc is part of the process but first you need a high quality multi to cover the bases, so to speak, before increasing specific nutrients. Therefore without a high value multi there is no point is recommending zinc to people with depression. Now when a media article comes out "zinc helps depression"  everyone runs down to the supermarket/health food shop, buys zinc. For the majority of people it doesn't really help..... from memory there is about 8 essential minerals/vitamins/ nutrients in serotonin production. So have about 1 in 8 odds of zinc helping. But anyone who is low on zinc is likely to be low in other minerals, so any improvement would be small compared to improvement with high nutrient. So breaking down supplements to individual minerals / vitamins defeats the purpose    
If you have further questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Hat tip: Keith Lightfoot Hardwick Enterprises for the heads up

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Placebo effects

This great little clip on the placebo effect and what effects the placebo effect :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Just had a great visit by Lindsay from Agrisea. Great guy, great product, great company. Fantastic philosophy and as an added bonus learned that our avocados are in good health. Look forward to using their product and seeing an improvement in tree health.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Our Sunday Mornings - Citrus at Farmers Market

This is what we do on Sunday mornings now, sell at the Clevdon Farmers Market. Shot this last week on my phone so apologies for quality. The people at Clevdon Farmers Market are awesome so pay us a visit :) 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sickness - where the heck did that come from ?!

My family are sick! First time in a very long time, in fact I can't remember when we last had a miserable winter. Health breakdown includes:
  • Myself, have a nose that is off/on blocked
  • Tiffany has the flu, runny nose, headache, blahness
  • Yasmin has a nasty cough that kicks in at night in bed
  • Trinity has a runny nose 
We are so not used to this ! Why did this happen. I can think of the following reasons:
  • Don't have access to garden vegetables. Being in transit and having any things todo, our gardening efforts consist of a bucket growing rainbow beet and a bucket of mushrooms (both buckets purchased at Clevdon Farmers Market). So we have to purchase our vege's and they aren't the same as home grown
  • We eating less vege's. I hate waste, so if I plant something in my garden I will find a way to use it. Also when cooking dinner I used to look in the garden to see what I could base a dish around. As we are shop purchasing we have found we eat less vegetables
  • Poor meal choices. Due to the stress of everything, from not having p[laces/systems for food, through to the frustration of dealing with a bureaucratic process, our meals have taken a turn for the worst. So we have regularly purchased bad food, ok food and convenience food.
  • Cool and damp house. The house is very damp. So much so that our salt and sugar have gone all lumpy. As much as I ran around digging trenches away from the house, water still flows under it when it rains. And any heat we trap in the house soon dissipates. So this a very cold, drafty and damp house. Healthy house, healthy life, well this is the opposite. 
So hopefully as spring kicks in, and our house project comes together we will rectify the above issues and no more winters with sickness in our house thank you very much.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oooby - what a great concept

Very tardy in getting some photos and footage of the happenings that are keeping me from blogging, they will appear soon. Delivered second batch of organic sweet navel "Washington" oranges to Ooooby today. Brilliant idea, Ooooby stands for Out Of Our Own Back Yard. Very clever scheme where they take small volumes of produce that people grow - in their back yards - and then create fresh fruit/vege boxes that are delivered to households. So that way the people with excess can supply local people. 

We appreciate the business, and they appreciate having  great tasting fruit

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lessons from the cold

These things I have learned from the brutally cold weather:
  • A cold house is....... well cold. We had three heaters and a coal fire going and still the house was cold
  • Even though got no insulation afternoon air temperatures are often warmer than inside air temperatures
  • That coal burning heaters, designed to heat hot water, produce very hot water
  • Said how water however will be deep brown color due to the rust from wet back not being used in over a year  
  • Said water heater, does a very poor job of heating the room
  • Coal is dirty and not very efficient fuel in old fires
  • That burning coal in heater brings a smile to my face as it smells like a steam train
Hope that you have found enjoyment in the unusually cold weather 

PS hope to load a video over the next week showing all the work at the orchard that has been keeping me more than busy!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Robbing elderly of nutrients because we don't know basic botany ?!

Our elders are most loved and we want the best for them. We all know that heart medication, along with other medication, is strongly affected by grapefruit. So they are instructed not to eat grapefruit.

As you also likely know that we have purchased part of a citrus orchard. This does not contain any grapefruit trees. However in reading books about citrus i have come across the fact that NZ grapefruit may not be grapefruit at all.

So it could be that doctors and other "medical experts" have been telling people on medication to cut nutrients out of their diet without any justification! I will however look into this more and make sure that this is actually correct, so don't change anything yet!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Elderly people - keep taking your supplements

Calcium and vitamin D supplements are known to increase bone density in elderly people. A study published in year 2000 looked at elderly bone density when they stopped supplementing for 2 years found that for woman there was a loss of all the bone density they gained through the calcium and vitamin D supplementing. For men most, but not all of the gains were lost.  

Conclusion: Keep taking your calcium and vitamin D supplements when you are aging....... personally I would reccomend that you take them throughout your life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Minerals deliberately removed from unsaturated oils

Due to a number of reasons the Western diet is low in minerals. Found buried in a paper  that to increase shelf life tranisition minerals are deliberately removed from unsaturated oils. Transition minerals are a large group of minerals lower down in the periodic table. This group contains a lot of important trace elements/minerals that humans need. For example zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, iron and cobalt among others.

Unsaturated oils are the liquid oils that you purchase in the supermarket. Oils such as canola oil, "vegetable" oils, sunflower oil, etc. etc

So people wonder why I champion taking a supplement with a large range of trace elements. Its cause our food is deficient !

Monday, July 25, 2011

Knowledge without wisdom

I see yet another article linking gum disease to Western disease in NZ herald today. This time it is gum disease and difficulties getting pregnant. In the last paragraph they list that "Periodontal disease [gum disease] has been associated in previous research with miscarriage and premature birth, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease"

This is a classic case of knowledge without wisdom. If you look back to the start of the vitamin discovery Albert Szent-Györgyi who got the Nobel prize for his vitamin C research 

always believed that vitamin P, P for permeability, was more important. This is because this vitamin stopped gum disease (gum bleeding) were as pure vitamin C wouldn't. It turned out vitamin P were bioflavonids (plant compounds) and they were not essential to human life, so never became a vitamin. However we know know that the "extra plant goodies" are very powerful and helpful in maintaining health.

Therefore in my mind, if you eat poor levels (or quality) fruits and vegetables your body becomes weak. This either causes bleeding gums, which bacteria then colonize or weak body allows bacteria in your mouth which then causes bleeding gums. 

Either way bleeding gums is a sign of poor nutrition. Therefore it is not a surprise that bleeding gums is associated with Western degenerative disease. 

To make the statement that:
if they've got gum disease, that should be treated
In the belief that treating gum disease will help you not get Western disease (or in this case help you get pregnant) is total stupidity and shows the lack of wisdom that researchers have. It's not going to help if you get pregnant by treating gum disease with some medication! It is changing your lifestyle so your gum disease self heals, and in that process your whole body will benefit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Glad I have copper in my supplement

Copper is one of the minerals you don't hear much about. However it is important to have it in your diet/supplement. If your multi has zinc in it, but no copper then stop taking it! Zinc and copper interact together so you need to take both of them.

