Archive for January, 2014

What’s all this about Wheat?

January 31, 2014

A reader asked about natural sugar substitutes. Most often listed are honey, organic maple syrup, molasses, date sugar, brown rice syrup, stevia and truvia. That said, we have to ask: what is driving our craving for sweets? We can abuse any of the above as much as the chemical concoctions that lace our prepared food and beverages do.

 During WWII, sugar was rationed and we simply ate less of it. We ate smaller portions of dessert and icing on cakes was minimal. Studies both here and in Europe showed less tooth decay and increased physical health amongst the general population. After the war, we gradually resumed and surpassed our previous sugar consumption. The one inch frostings on cakes never returned but sugar was gradually added to everything we bought in cans, bottles, and boxes. No surprise, tooth decay returned, general health declined, and sickness insurance became a hot item. Insurance continues to be on center stage in everyday news and governmental debates.

 Also, during WWII, when there was a bread shortage in Europe, Willem-Karel Dicke, a Dutch physician, noticed that celiac (abdominal) disorders lessened, only to recur when Sweden dropped bread into the Netherlands from relief planes. Today one in 133 people have celiac disease (or 2 million people in the US.)

 So, what is it about wheat that louses us up? Physician William Davis, in his book, Wheat Belly, traces the development of wheat from Paleolithic times to today. It seems the original wheat had 14 chromosomes in its genetic structure. Today’s wheat, after centuries of hybridization, has 42 chromosomes, and a much higher gluten and carbohydrate content.

 In early times, wheat represented a small part of the diet. Today, wheat is present at every meal, and in most snacks, and, like sugar, we’ve gone overboard devouring it.  The average American eats 133 lbs. of wheat per year and most of us shudder at the thought of limiting our bread, crackers, muffins, cakes, cereals, pies, pizza, waffles, and much more.

So we have sugar and wheat riding in tandem and making health a challenge for us mainly because we’ve gone overboard in our consumption. Sugar and wheat might be termed national allergies that are eroding our health. Usually, when we find we are allergic to something, we eliminate the offender.

 Whether we choose to eliminate one or both of the culprits, it’s helpful to think about adding more whole foods that are both sweet and satisfying, like yams, winter squash, apples, nuts, leafy greens, carrots, and guacamole. We can try out almond or coconut flour, quinoa, and ginger root. We may end up concocting creative potlucks on the sweetest adventure ever!

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Corporations vs. Health

January 16, 2014

Obamacare seems to be a variation on the general theme of corporations mobilizing to control our lives at the expense of our health. How many examples do we need to experience before we wake up?  Stress brought about by corporate greed can lead to or exacerbate just about any health problem we have.

 Despite the fact that single payer health care has been found to be more economical and reliable elsewhere, it seems incredulous that the US can’t wise up and get with the program instead of feeding ever more corporate excess.

Locally, we can see corporate power at work in the attempts to make big bucks off an above ground energy transmission line that would claim destruction of forest lands, the threat of which has already created a hornet’s nest of family conflicts over property values. All this for corporate coffers when an economical underground line down existing state rights of way would make the state the recipient for the rent money and save the environment. Australia reduced its line maintenance by 80 percent by undergrounding. That is something to keep in mind when we have power outages due to downed lines during wind and snow storms and hurricanes.

 Corporations are also attacking water. The presence of bottled water at common meetings lets us know corporations have ‘massaged’ people into buying what they don’t need through their advertising. Coca Cola’s latest scam is to discourage restaurants from providing free water so that people will spend more money to have ANY liquids with a meal. The change has nothing to do with safety or digestion.

 Contaminated water from chemical and oil spills is daily reported in the US.  Citizens are being advised to accept changes in taste and odor, which in turn ratchets up the sale of bottled water by corporations.

 Everything is connected. More trees mean more holding tanks that purify natural water, more places for people to relax and coexist with other life forms, more chances to see the stars at night, and breathe in fresh oxygen. Less overhead wire means fewer accidents and ailments.

 Corporations are blocking food labeling that gives us the right to know what we are eating. These same corporations have already polluted our land with toxic pesticides and contaminated our heirloom seeds with GMO cross pollination. Big Ag corporations want to deny us the ability to choose what we eat. The White House sports an organic garden but supports Big Ag GMO foods for the rest of us.

 Significantly, Carl Gibson of Reader Supported News (1-4-14) reported that Monsanto, grower of GM crops, and Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, have an insidious relationship “invested in growing food that makes people sick when they eat it, and selling sick people the drugs to treat those conditions.”

 Even more damaging is the potential of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to affect our health. We’ve seen the destruction NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) has wrought on vanishing jobs outsourced to foreign countries now housing US companies. The TPP is even more powerful, takes precedence over our government and threatens to send us spiraling down further.

 People are using less electricity, conserving more, and tapping into renewable energy, in spite of corporate ‘massages’. These are positive steps. However, we also need to take it to the next level and stop the TransPacificPartnership (TPP), which gives corporations even more power worldwide.  We need to contact our US Representatives (www.house.gov) and Senators (www.senate.gov) and ask them to vote NO on presidential fast tracking and the TPP.

Obesity Declassified

January 8, 2014

Since its discovery in 1957, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) has been one of the best kept secrets of food and beverage company productions with the total support of the USDA. Currently, researchers like Robert H. Lustig, a University of California at San Francisco endocrinologist, author of Fat Chance, have begun to declassify the role HCFS plays in our obesity problem.

 As a child, I loved the Orange Soda we had on holiday family picnics and the batch of Hires Root Beer my mother brewed up each summer. Then, in the early sixties, the flavor changed; soda tasted like chemicals and was no attraction for me beyond the Root Beer floats we flavored with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I knew that chemical sweeteners had been added in increased amounts over the years, but only recently looked at the big picture. Here’s what I learned.

