Depressed Vegetarians for Corbyn is a thing?

“Vegetarian diets make you depressed” the article said. Tell me about it! Just being around vegetarians makes me depressed, I thought.

The article in question was in Medical Express (Sep 11th). It was reporting on a study of 10,000 people from the UK which found twice the rate of depression among the 350 ‘committed vegetarians’ in the cohort. What was also apparent was that those who had been vegetarian longest – the most committed – had the highest rates of depression. The researchers suggest that low levels of seafood, B12 and high levels of phytoestrogens may be to blame.

After reading this I felt a little sad for all my vegetarian friends, so started digging around to see if there was a support group out there. Well it seems there is, and it’s called the Labour Party…(!)

So believe it or not, Depressed Vegetarians for Corbyn is a thing! Baffling. But at least they are helping each other come to terms with their depression. First up, they can buy one of these these beautiful T-shirts:

And there is even a twitter page just for them: https://twitter.com/corbeanies

So what’s the link between being a depressed vegetarian and supporting Jeremy Corbyn? The more I thought about this, the more I started questioning the scientists. Perhaps, I wondered, It’s not the lack of B12 or seafood causing the depression, but rather their hopeless political ambitions? Either way, it’s no wonder they are depressed!

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Jordan Peterson on Diet and Health

Jordan Peterson (born 1962) is a Canadian clinical psychologist and tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His research interests include self-deception, mythology, religion, narrative, neuroscience, personality, deception, creativity, intelligence, and motivation. He is a highly cited and respected researcher in his field.

Recently, and much to his own surprise, Peterson has become an internet sensation, appearing all over the alternative media where he is challenging the contemporary narrative on ‘social justice’, free speech and atheism.

He does this with such clarity and insight that his YouTube videos have quickly racked up millions of hits and he has been sought-after for interviews with alternative news shows such as Stefan Molyneux’s FreeDomain Radio, The Rubin Report and The Saad Truth, all of which are intelligent, thought provoking sites, which I also recommend.

To this new-found audience Peterson has brought a much needed paradigm shift in many areas of previously intransigent and polarised debate. In other words, he’s just my kind of man! If you have not heard him speak then I would recommend starting here (over 2 hrs long) or for here for a juicy 20 minute excerpt. His students really rate him, and I am sure you will see why if you listen to the longer interviews above.

The main purpose of this post, however, is to share some specific points that Peterson has recently made on diet and health as they are surprisingly concordant with the approach we advocate on this blog. I’ve selected the relevant clips from his recent live stream Q&A session below.

Peterson recommending regular sleep to improve circadian rhythms, as well as a protein and fat rich breakfast (2 min clip)…

Peterson explaining how a paleo diet helped his daughter and him improve their health (3 min clip)…

Peterson returns to the subject of diet and how his views on it changed (3 min clip)…

There! Isn’t he a good ‘un?

Please do watch the other videos of this man, his new found Rock Star status is justified on the basis of intellectual depth, breadth and honesty. What’s not to like?

The three wise herbalists brought… Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

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three-kings

HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS AND PATIENTS!

Everybody knows the story of the three wise men bringing gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to the infant Jesus in the Christmas nativity. There is plenty of symbology around these iconic gifts allowing a host of interpretations. What I want to focus on here are some very real medical uses of the herbs Frankincense and Myrrh, and if you allow me a little bit of poetic licence, Saffron (as gold)…

saffron-wtea

Saffron

Whilst the metallic element, gold, does have some medical uses, as a Medical Herbalist I do not use it, so I am going to talk about the golden herb saffron, which can literally be worth its weight in gold. [Daily Mail: How an ounce of saffron is more expensive than gold: Cultivation of exotic spice returns to Essex for the first time in 200 years]

Saffron is made from the stamen of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Each crocus produces just three of these delicate strands per year, and they must be laboriously picked by hand before drying, at the right temperature and duration.