Reading a 1998 review paper. Turns out that lack of copper can cause / exasperate:
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis   
  • More copper is needed when females (and likely males) loose weight 
  • Reduction in the bodies tolerance for glucose (type two diabetes)
Two rather important issues in the Western world !

It also turns out that we are overestimating copper levels in our diet, thus our actual intakes are lower than nutritionists / dietitians estimate. This is ontop of a diet that is typically low in copper anyway.

Also on the up side beer contains an unknown substance which increases the absorption of copper. So given that beer is higher in B vitamins than wine, and a pint has the same antioxidant level as a glass or red wine this is a great reason to take your supplements with a [small] beer.

So in the future I think we will be hearing a lot more about this mineral.

Fresh fruit and vegetables don't cost that much - its a character issue

I often hear in the media (though don't hear it from my friends) that fruits and vegetables cost to much. I went to the supermarket today, shopping for some basics and some meat that I enjoy cooking so I can get back into the rhythm of cooking healthy dinners.  (I don't often shop as Tiffany is a walking computer who knows the special prices, when the occur, what is a good deal etc. etc - I on the other hand have no idea of such details).

I wondered though the produce section of the supermarket, which is typically quite a bit more pricey than the local fruit shop, and was struck by two things. Firstly that broccoli was small, looked like dwarf broccoli ($1 each), and that leaks were cheap as they were cheap, being in season (between $1.50 - $2).

As I walked from the check out to my car, I got a thinking:
  • My chocolate fix was equal to five broccoli. That would feed a lot of servings
  • I purchased some pork chops as it is one of my favorite cuts of meat. We don't buy much pork as they are factory farmed (ironic that we don't mind factory farmed chicken) so this was a treat. Got me thinking though, I could have purchased five leeks instead.
So thinking again. If I was broke as broke can be, one could eat kind of ok.
  • A sack of potatoes (better than white bread if you leave the skins on) 
  • A sack of onions
  • A pile of in season vegetables
  • Topped off with what I would call "goodies"  little things that go a long way, and add variety, for instance some bacon, cheese, a sauce or a chutney, olives or sun dried tomatoes. You get the picture 
However when I look at what I purchase, and what others in this wider community, which has a large lower socio-economic group, this is what I would say people purchase from the supermarket:
  • Beer 
  • Potato chips 
  • Breakfast cereals 
  • Cheap / white bread 
  • etc
So why do we, why do others purchase such poor food choices. I would suggest the following reasons.
  • Humans are inherently lazy. Why do we choose as a family to purchase fast food, instead of cooking a vegetable full meal? Because we can't be bothered planning, preparing, cooking... its just easier when it all goes to custard to buy something. It's easier when rushing home to grab a simple semi-ready made dinner, rather than question why are we rushing home in the first place. Thus this is a character issue.
  • Habit / Routine / upbringing. I remember the horror at when Tiffany said her mum used to pop into the butcher on the way home to pick her meat for that nights dinner.  My family purchased in bulk, half or whole beasts at a time. Mum would plan out the week in advance. This was the right way to do it ! (LOL) In reality each way has its own strengths and weaknesses. However if you were brought up on low fruit and vege, high convenience, then you wouldn't know anything else. It has worked out well for us, Tiffany knows how to cook a gastronomic experience, I know how to quickly whip something up that feeds the masses, so our strengths complement each other (thanks parents). It takes a lot of sustained effort to develop a new habit that is counter to our upbringing. This effort, or lack of, is a character issue.   
  • Body used to high fat, high sugar. If you have ever been on a low sugar diet and then purchased a chocolate bar or a soft drink. Isn't the bar sickly sweet or the soft drink overwhelmingly sugary. Same with fatty foods, on a high fruit and vege diet after some fish and chips one feels really gross, ill in fact. However if you are used to a high sugar diet then it is only after the 5th bit of KFC that you start to think had enough. Or need some soft drink cause the water doesn't taste good. As a family, for multi reasons, we are in a poor diet phase. My body has adapted really fast to high flavorings, high sugar and high fat. Vegetables, unless they are covered in a sweet dressing or sauce, taste gross. Hence I would naturally stay away from them. It takes effort and determination to de-tox from the sugar and fat. So my lack of de-tox is an issue of character.  
  • Short term focus. I struggle with this a lot. The feel good factor of a chocolate fix, or my long term health. Unfortunately in my bad days the chocolate looms much larger. True I know that it is a slow suicide, yet I still do it. The stupidity of my own behavior amazes me. I am sure if you asked someone what they should purchase at the supermarket, they would tell you the right answers. However it is the implementation which has issues (the same goes for weight loss, everyone knows how, we just have the problem with implementation). Short term gain, or long term gain..... this is a choice of character 
  • Having no money. This is the problem of paid on Wednesday, broke by Friday. Often people can fall into the trap of hire purchase or overspending. Therefore we cut what we can. Often this is the food budget. These purchases may have to be deferred or eliminated to generate the cash needed to purchase healthy food. Again this is a lack of planning or impulse purchasing, both of these are character issues.        
So to blame the problem on high fruit and vegetables is to me a straw man. A smoke screen that hides the real truth and doesn't help anyone. I say that real reason we don't eat more fresh fruit vegetables is that we lack character. Until we address this issue, nothing we do will change our behavior. There are many things that can help, having a coach or mentor, a buddy to encourage you, focus on long term outcomes eg playing with grandkids........ Once I find my reason and success I will definitely share it here!  

The frustration of knowing to much

My type of depression manifests itself as ruminating. Ruminating on the bad in the past or the bad that could occur in the future. The last weeks ruminating was about our neighbor and the ethics around inaction.

Early last week while I wandered down the road to dig out stumps I stopped and chatted to a bloke coming the other way. Turns out he is our neighbor. Neighbor in the loose sense of the word, more a resident of the Ohinewai hamlet. Talked for a bit, observed the lit cigaret, the missing front teeth and rather stilted talking / interaction. Assumed that he had lived a rather "hard" life and didn't think any more of it as I wasn't going to invite him around for a cup of tea (my friends only rarely get invited over as I am a rather private person).

A few days later got chatting to the old timer couple that we are buying the land from. Asked them about which local owned a ute that I had seen around a bit, and at their place. Turns out it was the guy I meet on the road. So they then tell me about his story. He broke his fore arm bones 18 months ago. And it has never healed. Apparently he can hold this wrist, pull slightly and his fore arm goes in length! The hospital / medical system have tried multiple operations (it is quite a saga/drama) and nothing has worked. Basically it is a mess and in my mind amputation isn't far away given the now heaverly degraded bone system.

This also explains the slightly stilted interaction I had with the neighbor, as he would have been doped up to his eye balls on pain killers. 

Now given the long list of operations and procedures the medical people have given him, and nothing has worked. This in my mind points to a nutritional imbalance. Something is missing from his body. Without fixing this deficiency I struggle to see any positive outcome.

So I ran through the following thoughts:

a) Frustration and anger at the medical system. Why hasn't he had a check for common bone healing minerals and vitamins. Surely a decent multi would help the poor guy, not to mention save a truck load of health care dollars given the high number of operations. Furthermore feel sorry for the guy and this family. He has been off work, no doubt a bit off mind to ! It astounds me how simple things can be so missed

The problem of course is that there is unlikely any studies looking at bone healing  and micro nutrient levels. If there are studies, they are likely to be pilot studies that medical staff cannot be convinced is "real" science.

