Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fiber and Colon Cancer

A very large pooled analysis (Park's Pooled Project) from JAMA 2005 found a statistically significant association between fiber intake and colon cancer. The project had an advantage over a meta-analysis in that it reanalyzed data from included studies, instead of using published results. The Nurses' Health Study, Womens' Health Study, and other large prospective cohorts were included.
"In their combined analysis of 13 prospective studies [involving 725,628 men and women followed for 6 to 20 years], Park et al found evidence of an increased risk of colorectal cancer among individuals with very low intake of total dietary fiber (about the lowest 11%). After adjustment for measurement error, the relative risk for intakes of less than 10 g per day vs 10 or more g per day increased from 1.22 to 2.16."
- Dietary Fiber and Colorectal Cancer, An Ongoing Saga, JAMA December 2005
- Dietary Fiber Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer, A Pooled Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies, JAMA December 2005
That's a 2.2 times increased risk for colon cancer (220% increase) for fiber intakes 10 g or lower.

Park found smoking was the strongest confounder. (That doesn't bode well for smokers on low fiber diets.) The risk above was adjusted for smoking. He also said that risk may be underestimated: "A true association between dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer may be underestimated in our study," because of errors in reporting and measuring.

The EPIC Study, a large prospective analysis of 519,978 individuals from 10 European countries also found a statistically significant association between fiber intake and colon cancer.
"Dietary fibre in foods was inversely related to incidence of large bowel cancer (adjusted relative risk 0.75 [95% CI 0.59-0.95] for the highest versus lowest quintile of intake)."

"In populations with low average intake of dietary fibre, an approximate doubling of total fibre intake from foods could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 40%."
- Dietary Fibre In Food And Protection Against Colorectal Cancer In The European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer And Nutrition (EPIC): An Observational Study., Lancet 2003

Here's further study of the EPIC population, not only confirming but also strengthening the link:
"The inclusion of an additional 656 cases confirmed our previously published results, with a strong and significant reduction in colorectal cancer risk of ~9% for each uncalibrated quintile increase in fiber (P linear trend < 0.001) compared with an 8% reduction in our previous report."
- Is The Association With Fiber From Foods In Colorectal Cancer Confounded By Folate Intake?, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 2005
Such that ... in populations with low average intake of dietary fiber, an approximate doubling of total fiber intake from foods could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 45%.

In 1.2 million people studied, the link between fiber and colon cancer continues to bear scrutiny.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fats In Nuts

Shaun asked me a question about nuts. So, I dredged up this chart from 2005. I made it while discussing why nuts go rancid, and why some nuts go rancid sooner than others. (Nuts with a higher percentage of polyunsaturated fat go rancid sooner.)

Click for larger.

Different nuts have different amounts of different fats. This study suggested that consumption of monounsaturated fat "provides cardiovascular benefits," and "is thought to improve insulin sensitivity."

The chart above is misleading in that it suggests that all nuts have the same amount of fat/serving, which they do not. Although as a group, they're similar:

Total fat in 1 ounce (about the size of 14 walnut halves, 23 almonds, 49 pistachios):
  • Walnuts, 18.3g fat
  • Brazil nuts, 18.6g fat
  • Pecans, 20.2g fat
  • Almonds, 13.8g fat
  • Filberts (Hazelnuts), 17.2g fat
One that's not on the chart:
  • Pistachios, 12.4 g fat (12.1% SFA, 52.4% MUFA, 30.6% PUFA) 1
For comparison, the total fat in:
  • 1 oz. olive oil (2 tablespoons), 28.0 g fat, (13.9% SFA, 72.8% MUFA, 10.4% PUFA)
  • 1 oz. flax seeds (4 tablespoons), 11.8 g fat (8.5% SFA, 17.8% MUFA, 67.8% PUFA)
  • 1 oz. dry oatmeal (1/3 cup), 1.8 g fat (16.7% SFA, 33.3% MUFA, 33.3% PUFA)
  • 1 oz. whole wheat bread (1 slice), 0.9 g fat (22% SFA, 49% MUFA, 22% PUFA)
  • 1 medium banana, 0.4 g fat (25% SFA, <1% MUFA, 25% PUFA)
Rancid nuts produce free radicals. Outside of the body, rancid nuts smell like old socks and paint thinner. Inside the body, rancid nuts' radicals, peroxides, etc., can damage cells -- or not, depending on how effectively our body quenches (reduces) those oxidized fats, and how effectively our body repairs tissue.

