· 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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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