When used in cooking – such as saffron loaf or saffron rice – it adds a strong golden colour and has a distinctive aroma and flavour. I always add half a dozen strands of Kashmiri saffron when making a small pot of special gunpowder green tea. When used medicinally it has serotonergic (mood enhancing) effects, is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulscent, has anti-timor effects, neuro-endocrine (hormone engaging) influence and has neuro-protective properties [ref].

Here is some evidence of medical efficacy:

  • Depression
    A 2014 review of the scientific literature [ref] identified six high quality studies that demonstrated  a positive effect, similar to that seen with anti-depressants drugs, and without the dependence or side effects.
  • Psychological and behavioural
    An excellent 2015 review paper from an American research team [ref] concluded: “Findings from initial clinical trials suggest that saffron may improve the symptoms and the effects of depression, premenstrual syndrome, sexual dysfunction and infertility, and excessive snacking behaviors.”
  • Cardiovascular
    It is reported that regions of the world that regularly consume saffron have lower levels of heart disease. The anti-atherosclerotic, antioxidant, anti-diabetes, hypotensive, anti-ischemic, anti-platelet aggregation effects of saffron suggest it is cardio protective and animal studies show this to be the case. [ref]
  • Diabetes
    Saffron has a hypoglycaemic effect and has been shown to raise insulin levels in diabetic rats with low insulin, whilst enhancing glucose uptake. Its antioxidant properties may reduce diabetic vascular complications too [ref].
  • Obesity & Weight Loss
    Saffron has been shown to reduce body weight in rats, whilst in humans it has been shown to reduce appetite and increase satiety [ref] “After 2 months, the subjects using the saffron extract reported a decrease in snacking and lost more weight than the control group”

Safety: The widespread use of saffron as a culinary spice suggests it is safe at those doses. This superb paper, published in 2012 by an Italian team of researchers reviews the known biological effects of this amazing herbal medicine [ref] and it concludes: “To date, very few adverse health effects of saffron have been demonstrated. At high doses (more than 5 g per day), it should be avoided in pregnancy owing to its uterine stimulation activity.” Well that’s fine, as it is therapeutic well below that dose. It is a significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and since these processes a known to be the drivers of most major diseases I think it worth revisiting the use of this herb more widely. The problem is just the cost!

frankincense

Frankincense

As well as being burned for incense in religious ceremonies this gum distinctly medicinal. Chewing on bobbles of frankincense is good for mouth ulcers and gum disease, but tastes like soap or turpentine. Mostly it is therefore used either as an essential oil or powdered and encapsulated. One can also concentrate the 5-Loxin component to optimise the anti-inflammatory properties, as in one of the products I stock.

This traditional medicine of the Middle East has expectorant, antiseptic, and even anxiolytic (i.e. calming) and anti-neurotic effects as well as the well recognised anti-inflammatory ones. Indeed recent studies have shown it has analgesic, tranquilising, anti-bacterial and anti-tumour effects too, which gives it a role in the treatment of quite a range of common conditions. [ref]

The following medicinal effects come from a 2016 review:

  • Gastro-Intestinal
    Its anti-inflammatory effect gives it a place in inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis and sinusitis. In human studies of colitis patients, the resin was far more effective than the standard drug: “Out of the patients treated with Boswellia gum resin, 70% went into remission while in the case of sulfasalazine [the standard drug it was compared to] the remission ratio was 40%”
  • Anti-fungal
    Frankincense is strongly anti-fungal towards candida species. As well as many other moulds including food borne moulds. (One wonders if it would be effective burned as incense to reduce mould spores in houses… )
  • Asthma
    Severity and risk of asthma attacks is reduced by consumption of Frankincense gum, or by inhalation of the smoke when burned.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis Multiple lines of evidence suggest that frankinscence could help via anti-oxidant and potent anti-inflammatory effects. One researcher noted that “at a dose of 200 mg/kg, B. serrata extracts shift the balance of cytokines towards a bone-protecting pattern”

Memory, Dementia, Alzheimer’s
There is considerable interest in the role of Frankincense gum in cognitive impairment as it has been shown to improve memory in animal models of Alzheimer’s [ref]. In fact recent studies have shown that it increases neurone formation in the hippocampus [ref], i.e. that part of the brain that is essential for new memory formation. A recent human study of cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis found that it “showed significant improvement in visuospatial memory, but had no effect on verbal memory and information processing speed.” [ref]. I would not be using simply frankincense for dementia, as there are other very valuable measures that should be employed, but this resin, depending on the case, could play a significant role in a rounded treatment approach.

