Friday, April 30, 2010

5 Ways to Reduce Salt Intake

Recent recommendations and statistics related to excess salt intake:
  • The Institute of Medicine has urged the government to gradually reduce the maximum amount of sodium that manufacturers and restaurants can add to foods, beverages and meals.
  • The Centers for Disease Control has recommended limiting sodium intake to 1500 mg. daily.
  • More than half of Americans have either high blood pressure or pre-hypertension.
  • Many Americans exceed the recommended daily amount in one meal.
  • Every American who is age 50 or older has a 90% chance of developing hypertension.
  • It is believed salt is directly related to over 100,000 deaths per year in the US.
How do we best tackle this problem? It is no great mystery. However, I can assure you that you cannot rely on the government and Big Food to reduce added salt enough to make a measurable difference. So who do you to rely on? Me, Myself, and I.

5 Ways to Reduce Salt Intake
  1. Maintain an Optimal Sodium/Potassium Balance.
    This is the most important rule. It is not just about reducing salt intake. It is about increasing your potassium intake. Simply put, those who consume the most sodium are also the ones who are eating the least potassium-rich foods, creating a wider disparity in their sodium to potassium ratio. The ideal ratio should be 2:1 potassium to sodium.

    By increasing the foods that are rich in potassium, you are increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Dark green vegetables, papaya, guava, figs, cantaloupe, banana, lima beans, yam, squash, avocado, spinach, potato, and many nuts/seeds contain ideal amounts of potassium. If a potassium supplement is required, you MUST take it under the supervision of a licensed health professional.

    Remember that sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte. Please do not look at sodium as unnecessary, just consume in moderation.

  2. If You Consume Added Salt, Choose Sea Salt, Low Salt, or Salt Substitutes.
    Sea salt contains other trace minerals and adheres better to food, making the taste more robust, and does not create such drastic action when entering your body as rock salt does. Low salt or salt substitute brands we recommend:
    • Less Salt (
    • Also Salt Original (
    • Ocean's Flavor 60 or 70% less sodium (

  3. Scrutinize Labels: identify the Buzzwords for Hidden Salt.
    Anything with the word sodium applies. Baking powder, baking soda, dicalcium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate/nitrite, sodium erythrobate, and sodium benzoate are all sodium buzzwords.

    Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and hidden MSG are more responsible for high blood pressure than any other form of sodium. Avoid it completely. Hidden forms of MSG you will see on ingredient labels: textured soy protein, any hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, sodium caseinate.

    We are often asked, "if MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache?" MSG interferes with magnesium and potassium uptake. Magnesium and potassium are necessary to stop headaches. For the last 20 years, 75% of all people living in the U.S. are magnesium deficient. There is also a grossly stretched sodium to potassium ratio. MSG makes them more magnesium and potassium deficient. Asians eat a lot of foods high in magnesium and potassium, so are not magnesium and potassium deficient.

  4. Eating Real Food = Reduction in Eating Processed Food.
    Many products, particularly breads, processed meats, sauces, and dressings have salt amounts above reasonable benchmarks. According to a recent study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the food groups with the highest mean sodium content were sauces and spreads, followed by processed meats. Stock (for soup) was the highest subcategory. For the food groups that contributed the most sodium to the average person, they are in this order: meat and meat products, bread and bakery products, dairy, cereal and cereal products, and sauces and spreads. As a general note, if you use canned food, rinse first.

  5. When eating at restaurants, prepared foods, or cooking, be aware of how much salt is in your food.
    For average Americans, here is a percentage breakdown of where they get most of their salt:
    5% - added while cooking
    6% - added while eating
    12% - natural sources
    77% - processed and prepared foods

    A recent study in Archives of Internal Medicine found in a survey of New York City fast food restaurants, only one in 36 purchases met the FDA "healthy" sodium limit (600 mg) for meals. And that is the FDA's limit! The final sample size was just over 6500 meals; each meal contained, on average, 1751 mg of sodium; 20% had more than 2300 mg.

    Mean Sodium, Mean Calories, and Mean Sodium Density of Meals at 11 New York City Fast-Food Chains by Collection of Customer Receipts

Fast-food chain Mean sodium, mg Mean cal Mean sodium density, mg/1000 cal
Burger King 1685 1008 1727
McDonald's 1477 908 1782
Wendy's 1631 907 1885
Au Bon Pain 1553 608 2842
Subway 1883 768 2627
Kentucky Fried Chicken 2397 958 2504
Popeye's 2497 1050 2418
Domino's 2465 1550 1545
Papa John's 1561 652 2443
Pizza Hut 2272 1017 2233
Taco Bell 1849 909 2093

When eating out, be smart about your choices and don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask for dressing on the side or use oil and vinegar instead. Shun the bread and butter, minimize soup intake, and limit all heavy sauces. And most of all, avoid fast food.

