Apr
30
2014

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

The Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act of 1994 made it easier for people to acquire supplements and vitamins from health food stores. But since then there has been a proliferation of various products that are sold as supplements and not as drugs. It may give you the impression that all supplements are harmless, but this is not so. There are some supplements like vitamin A where you need to watch that you are not inadvertently overdosing, as toxicity is a problem; calcium supplements are also potentially toxic, if overdone. And amino acid supplements (protein supplements) can lead to an overdose of brain hormones. Here is a sample of some of the supplements that I would want you to watch.

1.Vitamin A toxicity:

Vitamin A is essential for normal night vision, for red blood cell production in the bone marrow and for the immune system. Here is a brief review about its metabolism. But while small amounts are beneficial for the body, high doses are toxic. In the 19th century the Arctic explorer Elisha Kane reported that consumption of polar bear liver caused severe headaches, drowsiness, irritability and vomiting within a few hours of ingesting it.

It is now known to be due to “pseudotumor cerebri”, a condition that mimics a brain tumor, but is caused by an acute overdose of vitamin A contained in liver (Ref. 1).

In the US where people eat enough meat, fish and dairy products, there is no overt vitamin A deficiency. Read this link to avoid overdosing with vitamin A in multiple supplements.

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

2. Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant vitamin and is needed as a co-factor for many metabolic reactions. It is participating in the production of collagen and connective tissues, helps with fatty acid transport and is necessary for the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.2). The lack of vitamin C is known as scurvy; symptoms include bleeding gums from fragile capillaries, delay in wound healing and impaired bone metabolism. Although in the earlier research it was hoped that vitamin C would prevent colds and cure cancer, more recent reevaluations found that it does not prevent you from getting colds, but it accelerates the recovery from colds by cutting down the recovery time by as much as 25 to 30% and it also does have some cancer protective effects (Ref.2). Higher doses seem to be more beneficial, but 1500 mg per day seems to now be the consensus of a reasonable upper dose limit per day.

What about kidney stones? Several studies in the past have warned about vitamin C being broken down in some people into calcium oxalate kidney stones. Here is a brief review of the literature with regard to kidney stone formation. A study regarding the DASH diet, which is used for people with high blood pressure, showed that the incidence of kidney stones is almost half for both men and women compared to controls on a normal North American diet.

There has been a concern among the medical community that vitamin C as a supplement would increase kidney stones (oxalate stones). However a 2014 study showed that when both vitamin C and vitamin E are taken as supplements, the kidney stone formation goes down.

Many inhabitants of industrialized countries including the population in the US and other countries are magnesium deficient and this can be a major factor for forming calcium oxalate stones. But it has been known for decades that those who develop kidney stones excrete more oxalates in their urine (so-called “oxalate excreters”). Here is a 1996 study that measured this in detail.

If you are taking in a lot of green smoothies from green leaf vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard) that are high in water-soluble vitamins, you may not require any vitamin C supplements. In other words, think about what else you do and eat and add it up, so you do not exceed a total of 1500 mg to 2000 mg of vitamin C per day.

If you are taking in a lot of green smoothies from green leaf vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard) that are high in water-soluble vitamins, you may not require any vitamin C supplements. In other words, think about what else you do and eat and add it up, so you do not exceed a total of 1500 mg of vitamin C per day.

3. Calcium supplements:

Calcium is a key mineral in the body, important not only for healthy bone structure, but also to balance the electrolytes within the blood, in the extra cellular fluid space and within our cells. If calcium is low, the brain is more prone to seizures and the heart can produce dangerously irregular heart beats. We definitely need a balance of calcium! Because calcium is so central to our wellbeing, several factors work together to keep our calcium levels stable: the kidneys, the thyroid, the parathyroid glands, the adrenal glands, the bone as a reservoir of calcium, the gastrointestinal tract for absorption and a good, balanced nutrition. The chapter on “Vitamins and Minerals” of Ref.3 points out that 4000 mg of calcium per day definitely causes toxicity (hypercalcemia and milk-alkali syndrome).

