Cholesterol and CVD – putting the risks into perspective

“Heart disease risk”, “raised cholesterol”, “Statins” – these six words are guaranteed to strike fear into almost anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be cursed by their local witch doctor wielding these hexed mantras. For years the public psyche has been hyper-sensitised to these terms through incessant media reporting and public health messages. Continue reading

September 2017 News Round-Up

In_the_News_SepPoor diet is a factor in one in 5 deaths (The Guardian, Sep 14th)

What a cheery place to start. Let’s see if there are any tips out there this month to help us make our diets more healthy and happy…

Foods that help you feel fuller may prevent overeating

A new study found that amino acids arginine and lysine found in pork shoulder, beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocados, lentils and almonds (see graphic below) trigger newly identified cells in the brain to signal satiety (fullness).

Well that’s interesting as these are some of my favourite foods! The Telegraph (Sep 28th) and DailyMail (Sep 27th) both covered this.

Note the absence of wheat or other grains in that list: grains are deficient in lysine.

Diet determines if alcohol damages liver

We have written about this before, but here is another study finding that alcohol does not damage the liver in and of itself, but depends on the dietary components it is consumed with. News Medical (Sep 25th) reports that mice fed a high saturated fat diet along with chronic alcohol had protection from alcoholic liver damage.

All of this is great news for those who like a drink with their low-carb meals. To warm the cockles of your slightly sozzled hearts a little more, check out the Unexpected benefits of Red Wine (Telegraph Sep 13th), or if you need further convincing check out this post by our friend Dr Kendrick who unpacks the research around moderate alcohol consumption.

Keto-diet may reduce age related degeneration via newly discovered detox pathway

Wow. Like Wow! It appears that a high fat, very low carb (ketogenic) diet actually removes toxic byproducts of sugar metabolism from the blood by a recently discovered (!) non-enzymatic detoxification process. These products are associated with the damage observed in age-related diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Again WOW.  We love it when entirely new human biological entities are discovered (News Medical, Sep 18th)

In an unrelated study, a ketogenic diet was found to increase the healthy lifespan of mice and prevent memory loss. (Medical Express, Sep 5th) Zero-carb mice diets are getting many researchers excited, leading The Guardian (Sep 5th) to ask “could a drug that mimics a zero carb diet help us live longer?”

For an in-depth look at the ketogenic diet check out this Mercola article.

Sleep wake rhythm crucial for fat cell function

Evidence is emerging that fat burning is upregulated by good sleep habits via the expression of NFIL3 (a ‘fat burning protein’). This goes someway to explaining the increased risk of obesity among shift workers and suggests we could all benefit from good sleep hygiene. (DailyMail Sep 1st)

“sleep-deprived people – those who get less than five and a half hours a night – consumed an average of 385 calories per day more than those who had more than seven hours.” – according to researchers from King’s College London

A good night’s sleep – worth it’s weight in gold?


▲ Infographic to help get this complex scientific data across in a happy way.

Underscoring the importance of a good kip, The Telegraph (Sep 19th) reports on research that found well rested people scored 15 points higher on a happiness index questionnaire than those who had poor sleep. Whereas the same survey found only a two point happiness increment when household income rose from £12,500 to £50,000. So put down the lottery card and go to bed.

In a similarly dodgy recent survey, researchers found that Brits would rather give up sex for a year than reduce their sugar intake. (!?) I decided not to create a witty infographic for this one. (DailyMail, Sep 15th)

On a more serious note: eating in sync with your body clock may be beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight (Medical Express, Sep 8th). This can be done by shifting major calorie intake earlier in the day, and avoiding a high calorie meal close to bed time.

Mediterranean low-carb diet reduced heart fat more than low-fat diet plan

Plus a shed load of other benefits seen in this recent head to head study. (DailyMail Sep 18th) Also see Diabetes Daily (Sep 17th)

Good fats, Bad fats – the Express goes to war on excess weight

“Three cheers for the Express”

A quick search of the Express’ diet section might leave you wondering if the majority of their readership is obese and/or gullible. Amongst the dozens of ‘lose-fat-fast’ articles were a few half decent pieces this month, which deserve three cheers, so here goes: First up they tackle Omega 6:3 ratio head on, giving sunflower oil a good kicking (hooray!) Whilst in another article they sing the praises of coconut oil (hooray!) Neatly rounding off their ‘fat blasting’ theme they champion egg based breakfasts for fighting the flab (hooray!)