When preparing food at home, add more herbs, spices, vinegar, and lemon to flavor your food. Use only low sodium broth. Do not salt until the end of cooking time. it brings out a saltier flavor than when added at the beginning.

Vitamin D essential for MS patients

Low vitamin D levels may be associated with more advanced physical disability and cognitive impairment in persons with multiple sclerosis, Results, reported at the American Academy of Neurology meeting, indicated that:
  • The majority of MS patients and healthy controls had insufficient vitamin D levels.
  • Clinical evaluation and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images show low blood levels of total vitamin D and certain active vitamin D byproducts are associated with increased disability, brain atrophy and brain lesion load in MS patients.
  • A potential association exists between cognitive impairment in MS patients and low vitamin D levels.
The study involved 236 MS patients -- 208 diagnosed with the relapsing-remitting type and 28 with secondary progressive, a more destructive form of MS -- and 22 persons without MS. All participants provided blood serum samples, which were analyzed for total vitamin D (D2 and D3) levels as well as levels of active vitamin D byproducts.

Results showed that only seven percent of persons with secondary-progressive MS showed sufficient vitamin D, compared to 18.3 percent of patients with the less severe relapsing-remitting type. Higher levels of vitamin D3 and vitamin D3 metabolism byproducts (analyzed as a ratio) also were associated with better scores on disability tests, results showed, and with less brain atrophy and fewer lesions on MRI scans.

Breastfeeding may protect against asthma

Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 4 months of life may reduce a child's risk of developing asthma by their eighth birthday, according to a new study that followed nearly 4,000 Swedish children over 8 years, stratifying them according to whether they had been breast-fed exclusively or partially, and for a short term or long term. The team found that about 12% of children who were exclusively breast-fed for at least the first 4 months of life developed asthma by age 8, compared with 18% of those breast-fed for a shorter amount of time. This translated into a 37% lower risk of asthma for those breast-fed for 4 months or longer, after adjusting for other risk factors such as maternal smoking and birth weight. The difference appeared to be driven mostly by allergy-related cases of asthma.

The extended and exclusive diet of breast milk also resulted in better lung function at age 8, the researchers reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Low maternal folate during pregnancy linked to behavior problems in kids

The development of a child’s brain in early pregnancy may be impaired by low folate levels in the mother, and lead to behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and inattention. Low folate levels in early pregnancy were associated with increased rates of childhood hyperactivity and peer problems, according to a study with 100 mothers and their children followed for almost nine years.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study in humans to provide evidence for associations of maternal folate with behavioral outcomes in the offspring, and it is the first study to demonstrate a putative pathway via fetal head growth,” wrote the researchers in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The researchers recruited 100 mothers in early pregnancy and took blood samples to measure folate levels, and the followed them for an average of 8.75 years. The mothers reported on their children's behavior using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. The results showed that low maternal levels of folate were associated with both higher childhood hyperactivity and peer problems scores.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recipe du Jour - Greek Salad with Sardines

May is Mediterranean Diet Month. This recipe personifies Mediterranean cuisine.

Please note that you can replace any ingredient in this recipe if you are intolerant or allergic.

3 T. lemon juice
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cove garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 T. sliced kalamata olives
2 4 oz. cans sardines with bones, packed in olive oil or water, drained

Directions: whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Add tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, feta, onion, and olives; gently toss to combine. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with sardines. SERVES 2

Big milk getting scared

For the second time in 10 years, National Milk Producers Federation has written to the Food and Drug Administration asking that the term "milk" be reserved for cow's milk, although it's OK with also using the word for goat, sheep or water buffalo milk — any of the various "mammalian lacteal secretions." The federation says the FDA should require that plant-based beverages be labeled something else, noting terms such as "drinks," "beverages" or even "imitation milk.

Over the past decade, such drinks have expanded from just soymilk, a millennia-old Asian beverage, to include "milks" from a variety of plants, including hemp and peanuts. With an increase in those who perceive plant-derived products as healthier and a growing Asian population accustomed to soymilk, the market for non-dairy "milk" products as well as non-dairy cheeses, yogurts and ice creams is on the increase.