Absorption is dose dependent meaning that only 500mg of calcium carbonate is absorbed at a time. Vitamin D3 deficiency leads to reduced calcium absorption. But with high doses of vitamin D3, which is now often recommended, more calcium is absorbed, so it is important not to take too many calcium supplements. They can also interfere with iron and zinc absorption and when more than 2600 mg of calcium is taken magnesium absorption is inhibited as well. Calcium can interfere with thyroid hormone supplements (take 4 hours apart) and may reduce the effect of calcium channel blockers, drugs used for angina or high blood pressure.  There is a balance between calcium stored in bone (99% of total body calcium) and the circulating portion of 1% of calcium in the blood. The parathyroid hormone and calcitonin are also involved in this balance. Hypercalcemia is the condition when calcium is too high. Common causes are the improper use of diuretics (thiazide diuretics), overuse of calcium carbonate supplementation (often for osteoporosis) and overuse of vitamin D3, which increases the absorption of calcium (Ref.3). See your family doctor for blood tests and advice what to do in your case.

4. High protein diets and protein (amino acid) supplements:

Many protein supplements are available through health food stores and vitamin stores. The advertisers often state that our food would be substandard and these supplements would help “to regain strength”.  Athletes hope to get stronger muscles from amino acid supplements because they are the building block for protein that builds up muscles. Fact is that no supplements are needed when you eat balanced meals containing meat and fish and you exercise regularly. The protein in your food will be broken down into amino acids and your body metabolizes this into your own protein. Here is a website that reviews the subject of supplementation with amino acids.

It is clear from this that this is a rather complex problem. Vegetarians may require these supplements to replace protein for the missing meat intake. But the rest of us have to guard ourselves against overdosing with too much meat, amino acids supplements or protein supplements.

High protein diets (Atkins diet and others) have been glorified as being helpful for weight loss. But the long-term effect of such diets lead to chronic kidney damage in those with diabetes and high blood pressure as evidenced by protein leakage in the urine (called ”microalbuminuria”, Ref.4).

According to this reference the average protein requirement is 0.6 g of protein/kg body weight/day. This text comments that this would be compatible with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for protein intake. For a person weighing 140 lbs. this translates into about 50 grams of protein per day. Here is a website that explains the upper limit of meat intake with the example of an 8-ounce portion of top sirloin steak.

Protein supplements have become very popular, but you need to be careful when you supplement with this that you do not get an overdose of amino acids. Amino acid profiling has been useful for physicians and naturopaths to examine deficiencies in children or adults checking for essential amino acids in the blood.  However, in the industrialized countries such as the US, Canada and others the larger concern is now the overuse of meat in our food (e.g. Atkins-like diets) and protein supplements. The same amino acid screening tests will find several of the ingredients (amino acids) in these protein supplements to be too high. In this case it is imperative to stop the protein supplements to prevent amino acid toxicity.

This study warns that not enough is known how performance-enhancing supplements affect the metabolism of the body. There are discussions that perhaps upper limits for amino acid supplements need to be established:

5. Creatine supplementation:

Other supplements of concern are creatine supplementation in the sports-minded and in athletes who want to build up muscle mass. Creatine is synthesized by the liver form amino acids derived from fish and meat that is broken down into the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. So, there is no shortage, but athletes and sports minded people want to push the envelope and take in additional creatine that helps their energy metabolism (ATP production) in the muscles to increase their performance (Ref. 5) Creatine is vital for the brain, the heart, the kidneys and the eyes (retina). It is a buffer for lactic acid during anaerobic exercise. Some of the side effects are muscle cramps, diarrhea, fluid retention and kidney failure when exposed to high heat and dehydration. There are no long-term studies of the use of creatine supplements, yet some athletes are taking them long-term.

Conclusion:

We are tempted by various merchants and infomercials to take in more and more vitamins and supplements including protein and amino acid supplements. But when you eat well-balanced meals, preferably organic food, you already have enough protein, nutrients, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A contained in food. So you may be inadvertently putting a strain on your kidneys that have to eliminate whatever it is that is too much for your body to take. Your liver may also be quietly working overtime as well. Your brain gets overactive by the surplus of amino acids that are utilized by the brain to make brain hormones. Your system can only take so much; at one point a surplus of supplements will make you sick! So, be vigilant and think about what your regular food intake already provides. Do you really need that supplement or do you already get enough from your food intake? Are you falling for some marketing scheme? Remember, you are the steward of your own health!

