Jun
06
2015

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

There is hardly a child that did not go through the macaroni and cheese phase. Now the maker of the Kraft’s dinner is in the news for their plan of removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. This in itself is a positive step in the right direction. Although Kraft’s is painting the positive image of being concerned about the food quality for children, I think that the trigger for the change lies in the downward spiral of the sales of junk foods. Kraft’s is not alone with this. McDonald’s has been in the news having to close down franchises and losing business to Chipotle.

Chipotle has a slogan: “whole or nothing”, meaning whole foods, no antibiotics in their meats, everything fresh.

There also has been pressure from the informed consumer. Kraft’s probably responded to the Change.org petition where 365,000 signatures were collected asking Kraft’s to remove dyes from macaroni and cheese.

Kraft did some research and found that it was indeed possible to keep the taste the same, while improving food quality by replacing food coloring with paprika, annatto and turmeric.

Food value of macaroni and cheese

So, let’s assume that this switch will be successful, which itself is positive. But what are kids actually eating? Are noodles (essentially a form of pasta) and processed cheese healthy? What about missing protein, vitamins, vegetables and lettuce?

Macaroni

I have explained before that starchy food is essentially the same as sugar. Would you say that sugar is healthy? No, because it oxidizes LDL cholesterol causing hardening of arteries leading to inflammation in the body and causing the pancreas to produce a whole load of insulin leading to hyperinsulinism with reactive hypoglycemia. This also undermines adrenal gland function causing adrenal fatigue.

Cheese

Since 1993 it is legal for the dairy industry in the US to use bovine growth hormone from Monsanto. And, yes, it is contained in processed cheese that finds its way into the cheese portion of macaroni and cheese. In Canada or Europe cheese does not contain bovine growth hormone, as it is illegal.

Here is a link that states that bovine growth hormone from dairy in the US is one of the causes of breast cancer. Now the Kraft’s macaroni and cheese story takes on a completely different twist: the longer you are exposed to this weak carcinogenic effect of cheese (due to rBGH or rBST) the higher the likelihood of developing breast cancer in girls later in life. In boys a similar glandular tissue is the prostate gland and prostate cancer in older men is common. According to the American Cancer Society research has already shown a connection between rBGH/rBST and prostate cancer later in life. I find the increased risk of breast and prostate cancer in the US concerning. However, starchy foods (the macaroni part of macaroni and cheese) are known to cause cancer of any kind because of the insulin response. So, macaroni and cheese is not an appropriate, healthy food.

Missing vegetables and salad

We need the vitamins from vegetables and salads to counter any effect of the carcinogenic effects of macaroni and cheese. Don’t stop at the pasta aisle of the supermarket.

You will need to pick up some vegetables before you go home. Often kids are reluctant to consume vegetables. One alternative is to run green leaf vegetables through the blender, add an orange and a piece of banana for better flavor and offer it as a smoothie drink.

What does this do? It adds Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Organic food

Despite the effort of changing macaroni and cheese and skipping artificial colors and flavoring substances, it does not measure up as a healthy food. Introduce new options that pack more flavor than any bland pasta product. Shop for organic food to avoid traces of pesticides and herbicides. Get used to the flavor of a Mediterranean diet without starchy foods or sugar. This diet has been associated with a long life and less disabilities in old age. So, replace the macaroni with a piece of chicken or lean grass-fed beef. Replace the cheese with vegetables. Buy an imported cheese (Parmigiano or cheddar, either organic or imported from Canada or a European country), which can be used over the vegetables. And –voila! – You got another meal, not macaroni and cheese!

The "Macaroni And Cheese" Myth

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

Reasoning

It seems that concentrating solely on changing coloring and food additives, we lost our vision of what healthy food really is. We get so worked up about the old, familiar tastes, even calling it “comfort food”, that we do not care any more about the quality of our food. This should be something, which the consumer is entitled to have, and it should not be left to the maneuvering of the food industry. We need to take the control of our kitchen back into our own hands. Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a professor of medicine and public health, asked a simple question: “What’s wrong with Girl Scout cookies?” In this article she explains her concern about GMO, sugar and trans fats in the cookies Girl Scouts sell. She makes the link between cookie consumption and obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. You may not know all the intricacies of the human body, but whatever food you decide to swallow will decide which way your metabolism goes. Do you want to become hypoglycemic, diabetic or do you just want your metabolism to stay normal?