The National Milk Producers group filed its first protest letter about the term "soymilk" in 2000 but received no answer, Galen says. In a subsequent letter to the FDA, the Soyfoods Association argued that as long as the word "milk" was qualified by "soy," consumers wouldn't be confused. The FDA seems inclined to stay out of it this round as well. "We evaluate all these communications, but we plan our actions based on what will make the most impact for the public health," says spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey.

Bonnie - Big Milk is deathly afraid because the new Dietary Guidelines may finally mention alternative forms of milk. They feel this could further erode milk's declining market share. In this case, Big Milk does not have a leg to stand on because they are up against Big Soy/Agra, which is just as powerful in how they can sway government policy.

Vitamin E helpful for liver disease

People with a common, obesity-related liver disease that has no known treatment got a surprising benefit from vitamin E pills, researchers reported Wednesday.

Fat buildup can cause the liver to become inflamed and scarred over time and in severe cases, to fail. The disease usually develops in people who are middle-aged and overweight or obese. Up to 5 percent of Americans have the most serious form of it, and as many as 20 percent have fat in their livers but no organ damage.

In the study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, 247 adults with advanced fatty liver disease were randomly assigned to take a high dose of vitamin E (800 international units), the diabetes drug Actos or dummy pills for nearly two years.

The vitamin and drug were tested because earlier research suggested liver cell deterioration and insulin resistance might be involved in the development of the disease.

Biopsies before and after treatment showed that liver function improved in 43 percent of those in the vitamin E group compared with 19 percent in the placebo group.

The National Institutes of Health was the study's main sponsor.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crispy Kale Chips

3 bunches fresh kale
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 T. lemon juice, optional (for a more acidic taste)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Under running water, wash each kale leaf carefully, splaying the leaves to get into the crevasses. Arrange in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels. When the paper towels are completely covered, put another paper towel on top and press gently to remove as much water as possible. Cut into 4-6 inch pieces.

In a bowl, add olive oil, lemon juice if desired, and then the kale. Loosely swirl the kale leaves to distribute the mixture. Rub kale leaves together, covering every bit of leaf with the oil/lemon juice.

Arrange the leaves in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the salt evenly. Bake for 5 minutes, then stir around and bake for another 5-10 minutes (depending on how crispy you want them).

Stress linked to epigenetics

This abridged article appeared in the April 2010 issue of the Psychiatric Times.

Overly sensitive, aversive reactions to stress seem to run in families. The literature abounds with reports of relatives in these populations predisposed to depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Some family members present with glucocorticoid levels notched abnormally high, and in curiously deregulated concentrations. Behaviorally, they seem to exist at a permanent state of high alert. Attempts to isolate the genetic underpinnings of this obvious hyperaroused stress sensitivity have met with mixed success.

People carrying certain mutations in the serotonin transporter gene seem particularly vulnerable to the normal stresses and strains in life, although there have been difficulties in replicating all the findings. Plenty of people exist who are just as vulnerable to stress but who do not carry this mutation—or any other suspect genetic anomaly—that could explain the behavior. It is now possible to characterize some of this seeming heritability—and accompanying statistical turbulence—without invoking heritability at all. This is the world of epigenetic transfer, the ability to pass on a trait without having to stop at a meiotic border.

A recent study has demonstrated how a powerful environmental stressor can exert molecular effects that last over a long period. The mechanism is epigenetic. It is the first result to characterize a molecular mechanism, induced by early life stressors, that influences behaviors penetrating into adulthood.

For years, we have known that stressed wombs tend to produce stressed babies. Most molecular explanations for this observation invoke the effects of transplacental glucocorticoids on fetal brain development. If mothers become too stressed (so the idea posits), too many stress hormones enter the womb, penetrate the fetal brain, and interfere with its proper development. There is some empirical support for this notion. First, excess levels of maternal glucocorticoids have been shown to cross the placenta, targeting the fetal limbic system and causing it to develop much more slowly than in typical controls. This is thought to result in future behavioral dysfunction, particularly regarding reactions to external stressors.