Dietary omega-3 fatty acids, precursors to anti-inflammatory compounds in our body, are polyunsaturated fats. Can you tell, just by looking at the chart above, which nut contains the most omega-3? 2 Flax seeds are also high in omega-3; note their higher PUFA content above. Although, if it's an improvement in the omega-3/omega-6 ratio you're after, reducing the amount of the more abundant omega-6 in the diet is a more effective solution. (Omega-6 fatty acids are also polyunsaturated fatty acids.)

In my opinion, some nuts are better than no nuts. But there's such a thing as too many nuts.
1 SFA: Saturated fatty acid, MUFA: Monounsaturated fatty acid, PUFA: Polyunsaturated fatty acid
2 Walnuts
Graph: Homegrown

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pathogenic Knols

Speaking of knols, Bill Marler, the Seattle attorney who specializes in foodborne illness, and who I think would make a great US Food Safety Administrator, just published a slew of knols on a slew of pathogenic organisms.

Here are two:

Listeria (It Can Grow In The Fridge)
"Listeria survives at temperatures from below freezing to body temperature, and grows best at the 0°F to 50°F range, which includes the temperature range used for freezing and refrigeration.

Due to its unusual growth capabilities, Listeria may be transferred in common ready-to-eat foods that have been kept properly refrigerated."

E. coli (It Can Grow Inside Plants Where You Can't Wash It Off)
"Fresh fruits and vegetables can become contaminated pre- or post-harvest. Contaminated seeds, irrigation water, and flooding have contributed to E. coli outbreaks traced to sprouts, lettuce, spinach, parsley, and other fresh produce."


South Korea Believes In Food Safety?

To the right. I love that photo.

I want to imagine that's going on in the curtained-off room behind the counter where I buy meat. Look at that woman's face.

South Korea doesn't want our beef. They stopped wanting our beef 5 years ago when a case of mad cow disease turned up here. They still don't want our beef, but they're getting our beef, and they're not happy.

So, they're quarantining our beef for 10 days while they perform tests on it.

I wonder if this has more to do with than just beef.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bag O' Knols

Oh boy. As if Google hasn't created a bag o' experts already with its Blogger, now it has one better ... a Bag o' Knols

Google defines a "knol" as a "until of knowledge". It debuted it's new Wikipedia-like project Knol last week.

Here's the knol for Type 2 Diabetes, written by Anne Peters:
Type 2 Diabetes

See anything you like? Or disagree with? Anyone can write and publish a knol, or suggest edits to an existing one, or rate one, or comment on one.

I think I may comment on this statement in the above knol:
"Two servings of fruit and three of vegetables are recommended everyday. This may be impossible to achieve ..."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Diet Talk

There's some heated discussion on The Huffington Post and Newsweek sites about the study in the previous post:

See comments under Kathy Freston's article on the Huffington post:
Why Vegan Is The New Atkins

See comments under Dean Ornish's article in Newsweek:
The Never-Ending Diet Wars:
A New Study Reports That The Atkins Diet Can Be Just As Healthy As A Low-Fat Diet. But Don't Start Buying Bacon Yet. This Research Has Some Serious Flaws.

Here's an excerpt from Ornish's article:
"Not everything that raises HDL is good for you. For example, if you increase the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet (e.g., an Atkins diet), you may increase your HDL because your body is trying to get rid of the extra "garbage" (fat and cholesterol) by increasing the number of available garbage trucks (HDL) if you are genetically able to do so. Eating a stick of butter will raise HDL in those who are able to do so, but that does not mean that butter is good for your heart. It isn't.

Not everything that lowers HDL is bad for you. If you change from a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet to a healthy low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, your HDL levels may stay the same or even decrease because there is less need for it. When you have less garbage, you need fewer garbage trucks to remove it, so your body may make less HDL. Thus, a reduction in HDL on a low-fat diet is not harmful."
I don't know if I would call fat and cholesterol "garbage", but I see what he's saying.

Three Diets Face Off

This study (the DIRECT study) has been getting a lot of attention. It appeared in the July 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It compared 3 diets over the course of 2 years: an Atkins-like diet, a Mediterranean (Med.) diet, and an American Heart Association (AHA) diet:

Weight Loss With A Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, Or Low-Fat Diet (pdf), NEJM, 2008

In all groups, women were eating ~1500 calories/day, men ~1800 cal/day, or so they said. There was no difference among groups in amount of physical activity. The low-carb Atkins-like group had the highest drop-out rate, losing almost a quarter of participants over 2 years.