Conclusion

Macaroni and cheese is a topic that leads to a discussion of what quality nutrition should be in general. The gold standard is a Mediterranean diet, as this is associated with longevity. At the same time it is tasty. Adults need to be aware of the side effects of junk food that I mentioned above. Despite advertisements otherwise, macaroni and cheese is not a quality food as it is deficient in vital nutrients, such as quality protein, minerals and vitamins.

May
30
2015

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Here is a recent research finding from the Mayo Clinic that caught the media’s attention: be creative, and this will prevent dementia. The study found that when people engage in creative things they could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dementia can be caused by a number of various causes. But the end result is that there is an inflammatory condition within the brain that leads to a loss of nerve cells and nerve cell connections. When brain cells and nerve cell connections are lost, memory fades, particularly in the frontal brain and in the hippocampus area.

The study

In an April 8, 2015 publication from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and Scottsdale , AZ 256 participants aged 85 years and older (median age 87.3 years, 62% women and 38% men) were followed for 4.1 years. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was measured using psychological tests. At the time of recruitment into the study all of the tests for MCI were normal. As the study progressed it became apparent that there were various risk factors that caused the onset of MCI, which is the immediate precursor of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. The finding was that the genetic marker APOE ε4 allele was associated with a risk of 1.89-fold to develop MCI and later Alzheimer’s disease. If there were current depressed symptoms present at the time of being enrolled into the study the risk of MCI development was 1.78-fold. Midlife onset of high blood pressure led to a 2.43-fold increase and a history of vascular diseases was associated with 1.13-fold higher MCI development. The good news was that four activities were associated with a lower risk to develop MCI with aging. When the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for MCI development was reduced by 73%, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life was associated with a 53% reduction in MCI development. These are very significant observations.

What we can learn from the study

When you get older it is important that you prepare yourself for an active retirement. You may want to enroll in dance classes, as this combines physical activity with brain activity where you have to remember learnt responses (from old moves you know) and also learn new dance moves (therefore creating new nerve cell connections). You could start a hobby where you create something (arts and crafts, painting etc.). Grandma Moses did this, and she not only became famous with her artwork, but she aged gracefully; she turned 101 years old).

The brain is an organ that needs to be treated with respect. We need to give it proper nutrition and avoid cardiovascular disease as it is known that whatever is good for the heart is good for the brain.

Eat a Mediterranean diet and avoid junk foods including processed foods. If at all possible eat organic foods. Take your fish oil supplements (omega-3 and DHA), as the DHA will provide the material necessary to build up new brain cells. The omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for a healthy heart and healthy blood vessels.

Regular exercise will improve your brain circulation, even in old age. If you take the steps mentioned you will at the same time prevent arthritis from developing and by cutting out sugar and starchy foods your brain will stay sharper for longer. Nurses in care homes for Alzheimer’s patients have known for a long time that Alzheimer’s patients crave sugar and sweets. This leads to hyperinsulinism and Alzheimer’s disease. So let’s take the consequences and cut out sugar and sweets to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Apart from these physical factors that have been published in many medical journals we have now an additional tool in getting the aging persons involved in crafts: social activities like journal clubs, discussion groups, walking groups, bridge groups or religious gatherings that will stimulate the brain to form new circuits and buildup new memories. Artistic activities and learning the use of the computer are additional things that will reduce the risk of developing MCI and later dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Conclusion

As the baby boomers age and enter into the old age category these observations are very important. We should think about doing some of these things now, so we do not have to overcome inertness later. The worst you can do is to become a couch potato and watch TV all of the time. Watching other people doing sports activities does nothing for you unless you walk on a treadmill while you watch TV. I do not intend to be hard on you; I am just passing on these new research findings and practicing them myself. The final choice is up to you.

 

Reference:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/09/health/creativity-socializing-delay-dementia/index.html

 

May
09
2015

Radiation From Fukushima Less Than Expected

I have blogged about the fallout from the Fukushima disaster in Japan before. At that time it appeared that the levels of radiation expected to be found on the West coast of North America around 2015 would likely be high. It did take all that time for the water with the radioactive contamination to arrive on the Western shores of North America.

The predictions were based on the known water currents in the Pacific Ocean and the amount of radioactive pollutants released. With that data it was extrapolated what would happen in the future. The future is here; we just heard about reports that the polluted water has arrived.

Direct measurements of the radioactivity of the nuclear isotope composition in the water showed that the concentration is much lower than previously assumed. So, you can swim in the ocean of the West Coast of the US and Canada and walk on the beach. The scientists who did the present calculations pointed out that an exposure to the radioactively contaminated water by swimming in the ocean for 6 hours for 7 days per week continuously for a period of one year would give you a radiation exposure 1000 times less than that of a dental X-ray. Here is a video that puts things into perspective (look at the video located on top of the page).