References:

1.Shannon: Chapter 69: The Vitamins. Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed.© 2007 Saunders

2. Mandell: “Water-Soluble Vitamins”. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed. © 2009 Churchill Livingstone

3. Rakel: Chapter “Disturbances in Calcium and Phosphate” and chapter entitled “Vitamins and Minerals”. Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed. © 2011 Saunders

4. “High Dietary Protein Intake” in “Taal: Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney”, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders

5. DeLee: DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2009 Saunders

Last edited April 30, 2014

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Sep
07
2013

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, constantly on the go. They did not have to think too much about their muscle and joint health, they simply moved them. In our society this has changed a lot. At work we spend hours sitting at a desk, and then we use computers and watch television at home. Instead of walking to the neighborhood store, we use our car.

Here I will review what we can do to keep our joints and muscles in top shape until a ripe old age.

Brief intro regarding the anatomy of joints and muscles

Our joints are designed to give us full mobility. But the joints cannot do it alone. The muscles are designed to allow the joints to move in a full range. Without exercise the muscles will shrivel up (medical term “atrophy”) within only 2 to 3 weeks. So without regular exercise your joints won’t do you any good. Besides the joint capsules need regular stretching in full range exercises to produce the lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) that nourishes the joint surfaces and the menisci of the knees. Think of muscles and joints as being a functional unit designed to move you about.

Our joints have aerodynamic designs to do the most optimal job for our body. For instance the knees have more of a hinge design that includes menisci for shock absorption while the shoulders and hips have more of a ball and socket type construction.

Wear and tear with aging

It is usually thought that injuries and aging wear down the joints. But there are other factors such as the wide spread use of statins that can contribute to muscles weakness. Ironically statins are taken to protect the heart, but side effects can interfere with the ability to exercise your heart because of aching muscles and joints.

With optimal nutrition and avoidance of wheat and wheat products to prevent autoimmune arthritis (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis) your joints can stay young for much longer (explained further below). But your joints and muscles need to move through a full range of motion regularly to keep the blood circulation and nutrition of their tissues in top shape.

What causes joint deterioration?

Aging, weight gain, diabetes, smoking and lack of exercise all are known to cause a worsening of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, but also rheumatoid arthritis. The wrong diet with lots of sugar and starch and trans fats (hamburgers, pasta, sugar soda drinks) causes hyperinsulinemia (insulin overproduction, like in type 2 diabetes) and is almost guaranteed to make you sick with arthritis, obesity and diabetes.

There is also evidence that wheat causes inflammation and arthritis by stimulating your pancreas to produce too much insulin. This has been proven for dogs and for humans. A good diet book to follow is Dr. William Davis “Wheat Belly Cookbook” (Ref. 1) with 150 recipes. If you are overweight, these recipes will also help you to lose some weight effortlessly.

A caution to marathon runners: the constant pounding of prolonged jogging can cause osteoarthritis of hips and knees decades down the road. You may want to switch to different exercises before this happens.

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

What helps joints?

Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid helps to prevent inflammation of your joints. Vitamin D3 will help your bones to be strong to support the tendons and ligaments. Chicken cartilage can build up joint cartilage within a few weeks! So, if you feel pain in your joints use 3 capsules of omega-3 (the strong, molecularly distilled ones) twice per day. This will help your joint inflammation within 3 to 4 weeks. If this alone is not enough add chicken cartilage from the health food store, which will help to build up the hyaline cartilage within your joints. For those who are questioning the effect of chicken cartilage, here is a 1993 chicken cartilage Harvard study proving it.

Below are more general steps that will help your joints, ligaments and muscles.

Maintaining health of joints and muscles

a)    It starts with good nutrition.

Hamburgers and deep fried French fries will not do the trick. Muscles require protein from meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. If you are a vegetarian you need to become knowledgeable on what essential amino acids are and what combination of vegetables will give you the amino acid composition to build up a full protein.