For weight loss, the Med. diet and the Atkins-like diet performed equally well -- when you looked at all participants.
Weight loss among all participants after 2 years: 1
  • AHA diet: 6 lbs
  • Med. diet: 10 lbs
  • Atkins-like diet: 10 lbs
But the Med. diet was the clear winner -- when you looked at just women.
Weight loss among women after 2 years:
  • AHA diet: 0.2 lbs
  • Med. diet: 14 lbs
  • Atkins-like diet: 5 lbs
Here's something interesting, regarding diabetes ...
Go to the study here, flip to page 240 (12 of 13), and look at Graph D for Fasting Glucose.

The fasting glucose of people with diabetes eating the Med. diet decreased by an average of 32.8 mg/dl. That's astounding.

The fasting glucose of the people with diabetes eating the Atkins-like diet and the AHA diet didn't decrease at all. In fact, their blood sugar went up, even though they lost weight.

Look at Graphs E and F and you'll see something similar. People with diabetes eating a Med. diet had the greatest reduction in fasting insulin, and the greatest reduction in HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance), meaning the cells of those eating the Med. diet had become more sensitive to insulin compared to the cells of those eating the other diets.

All this led the authors to conclude that, of the 3 diets tested, a Med. diet may be the most effective for glycemic control.

What's interesting about that is the Med. diet was high in carbohydrate.

What Was Unique About The Mediterranean Diet?

The study tells us:
  • People eating it were consuming the highest amounts of dietary fiber.
  • People eating it had the highest ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat.
Other than that, there wasn't much difference, macronutriently-speaking, between what was called a low-fat diet (American Heart Association diet) and a Mediterranean diet. The percents of energy supplied by carbohydrate (50.7 vs. 50.2%), protein (19.0 vs. 18.8%), and fat (30.0 vs. 33.1%) were similar between those 2 groups. (The low-carb, Atkins-like diet was quite different, supplying 40.4% carbohydrate, 21.8% protein, and 39.1% fat.)

So, between the AHA and Med. diets, it comes down to foods. We know the Med. diet "was rich in vegetables and low in red meat, with poultry and fish replacing beef and lamb." There was a specific emphasis on olive oil (30 to 45 g/day) and nuts (5 to 7 nuts/day).

The AHA diet is described on their website. If it was anything like the AHA diet I reviewed here -- the one that allows frosted cupcakes, biscuits, French fries, hamburgers -- no wonder it lost out.
1 In addition to the weight losses listed here, which represent all 322 participants including dropouts, the authors also analyzed weight losses for only those who completed the study. In that analysis, the group with the highest drop-out rate lost the most weight. Those weight losses are being advanced erroneously. When you do not conduct an intention-to-treat analysis, that is, when you do not analyze all participants in all groups, whether they stuck with the study or not, you lose the effect of randomization. I think this is a good example of how different conclusions can be drawn from the same data.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The 90 Second Rule

If you haven't seen Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's talk on TED, and you have 18 minutes to spare (I know, I know), and you have an interest in the story of a Harvard brain scientist describing the particulars of her 4-hour, left-brain stroke, the experience of a right brain functioning without a left brain, and the lessons she learned during her 8-year recovery, do watch her:

TED: Jill Bolte Taylor's Powerful Stroke Of Insight

If you'd rather scan an interview, I saw this one today:

Interview with Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
"Stroke of Insight"

- Source: Bleeping Herald

This excerpt resonated with me, especially that last paragraph:
Bleeping Herald: I love the part in your book where you discuss that when a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there's a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body and then after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.

Dr. Jill: The 90 second rule and then it's gone. It's predictable circuitry, so by paying attention to what circuits you are triggering and what that feels like inside of your body, you can recognize when it has happened. We all know what it feels like when we suddenly move into fear. Something happens in the external world and all of a sudden we experience a physiological response by our body that our mind would define as fear. So in my brain some circuit is saying something isn't safe and I need to go on full alert, those chemicals flush through my body to put my body on full alert, and for that to totally flush out of my body, it takes less than 90 seconds.