I would love to take a regional hospital and put everyone who is admitted onto a good multi. Then compare outcomes to benchmarks. I am convinced there would be an improvement in recovery time, secondary reinfections, sooner discharge etc. enough saving should be made through improved health outcomes, to pay for the supplements.

b) Realizing that I should likely talk to the neighbor / his family. This is a potential mind field. You can't claim that supplement will help (because it might not), this claim would be taken very seriously if word got to the medical watchdogs. Furthermore a decent multi cost money. Given that (i) he is off work and (ii) smokes he is unlikely to have the money to spend. However on the other hand to not offer advice is dooming him to (almost) certain failure.

Complicating this is that I am rather introverted. Ironic given I love to speak to an audience. So it takes a large amount of emotional effort for me to go meet someone who is new, let alone someone who I don't really like. The two outcomes of a visit would be (1) rejection, my offer for help is rejected. This hurts! or (2) offer accepted and now I would be on tender hooks as I would be worried that nutrients wouldn't help.

Needless to say this lose/lose situation does excite me! Now the extroverts are probably wondering why all the dithering...... and the personal success people saying visualize a positive outcome..... neither of which I dispute. I will have another chat to Tiffany tonight and see if I can work though the issue

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Miracles can happen with drugs

As would expect most of my associates are rather keen on "complementary" medicine. So I hear lots of stories about people who the medical system failed and they found success with some other system. This could be vitamins, herbals, an "alternative" treatment, some special diet etc.

So it is rather rare for me to pick up a story about a medicine creating an unexpected miracle. This article in NZ herald is very heart warming and worth a read. I do find it fascinating that the effects wear off after a short period of time as the drug leaves the system. And even more fascinating that no one can explain it. Either way it is a blessing for them both. Enjoy the love :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The negative placebo effect : Nocebo

Just read an article on Nocebo. The Nocebo is the negative placebo effect. This is when you get given a sugar pill, and you get told that this medication might have some side effects. You then go onto develop these side effects. Kind of like a bad placebo effect!

The article explains more about this, but what I find very disturbing is the story were a guy gets misdiagnosed with liver cancer. He then develops all the signs of liver cancer and dies. Upon autopsy he has no cancer and nothing is wrong with his liver!

From the selected studies in the article it seems that the nocebo runs at approximately 50% which is close to the placebo figure of approximately 60%. Maybe this is why people prefer herbal medications as they often have less side effects, so less likely to generate nocebo side effects.  

I also talked about the nocebo in this post

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Radioactive nuts and long life sandwiches

Most people would be award that brazil-nuts are high in selenium. They also only grow in South American and have not yet been successfully gown in plantations. The reason that they are high in selenium is that they are a metal accumulator. That is they have very large network of roots that suck the metals out of the soil into the nuts. This is great when it comes to selenium. However just found out today that the same process means that bazil-nuts are the most "normal" radioactive food. Normal, by means of naturally occurring radium in the soil. So I guess that selenium by supplement doesn't carry the risks of radioactivity. However these levels of radioactivity are very low and I would encourage you to eat lots of brazil-nuts!

Another headline caught my attention today, 14 day old sandwiches. British researchers have developed a way to keeping sandwiches "viable" for 14 days. The sandwiches are packed in a oxygen free package, which is full of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Thus oxidation doesn't occur. They also use an acidic mayonnaise so the filling is fresh.

I find this rather horrifying, yet not doubt this technology will be successful...... and then exported around the world. I bet you that no analysis has been undertaken on the nutritional effects! Another reason to pack one own lunch, with fresh food from local sources.....

Choline - If Tiffany goes pregnant she will definitely take it

If Tiffany gets pregnant again, not that we are planning it, but not discounting it either, she will definitely be supplementing with choline. This is because a recent review had this to say:
A recent study in a mouse model of Down Syndrome reported improvements in cognitive function and emotion regulation in mice born to mothers supplemented with choline during the perinatal period (41). This work expands upon earlier work in rodents showing that extra exposure to choline during the perinatal period yielded long lasting beneficial effects on memory, learning and attention (42).
That "long lasting beneficial effect on memory, learning and attention" is something I want for my kids! Choline is a very recent addition to the vitamin family, coming on board in 1998, hence it isn't that well known. It took me quite some time to realize that it wasn't chlorine! Couldn't figure out why chlorine would be an essential nutrient as it is poisonous! Reminds me that I thought Emblems NZ a shop in Hamilton was actually Embalmers NZ. I had visions of bodies being shipped from around the country to be embalmed. I never could figure out why they would advertize themselves with such big signage. Tiffany was in hysterics when I mentioned they were embalmers NZ. The joys of being dyslexic.

Anyway back to choline. The good news is that it is relatively inexpensive as a supplement ingredient so good multi's will have it including in their ingredient list.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Citrus nearly all year round

Chatting to the lovely Grandma who we are purchasing our citrus block from. Talked about what other citrus trees are in the orchard. It turns out that you can eat fresh citrus nearly all year long.

Mandarins come on in June - July
Navel oranges in Aug-Nov
Tangelos  Nov - Dec
Late oranges the type that is juiced Jan - Feb

This doesn't count the grapefruit, or other citrus such as limes etc.

So it is only March, April and May that don't have citrus in season. However my understanding is that you can leave citrus on the tree till you need them. Therefore likely that in March you could be still eating fresh oranges.

I new that apples had a long season, but now I know citrus does also.

PS will try and get some pictures up of the adventure. "Lost" the digital camera someplace in the shift into temporary accommodation...... 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why good herbal products cost more

One of the great tragedies of the supplement/nutrition world is that supplements can be purchased at a supermarket. The reason I consider this a tragedy is for two reasons. Firstly you are not guided in your decision making process. Most people purchase a supplement to address as problem. Due to the complexity of the situation, and the mass of products on offer, the chances of getting a good match are slim. Secondly things in supermarket are price sensitive. We consider price as an important factor in our purchasing decisions (I know this otherwise organics and health foods would take up a larger space in our supermarkets). With price being an issue, supplements are likely to be of poorer quality because top notch ingredients and systems cost more.

As a rather extreme example of this was a supplement that had gone off. It was a syrup with herbs in suspension. The suspension didn't have any preservative in it, and it had gone off. In opening up the package an analyzing the contents, a large range of bugs were found. There was the very nasty staphylococcus aureus. This is the "infection bug". It causes pus infections in wounds, creates boils and can be very serious to diabetics causing them to loose limbs. Staphylococcus epidermidis was also found. Not has nasty as S.aureus, but still a significant threat to anybody with a compromised immune system.There were soil bugs like Bacillus megaterium, which are thought not to hard humans, along with seven other bacteria or fungi.

As this was a sealed product, the contaimination must have been present when the product left the factory. Therefore if you were to purchase this product, even though it might have looked or smelt OK, it would have had these nasty bugs in it. So this is why you pay good money, for great supplements. 