Joints need ingredients from cartilage, which you find in chicken cartilage (available in health food stores as fikzol (type II cartilage). I you prefer, chicken soup would also give you the ingredients to build up cartilage, but it would require a lot of regular chicken soup consumption to achieve this.

Sugar and starchy foods, which are broken down within half an hour after a meal into sugar in your blood, cause an insulin response from your pancreas. This in turn can cause inflammation in your joints and tendons. It is interesting to note that type 2 diabetes and arthritis are associated. A ketogenic, low sugar/starch diet will prevent arthritis and diabetes as it reduces the insulin level in the blood, which in turn turns off inflammation in the joints.

b)   Supplements:

Omega-3 fatty acids will help control any inflammation including the inflammation from arthritis (you need 3 capsules of the concentrated, molecularly distilled fish oil twice per day to achieve this).  DMSO gel, available in health food stores in the US, can also be used to rub onto inflamed joints. It will penetrate tissues rapidly, is nontoxic and helps control inflammation along with the omega-3 fatty acids. Regular anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) are harsh on your kidneys and can irritate the gastric lining causing bleeding gastric erosions, so definitely not recommendable.

Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both is available in the health food store and has been shown to help with osteoarthritis. I contributes to building up hyaline cartilage.

c)   Watch your weight:

It has been shown that the rate of degenerative arthritis (=osteoarthritis) in obese people is much higher when compared to slim people.

d)   Exercise:

You need to move your joints, ligaments and muscles every day to maintain their strength and range of motion. A daily workout at home or in a gym is best. I recommend 30 minutes of a treadmill or equivalent (jogging, Stairmaster etc.) as aerobic exercises. Then you need 30 minutes of isometric exercises like a circuit on exercise machines in the gym or dumbbells and expanders (resistance bands) at home. I consider this as the basic fitness routine every day.

Ballroom dancing and Latin dancing or Zumba is also a good combination exercise, which I would recommend on top of the basic exercise. Dancing helps to maintain your balance as well, which is something the older population tends to lose. In addition dancing stimulates your brain cells and makes you less vulnerable to develop dementia in old age.

Other aerobic exercises that can be recommended are walking (brisk walk) and/or intermittent jogging. Swimming has the advantage particularly for arthritis sufferers that you are floating. It allows you to exercise your leg and arm muscles, even if you have some arthritis pains.

e)  Pain relief: What could you do for pain relief? I do not like NSAIDs as this will damage your kidneys on the long-term and cause gastric erosions that can bleed massively. Electro acupuncture is very useful for muscle and joint pains and has no side effects. Physiotherapy treatments are useful to recondition your muscles and build up the range of motion of your joints. Chiropractic treatments for back and neck pain will also help. Instead of narcotics, why not try low dose Naltrexone (LDN). It has been shown to help with the pain of fibromyalgia.

Conclusion

In this brief review I have attempted to show you that your body is not on a one-way street in the direction of disability and death. There is a lot we can actively do to prevent this from happening prematurely. Just eat right, supplement (if you have symptoms), exercise and be active. Soon you will no longer be aware of your previously achy joints or muscles, as the pain tends to melt away when you are reconditioned.

More information on fitness: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/fitness/

References:

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Aug
24
2013

Pimples And Acne Can Be Caused By Food

For a long time nobody knew why teenagers get acne. But many assumed that it would come from hormonal changes as teenagers grow up. But why then are there some ethnic regions in the world where teenagers do not get acne? In this blog I will present the background that shows that wheat, sugar and dairy products are the culprits. They are not eaten in those regions of our planet where acne does not exist.

Regions where acne does not exist

1. The Kitivan Islanders of Papua New Guinea have no cases of acne in teenagers. They adhere to the old hunter/gatherer diet of no sugar, no alcohol, no wheat and no grains. Instead they eat root vegetables such as sweet potato, yam, taro, tapioca; fruit like papaya, pineapple, banana, mango, watermelon, guava and pumpkin; and also vegetables, coconuts and fish.