I highly recommend watching this. It sums up how the Fukushima disaster has affected marine life, but that the West coast of the US and Canada does not seem to be in danger of highly toxic levels of nuclear isotopes.

Why should we trust these measurements?

You may ask yourself: why should I trust these measurements? As pointed out in my previous blog, there were a number of radioactive elements released into the atmosphere and into the Pacific Ocean. Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 are both part of the Fukushima incident. They have now been measured to be present in higher than previous concentrations at the coast of British Columbia. Cesium-134 has a much shorter half-life and can therefore only come from Fukushima. But Cesium-137 that has a half-life of 30 years was also increased to a higher than previous level because of the Fukushima disaster. Underwater nuclear weapons tests in the 1940’s to early 1990 before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was enacted caused the previous baseline of Cesium-137 levels in the ocean. Fortunately only about 25% to 30% of the original accumulated load of radioactivity was left before Fukushima added more Cesium-137. The other nucleotides Iodine-131, Plutonium-238 and 239, Strontium-89 and 90 and Uranium-234 and 238 are also helping scientists to sort out the contribution of radioactive pollution from Fukushima when compared to the baseline before.

Why it matters what you eat

You may think that you are completely safe now that we have such good news about radiation associated with the Fukushima disaster. Not quite so. Any source of radiation, which includes traveling by plane, getting mammograms in women, getting CT scans, lung X-rays, dental X-rays etc. has an effect on your system. It causes an inflammatory response, which is made worse by sugar and starchy foods. Sugar and starchy foods have been known for some time to oxidize LDL cholesterol, which in turn causes inflammation in your arteries and travels through your whole body including your brain. Even Alzheimer’s disease is an inflammatory brain disease, partially caused by overconsumption of sugar and starchy foods. Now add to this radioactivity exposure, which causes a strong inflammatory process in your body from free radicals that circulate in your blood. As a result the problem with the background radiation being a bit higher than what it was before is also the oxidative stress from sugar and starchy foods causing more inflammation within the body. We need to remember that the victims of Nagasaki, Japan were the ones that did not follow the dietary advise of Dr. Akizuki. He had ordered a strict vegetarian diet, which consisted of uncontaminated brown rice, fermented foods, sea algae and vegetables. Dr. Akizuki did not allow sweets of any kind. Salt was allowed as the main condiment. Everybody was fed at least one helping of a soup with fermented soy and seaweed in it (wakame miso soup).

It was this regimen that helped tone down inflammation in the body. It countered the negative effects of the radiation of the atom bomb.

Other causes of radiation

We are exposed to the leftover of 25% of the nuclear experiments from the nuclear bomb testing (the Leftover radioactive Cesium-137 mentioned above). In addition background radiation from sunbursts and cosmic radiation have to be absorbed by our system. As the radiation fuels inflammation, we cannot afford to continue to indulge in sugar and starchy foods that lead to hyperinsulinism, inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol. If we cast all caution to the wind, we will get degenerative diseases like arthritis, inflammation of the lining of the arteries leading to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Obesity and diabetes will also undermine our health. All of this leads to disabilities and premature deaths.

Radiation From Fukushima Less Than Expected

Radiation From Fukushima Less Than Expected

Conclusion

I am glad that the Fukushima news are a lot better than anticipated for the West Coast of the US and Canada. However, we should not forget that, like the burden of radiation, certain foods (sugar, high fructose corn syrup and starch) also cause inflammation in our system. We need to remember how effective Dr. Akizuki’s diet was back in 1945 protecting those who were in immediate proximity to the atom bomb in Japan.

Today we should consume a Mediterranean diet, which is also full of antioxidants and is thought of to be anti-inflammatory.

We can also take antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C, glutathione, fish oil and others that will protect us from anything that oxidizes LDL cholesterol or produces free radicals. Common sense needs to prevail. Radiation is a burden that fuels inflammation in our bodies, but dietary measures can greatly contribute to keeping us out of trouble. Vitamin supplements in general help with their anti-oxidant effects to protect your vital organs (heart, kidneys, brain, lungs, liver, bone marrow). I have discussed this in detail under this link. Note that I am recommending Io-Plex SR, which is an iodine supplement to be taken twice per day to protect you from fluoride, bromide and chlorine pollution. It will also protect the iodine receptors in your body from traces of radioactive salts in fish, sea water and the environment.