Social states experienced in early life can directly affect later behavior. Until now, exactly what molecular mechanisms undergird such effects have remained a complete mystery. This embryonic braking system is a coordinated series of responses that normally result in the inhibition of glucocorticoid production after some environmental stress has been successfully negotiated. Without this braking system, the fetal brain is wired to produce excess glucocorticoids in an increasingly unregulated fashion. The baby carries this deregulated system into adulthood. If the adult is female and becomes pregnant, her system, which is already flooded with cortisol, marinates her new baby with glucocorticoid. This once again creates a hyperaroused womb, complete with new fetal damage. The trait is thus passed along, not through the germ line but simply through womb exposure.

The work to be described involved inducing behavioral stress in a cohort of laboratory rodent pups, and then watching the effects of that stress on behavior as the rats matured. For the first time, a molecular change associated with a persistent hyperaroused state in an adult animal was induced by behavioral neglect during the animal’s extreme youth. It is axiomatic from a counseling perspective that social states experienced in early life can directly affect later behavior. Until now, exactly what molecular mechanisms undergird such effects have remained a complete mystery. These data reveal strong epigenetic factors.

The real value lies in what they portend for the future. Uncovering a mechanism induced in childhood that mediates a persistent behavioral experience in adults is a phenomenal achievement. Showing that these associations sometimes have epigenetic underpinnings is an added bonus. These results serve as flashlights, directing where scientists interested in human reactions should spend their next research dollars. Stress responses really do run in families. Showing that some reasons for this may be mostly environmental—with no DNA in sight—is the biggest plus of all.

More Chocolate Means More Depression, or Vice Versa

Indulging in chocolate may help lift one’s mood, but a new study has found that people who eat the most chocolate have a greater likelihood of depression. A study of 931 men and women in the San Diego area showed that people who ate an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate per month tested positive for possible depression, while people who ate only 5.4 servings per month did not test positive. People who ate 11.8 servings per month tested positive for probable major depression, a more severe form of the condition. The participants were not taking any antidepressant drugs at the time of the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The results suggest several possible relationships between eating chocolate and mood. “First, depression could stimulate chocolate cravings as ‘self-treatment’ if chocolate confers mood benefits, as has been suggested in recent studies of rats,” Rose and colleagues write. “

Second, depression may stimulate chocolate cravings for unrelated reasons, without a treatment benefit of chocolate (in our sample, if there is a ‘treatment benefit,’ it did not suffice to overcome the depressed mood on average).

Third, from cross-sectional data the possibility that chocolate could causally contribute to depressed mood, driving the association, cannot be excluded.”

Inflammation may also play a role in depression and chocolate cravings. It is possible that the biochemical effects of chocolate may be counteracted by the ingredients found in consumer chocolate products, such as artificial trans fat, which may, in turn, lower omega-3 fatty acid production. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish, have been shown to produce an antidepressive effect.

Researchers noted that the intake of caffeine, fat, carbohydrates, and energy in the participants’ diets had no significant correlation with the participants’ mood, suggesting there may be something specific about the relationship between chocolate and one’s state of mind.

Bonnie - this study could have been great but missed the boat. There are two huge areas of reasoning that were not addressed as causes for increased chocolate consumption:

  1. Chocolate is a natural serotonin-booster. Those seeking mood enhancers flock to chocolate
  2. Magnesium deficient individuals also flock to chocolate, which is rich in the mineral. Many of those who are depressed are also magnesium deficient.
I do have to give them credit though for calling out most chocolate, that is loaded with artificial ingredients, sweeteners, and other fillers. Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa or more, is what I recommend exclusively.

Metformin-induced Vitamin B12 Deficiency Presenting as a Peripheral Neuropathy

Chronic metformin use results in vitamin B12 deficiency in 30% of patients. Exhaustion of vitamin B12 stores usually occurs after twelve to fifteen years of absolute vitamin B12 deficiency. Metformin has been available in the United States for approximately fifteen years. Vitamin B12 deficiency, which may present without anemia and as a peripheral neuropathy, is often misdiagnosed as diabetic neuropathy, although the clinical findings are usually different. Failure to diagnose the cause of the neuropathy will result in progression of central and/or peripheral neuronal damage which can be arrested but not reversed with vitamin B12 replacement. This is the first report of metformin-induced vitamin B12 deficiency causing neuropathy. Southern Medical Journal

Bonnie - based upon the study we just posted showing the benefits of B-Vitamins for diabetic neuropathy, I wonder if doctors will take notice of the importance of B-vitamins, especially when on Metformin.