2. African Bantus and Zulus: These original African warriors eat a low glycemic diet with no wheat, no milk and no refined sugar or starches. Their teenagers and young adult do not have acne, if they stick to the original tribal diet.

3. Aché hunter/gatherers of Paraguay: a study by researchers from the Colorado State University in 2002 showed that sugar, wheat and other high-glycemic foods were missing in the diet of these native tribes. As a result they have no acne when they consume this type of diet, which is very similar to the Kitivan Islanders of Papua New Guinea.

4. Japan’s Okinawans when sticking to their original diet before 1970 had clear complexion and no pimples (acne). But as this link shows the McDonald’s and other fast foods with too much salt, too much sugar, wheat, deep fried and convenience foods entered the scene after 1970 and the acne rate went up to the American level.

5. The natives of the Purus Valley in Brazil: A dermatological examination of 9955 school children age 6 to 16 showed an acne incidence of only 2.7%. In contrast in Westernized countries the rate of acne is 60 to 80%. The diet in this region is again similar to the other groups already mentioned above.

6. Canadian Inuit before 1950 did not consume dairy products and were acne free. Since then there has been a steady increase of dairy products, soda, beef, and processed foods.

How acne develops

The medical term for pimples or acne is “acne vulgaris”. For years it has been postulated that hormones and medication can cause acne. According to Ref.1 there are several steps that work together in causing acne. The hair follicle and sebaceous gland work as one unit. Male hormones, called androgens play an important role in the development of acne, both in males and females. Testosterone in males is not only produced in testicles, but also in the skin itself. It gets converted by an enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, into the much more active metabolite dihydrotestosterone. In individuals with hypersensitive receptors in the sebaceous gland this will cause blockage in the sebaceous gland duct and at the same time stimulate the sebaceous gland oil production leading to the formation of a keratotic plug. White heads and black heads are formed this way. Contributing factors are inflammatory substances that are caused by insulin release stimulated by sugar, wheat and starch intake. This stimulates IGF-1 receptors in the skin, which causes growth of the subcutaneous skin layers, which is pushing up from the layer below the skin, kinking the sebaceous gland duct and causing acne pustules (pimples) to form. A skin bacterium, called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), is getting trapped in the pimple causing a local skin infection, which in turn can cause acne cysts and furuncles, particularly in males where there is a family history of acne. High cortisol levels from stress can also be a contributing factor in causing acne. Today’s teenagers are exposed to a lot of stresses from exams, competitive sports and peer pressures.

Females with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) have higher androgen production from ovarian cysts, which results in acne as well.

Both male and female teenagers experience an androgen surge when puberty sets in. If the teenager avoids the additional insulin response, which comes from eating sugar, starch, grain and particularly from consuming wheat and wheat products, the plugging up of skin pores will not occur, meaning these teenagers will be acne free. Some teenagers are also sensitive to milk protein from milk and milk products. In sensitive people whey protein allergy causes the same insulin/skin IGF-1 response described above, which leads to blocking of skin pores. If there is no blockage in the hair follicle, the P. acnes bacteria will stay on the surface of the skin (these bacteria are part of the normal skin flora) and the sebaceous gland secretions flow unimpededly to the surface of the skin keeping  it naturally lubricated. These observations are further confirmed by a study from Malaysia in 2012 showing that a high glycemic load diet with milk and ice cream caused worsening of acne in teenagers of both sexes.

Pimples And Acne Can Be Caused By Food

Pimples And Acne Can Be Caused By Food

Treating acne correctly

A)   Conventional acne treatment

This is a thorny issue, because Big Pharma has a firm hand in the treatment of acne and they are supporting symptomatic treatment of acne rather than treating the cause. There are surface treatment modalities that are supposed to open the skin pores: peeling agents such as benzoyl peroxide. General practitioners often treat the infection with antibiotic pills (tetracycline or erythromycin), but this is not treating the cause, only the super infection that comes from the plugged up skin pores (stasis of sebaceous gland secretions). Another approach is topical application of antibiotic and peeling agent in combination (1% clindamycin and 5% benzoyl peroxide gel), which is applied twice daily (Ref.2). Resistant cases, usually the ones who have a family history of severe acne, have been treated by a skin specialist who has a special license to treat with isotretinoin (Accutane), a vitamin A derivative, which works in many cases, but which can have serious side effects. These include skin dryness, eye dryness, muscle and bone pains, headaches, liver enzyme abnormalities, and instability of mood including depression and causing birth defects in the fetus of a pregnant woman (Ref. 3). In 2009 the manufacturer stopped distributing the drug in the US, because of too many lawsuits regarding damages from the drug.