So when it comes to supplements the higher cost, and hence higher quality, products are a much better investment.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Zinc: How much should you take a day

Zinc is my current wonder mineral. It seems to be used all around the body. How much zinc do we need a day ? First up we have a graph of zinc intake vs zinc absorption.

This graph shows the absorbed intake along the bottom and the total loss of zinc from the body in the vertical axis.The one to one line is the dotted line running up from zero. This is the line where if all the zinc you ingested was then removed from your body.

One of the two solid lines is the combined male and female data, and the other line is the female data. You can see that they all seem to meet/cross over at approximately 3 mg of absorbed zinc. Now scroll down and have a look at the identical graph, just below the first graph, but with two colored blue and green triangles on it.  

In this graph, which is identical to the graph above, I have highlighted two regions. The first blue region is where the total amount of zinc lost is more than what you have ingested. Therefore you are losing zinc. Clearly over time you will run out and have serious consequences. The green triangle is were you excrete less than your input so you much have enough. From this the human minimum requirement needed is calculated to be approximately 3 mg absorbed a day.     

The logical question is then - how much zinc do I need to take, to absorb 3 mg. Well the graph that answers this is found below. This graph shows absorbed intake on the vertical axis. Drawing a line across, and then down, we can see that we need to digest approximate 9 mg of zinc a day to maintain body zinc levels.    

The good news is that most multivitamin/mineral preparations have 10 -15 mg of zinc, so you are likely getting enough. Of course my next question is what is the maximum zinc level absorbable? This graph below, shows the maximum absorbed is just under 5.5 mg a day. This is when the daily intake is at 25 mg. Likely if the intake continued to increase, then there would be slight increase in absorption.   
What is also good to note is that the zinc from supplements appears to be just as absorbable as zinc from other dietary sources.

It should be noted that this grahs levels are "steady state" that is the approximate same level every day. This is because the process of changing how much of the zinc the body absorbs is a relatively slow changing process. The exact "lead in" time, ie time for the body to change what percentage of zinc it is absorbing is days or a week or two.

Interesting enough when I found out I was exceptionally zinc deficient the lady doing the test was very surprised to find out I was on a good multi. From memory I was on 15mg a day. When I took an extra 15 mg a day, I noticed a distinct improvement in mood. Even though the last graph above shows that an extra 15 mg would have resulted in not much zinc improvement, it was very important to me! I then moved onto 50 mg zinc tablets, but took them only when I "felt" I needed them (sniff test of jar). I no longer need extra zinc above my multi, so no longer take any extra zinc.   

Reference .

Take vitamin C supplements post stomach surgery > 500mg a day

One of the bitter ironies is that hospital food, by its nature being bulk produced under a tight budget is totally in adequate for sustaining the optimal healing process. I would love to do a trial where one hospital gave out good quality multi vitamin/mineral supplement. I would bet that hospital would have faster healing times, reduction in secondary infections, less relapses etc etc.

Since I am currently unable to fund such a study, I will continue to post studies that show supplementation is helpful in the hospital situation. Today is it about vitamin C. Parenteral nutrition is feeding via a drip, rather than via stomach processing. This enables people to recover from stomach surgery still being able to have "food". The problem is of course is that the hospital purchasing most likely takes cost into consideration when ordering such products. Therefore the nutrition will have nutrients focused on RDI intakes, not optimal or maximal intakes.

In this randomized study people with gastrointestinal surgery  were either given no extra vitamin C, 100 mg or 500 mg a day. At the 0 and 100 mg of extra vitamin C, there wasn't any, above normal, vitamin C loss via urine. This indicates that the body wasn't getting enough to have left over vitamin C lost via urine. At 500 mg a day there was enough vitamin C to have extra vitamin C showing up in the urine.

Also a marker of oxidative stress (8-isoprostane) was significantly lower in the 500 mg group compared to the 100 or 0 group.

So if you are recovering post surgery and are being feed via a drip, I would get some vitamin C powder (pure stuff, no extra bits) and see if you are allowed to put this into your "food". Give me an email if you can and see what the reaction was from the medical personal.

Obviously if you are able to eat, this is better, I would still take the extra vitamin C though, cause you sure ain't getting much via the food as vitamin C is one of the most easily destroyed nutrients.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Placebo double blind trial: Zinc supplements are beneficial for the elderly.

An excellent placebo double blind trial, which is the best you can do, was undertaken in elderly population. Now elderly in this case was 56 years old - 80 years old. Which in my mind 56, isn't that old. Very importantly they were healthy elderly. That is they were not sick. This means that they had no obvious signs of zinc deficiency, nor any mineral/vitamin deficiency. They were not looking to make unhealthy people well, but look at difference it make to antioxidant markers in so called healthy individuals.

Secondly they used a high daily dose of zinc, 45 mg. To put that is perspective the RDI, depending on country is about the 15 mg level. So this is 3x the RDI of zinc.

Thirdly they supplemented for 6 months. This means that the bodies stores had time to stabilize and the body had a chance to rebuild/repair or overcome any issues that lack of zinc might have caused.

Thus they were focusing on maximizing any effect. This is a great study as often supplement trials aren't double blind placebo, don't focus on already healthy, don't supplement high enough levels and have a very short time frame. Hence the results for supplementation can be variable.

What did they find a reduction in the markers for oxidative stress and inflammation across a whole range of  markers, proteins, cells etc. For those who like the jargon the reduction was across:
  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP)
  • Iinterleukin (IL)-6, 
  • Macrophage chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1)
  • Vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1)
  • Secretory phospholipase A2
  • Malondialdehyde and hydroxyalkenals (MDA+HAE)
And for the record I can't tell you off the top of my head what these are all are/mean/do. However rest assured with the conclusion of the study was:
These findings suggest that zinc may have a protective effect in atherosclerosis because of its antiinflammatory and antioxidant functions

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Folate can help with depression

 The co-editor for Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience wrote an editorial in 2007 on the importance of folate supplements in treating depression. The title was folate and depression - a neglected problem. He had this to say:
The current explosion of work on serotonin [genetics] ...... is in sharp contrast to the much smaller number of recent studies on an entirely reversible environmental factor known to lower serotonin synthesis—folate deficiency
Ok so current researchers are not looking at the most easily corrected issue. Folate deficiency, or sub optimal levels can be easily changed by a simple vitamin pill.