‘No way to prevent Coeliac disease’ according to short sighted experts

Although the prevalence of coeliac disease is recognised as 1% worldwide, among first degree relatives that risk rises to 5 – 10%. If you are a worried parent of a child who falls into this group The Mayo clinic has issued advice on what you can do to prevent it. And that advice is: nothing. They declare that there is nothing that can be done. (Medical Express, Sep 22nd)…

…(speechless).

I know, it beggars belief. The OBVIOUS thing to do is adopt a gluten-free diet. You can not get coeliac disease if you don’t eat gluten. Period. Sorry, but the emperor has no clothes. Sorry to be the one pointing it out. I know you’re not supposed to say it, so sorry again. But there it is. If you can’t see it Mayo Clinic experts then take an eye test…

 

 

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Pasture for Life Farmer explains why he does not feed his cows grains

Video

Pasture for Life is a certification standard for 100% pasture reared meat. It is an initiative of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association which was formed in 2009, when a small group of British farmers decided to join together to extol the wide-ranging benefits of producing meat from animals fed exclusively on pasture. Our friends at Knepp Castle Rewilding Project are part of the scheme and we rave about their meat.

A few months back, one of the other farmers in the scheme, Tom Morrison, was interviewed on the BBC World Service program The Food Chain in an episode entitled ‘Of Maize and Men‘. The programme was focusing on the problems associated with Maize production worldwide and was interested to hear the views of this Pasture for Life farmer who explained why he does not use maize to feed his cattle.

We thought you would like to hear it too so we extracted a clip from the BBC podcast, and have copied the transcript further down if you prefer to read. Continue reading

August 2017 News Round-Up

 

Pharmaceutical side effects kill thousands each year

In the US as many as 40,000 patients per year are killed by side effects of their drugs, but the recording system is inadequate. NewScientist (Aug 10th). 

‘Low fat diet could kill you’

Brilliant headline in The Telegraph (Aug 29th). A study published in the Lancet, tracked 135,000 adults and found that people who ate more carbohydrates had greater early death than those who ate more fats, including saturated fats.

“Loosening the restriction on total fat and saturated fat and imposing limits on carbohydrates when high to reduce intake to moderate levels would be optimal.”

Another finding from this study, covered by CBS News (Aug 31st) was that the benefits of fruit and vegetables levelled out at 3 servings per day. So much for the 5-a-day mantra. Oh, and the Guardian (Aug 29th): ‘Life-saving fruit and vegetable diet need only be three portions – study’

High Fat / Low Carb diets

As part of the sudden interest in all things keto,The Independent (Sep 2nd) asks ‘is a high fat diet the key to burning fat?’ and gives some anecdotal evidence.

Glucose and the brain

For at least a decade I have considered Alzheimers and Parkinson’s to be, in some cases, fundamentally due to ‘diabetes of the brain’ and have treated patients with these clinical pictures with an anti-diabetic diet. It can make a huge difference so it is nice to see this month’s news indicating that others in the medical research world are catching up with this idea:

Medical Express (Aug 30th) explains how raised glucose levels (from high carb diets) – even among non-diabetics – can have negative impact on the ageing brain. Meanwhile, a separate study demonstrated that a diabetes drug could slow the progress of Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, it seemed to target the underlying cause of the condition, not just its symptoms. (NewScientist, Aug 3rd)

The fact that a diabetes drug seems to help Parkinson’s adds to a growing body of research suggesting that neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may work in a similar way to diabetes, and that neurons can become unresponsive to insulin in the same way that cells in the pancreas do in type 2 diabetes.

Schematic representation of the factors associated with the development of cognitive impairment in patients with type 2 diabetes. (Belfort-DeAguiar et al. Diabetes, 2014) 

Paleo diet

Health Minute (Aug 21st) “Eating a Paleolithic-type diet without calorie restriction significantly improved the fatty acid profile associated with insulin sensitivity, and it reduced abdominal adiposity and body weight in obese postmenopausal women,” said lead author of a recent study.

Another reason to avoid breakfast cereals

The Daily Mail (Aug 10th) has an interesting article about endocrine disrupting additives (the antioxidants E321 & E320) often found in breakfast cereals, biscuits and sweets. Researchers found these substances interfere with gut-brain signalling, whilst E321 also damaged mitochondria.

Cutting out soy

The Independent (Sep 1st) asks whether we would be better off cutting out foods containing soya. Yep.