Kombucha NOT all the rage

Courtesy of

This year's hottest cool beverage is a fizzy, fermented drink with a tangy taste and a strange name. Kombucha is a mysterious concoction made of live bacteria and yeast and it's becoming all the rage among the same health-seeking crowd that just last year was guzzling pomegranate and a├žai berry juices. Some call it “mushroom tea,” although there are no real mushrooms in it, just some slimy sludge floating near the bottom of the bottle. Kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is the latest elixir to elicit claims of a stunning array of health benefits, everything from improving digestion and immunity to lowering cholesterol and fighting cancer. It’ll even grow hair, fans claim.

What started in health food stores a few years back is now in mainstream markets across the country. Whole Foods dedicates shelves in its refrigerator cases for GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha and Synergy, the juice varieties of the tea. Coca-Cola Co. markets Honest Tea Kombucha, and Celestial Seasonings recently announced its plans to introduce a new line of flavored kombucha beverages that are fortified with functional ingredients, including B vitamins, vitamin C and spirulina. There are kombucha martinis and kombucha smoothies. Its growing popularity taps into the probiotic and detox diet crazes, along with consumers' thirst for traditional remedies and Chinese medicine. When celebrities like Reese Witherspoon were spotting carrying bottles of kombucha, it was inevitable that the exotic brew's popularity would, well, mushroom. Kombucha lovers call it a wonder tonic, while some nutrition experts warn that too much can be toxic for people with weak immune systems.

Kombucha gets its name from the microorganisms that mingle on top and form a flat, pancake-like structure that resembles a mushroom. The gelatinous, floating pancake is known as a SCOBY (for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). The “mother” culture that homebrewers use to make kombucha produce “daughter” or “kombucha babies” that are shared with friends or sold online — much like bread bakers pass along their coveted sour dough starters.
The drink may be the new super-juice on the block, but this fermented tea has actually been around for more than 2,000 years. Kombucha can be traced back to ancient China where it was worshipped as a remedy for immortality. According to lore, the tea was introduced to Japan by a Korean physician named Dr. Kombu who gave the bacteria-laden liquid to a Japanese emperor as a healing tonic. Throughout the years, the “Manchurian tea” made its way into Russia, Germany, India and other parts of the world — propelled by its purported curative properties and mystical appeal.

In the U.S., there’s been a small, but growing group of kombucha devotees, particularly people who brew their own batches at home, which was once the only way you could imbibe. Dr. Brent A. Bauer, an internist with the Mayo Clinic, doubts the claims. “To date, there hasn’t been a single human trial reported in a major medical journal,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that kombucha tea can’t possibly have health benefits, it just means that at this time, there’s no direct evidence that it provides the benefits it’s reported to have.”

Some reports have linked kombucha with serious complications, including liver damage, toxicity and metabolic acidosis — an abnormal increase of acid levels in body fluids. Other problems can include allergic reactions and nausea. The drink is fairly acidic with high levels of lactic acid and other acids, so experts advise moderation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in April 1995 that linked homebrewed kombucha with the illness of two women who were hospitalized with severe acidosis. One woman died of cardiac arrest and the other was revived after her heart stopped. Both women had been drinking kombucha tea made from the same “mother” mushroom daily for two months. Even though no direct link to the tea was proven, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to use caution when making and drinking the tea.“Drinking this tea in quantities typically consumed (about 4 ounces daily) may not cause adverse effects in healthy persons; however, the potential health risks are unknown for those with preexisting health problems or those who drink excessive quantities of the tea,” according to the FDA report.

Most of the concerns linked to kombucha have involved the homebrewed tea. Because a bunch of bacteria is being incubated in possibly nonsterile conditions, there’s a risk of contamination with harmful germs. The wider availability of commercially prepared kombucha makes drinking the tea a bit safer. Still, is it worth it to fork over $3 to $5 per bottle?

First, kombucha is an acquired taste. It’s not simply Snapple with a new name. Some people find it refreshing and invigorating, others can’t get past the sour, vinegary taste and the compost smell. Also, the floating strings of bacteria in the raw varieties take some getting used to.While kombucha may not be the miracle that some claim, it does represent an intriguing marriage of antioxidant-rich tea and probiotics.