In my clinical practice I find Boswellia particularly useful in autoimmune disorders, and when inflammation suddenly occurs, such as polymyalgia rheumatica, for example, which can come on over night and cause severe joint pain, disability and exhaustion. The usual drugs used by doctors have real problems associated with them, as they are aimed at suppression of the immune system, which you cannot do without negative consequences, whereas taking a deeper look at what may have triggered the condition, and treating in a more thoughtful way with medicinal herbs, including frankincense, has been very successful to date with no long term adverse effects.

myrrh-and-bottle

Myrrh

Another aromatic resinmyrrh, (Commiphora mol mol) also comes from the Middle East, in fact Yemen originally and it has been used in the Western Herbal Medicine tradition for hundreds of years. I prefer the alcoholic extract (tincture) to the resin itself for ease of use, and offer it as part of my Home Herbal set in a dropper bottle as shown above. It is part of the Home Herbal range of medicines that I encourage my patients to keep in their medicine cupboard at all times because it is so reliable, effective and practical to use.

Ten to twenty drops added to a glass of water makes an excellent gargle for sore throats, gingivitis (inflamed gums), receding gums, loose teeth, mouth ulcers, and as a general antiseptic mouth wash which can be swished between the teeth where toothbrush bristles may not reach. A few drops can be put onto the toothbrush along with toothpaste (or my favourite alternative – salt and sodium bicarbonate). Tincture of myrrh can be dabbed neat onto small cuts or bites as it is strongly antimicrobial, antiseptic and astringent, thus helping to defend against any nasty bugs that can get in when bitten by a mosquito or whenever the skin barrier is breached, and as an astringent it helps bring swelling down [ref]. It has been used successfully in the treatment of intestinal worms, as have certain other herbs, most of which, like myrrh, taste bad (to humans and to worms, clearly)!

Myrrh has many similar properties to Frankinscence, including analgesia (pain relief), anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties [ref]. I find it has a vital place in the treatment of most infections, including gastroenteritis, ‘flu, colds, sore throats, bronchitis, pneumonia etc, as well as ulcers in any tissue (incl legs, stomach and mouth) and in arthritis. As an anti-inflammatory it has a role in cancer [ref] along with other herbs and dietary measures.

Apart from the above uses, myrrh has also been used in leprosy and syphilis too, which, though it may sound far fetched is quite reasonable. It is a powerful antimicrobial herb, so any bacterial infections can sensibly be treated with this age old defender of health, including common candida albicans and staphylococcal infections. They didn’t give it to the Messiah for nothing! In fact midwives used to dab myrrh onto the cut umbilical cord of new born babes in the less hygienic environment of the past [ref].

  • Gastro-Intestinal
    The anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects of myrrh are of great value when treating inflamed gut disorders [ref]. As myrrh raises white blood cell numbers it assists in ulcer and wound healing too [ref]
  • Skin
    Myrrh has been shown to be effective at treating fungal infections of the skin [ref] including ringworm, and systemic fungal problems caused by candida albicans (once treated, maintenance through a low carbohydrate diet would be wise too).
  • Liver
    Myrrh has been shown to protect the liver from lipopolysaccharides (a major gut endotoxin) and “might be sufficient to combat cellular damage caused by various conditions that resemble fulminant hepatitis” according to researchers in Saudi Arabia [ref].
  • Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
    Myrrh “has the ability to improve insulin sensitivity and delay the development of insulin resistance… and may be used as an adjuvant therapy for patients with insulin resistance.” [ref]
  • Parasites
    Here is an in-depth paper: Myrrh: A Significant Development in the Treatment of Parasites (pdf) by a colleague of mine, the Medical Herbalist Kerry Bone. Two of the most studied areas are for the treatment of schistosomiasis (a flatworm) and fasciola (a liver fluke) – two common parasitic infections in the tropics and subtropics [ref].