Coffee

Further evidence that higher coffee consumption is linked to lower mortality (Medical Express, Aug 28th).

Reduced meat intake associated with vitamin deficiencies

The Express (Aug 30th) reports on a study that found women in the UK eating less than 40g of red meat per day suffered deficiencies in zinc, iron, vitamin B12 and D.

Netflix’ recent vegan promoting film ‘What the Health’ is taken to task by New Scientist (Aug 16th). Whilst in a linked article from July, they explore some of the arguments around the environmental impacts of meat production, demonstrating that it isn’t as simple as vegetarians make it sound.

Silly Season

This month the papers were scraping the bottom of the barrel for food news. Here are some examples that will give you a giggle:

  • NHS no longer uses POST-IT NOTES to arrange life-saving heart transplants after adopting ‘groundbreaking’ new technology that is 300 times quicker” (Daily Mail, Aug 31st)
  • I tried ingesting rat tapeworm parasites and my poo turned green (NewScientist, Aug 8th)
  • How much of these everyday foods can you consume before they kill you? (Telegraph, Aug 9th)
  • The avocado divide: only 16 per cent of over-40s have tried the millennial favourite (Telegraph, Aug 9th)
  • National Trust flapjack gets a makeover – and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (Telegraph, Aug 7th)

Harm from antiseptic cleaning and skincare ingredients

A class of common antiseptic cleaning ingredients known as quats—”quaterny ammonium compounds” has been found to interfere with the functioning of mitochondria and oestrogen signalling at typical concentrations. Of 1600 compounds screened all quats caused these effects. (Medical Express, Aug 22nd) This builds on earlier research that found just using these cleaners in the same room as caged lab mice led to birth defects (Medical Express, Jun 17th).

What to do? Thanks to AnnMarie organic skin care for the following:

These chemicals aren’t necessary—we have a lot of natural alternatives, including tea tree oil, lemon, honey, propolis, rosemary, vitamin E, and grapefruit seed extract.

 

To avoid quats, read labels, and stay away from the following:

 

  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Cetalkonium chloride
  • Cetrimonium chloride
  • Lauryl dimonium hydrolysed collagen
  • Stearalkonium chloride
  • Diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride
  • Dialkyl dimethl ammonium methyl sulfate
  • Hydroxethyl methyl ammonium methyl sulfate
  • Chemical DTDMAC (ditallow dimethyl ammonium chloride); also called quaternium-18
  • Quaternium-18
  • Quaternium-26 and other numbers

Intravenous Vitamin C

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about intravenous vitamin C recently, including its life saving use in sepsis.

So I was pleased to see New Scientist (Aug 17th) report that it helps kill off cells that would cause certain blood cancers too.

Looks like we may all (or most) need to increase our vitamin C intake, just generally. So off I go to drink a glass of fizzy water with a quarter of a teaspoon of pure ascorbic acid powder dissolved in it. Wow! Zingy!

 

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Thinking of going vegan or avoiding red meat? Read this first…

Influential celebrity promotion is fuelling a rise in vegan diets, but can this ideologically driven movement really be healthy? Above: Keeping up with the Kardashians star Kylie Jenner, and footballer Jermain Defoe, both champion the vegan diet. Perhaps they should stick to what they’re good at.

This article was originally going to be part of the July 2017 News Round-Up, but there were so many news items about veganism that month that I decided to give it it’s own post and include more commentary.

Vegan diets are suddenly being promoted by every celebrity and her dog. Another major recruiting factor is a sensational documentary out on Netflix “What the Health” which is pumping the anti-meat message hard. Fortunately, Vox (Jul 26th) takes the film’s twisted message to task and untangles the facts brilliantly (Thank you Julia Belluz for doing such a good job – now I don’t have to!) “Debunking What the Health, the buzzy new documentary that wants you to be vegan” Julia Belluz, Vox – Highly recommended. Others are challenging the films objectivity too:

“films like this are sensationalised pieces of idealism, minus the practical strategies”

Susie Burrell, Nutritionist, news.com.au (Jul 26th)

Closer to home, a UK nutrition professor caused an angry twitter storm for her comments on live TV. “It’s really hard work to make a vegan diet healthy,” said Sophie Medlin, RD, a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics at King’s College in London, during a BBC segment on the rise of veganism. (Health.com Jul 27th)

“You have to think very carefully about what you’re eating all the time. I have never recommended any of my patients follow a vegan diet; I can’t see myself ever changing that. It’s very complicated to make sure your diet is safe and gives you all the nutrition you need.”