I am not saying you should ever take this toxic medication. What I am saying is that treating symptoms, but not the cause has led to peculiar drug manufacturing. This drug is now used to treat brain cancer and pancreatic cancer.

B)   Dietary approach to treat acne

There has been a renewed interest in the last 40 years to sort out the connection between dietary factors and acne.

The most straightforward treatment in my opinion is to modify what you eat.

A clinical trial from the University of Melbourne in 2007 showed that a low-glycemic diet reduced the acne lesions by 22% compared to a control group.

Two factors are clear: a low-glycemic diet produces fewer pimples, the stricter the low-glycemic diet is applied, the more effective the treatment will be. Up to 50% reduction in acne lesions were observed among patients with acne who adhered to a strict low-glycemic index diet in just 12 weeks. There is also evidence that milk and other dairy products can contribute to acne, which works through the same mechanism of IGF-1 stimulation mentioned above.

A US study from Boston showed a 22% increase in acne lesions with total milk consumption and increase of 44% after skim milk consumption.

Omega-3-fatty acid supplementation is useful for inflammatory acne in about 2/3 of the cases as this study showed. Here is a patient from this study who benefitted from omega-3 supplementation. The baseline image is seen with inflammatory acne lesions on his cheek. Only 12 weeks after taking 3 Grams of omega-3 supplementation daily his face looked much improved.

Conclusion

There is a lesson to be learnt from the analysis of the regions in the world where acne does not exist and from all these observational studies mentioned. Cutting out wheat, wheat products, grains, sugar, milk and milk products will lead to amazing results regarding acne prevention and improvement of patients who suffer from acne. We have been lulled into believing that medical science will give us a magic pill or magic potion that would solve our complexion problems. As mentioned above one of the “magic pills” (isotretinoin) is so toxic that it is now used for cancer treatments. All along we allowed the food industry to destroy our complexion by inducing an insulin and IGF-1 response that plugged up our skin pores. We can open them up by eliminating wheat and wheat products, sugar, high-glycemic foods as well as dairy products.

More information on acne: http://nethealthbook.com/dermatology-skin-disease/acne-vulgaris/

References

  1. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., Saunders 2012. Chapter 73 : Acne Vulgaris and Acne Rosacea, by Sean H. Zager, MD
  2. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., © 2009 Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine, 2nd ed., © 2010 Saunders.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jul
06
2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

When your grandmother grew up there was very little convenience food, maybe ketchup and yes, there was processed cheese and coke. There were also bread and butter.

Now we go through a large grocery store and the center of the whole store is occupied by convenience food, row after row.

What is convenience food? It is pre-cooked or processed food that sits on a shelf waiting to be bought and consumed. You may be able to just eat it the way it is (power bars, fruit yoghurt snacks, ice cream, breakfast cereals etc.) or you just have to microwave it for a minute or two (ready made meals, pizzas). Even, if you make a fresh salad, you top it with a salad dressing that has been processed and may contain chemicals that are not necessarily healthy for you.

This blog is meant to make you think and get educated as a consumer. As a physician I am guided by what is healthy for you, but at the same time food needs to be interesting and taste good and be affordable.

As fat, carbohydrates and protein are the main food groups that we eat, I will deal with each of these categories first followed by vitamins and minerals, which we also need.

Fats and oils

Many convenience foods are full of saturated fatty acids, which contribute to the overall calorie count of the package and are one of the main reasons why we gain weight and deposit fat into our arteries in preparation for a heart attack or stroke down the road. As you may know the worst form of fat is hydrogenated fat, also known as “trans fat”.

It contains free radicals from the hydrogenation process, which damage your cells and interfere with normal body metabolism. Read labels and avoid any foods that have a long shelf life as this is due to hydrogenated fats and chemicals known as food preservatives.