So, in wishing all my readers and patients a very Merry Christmas, I also want to encourage you to use your gold, frankincense and myrrh as wisely as those three wise men. Or rather, if you have any sort of medical problem or niggle, book an appointment with me and we will see what how best to approach it using medicinal herbs and nourishing foods. Chances are you will find me to be a wise woman too.

July News Round-Up

In_the_News_July

Sleep and health: inflammation and ‘intestinal jet-lag’

The Mail (6th July) explains why ‘Too little and too much sleep is as damaging to your health’.

Dr Irwin concluded: ‘Together with diet and physical activity, sleep health represents a third component in the promotion of health-span.’

The importance of sleep is further flagged up in Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News (July 11th) in a detailed article discussing the growing body of evidence linking disruption of the body’s circadian clocks to changes in the gut lining and liver metabolism that contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s) liver diseases and other gastro-intestinal ailments.

Children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails suffer fewer allergies

The Telegraph (11th July) reports on a study that found that the protection afforded by thumb sucking and nail biting was life-long and present even where the child’s parents suffered from allergies. Prof Bob Hancox, the lead author of the study said the findings “suggest that being exposed to microbes as a child reduces your risk of developing allergies”. This is in line with observations that children brought up on farms or those with access to vegetable gardens have fewer allergies. Increased diversity of gut microbes is thought to be responsible.

Artificial sweeteners make you crave sugar

A great article in The Mail (12th July) explains why diet drinks may actually be contributing to overeating.

‘When sweetness versus energy is out of balance for a period of time, the brain re-calibrates and increases total calories consumed… The pathway we discovered is part of a conserved starvation response that actually makes nutritious food taste better when you are starving.’

We, like many others, have an instinctive distrust of the whole ‘artificial sweetener’ industry so it is great to find further science to back up our stance. Fans of the ‘just eat real food’ tendency will be right with us here I am sure.

Why fat isn’t the enemy but sugar and refined carbohydrates are

The Evening Standard (25th July) has a nice piece about cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, who recommends a diet with more olive oil, full fat dairy, nuts and vegetables. However, in the comments section there is an interesting counterargument by another cardiologist Dr Khan that challenges Malhotra’s advice.

On careful reading though, I found less conflict than there first seemed. Both cardiologists agree that refined carbs and processed foods must go, but that fish, vegetables and olive oil are good. ‘Eat real foods’ is the undisputed starting point, again.

The areas of conflict seem to hinge on (1) the use of butter, and (2) meat v plant proteins (beans). Taking butter first: I think that butter is no problem once the rest of the diet is based around real food. However, if you are still eating lots of refined carbs, adding butter won’t magically make you healthier. With regards meat v beans, surely there is room for variety? My feeling is that the greater the diversity of real foods, the better. Which brings me to this piece:

The Mail (21st July) covers research that found a reduced risk of diabetes among people that ate a wider variety of foods. In particular: ‘people eating the widest variety of fruits and vegetables and dairy products also greatly reduced their risk of diabetes compared with people who had a less varied diet’

Another aspect of health appearing in both the Mail and Evening Standard articles is that both advise against jogging as a ‘healthy’ activity, recommending brisk walking instead.

Brisk walking, better than vigorous jogging

In the Evening Standard article Dr Malhotra says that orthopaedic surgeons are seeing people in their forties needing hip and knee replacements, and that no one should run on the pavement or treadmills. Meanwhile the Mail article reports on a new study by Duke Health, which has found that walking briskly on a regular basis improves pre-diabetes more effectively than intense treadmill exercise.

Recipes: Grain and sugar free biscuits, cakes, crackers and treats

So after you have taken that brisk walk, how can you start to replace your refined carbs with real whole foods?