I couldn’t agree more, and find it a little surprising that other nutritionists took issue with this statement (for example, Abby Langer in Flare, July 27th). After all, there is no reason to think that a vegan diet is healthier per-se, unless you buy into the kind of pseudo scientific propaganda portrayed in What the Health. Unfortunately most vegans do.

Perhaps we should look to India – a country with a tradition of vegetarianism – to see what is happening there. This month, the Indian Dietetics Association has warned that vegetarian diets are failing to meet protein requirements for no less than 90% of the population! (India TV, Jul 19th).

“Proteins from different sources complement each other. Even with a ratio of 5:1 cereals and pulses combination, the protein quality in terms of digestibility and bio-availability is only around 65 per cent when compared to milk protein,”

B. Sesikeran, pathologist,,India TV, Jul 19th

Another Indian news outlet, ran the story of a vegetarian who returned to meat eating after 6 years (The Times of India, Jul 7th), using bone broth and chicken to correct deficiencies in B12, calcium and Vitamin D.

Back in June this year, newspapers ran a story about a remote Indian tribe that had been studied for two years. Despite having no access to junk food, living a very active lifestyle, and consuming a vegetarian diet they suffered from high blood pressure. (Daily Mail, Jun 30th) Contrast that with the report in March, about an Amazonian tribe that had the healthiest cardiovascular system ever studied, yet their diet contains 14% animal protein. (Treehugger.com, Mar 27th). With all of this evidence stacking up against it, the vegan theory of health has got some explaining to do.

Stories like these support Sophie Medlins statement that vegan diets are hard to get right. However, that does not deter the vegan adherents who took to twitter to condemn her, and seem not be interested in the facts about nutrition. Fundamentally, the raison d’être of veganism is an absolute belief in animal rights, which is an ethical or political ideology first, and merely co-opts nutrition as an attempt at justification. Vegan dogma comes with a kind of spiritual superiority, as anyone will tell you who has met a vegan proselytiser (and let’s be honest, have you met a vegan who isn’t one?)

Such ideological thinking can lead to even more extreme positions such as a fruitarian diets in which only fruit is eaten. Such diets lead to many health problems, including reduced growth, mineral and vitamin deficiencies, dental erosion, pancreatic and kidney problems, mental instability and diabetes. (See Dr Axe, Fruitarian Diet: Are All-Fruit Diets Dangerous to Your Health?) One blogger, in The Metro (Jul 24th) warns how her obsession with a semi-raw food /  fruitarian / vegan diet wrecked her health. She is now sounding the warnings about the fanatical aspects of veganism.

Vegan junk food

As far as health goes it’s possible to eat junk whichever dietary path you choose. So, as The Independent (Jul 17th) reported this month, a recent study that found that some vegetarian diets can increase the risk of heart disease, especially if they are high in sugar, crisps, chips, alcohol and refined carbs – all of which are plant based, and thus ostensibly vegan.

Interestingly, in this analysis of the Nurses Health Study data, even those who ate a significant proportion of their diet from the ‘vegetarian’ category also ate meat regularly, so they were not vegetarian in the accepted sense of the term, even though these data are used by some to promote such a diet pattern.

Meanwhile scientists in the UK are recommending women eat more, not less, red meat to prevent iron deficiency anaemia. This comes on the back of the latest UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey which found that more than a quarter of women (27%) aged 19 to 64 don’t get enough iron. To make things worse this vulnerable group is the one most likely to have reduced their meat consumption, and the one most likely to be influenced by celebrity endorsements for the vegan lifestyle. The issues around this are laid out very well in Net Doctor, Jul 11th.

Vegan diets are not better for the planet

Vegan politics finds much support from the Greens: “BUT A VEGAN DIET IS MORE SUSTAINABLE FOR THE PLANET?” sympathisers cry in desperation, as they wave their fists at meat eaters.

Well, no. Not according to a new study which found that the carrying capacity—the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely by the resources of an ecosystem—for the vegan diet is lower than both versions of a vegetarian diets (dairy/egg) and two out of the four omnivorous diets they studied. (Health Freedom Alliance, Jul 26th), because it failed to use areas of land that are only suitable for rearing animals and not crops.

For more on this topic: See our posts showing that neither UK nor Australian vegetarians actually live longer, and that dairy is the most sustainable farming system in temperate countries, yes really!

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