This food group also contains sausages and other processed meat; I wrote a separate blog about this recently.

If you eat cheese, reduce your saturated fat intake by buying cheese with only 18% fat (such as Cantenaar cheese, Jarlsberg light, skim milk mozzarella and goat cheese). Avoid the rich 45% type cheeses. The best oil in your kitchen would be an organic cold pressed olive oil. It figures prominently in Mediterranean cooking.

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

Sugar, starch and other carbohydrates

A large portion of snacks from the mid section of the grocery store contains all forms of sugar: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.  You may think that a harmless fruit juice would be healthy until you see from the ingredient list on the label that it contains 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup (250 ml) of juice.

Unfortunately our body is not equipped to process all the sugar that the food industry wants us to consume and we develop insulin resistance; the liver converts the excess sugars into fat and deposits it into our arteries and as fat deposits between our guts (visceral fat) and as subcutaneous fat in the thighs, around the hips and the waist. It is no secret that a lot of obesity is related to overconsumption of sugar containing convenience foods (snacks and sugar-laden drinks).

Often low calorie alternatives contain aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is an excitotoxin damaging your brain cells and sucralose was developed in the 1950’s as an insecticide. We do not want to replace disease-promoting sugar with toxins as sweeteners. Safe alternatives for sugar are xylitol, mannitol, and stevia.

What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that your body digests bread, starchy foods such as potatoes, and pasta, rice and flour products like pizza or cookies within 30 minutes into sugar that is as harmful to your pancreas as plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The body reacts with the same overproduction of insulin converting the excess sugar into fat and depositing it in your body as described above. Much of the obesity wave we see in the past 3 decades is due to baked goods like bagels, bread, pasta and pizza. It is much better to enjoy your stevia-sweetened coffee without any bakery pieces to go along with it.

Protein in meats, dairy products and sausages

You would think that a healthy cut of meat from the grocery store would be a good source of protein for you. You probably did not think that it could be contaminated with a superbug when you bought it. This is especially true for ground meats like hamburger meat. If you bought a portion of organic meat you can be more certain that you are buying a qualitatively superior product. I discussed this whole issue of superbugs in meat and meat products in this blog recently.

We need to be aware of the agroindustry, the feedlots and what they fed the animals. I only buy organic meat and organic dairy products as my source of protein. I avoid sausages altogether because of the food additives that they contain, which are cancer causing.

The problem with prepared meats like chicken nuggets and others is that they contain breading and food preservatives and they have been deep fried, which makes these items an unhealthy choice.

What are some of the problems with dairy products? Despite the allegations that bovine growth hormone would be harmless to your health, your body thinks otherwise. Your body has hormone receptors that are very specific and bovine growth hormone can block them so your own human growth hormone from the pituitary gland cannot function properly. This is why I would recommend only organic milk products. You may have heard that in many European countries bovine growth hormone is banned for that reason.

Next the fat content of dairy products needs to be monitored: go for low-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. While we are talking about yoghurt, stay away from fruit yoghurts that have all kinds of sugar and food additives mixed in. Add fruit of your choice and stevia, if you need a sweet taste.

Vitamins and minerals

The more foods are processed, the less natural vitamins and minerals stay behind. Particularly vitamin C and the B complex group are affected, but also magnesium, which is an important co-factor to enzymatic reactions within our cells. Often processed foods contain too much salt with sodium displacing potassium from the cells resulting in a lack of energy and high blood pressure.

Your best prevention is to stick to as little processed food as possible and to eat organic. If you eat enough organic greens and vegetables, there is an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Prepare your own soups as canned products are high in sodium; another unwanted additive is often sodium glutamate (MSG), which comes under many disguised names. It belongs to the group of excitotoxins like aspartame and is not welcomed by your brain cells.

Public Awareness

Lately there has been more of public interest and awareness to the detrimental effects of convenience foods. Alarming reports about the increase in the obesity rates, the rise in diabetes type 2 even in children have been in the media for some time. The publications are not only North American, but also European, as can bee seen in this link.