‘Saying no to processed flour and grains doesn’t have to mean an end to the delicious homeliness of baking.’ says author Karen Thomson, in her article in The Mail (5th July) which has a great set of recipes along with advice on kicking the sugar habit.

I am looking forward to trying some of her great sounding recipes:

 

May News Round-Up

In_the_News_May· Potatoes and hypertension
· Antibiotics, depression and phages
· Gluten debate
· Low-carb diets good for diabetes
· Salt does not raise BP (yet again)
· Medical errors – high death toll
· Vitamin D & sunshine
· 50y of changing UK food habits

Potato consumption linked to raised blood pressure

The Guardian (17th May) covered this story as well as any, after a study found that those who ate potatoes four or more times per week had a small, but significant, increased risk of hypertentsion (high blood pressure) compared to those eating them less than once per week. This link applied to boiled, mashed or baked potatoes and chips (aka French fries), but weirdly, not to crisps (aka potato chips in the USA). The study authors, suggest the effect is caused by the high carb content raising blood sugar. Interestingly, they point to trials that show high protein and high fat diets lower blood pressure. (See BMJ paper here).

Grass-Fed Nation: Book Review

The Telegraph (26th May) reviews a new book by Graham Harvey, script writer of The Archer’s agricultural story lines and one of the excellent speakers at our Grass Fed Meat Revolution in 2014.

Unfortunately, British dairy farming is moving in the opposite direction with the creeping introduction of US style mega-dairies (now numbering 100+), where cows are raised permanently indoors. The Telegraph (1st June) reports on this disturbing trend.

Antibiotics, depression and resistance – Phages to the rescue?

The Mail (24th May)  reports on Israeli research showing that just one course of antibiotics is linked to an increased incidence of depression, probably due to changes in gut microbes.

Even more depressing is the news that a woman in the US was found to have a bacterial infection that is resistant to colistin – the antibiotic of last resort (BBC News, 27th May).

The belated fightback by British doctors, however, is starting to bite with The Telegraph (25th May) reporting that GPs have slashed their use of antibiotics in the last 12 months. Was this due to their growing awareness of over-prescription and a public spirited determination to tackle the problem? Or was it because the government brought in financial incentives to encourage them? Oh… the latter. Well I never.

Phage

Phages attack a bacteria (Wikimedia)

With few new antibiotics on the horizon, research is turning to alternative means to treat infections, including bacteriophages – viruses that target and kill specific bacteria. The Independent (26th May) reports one such advance, with a phage found in a pond which attacks a type of multi-drug resistant bacteria. Interestingly, phage therapy was widely developed in the former USSR during the cold war, as they did not have access to western antibiotics. Phage therapy is still widely used in Russia, Georgia and Poland. You can read more in this 2014 Nature article.

Gluten controversy

The gluten-free ‘fad’ comes in for criticism with headlines such as “Gluten-Free Diets Are Not Necessarily Healthier, Doctors Warn” (Live Science 25th May, ). Yes indeed, gluten-free bread, biscuits, cakes and other simulacra are often chock-full of additives in an attempt to recreate gluten’s unique glutinousness. Additionally, gluten-free flours (like rice and corn) can be high in heavy metals such as arsenic, which has resulted in at least one recorded case of arsenic poisoning. So, yes, we concur: avoid all grains and don’t go shopping down the gluten free aisle! Eat more fish, meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables, i.e. real food as opposed to ‘products’ or as I like to call them ‘food like substances’.

The Mail (16th May) reports that supermarket gluten free bread is high in fat (shock horror), suggesting that this is a problem. To my mind, it’s not the fat you should worry about (although I wouldn’t reckon on the quality of their industrial oils), it’s the grain and chemical concoctions that are dodgy. My coconut keto-bread recipe is mega-high fat and grain free. Alternatively, my almond bread is versatile, delicious and can be toasted and made into sandwiches. Both are low GI, nutrient dense alternatives, not fake food.

In the same Mail Online article is a video reporting on links between gluten and depressions. Worth a click:

Gluten-Depression-video

High-fat, low-carb diet takes on the mainstream – round two, ding ding!