So, whether it's my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry - it's really hard to hold a good belly laugh for more than 90 seconds naturally. The 90 second rule is totally empowering. That means for 90 seconds, I can watch this happen, I can feel this happen and I can watch it go away. After that, if I continue to feel that fear or feel that anger, I need to look at the thoughts I'm thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry that is resulting in me having this physiology over and over again.

When you stay stuck in an emotional response, you're choosing it by choosing to continue thinking the same thoughts that retrigger it. We have this incredible ability in our minds to replay but as soon as you replay, you're not here, you're not in the present moment. You're still back in something else and if you continue to replay the exact same line and loop, then you have a predictable result. You can continue to make yourself mad all day and the more you obsess over whatever it is, the more you run that loop, then the more that loop gets energy of it's own to manifest itself with minimal amounts of thought, so it will then start on automatic. And it keeps reminding you, "Oh yeah, I was mad, I have to rethink that thought."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Evidence That a High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet Is Effective For Glucose Regulation

The following is a small study; its benefit is that intake was highly controlled: "The [intervention] diet was prepared in the metabolic kitchen at MIT and consumed by the subjects under supervision."

High-Carbohydrate , High-Fiber Diets Increase Peripheral Insulin Sensitivity In Healthy Young And Old Adults, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1990

Six young subjects (18-24 yrs)
Six older subjects (67-86 yrs)

All 12 subjects ate their usual diet (control), ad libitum, followed by a high-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat diet (HCF) for 21-28 days.
  • Control diet consisted of 42% carbohydrate, 40% fat, 18% protein, 17g fiber.
  • HCF diet consisted of 68% carbohydrate, 14% fat, 18% protein, 78g fiber. (No sucrose, i.e. table sugar, was allowed.)
When compared to the control diet, the HCF diet:
  • Lowered fasting glucose (~5%)
  • Lowered fasting insulin (~24%)
  • Lowered cholesterol (27% and 19% in young and old respectively)
  • Improved insulin sensitivity (via increased glucose disposal rates)
All differences reached levels of significance, that is, they were unlikely to occur by chance.

Triglycerides were not different between the two diets. (High-carb diets are often accused of raising triglycerides.)

All of the above beneficial changes returned to prestudy values after subjects resumed their usual high-fat diets for 2-4 weeks. (That didn't take long!)

"The results of these studies reveal that an HCF diet increases significantly the sensitivity of peripheral tissues to physiologic concentrations of insulin in healthy adults."
Long-term Effect

There's an element of this study I want to highlight. All measurements were taken in subjects who were in a postabsorptive state. That is, they were fasting, for about 12 hours. Glucose and insulin were administered intravenously. This was done to factor out the immediate effects (intestinally, hepatically) of dietary components.

Why was this done? Because there is evidence that high-carb, high-fiber, low-fat diets cause changes in body cells over time, changes that lead to improved insulin sensitivity. (I touched on this long-term effect in my posts about resistant starch.) These changes have been shown to include a higher insulin receptor number and improved receptor binding.

Monday, July 21, 2008

For His Work In Food Safety, Bill Marler Deserves A Spot In The Next Administration

There are times when a man would do well to win a certain job. And there are times when a job would do well to win a certain man.

The job of Food Safety Czar in this country would do well to win Bill Marler.

This country does not currently have a Food Safety Czar. It needs one. Someone to cut through the muck that swaddles numerous, discrete food-related government agencies. Someone with a history of going to bat for consumers, a successful history. Someone with a tireless passion for this work.

To the next President: If you intend to make food safety a priority, you'll want Bill Marler in your cabinet.

Who is Bill Marler?

Bill is a Seattle-based attorney who has been litigating foodborne illness cases for 15 years, since his landmark $15.6 million settlement with Jack-in-the-Box for its contribution to the widespread 1993 E. coli outbreak. Along with his partners at Marler Clark, he has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness in the US since - in the process making Marler Clark the nation's foremost law firm for foodborne illness cases.

In 1998, Bill and his partners spawned Outbreak, "a unique not-for-profit consulting company based on a radical notion: that the same lawyers who sue on behalf of victims of foodborne illness are best suited to help responsible companies with their food safety challenges."

Applying the logic in that last paragraph ... Why wouldn't the same lawyers who sue on behalf of victims of foodborne illness also be best suited to help responsible government with its food safety challenges? I think they would be. I think the next move for Bill Marler would be a spot in the next Cabinet ... as Secretary of a new Food Safety Administration.