“It’s the new yogurt,” said Eric “Kombuchman” Childs, who loved the drink so much he created Kombucha Brooklyn, a company that distributes bottled versions of the tea in the New York area and sells homebrewing kits.“Kombucha is not a cure-all or a magical drink, but some people say it helps with digestion and energy,” he said. “It’s just another fermented product to add to your diet in moderation along with other fermented foods.”It is a new way to get the beneficial bugs that people are looking for in yogurt, kefir and other probiotic dairy drinks. Kombucha also provides a source of prebiotics, which helps fuel the growth of helpful microorganisms in your digestive track. The black and green tea in kombucha also offers some beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols — although you could get the same with a simple tea bag.The drinks do contain sugar, but not nearly as much as some sweetened teas, fruit drinks and sodas. One 16-ounce bottle contains about 60 calories — but please note the sneaky labeling. One bottle provides two servings, so you may think you’re only drinking 30 calories.

But don’t be heavily swayed by the over-the-top claims. Drink it because you like it, not because you’re counting on it to work wonders.

Bonnie - I agree with this article 100%. Consistently drinking Kombucha is awful. I have seen many clients come to me with myriad side effects after starting to drink it. It is especially awful for those with mold intolerance or allergy, yeast overgrowth, candidiasis, or other fungal issue. If you must drink it, please do so only once in a while.

Shocker! Med Diet Protects Aging Brain

Study author Dr. Christy Tangney, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says that "adults over age 65 should look to include more olive oil, legumes, nuts, and seeds in their diet in order to improve their recall times and other cognitive skills, such as identifying symbols and numbers," The study included 4,000 adults aged 65 and older who were given a series of tests to examine their cognitive (or thinking) skills every three years over a 15-year period. Those who scored highest in following a Mediterranean diet were least likely to suffer cognitive decline. The findings were slated to be presented at the annual Experimental Biology 2010 meeting.

Bonnie - what great way to ring in Mediterranean Diet month (May).

Fourth graders spur school food changes

Courtesy of the Daily Herald

Changes are expected next month in the student menu at Avon Center School in Round Lake Beach, IL as a result of a push for healthier food by three girls. Avon fourth-graders Erica Smyth, Jade Walker and Camryn Hickle learned about the menu plans in a meeting they participated in Monday with two Grayslake Elementary District 46 board members, administrators and vendor Preferred Meal Systems Inc. In a recent letter to school officials, the girls said greasy hot dogs and hamburgers are part of the problem with Avon's food. They suggested healthy food options, such as offering fresh produce and whole-grain bread.

Avon Principal Lynn Barkley said action should come on the girls' complaint that students frequently are offered a choice of a hot dog or hamburger. Instead, Barkley said, baked chicken nuggets would be one alternative when a burger or wiener is on the menu. "That is changing in May because of these girls," Barkley said Tuesday. Roughly 475 students attend Avon, which serves kindergarten through fourth grade. About 37 percent of the pupils qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Up to 200 lunches are served depending on the day.

Jade, Erica and Camryn said while they'll be in another building in the next school year, they want the Avon children to have healthier food. "I really want my sister to have good lunches," Jade said. Barkley said Preferred is expected to react to the girls' concerns over the two hot and three cold breakfasts offered during the school week. Reduced-sugar Frosted Flakes and French toast sticks were on this week's breakfast menu. Oatmeal was suggested by the three girls as a morning option. Barkley said a taste test soon may be conducted in teacher Barb Zarras' fourth-grade classroom to gauge if students would be interested in oatmeal.

Camryn, Jade and Erica have stopped eating Avon's food and bring homemade lunches that include fruit, vegetables, whole grain and protein. Preferred has given them free breakfast and lunch tickets in return for providing feedback on the food. "This is a great start in developing a partnership with our meal provider to make sure we are offering our students healthy and tasteful meals," Barkley said.

Steve - I give these girls a lot of credit for stepping up and saying what everyone is afraid to say. Kudos!

Lemons for kidney stones

Confirming an old wive's tale, drinking lemonade has been shown to prevent the formation of kidney stones, according to new research at the UC San Diego Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center. The findings revealed that drinking 4 ounces of reconstituted lemon juice in two liters of water per day decreased the rate of stone formation from 1 to 0.13 stones per patient. Lemons have the highest concentration of citrate—a natural inhibitor of kidney stone formation—of any citrus fruit. Other fruit juices have less citrate and are often supplemented with calcium and contain oxalate, one of the principle components of kidney stones. The most common kidney stone is a calcium stone, which is composed primarily of calcium oxalate. Calcium stones can be caused by too much salt in the diet, which stimulates calcium excretion in the urine.