Many studies, going back to the 1960s, show an elevated incidence of folate deficiency in patients with depression. Studies vary depending on the criteria used to define folate deficiency, but often, about one-third of depression patients were deficient. Given that depression is often accompanied by decreased appetite and weight loss, the high incidence of folate deficiency in depression patients is not surprising. However, there is some evidence, though not conclusive, that folate deficiency may be involved in the etiology of depression in a minority of patients. Alternatively, depressed mood may decrease appetite, lower folate levels and thereby help to prevent recovery from depression.
So for over 50 years we have know that depressed patients might have folate deficiency, yet doctors still don't recommend folate supplements to depressed patients. This really makes me mad and drives my motivation to blog. For I don't speak, then who will ?! Furthermore if you don't have folate deficiency when you begin your depression journey, due to eating habits you are likely to develop it, which then can keep you depressed !    
The conclusion was that daily dosages of 0.8 mg folic acid or more, in addition to dietary intake, are typically required to achieve the maximal reduction in plasma homocysteine concentrations (about 25%). Vitamin B12 (0.4 mg/day) produced a further 7% reduction
So any supplement should be at least 0.8 mg

Given the low cost of folate tablets (1 mg folic acid tablets can cost less than 5 cents each), there is no economic reason to avoid giving folate to all patients with depression, 
This  is the insanity of not using supplements. Supplements are very cheap compared to a drug. In NZ drugs are subsidized, so we don't directly see the cost of medication. This often means that a good multi supplement is more expensive to the consumer, than some prescribed drug.
Several concerns have been raised about the supplementation of food with folate. The main concern relevant to the short-term use of folate supplements in depression patients is the possible masking of vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms. For this reason, it might be prudent to add a vitamin B12 supplement to the folate
Ok, so take B12 as well. I would recommend a good B multi instead of just folate (or folate + B12). This means you cover your bases so to speak.
What about the recommendation that 2 mg of folate be given during the acute, continuation and maintenance treatment of depression? The actual dosage may be debatable; 1 mg may suffice, particularly in countries where there is voluntary or compulsory fortification of food with folate, and the addition of a vitamin B12 supplement may be prudent, but the general principle is reasonable. With our current knowledge, the potential benefits seem to far outweigh any disadvantages.
So in summary, take folate for depression, in high doses as part of a B multi that has B12 in its formulation. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Breat milk from cows, further thoughts

Earlier in the week I blogged about breast milk from cows. After mulling it over some more, I have a few more comments:

Immunity. It is a well known fact that breast feed babies get sick less. Now breast milk has lots of anti bad bug bits in it. But also the immune response of mother also effects the breast milk. If mum catches (or fights off without realizing) a cold, her body produces the anti virus proteins. These proteins make it into her breast milk. Therefore baby gets these proteins, thus enabling baby to fight the infection. Hence when mother catches sickness often baby will not due to the immunity via the milk.

Clearly if the milk comes from a cow this immunity isn't going to occur. Thus one of the significant advantages of breast milk is eliminated. 

Bacteria. One of the fascinating things is that, something like 80% of all breast feeding women throughout the world have a specific bacteria in their milk. Now this shouldn't be the case, and people can't figure it out. But whatever the reason, nearly every mum has these bugs. We don't know where the come from, how they get into the milk, and any effect it has on baby. Are these bugs good? Who knows. The question I have is do these cows have the bugs in their milk? Is this is a good thing? I suspect that due to so many women, across so many cultures, that the bugs in the milk have some purpose, what I don't know, but I think it is safe to assume that there is some reason.   

Cow disease. tying into the immunity point above, any cow fighting an infection is going to have the antibodies in the milk. I don't know what diseases cows get - can they catch a cold? Do they have diseases that human don't. I suspect most likely. Diseases are often species or animal group specific. For example the AID's virus is human (actually primate) specific, while other AID's like virus in other animals do not infect humans.

So a few more reasons I don't support this genetic engineering.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do we limit our childrens fruit intake ?

We are very excited to be purchasing part of a citrus orchard. Over time we will move it from a semi monoculture to a vast verity of fruiting trees, shrubs, vines etc. I want to plant fruit, cause we don't need encouragement to eat it. When was it you heard, come on kido, open wide, time for your strawberries.... no we just eat strawberries, we don't need any encouragement. So lets focus on yummy food !

The remainder of the orchard is also available for sale, but a section is being kept by the current elderly, and very nice, owners. Currently on their land they have sweet juicy mandarins ripe and ready for eating. Every week or so they offer us a bucket full, and we eagerly accept - I am now helping them pick our mandarins so must be on the inner circle :) 

We got some over the weekend, and we hoed into them. After half a dozen each, we limited the kids intake. We simply didn't want them gone in a day. It make me think. If we had purchased them from the local supermarket were they are approximately $3/kg, we would have been far more stingy. Firstly likely to have purchased say 1 - 2 kg in total. Quick weigh check and our mandarins are around 100 grams each. So if purchased 2 kg, that would be 20 fruits. We are a family of five, so had a total of four each. So once the kids had consumed four, we would have said no more, till we purchase some again, likely in a weeks time. Yet because they are free, once limiting the first go, they can now eat as much as they like (and so can I!)

So in conclusion we often limit our children (and our own) fruit consumption due to the perceived cost of the fruit (an sandwich is cheaper and more filling, but less healthy) 

Therefore as a family we should obtain significant volumes of fruit for free, so we don't limit our children, or our own, intake. For me the focus is on growing my own, to maximize the nutrient levels. However if you don't have a green thumb, and have no desire to grow your own. I suspect with a bit of searching you can source your own fruits from friends, neighbors etc. Most people are very happy to share with you, as when fruit comes into season there is plenty for all. One of my first posts was about the plenty that was around.......  waiting to be consumed.... so ask around and maximize your fruit intake

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Human breast milk from cows: Thoughts

Last week there was a news item on the Chinese using GE to producing human breast milk from cows. My thoughts are:

a) The studies that show cows milk is bad for you are all done on pasteurized milk. This destroys many enzymes and massively reduces the nutritional value of milk.Therefore if you are making human milk, and you pasteurize it, you will lose the health benefits

This is why Peter Hartmen from Perth is working on a low temperature pasteurization process for human milk. This means milk can be donated to the hospital, then pasteurize to remove any infections eg hepatitis, before feeding to new borns. Because standard pasteurization doesn't keep the nutrients in milk.   

b) Human milk is low in protein and high in sugar. Calfs grow exceedingly fast compared to babies. From memory a calf increases its weight by 8 times, is the same time a baby doubles its weight. Therefore human milk is low in protein and high in sugars (so baby has easy energy and grows a little bit). Hence you can't make cheese from human milk as it is to low in protein. 

Therefore I struggle to see how a low protein, high sugar, fluid would be advantageous over cows milk (or goat or sheep milk) to an adult or older child. 

c) On the positive side human milk from cows would be great for mum's who have trouble lactating, or supplying human milk banks. The evidence for babies, especially premature babies, having human milk reduces risk of death by a factor of approximately 2.5 times, and reduces sickness risk by 8 times (from memory). So with these overwhelming benefits to babies, the question is is GE the most cost effective way to produce human milk. My thoughts are is that you would be much better to have mothers lactating  and donating (or being paid to donate) milk and the hospital setting up a milk bank (which they did have until 80's with the AID's scare). 

d) Effect of diet. The diet impacts the composition of milk. So if a mum eats lots of carotenoids, the milk produced contains them. I know when Tiffany when on a high vitamin B2 supplement here milk became greener due to the riboflavin. Riboflavin used to be called lactochrome, lacto from lactation as it is in high quantities in milk and chrome as a reference to the color change. It is also the vitamin that makes your pee yellow.

Back to the topic: If the cows have a diet that is made up of fresh green grass (for B vit's and carotenoids etc), mixture of green herbs/different plants, combined with natural seeds, then they will produce milk that may be nutritionally better than a mum on poor western diet. 