"Our food supply needs to be safer and I can be an instrument of change. That's kind of how I use my blog."

One more thing, Bill Marler blogs. Boy, does he blog. Here's Bill talking about blogging: 1

His recent blog entry, E. coli O157:H7 Is a Powerful and Deadly Bacterium, a brief history of E. coli contamination in this country along with workable solutions, exemplifies the talents he could bring to a future White House position.

Whoever takes up the task of comprehensive food safety in this country in the coming years, they would do well to reflect on Bill's solutions, that is, if the next Food Safety Administrator isn't Mr. Marler himself.
1 Maybe it's not a fair comparison, but I haven't seen FDA Commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach, on his blog Andy's Take, being this open.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Low-fat Diet Reduces Incidence Of Precancerous Skin Lesions

Actinic keratoses (AK) are innocuous-seeming, precancerous skin lesions. They can progress to squamous cell skin cancer. They have a high prevalence (~50%) among fair-skinned people who've had lots of sun exposure.
"Millions of Americans have AKs, and the number continues to grow. In fact, AKs are so common today that treatment for these lesions ranks as one of the most frequent reasons people consult a dermatologist."
- American Academy of Dermatology
Some images, from VisualDxHealth. Click for larger. There are more on their site:

The following study found that a low-fat diet reduces the incidence of AKs:

Effect of a Low-Fat Diet on the Incidence of Actinic Keratosis, New England Journal of Medicine, 1994

  • 76 men and women, caucasian, non-diabetic, with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
  • Randomly assigned to a control group (n = 38) or intervention (low-fat) group (n = 38).
  • 24 month follow-up.
  • Control group consumed ~40% of their calories from fat.
  • Intervention group consumed ~20% of their calories from fat.
  • No significant difference in the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat between the two groups during the 24 months.
  • No significant difference in body weight between the two groups during the 24 months.
"Our dietary intervention trial clearly indicates that a large decrease in calories consumed as fat reduces the incidence of actinic keratosis."

● Control group, 40% of calories from fat

о Intervention group, 20% of calories from fat

A person in the control group:
  • With no history of AK, < 65 years, had a 56% chance of having one or more AKs during the 24 months (a risk 4.7 times greater than similar patient in low-fat group).
  • With a history of AK, ≥ 65 years, had a 99% chance of having one or more AKs during the 24 months (a risk 8.4 times greater than similar patient in low-fat group).
Calories were kept the same between groups such that the low-fat group were eating more carbohydrates, getting ~65% of their calories from carbs.
Photos: VisualDxHealth. More there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beet Chute

Lavender's environmentally friendly solution for excess beet greens:

Click for larger.

She has more photos of her beets and cucumbers here.

I didn't know beets grew so fast. And she's right, there wasn't much difference in the beet bed after pulling a basketful. You'd be inundated with beets!

I wonder what beet greens taste like. Does anyone cook them? (I would, but the ones attached to the beets I buy in the store are pretty brown and wilted.)

My question ... How do you water a garden that big?
Photo: Lavender

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Brain Scientist Jill Bolte Taylor Talks About Her Stroke

And the "euphoria" and "nirvana" she experienced when her left brain went offline.

From her bio:
"Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist. She specializes in the postmortem investigation of the human brain.

On December 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor woke up to discover that she was experiencing a rare form of stroke, an arterio-venous malformation (AVM)."
The account she gives in this video of losing her sense of self - the boundaries of where her skin stops and the background emerges - is extraordinary. Her unique training in brain science coupled with an ability to articulate this experience is rare. I was riveted.

An excerpt:
"It was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality where I'm the person on the machine (she was on a cardio-glider exercise machine) having the experience to some esoteric space where I'm witnessing myself having this experience."

"I'm standing in my bathroom getting ready to get into the shower ... I lost my balance and I'm propped up against the wall and I looked down at my arm and I realized I could no loner define the boundaries of my body. I can't define where I begin, and where I end, because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall."

"Because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body I felt enormous, and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there. And all of a sudden my left hemisphere comes back on line and it says to me "Hey! We got a problem. We got a problem. We've got to get some help."
I loved her description of brain circuitry ... the right brain processes in parallel, the left brain in series. It exemplifies the left brain's temporal quality (its associations with time, linearly - past, present and future), but the right brain's preoccupation with the present.