The National Obesity Forum came out fighting this month with “Official advice on low-fat diet and cholesterol is wrong, says health charity” the Guardian (23rd May). They argue (as do I), that type 2 diabetes can be better managed on a low-carb diet, rather than the recommended low-fat approach. However, this has lead to a string of pugilistic condemnations from the nutritional orthodoxy. Public Health England weighed in calling the report “irresponsible” while The British Dietetic Association, warned that advising people to eat more saturated fat “could be extremely dangerous”. (The Observer 28th May)

However, we think The Telegraph (31st May) gets in the final knock-out punch with “Low-carb diet helps control diabetes, new study suggests”.

That study was conducted after an online revolt by patients in which 120,000 people signed up to the “low-carb” diet plan launched by diabetes.co.uk in a backlash against official advice.

By rejecting guidelines and eating a diet low in starchy foods but high in protein and “good” saturated fats, such as olive oil and nuts, more than 80 percent of the patients said that they had lost weight, with 10 percent shedding 9kg or more.

More than 70 per cent of participants experienced improvements of blood glucose, and a fifth said they no longer needed drugs to regulate blood glucose by the end of the ten-week plan. (my emphasis)

KERPOW! Take that British Dietetic Association. WHAM! Stick that in your low-fat pipe National Health England.

U turn on salt recommendations? Probably not…

Further challenges to the orthodoxy were found in Mail Online (20th May) reporting on a study published in the lancet, in which “a global study found that, contrary to past belief, low-salt diets may not be beneficial. Rather, they can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and death, compared with average salt consumption.”

Of course this led to the usual condemnatory remarks from WHO representatives who labelled the study as ‘bad science’.

My view is that lowering salt may be beneficial for some individuals with hypertension, especially those with genetic SNPs for salt metabolism, but for most of the population their is little evidence of benefit. You can see the numerous conflicting studies linked to salt here, and read our post on salt here.

Iatrogenic deaths

Medical errors have been identified as the third leading cause of deaths in the US, causing over 251,000 deaths annually, after heart disease and cancer, respectively, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. (Care2, 5th May, BMJ, 3rd May)

According to the study, “Medical error has been defined as an unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.” Amazingly, no form of medical error ever appears as a cause of death on a death certificate.

The situation is no less rosy on this side of the pond, with the Mail Online (10th May) reporting “Thousands of heart victims killed by poor care: More than 33,000 people died needlessly over the past few years because of shocking flaws in NHS treatment”. I don’t need telling about the hundreds of patients that have come to me over the years after being so poorly served by an incompetent NHS, indeed my own mother died from heart surgery that ‘went wrong’. Her surgeon humbly admitted to me personally that if he hadn’t done the operation she would still be alive. For all that, he still absconded from the hospital presumably back to Egypt, and I have not pursued that story further!

Vitamin D and Sunshine

Well, we had a handful of sunny days in May, so I suppose we can’t complain…

Our related post: Human photosynthesis – Beyond vitamin-D

Info-graphic of the month: Changes in British food shopping, 1974-2014

33CB339100000578-3571702-Graphs_show_the_biggest_rise_in_which_food_categories_families_p-a-38_1462357927762

The above graph, courtesy of The Mail (4th May), shows changing UK food habits over the last half century. Interesting! What do you think?

Tweet of the month

May-Tweet

 

July News Round-Up

In_the_News_JulyFish and Seafood news

In our Seafood talk (watch our videos here), I mentioned that cod stocks have rebounded thanks to earlier fishing quotas. You can read more about this in New Scientist (8th July).

Fish, especially white fish like cod, is an excellent source of iodine – an essential developing brain nutrient – which, as we detailed in our Seafood talk, is critical during pregnancy. Unfortunately, Medical Express (26th May) reports on a study that found 74% of expectant mothers in the UK are not getting enough iodine, and 56% were unable to identify any iodine rich foods. Dr Emilie Combet, who led the research at the University of Glasgow, said:

“Iodine is crucial during pregnancy and the first months of life, to ensure adequate brain development, but achieving over 200ug a day of iodine through diet requires regular consumption of iodine-rich foods such as milk and sea fish.

a9672a19-f8a9-45cc-b93f-ff7ef51749f5-1020x738The Guardian (20th July), meanwhile, encourages us to try a wider range of seafoods: “Little fish and shellfish have as much potential for a delicious dish as the overfished favourites”. 