However I suspect, from looking at the video, that cows are barn housed. This means they are feed hay and "chicken food" ie dry grains. This is nutritionally very poor thus they will produce milk that is low in carotenoids, vitamin E, B vitamins, and likely lower in omega 3's. Therefore this is likely to be milk of low nutritional value.        

d) I used to be totally against GE of any kind. However I worked with a bloke, whose wife worked in a GE lab. She was making bacteria secrete some human protein. Before the bacteria were modified, they had to inject sheep with some substance. The sheep would then produce the correct protein. The sheep was then slaughtered and the blood extracted and processed to obtain the protein. This was then given to humans with a rare genetic disease which rendered them unable to produce this protein. This clearly is an expensive and complex process. Therefore the protein was expensive, and had a high risk of supply interruption if anything went wrong.

Through her work, the protein became massively cheaper, it took a who lot less time and effort in harvesting the protein and also saved some sheep:) So this GE had a very positive benefit for those who had this genetic disease. And saved us tax dollars as the cost of the protein was much lower. 

So I have changed my stance on GE. GE research maybe good, however GE research into modifying our food  I am still staunchly against
The argument in the video was that GE would help feed the masses. However most studies that I have seen looking at the cost benefit, they would be much better spending the money on helping rural farms. for example through micro loans, clean water supply, fertilizer, education on how to increase yields, diversification of income etc. etc. GE is very expensive and does not help the people who are purposed to benefit. 
Conclusion: If the milk is going to be unpasteurized, used to feed babies that would otherwise be on formula,  produced by cows on a high nutrient diet, and has a significant cost benefit over a "normal" milk bank then
I would support this technology. 

However I strongly suspect that none of these conditions would be meet (except for may the babies who would have been on formula). Furthermore it opens up the dangerous possibilities that this milk could be marketed to mums. So mums who don't want to breast feed, can't be bothered, somehow think their milk is inferior (it never is), or are swayed by clever marketing that they should be purchasing this milk over breast feeding will result in babies going onto the GE milk without real need. Therefore I cannot in good conscious, knowing how scientific advances are marketed, support this GE project.      

Friday, June 10, 2011

Low in iron - try supplementing with riboflavin (vitamin B2)

The body is incredibly complex with multiple interactions. That is why you should always take a multivitamin/mineral before taking just one nutrient.

It turns out that riboflavin is involved in iron absorption! So a study looked at supplementing riboflavin and its impact on iron status. The iron levels, as measured by blood hemoglobin, increased significantly. Yet iron intake did not change over the study period.  

The study gave women 2 or 4 mg of riboflavin a day over 8 weeks. Both groups saw the iron levels increase. Also of interest is the statement:
Moderate riboflavin deficiency is prevalent in certain population groups in affluent countries
So what this paper was saying is that we are not getting enough riboflavin in our diet. Yet another reason to take a supplement.

Also of interest is that they measured "erythrocyte glutathione reductase activation coefficient (EGRAC)" as a measure of riboflavin levels. I will do more research into this compound as I (a) don't know what this is and (b) unaware that there was a blood marker that indicated riboflavin status.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Silicon: Help build bones by drinking mineral water and beer (or supplement)

Supplementation of minerals, in the form of a drink is logically a good idea. Clearly in a fluid the minerals need to be in suspension, not as a solid layer sitting at the bottom. What is rather disturbing is that bottled water, is typically just purified tape water. In the purification process all the minerals are removed from the water thus purified water has not mineral benefit. However mineral water, or artesian well water contains significant levels of minerals. Often one of these minerals includes silicon.   

Over the long term intake of silicon is thought to help bone density, thus reducing risk of osteoporosis. Thus drinking mineral water may help with increasing your silicon intake.

Interestingly beer is high in silicon. This is because beer often has minerals added to the water to give a better feel/taste. As a home brewer I often add mineral salts, calcium carbonate and other minerals to make the water softer/harder etc. Unfortunately large beer consumption is associated with increased risk of osteoporosis so it may not be a good idea to rely on beer intake to get your silicon intake.

Of course you can also supplement with silicon to make sure you are getting enough......  reference.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Depressed: try 125-300 mg of Magnesium - 4x a day

When you body is not well, it is highly likely to be lacking in some nutrient. The difficulty when it comes to disease such as depression is that we don't/can't measure the nutrients levels to determine which nutrient(s) you could be lacking.

Therefore it is my advice you need to keep trying things until you find what works for you. Something you should try if you suffer from depression is a magnesium supplement of 125 - 300 mg as "glycinate and taurinate with each meal and at bedtime." So that is a large dose of magnesium throughout the day. Personally I would suggest taking a multi product, say twice a day, and increase the dose so that the magnesium reaches the suggested levels. Then at the other meals/bedtime just take the magnesium product. This means you are getting not just the magnesium.

Now it is very important to get the right type of magnesium. Generally speaking your body finds chelated minerals eg minerals bound to proteins the easiest to absorb, then salts and lastly oxides. The price is correlated, the amino acid bound minerals are the most expensive. Therefore if you are going to trial this magnesium for depression you MUST obtain the chelated/amino acid bound magnesium. Preferably the glycinate or taurinate as this is what they studies used. However other amino acid bound magnesium is likely to produce the same result.  

What type of time frame would you expect to see a change? "rapid recovery (less than 7 days)". That's right you should see a result very quickly!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Purified sea slugs good for your bones

As you are aware osteoporosis is an issue with aging people. It is common to recommend supplements to people at risk. A company in the US is taking sea slugs from South American coast line and extracting their minerals, combining this with some vitamins, to make an anti-osteoporosis supplement. This supplement does not only contain calcium and magnesium but 12 other trace elements which may also support bone health. There were two types of supplements tested,  one just contained the sea slug concentrates, the other included additional vitamins, plus slightly higher mineral levels. The levels of key ingredients are in the following table, with major differences highlighted:

Supplement                                                     1        2
Strontium Citrate (mg)   680   680
AlgaeCal Bone-health Supplement 2 400 2 520
Trace Minerals in AlgaeCal (mg) 1 608 1 688
Calcium (mg)   720   756
Magnesium (mg)*     72     75
Magnesium from magnesium carbonate (mg)       0   275
Vitamin D-3 (IUs of Cholecalciferol)   800 1 600
Vitamin K-2 as MK-4 (mg)       1.5       0
Vitamin K-7 as MK-7 (mcg)       0   100
Boron (mg)       0       3
Vitamin C (mg)       0     50
 Now over the 6 month period that this supplement was tested, it was calculated that the subjects if not on any supplement would typically lose 0.6% of their bone density due to normal aging effects. However test group 1 had a 2.27% increase and test group 2 a significantly higher 3.72% increase.

Therefore we can conclude: (a) that supplementation with ingredients concentrated from natural source (sea slugs) helps prevent bone density decrease, and in fact increases it. (b) that a supplement with a larger range of elements, such as vitamins and additional minerals increases the bone density further.