Flu vaccine suspended in Australia

Seasonal flu vaccinations across Australia for children under five have been suspended after 23 children in Western Australia were admitted to hospitals with convulsions following their injections. One child, aged 1, remains in a coma in a Perth hospital. Commonwealth chief health officer Professor Jim Bishop yesterday announced the suspension while authorities urgently review data from around the country. Doctors are being advised to stop giving the flu vaccine to children.

More than 60 children around the state may have had adverse reactions to the vaccine, including fevers, vomiting and febrile convulsions - a type of fit brought on by a high fever. One child remains in a critical condition in hospital after being given the vaccine.

Officials say that since this year's vaccine program started a month ago, 23 children under the age of 10 had presented to Princess Margaret Hospital with convulsions related to vaccinations they had received less than 12 hours before. Another 40 convulsion cases had been detected in the past month in children at other metropolitan hospitals and in Bunbury. Doctors are now working to determine how many of those children received the flu vaccine. Aside from the convulsions, affected children were suffering fever and vomiting within 12 hours of their flu shots.

Health authorities are also working to determine if the entire Fluvax drug, or just batches, have caused the symptoms, and whether an alternative vaccine should be used. University of Western Australia school of Paediatrics and Child Health Associate Professor Peter Richmond said that only Fluvax - produced by Australia's biggest biopharmaceutical company CSL - was being used to vaccinate children in WA.

Perth mother of two Bea Flint said her 11-month-old boy Avery had a seizure after receiving the first dose of the two-dose flu vaccination on Saturday. Mrs Flint said that after the 9am vaccination she noticed Avery had a minor temperature about 2pm. She treated him with Panadol and by Avery's 7pm bedtime he seemed "OK". However, at 7.45pm, Avery started whimpering and moaning. When Mrs Flint got to his cot the baby had vomited and was lying on his side having a seizure. "In the car driving to the hospital he was just whimpering," she said. "He couldn't cry - his head was hanging down in the car seat and he couldn't move. "I was petrified - it was one of the worst experiences of my life." By the time Avery arrived at St John of God Hospital in Murdoch, he was burning up with a fever of 39.5 degrees.

Courtesy of the Western Australia Today

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pica and Iron deficiency

From Journal of Medical Case Reports

Pica is an unusual condition where patients develop cravings for non-nutritive substances that can cause significant health risks. We report three patients with pica, two of them showing evolutionary changes associated with pica and the third demonstrating a peculiar nature of pica, which has yet to be reported.

We describe three patients who presented with symptoms of pica. The first patient is a 36-year-old Caucasian woman who had dysfunctional uterine bleeding associated with daily ingestion of two super-sized cups of ice as iced tea. The second patient is a 62-year-old Caucasian man who presented with bleeding from colonic polyps associated with drinking partially frozen bottled water. Lastly, the third patient, a 37-year-old Hispanic woman, presented with dysfunctional uterine bleeding and habitually chewed rubber bands. All three patients presented with hematological parameters diagnostic for iron deficiency anemia.

Pica has been practiced for centuries without a clear etiology. We have noticed that the younger community of academic and community physicians are not aware of the importance of complaints related to pica. None of our patients we describe here, as well as their primary care physicians, were aware of the importance of their pica related symptoms.

Pica symptoms abated in one of our patients upon iron supplementation, while the other two are currently under treatment as of this writing. We believe pica is an important sign of iron deficiency that should never be ignored, and the craving for any unusual substance should compel clinicians to search for occult blood loss with secondary iron deficiency.

Bonnie - I can't remember seeing a study involving pica. However, I have counseled several clients who had this condition and all had low iron stores.

Genetic Benefits of 'Mediterranean Diet'

Eating a diet rich in the phenolic components of virgin olive oil represses several pro-inflammatory genes. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genomics suggest that this partly explains the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease seen in people who eat a 'Mediterranean diet'.

Researchers studied the effects of eating a breakfast rich in phenol compounds on gene expression in patients with metabolic syndrome. "We identified 98 differentially expressed genes when comparing the intake of phenol-rich olive oil with low-phenol olive oil. Several of the repressed genes are known to be involved in pro-inflammatory processes, suggesting that the diet can switch the activity of immune system cells to a less deleterious inflammatory profile, as seen in metabolic syndrome."

Phenols are micronutrients of olive oil; the extra-virgin varieties have a particularly large phenol fraction. The researchers claim, "the findings strengthen the relationship between inflammation, obesity and diet and provide evidence at the most basic level of healthy effects derived from virgin olive oil consumption in humans."

