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.