Monday, July 14, 2008

10 Maybes To Explain Americans' Widening Girth

Another list - from today's Los Angeles Times:

What's Making Us Fat?
A Critical Look At The Virus Theory, The Corn Syrup Conjecture And Other (Wishful?) Thinking

Below are their 10 Maybes. Each item in the list, if you go to the story, is explained in a little more depth.
  • Maybe we're too stressed.
  • Maybe a virus is to blame.
  • Maybe the temperature is just right.
  • Maybe it's all that high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Maybe low-fat foods made us eat more.
  • Maybe we take too many drugs
  • Maybe we're doomed before birth.
  • Maybe there's too much pollution.
  • Maybe we're not sleeping enough.
  • Maybe we shouldn't have stopped smoking.
Not more exercise?

My feeling on it, today at least, is that the type of food we eat has changed. It has become more processed.

Do you have a take on it?
Photo of University of Wisconsin, River Falls, 1949 Women's Softball Team from UWRF. There are a few more photos there.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lavender's Garden In June

(I'm moving Lavender's post from last week up to today since she has some updates to it - at bottom.)

Lavender brings us up-to-date:

Click for larger.
"In the garden picture, you can see how well the onions and beets are doing in the raised beds. The cukes are coming along nicely along the left side by the lattice that is on the ground. And in the very back you can see the green beans behind Susannah's pea vines which are in the process of being replaced by black eyed peas. The romas in the closer end of the garden behind the perennial herb bed are doing very well and we discovered an Early Girl pinking up this morning! Susannah wanted to know if I wanted fried green tomato for breakfast."
Fried green tomato ... Two, please.

(See Lavender's commencement here.)

"Parts of the garden look brown and unused. Those are places where I just pulled the black plastic off and put somewhere else. It did an excellent job of killing the weeds for me. There is space to plant more greens for the fall. I could probably plant some bush beans still and have them make beans before the first frost. I'll have to see if anyone has bush bean seeds left.

Favorite garden tool: the stirrup hoe"
She promises a photo of her freshly picked beets :)
And to anyone wanting to start a garden, she recommends The Square Foot Gardener: "It is simple and low key."
Photo: Lavender

Beets, My New Favorite Food

Have another bite.

I haven't had a beet since third grade. It was pickled. I didn't like it.

Given this list, I thought it was time to give beets another go.

I roasted one whole for about 40 minutes. It was hard and a little bitter. Nope.

I boiled some for about an hour. They were softer and sweeter but much of the color, and probably the nutrients, ended up in the water. Since I'm doing this for the nutrients, well. Nope.

Yesterday I roasted another one. (See photo.) This time I wrapped it in foil to keep it moist and kept it in the oven for 90 minutes (350ºF). What a difference technique can make. These are a goer. Yessiree. Beets. My new favorite food.
Photo: Homegrown

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Licit Drug Trade In America, Part II

Another passage from the book I'm reading, "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating A Nation" by Charles Barber:
"Valium makes one feel very good very quickly, in less than an hour. The relaxing sensations are wonderful and soothing. They are also tremendously addictive, physically and psychologically. Anybody experienced in working with addictions will tell you that "benzo addiction" is particularly difficult and painful to overcome, often requiring lengthy inpatient treatment to address. I have spoken to many addicts who have said that benzos are the most difficult of all drugs to kick."
And the following from an Australian manual on detoxification: 1

Some common benzodiazepines:

Click for larger.

And a note on their addictive qualities:
"Low dose benzodiazepine therapy for as little as six weeks can result in a full withdrawal syndrome lasting one to six weeks. Withdrawal symptoms lasting six months to one year with diminishing intensity have been reported."
Do prescribing docs routinely counsel on the addictive potential of these drugs?

Barber says that when Valium was introduced in the early 1960s, it was not thought to be addictive:
"It wasn't until later that an unanticipated tragic flaw to Valium emerged. The pills were highly addictive when they weren't supposed to be. Despite initial claims that the drug had neither addiction potential nor caused a withdraw syndrome, anecdotal and then scientific evidence soon suggested otherwise."
He also addresses the dependence aspects of the newer antidepressant Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs, e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa):
"SSRIs were initially marketed as being dependence- and withdraw-free; indeed, those qualities which stood in stark contrast to the benzodiazepines, were a dramatic part of their initial appeal. There has since been a creeping awareness that this was wrong."
And quotes David Healy, author of a 2003 Briefing Paper on SSRIs & Withdrawal/Dependence:
"It is now clear that the rates at which withdrawal problems have been reported on [Paxil] exceed the rates at which withdrawal problems have been reported on any other psychotropic drug ever."
Healy also says that drug manufacturers "knew all along that there were dependence and withdrawal problems with the SSRIs," but "appear not to have informed regulators of their findings."