 High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), the darling of Big Ag corn growers, receives government subsidies that keep its price cheap and make a tidy profit from its monopoly, paid for with our tax dollars. But that’s only half of the story. HFCS, as a sweetener is much more potent than natural cane sugar, which is not subsidized and therefore more expensive and we pay the full price for natural sugar.

 In 1915, drinking a 6.5 oz soda bottle daily would cause an 8 lb. wt. gain/year. Today’s 20 oz. plastic bottle daily will cause a 26 lb. weight gain/year. The industry went from bottles to cans in 1960, and currently also sells in big, thirst buster 44 oz. cups and big  42.2 oz. plastic bottles.

 In tandem with the increase in the size of soft drink containers, food and beverage companies distracted us with the fat-free propaganda. Fat was claimed to be the culprit causing obesity. Yet, we need fat for energy and healthy nerve functioning. We need fat to transport vitamins A, D, E and K; to protect and surround organs like the heart and liver; to prolong digestion for longer-lasting satiety, and more. All this was disregarded as people were encouraged to go on a low-fat blitz. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t a fat problem before HFCS was introduced. The public was successfully blindfolded from the real culprit.

The tragedy is that the food and agriculture corporations knew exactly what they were doing, what was causing obesity to go viral. They spent years suppressing research and funding only research that supported their claim that fat was the problem. Since educational institutions are challenged to come up with research grants, having a review string attached to any corporate funds meant research to the contrary never saw print.

 So, how about the rest of the story: how does HFCS make people fat? First, we have to understand how our intestines connect with the liver and the rest of our body. If you could stretch out your intestines, they’d look like the border trim of one big umbrella. The fabric connecting it all together would be the mesenteric membrane with veins in place of the spokes and a big vein that goes to the liver in place of the handle. Anything we eat has to be broken down to a slurry fine enough to be absorbed through the wall of the intestine and into the small veins that funnel into the big vein to the liver.

The liver then decides what to do with what we eat. If we take in more sugar than the body needs for the functions mentioned above, the liver cannot store extra sugar. It converts it to fatty acids that are then sent out to be stored in all the familiar places.

 When we eat whole foods, the sugar in them shares space with nutrients and fiber that slows down transit time to the liver because the food must be chewed, then ground up in the stomach before it turns into a slurry and moves on into the intestines. Even in the intestines, food relies on a squirt of bile from the gall bladder and squirts of insulin and enzymes from the pancreas to blend it up before it moves through the mesentary to the main line to the liver.

 However, when we drink soda, it moves through the digestive track like a luge! There’s no gradual absorption. Every swig is a big hit for the liver to deal with right now! Too much soda right now means more fat stored right now. Pregnant women pass the HFCS to their developing fetuses and any offspring they nurse. The WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutritional program provided HFCS laced formula for babies that caused babies to be obese at 6 mos. of age.

Significantly, the FDA gives fructose a GRAS (Generally Rated as Safe) status. The FDA does not regard fructose as an acute toxin. It is classed as a chronic toxin. Translated, that means it only leads to chronic diseases, doesn’t kill you right off.

Lustig uses 4 interventions with his clients, who happen to be obese children.

  1. Get rid of all sugared liquid. Drink only water and milk.
  2. Eat carbohydrates with fiber- include plenty of raw veggies.
  3. Wait 20 min. for second portions.
  4. Buy your screen time, minute for minute, with physical activity time.

The first step in dealing with any problem is to know what the cause is. Whether we are obese or not, we are all affected by the problem of obesity.  Hopefully, we will provide support and encouragement to each other in our goal to keep each other well.

Sugar’s Legacy

January 8, 2014

According to Stephan Guyenet, Obesity researcher at U. Washington, in the US, we are now consuming 100lbs. of sugar a year apiece. The sugar bowl used to be at the center of every kitchen table. That custom is no longer necessary because most of the prepared products we buy are laced with sugar. Guyenet notes that in 1822, the average American ate the amount of sugar found in one of today’s 12 oz. sodas every 5 DAYS! Now, the average American eats that much sugar every 7 HOURS!

 Here is an incomplete list of forms of sugar that are listed on labels, often in multiples: corn syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, cane juice crystals, caramel, dextrin, dextrose, brown rice syrup, diatase, fructose, glucose, honey, lactose, maltose, sorbitol, mannitol, sucrose, sorghum, turbinado, maltodextrin, molasses, palm, xylose, ….

 Here’s an incomplete list of ailments spawned by excess sugar consumption: obesity, dental caries, gum disease, acid-reflux, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, several forms of cancer, stroke, liver disease, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, kidney problems, atherosclerosis, depression, attention deficit disorder, ….

So much for the bad news. Here’s the good news: Because a growing number of US citizens have requested organic produce, the produce section in supermarkets is gradually expanding to include what we’re willing to buy. Supermarkets now compete with each other to stay ahead of demand. Natural food markets and co-ops are also expanding. Michael Pollan’s caution to avoid packaged goods with more than 5 ingredients listed on the label is inspiring food companies to provide more choices for those who read labels.

 Corn Refiners Association is trying to change the name of ‘corn syrup’ to ‘corn sugar’ because of the connection the public now understands between corn syrup and health problems. Interesting to note that producers are fully aware of the toxic effects of what they encourage people to consume.

 A return to simple, home-cooked food would stop health problems in their tracks. The challenge is to find the time and discipline to do this with so much junk food cheap and right under our noses. The journey begins with that first small step to read labels, or to try some fresh produce, or to buy as much local as available, which encourages local farmers to grow more. It may begin with one special meal a week. The idea is to keep it simple.

 Who knows? We may start expanding our community good news, and enjoy more good health and strength in 2014.