Archive for October, 2014

Healthy Happiness Needs Your Vote

October 23, 2014

For several years now, Denmark has been at the top of the World Happiness Index. Since US rates number 12 on the list, behind Scandinavia, Canada and Australia, I wondered how much happiness effects general health and found an interesting study by R. Veenhoven of Erasmus Univ. Rotterdam., “Healthy Happiness: effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care”. Veenhoven analyzed 30 follow-up studies on happiness and longevity (including several from US states).

Perhaps we can learn something from Denmark. Three rights that Danes choose to provide for all citizens are free education, childcare and healthcare. Preschool education is provided in daycare facilities. Education continues up through vocational education and college.

Higher education is seen as a basic right and funded with tax dollars. By comparison, college graduates in the US are often saddled with decades of college tuition debt and have difficulty finding employment in their field. Such milestones as marriage, home-ownership and child-rearing are compromised.

Veenhoven notes that while happiness has not been found to be a cure for illness, happiness appears to protect us against falling ill, in some way. We have a better immune response, lower blood pressure, make better choices in life, are motivated to keep fit, more inclined to watch our weight, are more perceptive of symptoms of illness, cope better with threatening information, and facilitate creation and maintenance of supportive social networks.

US Healthcare has become a political football, distorted by the for-profit health care industry. Denmark’s healthcare represents 11 percent of its GDP. US healthcare sucks up 18 percent.

Denmark’s $21 an hour minimum wage also guarantees that people can support their families. McDonald’s gets away with paying employees $7.50 an hour in the US, while paying $21 an hour in Denmark. When parents have to work 2 or 3 low paying jobs to support their families, they are hardly in a position to spend quality time as a family. Many single people struggle to survive here.

Carl Gibson, in “How Voting in Large Numbers Dramatically Improves Society”( Reader Supported News 10/21/14), noted that the last election in Denmark brought out 87 percent of the population, compared to 57 percent registered voter turnout in the US.

Happiest countries value basic rights for all citizens. Politicians bent on creating more money for affluent backers do threaten Denmark’s happiness. But, thus far, Danish citizens have gotten out to vote and maintained their rights to health.

It’s time to listen up to what our politicians plan to do and to vote for those who value basic rights for all citizens. When we value basic rights for everyone, we all benefit. Our general health improves along with our happiness index.

What’s all this about Gluten-Free?

October 15, 2014

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 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 135 lbs. of wheat per year and most of us shudder at the thought of limiting our bread, crackers, muffins, cakes, cereals, pies, pizza, pasta, waffles, and much more.

Today, Gluten-Free seems to be the magic label that sells. That label continues to threaten our health with obesity as much as the Fat-Free label did. Without fat, to supply energy and provide essential nutrients to our bodies, and to carry the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K, we found that removing fat also removed those vitamins. People craved energy so much that they loaded up on carbohydrates to such excess that bodies automatically converted and stored the excess sugar as fat.

Just as we had ludicrous fat-free fruit and vegetables, now we have gluten-free water and gluten-free corn chips! (There is no gluten in corn.) Yet, the gluten-free label can have trace elements of gluten legally. Many products labeled gluten-free do have some gluten in them. The FDA requires the label to have less than 20 parts per million and labeling is voluntary.

People who are truly gluten-intolerant must monitor their diets carefully without relying on labels. Most of us are not in that category; we simply eat too much wheat. We may have cereal and toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta with garlic bread for supper. For a snack, we may have a high-energy bar loaded with wheat gluten to boost the protein content.

The easiest way to avoid excess wheat consumption is to think about adding more whole foods that are sweet, satisfying, and energizing, like yams, winter squash, apples, nuts, leafy greens, carrots and avocado, beans, eggs, fish, meat and poultry. Fall is a time to add more ginger root to keep warm. We may end up concocting creative potlucks out of the tremendous variety of wholesome foods in our fall harvest that energize us with a full charge, but without unwanted fat. For most of us, wheat can then serve as an accompaniment, not the main thread.