This is one eye-opening book.
1 New South Wales Detoxification Clinical Practice Guidelines

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Radiation May Be Good For You? in their article Radiation For Health explains how this works:
"Evidence suggests that low dose exposure increases the number and activity of the immune system's white blood cells, boosts cytocrine and enzyme activity, and increases antibody production and so reduces the incidence of infection, assists in wound healing, and protects us from exposure to high doses of radiation."
This is going to take some convincing for me. I'd love to be convinced, though, especially since I live fairly close to a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plants emit low-level radiation.

To the right is a snippet from a brochure that Exelon, the owner of that nuclear power plant, distributed this year. You'll have to click it to read it. Even then, that footnote sourcing their data is tiny. Isn't there any info more recent than 1987?

The amounts in Exelon's chart are given in millirems (mrem). For comparison:
  • 100 mrem = 1 mSv

  • CT scan head = 2 mSv 1
  • Barium enema = 7 mSv 1
  • CT scan abdomen = 10 mSv 1
  • EPA nuclear accident emergency action level = 10–50 mSv 2
Humans rely upon UV radiation from the sun to make vitamin D in skin cells. That mechanism is our primary source for that nutrient. I'm not sure but I think those UV wavelengths are non-ionizing. Nonetheless, it's evident we evolved in an environment that contains low levels of radiation and can capitalize on at least some of it. But is it possible that radiation deficiency states exist? At what level of exposure does radiation cease to support health?

The following articles appeared in their respective journals over the past few years:

Abundant Health From Radioactive Waste, International Journal of Low Radiation, 2008
"A radiation deficiency is seen in a variety of species, including rats and mice; the evidence for a radiation deficiency in humans is compelling."
Nuclear Law Stands On Thin Ice, International Journal of Nuclear Law, 2008
"Eight independent epidemiological studies, involving almost 12 million person-years, consistently showed that increased exposure to ionising radiation was associated with decreased cancer mortality rates."
Radiation Prevents Much Cancer, International Journal of Low Radiation, 2007
"Evidence reviewed here supports the concept that chronic exposure to ionising radiation can dramatically decrease cancer incidence and mortality. This evidence includes an inverse relationship between radiation levels and cancer induction and/or mortality in: over 200 million people in the USA; 200 million people in India; 10,000 residents of Taipei who live in cobalt-60 contaminated homes; high radiation areas of Ramsar, Iran; 12 million person-years of exposed and carefully selected control nuclear workers; almost 300,000 homes with radon in the USA; non-smokers in high radon areas of Saxony, Germany."
Documented Optimum And Threshold For Ionizing Radiation, International Journal of Nuclear Law, 2007
"Ambient levels of ionising radiation (about 2 mSv/y without medical and cosmic radiation) are adequate for life but insufficient for abundant health. We live with a partial deficiency of ionising radiation. Thousands of people have lived for generations with 2–20 times the ambient levels of radiation without showing ill health."
Improved Health From Chernobyl, International Journal of Low Radiation, 2006
"High and low dose irradiation elicit opposite results. Irrefutable evidence from three arenas provides ample evidence that low-dose irradiation improves health."

The above articles were authored by T. D. Luckey, PhD. Here's an excerpt from his bio:
"In 1968, I lectured to the sixth group of NASA astronauts on the subject of intestinal microecology. As a result, I became a nutrition consultant with NASA for Apollo 11 through 17 missions. For a brief time I consulted for the Boeing Co., St. Louis, MO, about the sterilization of the outer surface of Moon rockets following launch (since “we” were not to contaminate the moon, everything was to be sterile). During a sabbatical leave, 1968–69, I was visiting scientist at the GE Manned Space Center in Valley Forge, PA."
Before his work with NASA, Luckey was a professor at the University of Notre Dame (1946 - 1954), and professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical School of the University of Missouri (1954 - 1968). He's authored two books on the topic of ionizing radiation and hormesis (stimulation by use of a low concentration of toxin).