Helpfully, The Telegraph (26th July) provided a few good seafood recipes too.

In line with our assertion that seafood has been an essential part of human evolution and British traditions, the Eastbourne Herald (14th July) sheds light on the early Sussex diet. Multiple skeletons were excavated from an burial site near Eastbourne used between 600 and 700 AD “nearly all of them indicating signs of a diet high in seafood, which suggests that fishing was a big part of these people’s lifestyles” and that these people were “tall and well built”.

Chemical Warfare on Your Plate

Linked to one of our recent post in which we explained how counter-intuitively, the toxins in fruit and veg are responsible for many of their health benefits, comes this article in the Telegraph (30th July) explaining how modern fruit and vegetables are less nutritious because those very compounds are being bred out of them. All this points to eating more wild-like foods – for example, berries are closer to their wild cousins than apples and citrus fruits are, whilst rocket, watercress and lambs-lettuce make good close-to-wild salad choices.

Anxious Mice and the Microbiome 

Following on from our murine musings last month, Medical Daily (29th July) report on a new mouse study which found that “Gut Bacteria Changes In Early Life Can Lead To Anxiety And Depression”. When the gut bacteria of depressed mice (!) was transferred to healthy mice they then become depressed.

Paleo News

The Mail Online (13th July) has a nice little story about the growing popularity of bone broth. Meanwhile, the Independent On Line (29th July) says that the popularity of cauliflower rice is growing. This easy low carb substitute for rice is a favourite of Jamie Oliver who is, they report, on a Paleo diet himself. If you are looking for further grain-substitution ideas, NBC’s Today (22nd July) provide “Caveman comfort food! 5 paleo recipes for popular dishes”

Sugar – the Public Health Battle Gets Going

I’m sure you won’t have missed all the news about sugar, with the UK government recommending daily intake is limited to 5% of calories from ‘free sugars’. BBC News (17th July) reported this as “Sugar intake ‘should be halved'”. The graph in their report (reproduced below), shows where the average Brit is now. For most, getting to 5% will require more than halving sugar intake.

This is one of the biggest public health drives in decades and appears to be on a collision course with many modern cultural norms. As the BBC health correspondent, Adam Brimelow, rightly points out the 5% target will be “a challenge for government, industry and the public”.

By way of example, The Telegraph (27th July) reports that when earlier this month industry giant Tesco announced that from September it would be removing sugary drinks aimed at children from it’s shelves, a public backlash began, with complaints flooding their twitter feed.

The BBC video accompanying this report suggests that to achieve these targets people will need to prepare and cook their own food from scratch. In a world dominated by takeaways and TV dinners this will be a major shock to Joe Public.

Although the government has ruled out taxing sugar, many leading bodies see it as a necessary step if education alone fails to change the situation. How it unfolds will be interesting. This debate is taken up in the Express (29th July) who report that a sugar tax could help the average Brit shed half a stone.

A key part of the sugar debate focuses on sugar sweetened drinks. NHS choices (22nd July) unpacks the Daily Mirror headline “Are sugary drinks causing 8,000 cases of diabetes every year?”

On the same theme, the Mail Online (29th Jul) reproduces an info-graphic that is doing the rounds this month, that explains – somewhat inaccurately – the effects on the body of drinking a can of regular coke. Click on the image below to view a full size version. (Also, see our info-graphic of the effects of sugary drinks on children’s livers)

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, where the Union of Concerned Scientists point out that “Nearly three-quarters of packaged foods contain added sugar”, Fortune (29th July) reports that the FDA is coming under fire from industry simply for simply proposing that nutrition labels include the amount of ‘added sugar’! After all, ignorance is bliss, no?

Sugar_cartoon