This highlights a key issues with supplements. You are much better to take a supplement that has a range of nutrients, not just high levels of one nutrient. The body needs a whole variety of nutrients to do even a simple task, like increasing bone density. Hence when people supplement with just calcium, you are not going to improve your bone health that much. You need a range of nutrients so that the whole process of bone strengthening can occur. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Canadians benefit from vitamin D supplementation - through out the year

Canada, stereotypically a cold and wintery place. Except that in summer it is warm and sunny. A study has come out and stated that supplementation works in Canadians. The levels of vitamin D required are as follows:
  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamin D are blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, with deficiency when this is below <30 nmol/L
  • Estimated Average Requirement (40 nmol/L)
  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA; 50 nmol/L)
Amazingly, though not surprisingly the study states "The Canadian population has not yet been assessed according to these recommendations". That is right folks, no body has looked at what actually is happening to Canada's population when it comes to vitamin D levels. What the study found again is amazing, but no surprising. The key statements are:
  • In winter 24.5% of white population had blood levels of <50 nmol/L. That is one quarter of the population are not getting the RDA/RDI in winter. 
  • For none whites, who generate less vitamin D with the same sunlight exposure the percentage was 53.1%. That is half the population are not achieving the RDA/RDI intake. 
  • Supplement users had significantly higher 25(OH)D concentrations than did nonusers, and no seasonal differences were found.
  • The use of vitamin D supplements contributed to a better 25(OH)D status
Therefore if you live in Canada you should be supplementing with vitamin D. I believe that this result to be generalized to countries where in winter people spend a significant amount of time indoors. For example NZ winter most people are cocooning inside in front of a fire engaging with electronic media.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fake laughter - still a good medicine ?!

Laughter is the best medicine is a well known proverb. Even though I have not researched the topic there appears to be enough "common knowledge" to show that laughter is helpful to the physical and emotional well being (always a dangerous assumption).

Have you ever thought about forced or faked laughter? A review just published mentions although the mind can tell between spontaneous/real, laughter and fake/simulated laughter the body cannot.

Therefore there could be positive outcomes from a physiological point of view when we simulate laughter. I suspect this could happen, it like feeling better when you smile, even when you force a smile.     

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kiwifruit - discussion on vitamin C

You have probably heard through the media that mice eating kiwifruit had five times the level of vitamin C in their cells than the mice who ate the same level of vitamin C, but as straight ascorbic acid. I was aware of this research last year, and had the privilege of talking to one of researchers involved. However as I treat discussion of material that is not in the public domain as confidential, until I know otherwise, I haven't mentioned this in my blog. However my friend Keith Lightfoot kindly sent me an email asking about this research as it has come out in the media (and he knows that I don't pay a lot of attention to the media...... ) and like always he has some very pertinent questions..... 

a) What vitamin C level does kiwifruit contain? There is no point eating lots of kiwifruit to get high vitamin C levels, if kiwifruit doesn't contain much vitamin C! Like any species there is massive variation in vitamin levels. Kiwifruit can have as little as little as 2 mg per fruit or up to 340 mg a massive range! The majority of kiwifruit are either the yellow chinensis, or green Hayward cultivare. The yellow range from 31 - 340 mg, with the Zespri Gold having approximately 100 - 150 mg per fruit. The green have range from 66 - 120 mg.  These levels place kiwifruit as one of the best (commonly available) sources of vitamin C.

So this means that eating a kiwifruit, say with 100 mg of vitamin C is equivalent to a 500 mg vitamin C tablet (given that vitamin C is better used with lower dose, the vitamin C tablet would have to be bigger than 500 mg)

b) Vitamin C levels with storage. It is one thing to have vitamin C when kiwifruit are picked, it is another thing when they have been months in cool storage. It is known that storage of kiwifruit in cool stores for 2 months reduces the vitamin C by approximately 20%. A further 4 months storage, 6 months in total, doesn't decrease the vitamin C much further. What is exceptionally interesting is that a week at room temperature (25 degrees) actually brought the vitamin C levels back to harvest levels in some fruit. The average vitamin C level came back to harvest level, but there was wide variation in the vitamin C level.       

It is also interesting to note that the vitamin C levels are lower in fruit that is shaded, come pared to the ones that are in sunlight. Also the ones shaded are smaller. This means when you purchase kiwifruit go for the bigger ones.         

So in conclusion. The varieties of kiwifruit that you purchase in the store aree a great source of vitamin C, choose the larger ones, over the smaller varieties. Once the fruit are out of storage, hold them at room temperature for a few days before eating, will increase the vitamin C level, eg put in a fruit bowl, not in the fridge.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Garlic and giardia

 I have been unwell. Yes rather embarrassing for me when I do occasionally get ill.

A kitten tried its best to adopt us about 10 days ago. It had toilet trouble so we took it to the vet and surrendered it. I have enough trouble terminating feral cats, so attempting a kitten - impossible. A few days after the cat disappeared our youngest got violently sick with vomiting. She couldn't keep anything down, not even water. We took her to an after hours clinic as we were worried. Very blessed that we have a 10 year old, 8 and 6 year old and we don't know what the signals of dehydration are, cause they never get sick!! Turns out she was ok, and the next day came right. Then a day after her going to school..... you guessed it another child gets sick. The day after they get well..... I get some thing.

Fortunately not vomiting, but queasy, lethargic, loss of appetite, gas, etc. etc. I even took some time off work and slept the afternoon away. One thing that was totally new, and totally concerned me was really sulfury burps. Nasty taste, worse in the morning on an empty stomach. But they could happen any time of the day. This concerned me.

A quick web search, troughs up giardia as the most likely culprit. Most likely from the kitten as they are often carriers. Not very happy about this!!! So some more web searching (this was now Sunday morning so no medical/pharmacy open in Huntly. Did some reading and found that garlic gave a positive result in scientific tests (lost the link).Thought I should give it a go as (a) couldn't do anything to Monday wrt a doctor/pharmacist (b) garlic is good for you so nothing to loose and (c) might even work ! 

So I went down to the supermarket and purchased NZ garlic. This is because it is stronger tasting than the Chinese grown garlic. The way to tell the difference is that the Chinese has all its roots chopped off, due to import restrictions. Where as NZ garlic has some of the roots left on. Chopped up either one large clove, or two small ones into chunks. Then swallowed them - very grateful I can take lots of vitamin pills at a time, cause otherwise this would have been a very long process. Took this about 3-4 times. Did it with meals or food.

Went to bed and had to face away from Tiffany :) Woke up this morning without any sulfur burps, feel much better - though still tired and energy levels are not back to normal. However whatever was bothering me has moved on (though my gas still smells very strongly of garlic, not going to have happy wife in bed tonight!)

So in my experience garlic worked against what was probably a giardia infection.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Nutrient loss in sugar - been known since 1971

Can you remember 1971? Well this was the date a paper was published that investigated nutrient loss in food processing. Just looking at nutrient loss in sugar refining, we find the following graph. This is the percentage remaining once the sugar has gone from raw sugar to white sugar. As you can see there is a massive reduction in minerals and trace elements. Only 2 % of the magnesium (which is essential to prevent osteoporosis) is left post refining. What really horrifies me is this has been known for 40 years. Why haven't all manufactures of foods that contain additional sugar moved from white to raw sugar?

Take home message: Only purchase raw (or brown?) sugar. Do no entertain the thought of white sugar !

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Deadly falls - is nutrient loss a key factor?

My Grandfather quickly lost his spark and desire to live once he had a fall that broke his leg (or hip I can't remember). If my gray matter is correct he did it in Bolivia, where he almost died due to altitude and non western hospitals.

It wasn't until my father, who is a polio victim mentioned that he had attended a seminar by a physiotherapist who said that falls are deadly for elderly. When an elderly falls and breaks limbs, it often signals the end of their active life and death soon follows. Once you know this, you can see the pattern in your elderly relatives with a disturbing frequency.  