New legislation is being introduced in many states of the US regarding school snacks and vending machines in schools.

Not all food news is bad. Recently it was reported that fish oil could protect against the effects of junk food. Omega-3-fatty acids contained in fish oil are helping to rebalance the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6-fatty acids in food, which often is disbalanced towards an overabundance of omega-6 fatty aids in processed foods. Rebalancing the omega3/omega6 ratio in food helps to normalize the metabolism of the brain and prevents hardening of arteries.

What you can do to get healthy food

It starts when you buy food. Read labels and look for calories, sugar, fat and sodium content. You may be surprised how many stores carry organic foods now. The price may not be that much more. There is a useful app for your cell phone, Buycott, that you may want to download. This way you can scan items in the store and find out what ingredients are contained in a particular food item and which company produces it.

With meats it is particularly important to buy organic (because of superbugs and also because of the aspect that feed lot animals often receive antibiotics and hormones). Stick to organics also with vegetables and greens (xenoestrogens in non-organic greens that block hormone receptors). Milk products also need to be organic because of the bovine growth hormone facts mentioned above.

When you eat out, things become more difficult unless you find an organic food restaurant. You can always prepare your own salad for lunch with organic greens and a lean protein food, which you keep refrigerated until you are ready to consume it. On weekends a portable picnic in a park can be a great way to relax and socialize, especially in summer.

More information about nutrition: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014

Jun
01
2008

Boost Babies’ Health with Mom’s Diet

Prenatal supplements and good advice on proper nutrition during pregnancy have long been included in proper prenatal care. Importance has been placed on folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in the fetal development. Calcium is recommended, often in the form of dairy products, but it does not end there: just swallowing the supplement and adding some more milk may be helpful but not quite enough. Certain dietary habits have been found more beneficial, such as the eating habits in the Mediterranean countries. A research team from the University of Crete in Heraclion, Greece included women who were involved in antenatal care at all general practices in Menorca, Spain. The study took place in the time frame of 12 month starting in 1997. After six and a half years 460 children were also included in the analysis.

Dietary habits were studied and assessed by food questionnaires and the children were assessed for the development of allergies and asthma.

Boost Babies’ Health with Mom’s Diet

Boost Babies’ Health with Mom’s Diet

The children of mothers who consumed the most vegetables, fish and legumes were almost 80% less likely to have persistent wheeze and more than 40 % less likely to have allergies. The results are consistent with the fact that a high level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy is protective not only to the mother but also to the child.

More information about prenatal visits (where nutritional habits are checked as well): http://nethealthbook.com/womens-health-gynecology-and-obstetrics/pregnancy-labor-delivery-2/prenatal-visits/

Reference: The Medical Post, April 22, 2008, page 25

Last edited December 18, 2014

Jun
01
2005

Pancreatic Cancer And Processed Meats

A large multi-ethnic study analyzed data from 190,545 men and women at the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii. In an average follow-up time of 7 years there were 482 incidents of pancreatic cancer, and it became obvious that processed meats play a role in the increase of pancreatic cancer. After taking other risk factors into consideration like a positive family history, age, smoking and diabetes mellitus, those patients who consumed the largest amount of processed meats had a 67% increased risk for pancreatic cancer as opposed to those who had the lowest intake of these foods. A diet rich in red meats increased the risk by about 50%.

Poultry, fish, dairy products and egg intake showed no pancreatic cancer risk factor, nor did it matter how much fat, saturated fat or cholesterol was consumed over the 7 year observation period.

The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Ute Noethlings, observes that the risk increase is a consequence of the meat preparation with carcinogens. The main culprit would very likely be sodium nitrite, which is a preservative that also enhances the meat color.

Pancreatic Cancer And Processed Meats

Pancreatic Cancer And Processed Meats

For the consumer it means taking a critical look at processed meats before picking up sausages with your next shopping. Read the labels, avoid sodium nitrite. Your pancreas will thank you for it!

More information on pancreatic cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/pancreatic-cancer-pancreas-cancer-or-cancer-of-the-pancreas/

Reference: The Medical Post, May 17, 2005, page 50

Last edited October 28, 2014