An admirable background. It makes it difficult to tell if he's coming from left field.
1 FDA: Radiation Risks from CT
2 Wikipedia: Ionizing Radiation

Friday, July 04, 2008

T. Colin Campbell Blogs

T. Colin Campbell, author of the popular The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health, has started a blog on The Huffington Post.

Here's his first post:

The China Study

I agree with much that he says here. A few choice statements:
"The use of nutrient supplements is not about nutrition but about pharmacology."

"We consume the wrong food, we get sick and we die but not before we consume buckets of pills to pave our way to the promise land, while filling the wallets of those who produce such things."

"Though there are many things to scream about, the one that needs a good loud yell is the so-called debate by politicians about who has the best health care plan. They all talk about who's going to pay the bill as if this is going to solve the problem while none talk seriously about how to improve health."
He doesn't discuss diet specifics here, but it's no secret where Campbell falls on the spectrum of diets. I still hold that there's no one diet that's best for everyone.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Melinda's Garden In June

Melinda brings us up-to-date:

Click for larger.
"Am enclosing two pix of the raised beds. I've already gotten a few ripe tomatoes (Early Girl and Fourth of July), and there are some cukes coming along. There are potential zucchini (female flowers at the end of the "ovary" just begging to be impregnated, but there are no male flowers on the plant at the moment! Damn!). There's also chard & herbs & one Turkish eggplant (looks like an orange tennis ball). But overall the eggplants aren't doing too well--they had flea beetles early on, and their leaves have lots of tiny holes now. As well, my experiment w/ growing potatoes from big-"eyed" chunks of older potato has failed, I fear (they're not in the raised beds, but in another large pot). I may have kept them too wet. I *would* like to be able to grow *some* main-dish thing like potatoes myself. Hope the onions don't suffer the same fate."
I know those little Turkish eggplants. Seedy little things.

(See Melinda's commencement here.)
Photos: Melinda

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Eleven Foods, Including Beets

Lavender's mention of beets reminded me of this post B sent along yesterday:

The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating

If I can substitute dried grapes for dried plums, I'm doing pretty well. I'll have to work on the beets, though.

How about you?
Photo: Laughing Stock Farm

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Licit Drug Trade In America, Part I

In his book, "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating A Nation", Charles Barber goes on to say:
"In the 1970s and 1980, the profitability of Fortune 500 drug companies was double the median for all industries in the Fortune 500. In the 1990s, the drug industry's profitability grew to almost four times the median. By the early 2000s, it had increased to almost eight times the median."
And ...
"Psychiatric drugs are the number-one therapeutic category among the world's top two hundred prescription medicines."

"In 2006, 227 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in the United States, more than any other class of medication."
This last point surprised me, as it looks like it might for those who took a stab at the answer in the question in my last post. If so many people are taking these drugs, why don't we know about it? Is this a subject that's still swept under the carpet?

Drug companies are falling over themselves in profits from mood-altering drugs, and apparently throwing ethics and science to the wind to protect those profits:
"The excesses and ethical lapses have become so blatant that even mainstream bastions of free enterprise such as Forbes have labeled the drug companies as corporate "pill pushers" and accused them of abandoning science for sales."

Promoting The Positive, Obscuring The Negative

This next part is unsettling. It's one way drug companies are protecting those profits:
"It is a dirty little secret that a good percentage of "scientific" articles in even the top journals are now "ghostwritten". ... written-to-order for drug companies, often by writers for medical communications companies, who appear to be acting as intermediaries to distance drug companies from the articles."
He gives an example:
"A Georgetown University medical professor, Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, has documented how she was contacted by RxComms, a British medical communications company, to author a review of interactions between herbs and a generic anticoagulant called warfarin. "Months later I received a completed 2,848-word draft, with an abstract, references, and a table, ready for submission to a journal, with my name on it. A note asked me to return it with any changes within seven days." Dr. Fugh-Berman declined, but no matter, another "author" was quickly found. RxComms appeared to have been hired by Astrazeneca who was preparing to release a drug to compete with warfarin."
He likens the practice of ghostwriting to money laundering.

I was shaking my head and telling myself that the big, mainstream, peer-reviewed journals must have standards that filter out ghostwritten articles:
"A 1998 review of articles published in leading journals such as The Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine found that 11 percent were ghostwritten."

e.g. "For all the articles published on Zoloft for the years 1998,1999, and 2000 ... ghostwritten articles outnumbered authentically authored articles by fifty-five to forty-one."
There's a lot more. I'll stop here for now. It's depressing.