So make sure you do balance improving exercises as you age (your inner ear looses its finer sense when you age so you don't notice you are off balance till it is to late).

I hadn't thought about the nutritional effects of a fall. Obviously when you are incapacitated you can't get up an cook (if you live by yourself). Nor will be out and about enjoying life, which often centers around a meal time. As appetites in elderly are often already reduced, the extra stain may reduce them further. Lastly if the person has extra income due to a pamphlet run, or selling preserves, or some other active income, this income will stop. This lack of income would put pressure on a budget that is already tight. Thus fresh foods may drop off the menu.

All this means that nutrient intakes would be lower. This could have all sorts of negative consequences, from taking longer to heal, secondary infections, more susceptible to things like pneumonia (which is serious for elderly). I didn't connect with this until I was reading a paper about vitamin E post hip fracture in elderly. The paper had the above hypothesis (and it was correct) that vitamin E would drop post fracture as the diet dropped in quality.

So the question I have is: If doctors/nurses gave elderly fracture patients some multivitamins along with the pain med's etc. if they wouldn't have such a high mortality post fracture.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's always more complicated than you think - or is it?

Those who have had the pleasure of knowing my wife Tiffany, will know she has a very sharp eye for detail. One of the stories she tells is about how maths/science used to annoy her. Seemingly every year they would say, forget what you learned last year, its more complex than that, then go to reteach something. She loathes wasting time, and this seemed like one big waste of time.

There is truth though in things being kept simple so everyone can understand it, and as the crowd thins so to speak, the real complex truth comes out. This is one of the reasons I love science, you can push as hard as you want into a subject and eventually you get to the part where "it just does". That magical part were you reach the limit of human understanding and it all comes down to miracles and mysteries. This I find humbling and keeps everything in perspective.

In my inbin today was a paper. It looked at the oil in sunflower seeds. Did you know that in a sunflower the oil levels and components change from the outside of the flower to the inside? And that these levels are influenced by the sunshine hours when the flower first opens/is pollinated? Of course you didn't - I didn't. We get taught that the nutritional composition of our food is well known and understood.

Let me remove your naivety..... we basically don't know anything..... we just pretend we do. So remember this when some expert says "this is the magic bullet" or "this is the perfect food". Use my rule of thumb and you'll be right.
If it is like nature [God] made it, then it is good for you. The more it is processed the less healthy it is.   

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Depression and niacin

My wonderful friend Keith Lightfoot sent me a video link to a very engaging documentary.  The documentary was about vitamins and the drug/medical industry. Well worth watching when you have a hour or so to sit and relax.
This is the stuff I am taking

Anyway one of the people on the documentary make a comment about high doses of niacin is helpful with depression. Now as you would expect I have a good dose in my multi (not quite as high as I would have made it, but short of making my own supplement nothing is ever going match what my current thinking is).

Thinking that nothing tried, nothing gained, when to a health store. Was very impressed with the woman shop assistant. She was well versed in metabolic pathway's and in fact when asked if I wanted flushing or non flushing niacin I didn't know! Rather an unusual experience for me.

Anyway took the 500mg tablets, and take them twice a day with my normal multi's. I have noticed a distinctive difference. Can't quite put my finger on it. It is subtle...... I still get tired and when I am tired I still lethargic (which is a big issue in depression). However when tired I don't try to motivate myself (or tell myself how lazy I am being), I just accept myself for being tired and know that I can chill out and that is ok. When I am well rested I seem to be able to do stuff without working up the motivation. That is things occur naturally without me having to physic myself.

A analogue would be when you get your glasses prescription updated. You could already see well with your glasses (as compared to not wearing them). This is like the antidepressant in my case. But if you update your prescription the finer points come back into focus.

Lastly I have noticed a big difference in my mood the day after having a beer. I only have a drink on Friday night or Saturday as I know that the day after is a much more likely to be a slow or depressed day. Being a home brewer (I don't drink much and 500ml of beer has same antioxidant levels of a glass red wine) this can be rather annoying. However the day after having a pint is slower, but not really a big deal.   

So I will definitely be taking lots of niacin for the foreseeable future. Go try some yourself !  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blog sabbatical - will start blogging again

Blog sabbatical is really a fancy name for - I had taken on to many projects and thus also dropped a few. It has been a completely unexpected adventure, right at my busiest time of year, but we have sold our slice or paradise and moving to a bigger slice...... exciting, unexpected and way to much time, effort and stress ! But we are very pleased. Again another move house onto section but this time instead of 591 square meters of weeds, invasive species and mud, we have 5000 squares of an organic citrus orchard (about 250 orange and tangelo trees, plus a feijoa hedge and a couple of figs and avocados).

Still things not yet unconditional, but working through the issues but really looking forward to our new adventure and developing the orchard into a more mixed orchard with lots of different fruit trees.

Also very busy at the university in the middle of very intense marking and tutoring about scientific writing, coupled with my Station of the Cross: Art at the Hamilton Gardens preparation..... so will endeavor to start blogging again.    

Friday, March 11, 2011

Grape seeds got to eat them by the bowl full

Further from yesterday's post about grape seeds I did some digging around. I found that the level of grape seeds you need to eat is really high. For example:

  • When rats were feed a diet, which grape skins and seeds (ie waste from wine industry) made up 10%, they didn't develop liver issues when feed a chemical that causes liver damage. As much as I love grapes, I can't see them making 10% of my diet, yet alone the skin and seeds making 10%. 
  • In other rats that were feed 0.5% of diet at grape seed extract had less stomach tumors like the control rats. I couldn't easily find any statement about the weight of average western food intake. Five fruit/veg servings would be 5 x 250 grams. As fruits and vegetables can be approximated as water. Then protein intake between 50 - 100 grams, then on top of this would be some carbohydrate. So 1.5 kg of food daily would be an approximation on the low side. This would then mean 0.5% of 1.5kg is 7 grams. Quick tablet weight approximation from my bottles of pills, a tablet is about 1 gram. So this is 7 tablets a day, every day.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grape seeds - what do we really know ?

It has been a wonderful grape year. We got the first red and white grapes from our vines. Very yummy! I was sitting in the dappled shade of the peach tree, having a Friday afternoon beer while munching on sweet white grapes. I was reading a nutritional product catalog and noticed that they had in their antioxidant tablets grape seed extract. No surprises, as grape seeds are known to have strong antioxidant capabilities.

But it did get me thinking. Firstly do the seeds I swallow get broken down in digestion to give up their nutrients? Or does this only happen when I bit the seeds? As I try not to bit the seeds, as they taste bitter, then am I getting any value from swallowing them? Should I be spitting them out as whole seeds, then grinding them up for a breakfast smoothly like I do with other nuts? What effect does the type of plant have? Do I have a high antioxidant seeding plant, or a low one? How would one find out?

There are many questions that I have yet to answer. However it does illustrate how little we know about optimal health and diet. The media have told us grape seeds are antioxidants, but nothing more than this. This illustrates my frustration with the "wellness" industry and the media. We get told some general principles but not the specifics required to make a solid change in our lives.

I guess this is the motivation to blog! To help bridge the gap.