Brown Rice and Cardiovascular Protection

Rice is generally thought to be a healthy addition to the diet because it is a source of fiber. However, not all rice is equally nutritious, and brown rice has an advantage over white rice by offering protection from high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, say researchers at the annual 2010 Experimental Biology conference.

A component in a layer of tissue surrounding grains of brown rice may work against angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is an endocrine protein and a known culprit in the development of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

The subaleurone layer of Japanese rice, which is located between the white center of the grain and the brown fibrous outer layer, is rich in oligosaccharides and dietary fibers, making it particularly nutritious. However, when brown rice is polished to make white rice, the subaleurone layer is stripped away and the rice loses some of its nutrients. The subaleurone layer can be preserved in half-milled rice or incompletely-milled rice.

Bonnie - we know that brown rice is much more healthful than white rice, however, it is nice to see the data to back it up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More U.S. Women May Be Obese Than Thought

A new study says federal guidelines on obesity should be revised so more women fit into the category of "obese." U.S. guidelines determine who is obese based on body-mass index, a measurement of whether a person's height and weight are proportional.

The researchers found that about half the women of reproductive age considered obese under World Health Organization guidelines -- which use body-fat analysis instead -- were not obese under federal guidelines. Under the international guidelines, about half of white women and more than two-thirds of Latino women are considered obese.

"BMI is not 'one size fits all.' Inaccurate classification can decrease the impact of obesity prevention programs that will result in many women not receiving the help they need," study senior author Dr. Abbey Berenson, director of the university's Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health, said. The researchers predict that further studies will show similar results for men and other age groups. The study will appear in the May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Bonnie - I have never liked the BMI classification. Body fat is where it's at.

Identical twins differ at gut level

Courtesy of Science News

Identical twins may share appearances, mannerisms, even clothes — but the microbes living in their guts are anything but the same. By comprehensively sequencing microbial genes in the gut, researchers have found that communities of bacteria in adult identical twins differ dramatically. The findings, that appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, give scientists a deeper understanding of what makes one person’s intestinal bacteria different from another’s.

Bacteria in the intestines spur digestion, manufacture vitamins and keep people healthy; changes in gut bacteria have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and metabolic disorders. Because of their role in breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from food, gut bacteria may even influence a person’s weight. In the new study, the researchers comprehensively sequenced bacterial genes in stool samples from a pair of identical twins, 26-year-old obese women from Missouri. Since identical twins have nearly identical DNA, any differences between their gut microbial populations would have to be due to non-genetic factors such as diet, disease history or exposure to antibiotics.

The twins were found to have only 17% of the same bacteria. “Diet is probably a huge, huge factor,” says researchers.

Salmon Calcitonin, OA and Joint Health

Salmon calcitonin treatment increased proteoglycan and collagen synthesis in human osteoarthritic (OA) cartilage, according to journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. In addition to its well-established effect on subchondral bone, calcitonin may prove beneficial to the management of joint diseases through direct effects on chondrocytes.

Human OA cartilage explants were cultured with salmon calcitonin. Direct effects of calcitonin on articular cartilage were evaluated by 1) measurement of proteoglycan synthesis 2) quantification of collagen type II formation 3) QPCR expression of the calcitonin receptor in OA chondrocytes 4) activation of the cAMP signaling pathway 5) investigations of metabolic activity.

QPCR analysis and subsequent sequencing confirmed expression of the calcitonin receptor in human chondrocytes. All doses of salmon calcitonin significantly elevated cAMP level.

Bonnie - salmon calictonin has been around forever and is by prescription only.

Better Vitamin D Status Could Mean Better Quality of Life for Seniors

Researchers recently studied the relationship between vitamin D status and physical function in a group of relatively healthy seniors living in Memphis, TN and Pittsburgh, PA. Their results will be presented to the American Society for Nutrition.

This study was part of the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study initially designed to assess the associations among body composition, long-term health conditions, and mobility in older adults. For Houston's segment of the investigation, she studied 2788 seniors (mean age: ~75 years) for 4 years. At the beginning of the study, they assessed vitamin D status by analyzing each person's blood for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a precursor for activated vitamin D. At baseline and then 2 and 4 years later, the research team then determined whether circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D was related to the participants' physical function. Specifically, they looked at how quickly each participant could walk a short distance (6 meters) and rise from a chair five times as well as maintain his or her balance in progressively more challenging positions. Each participant was also put through a battery of tests assessing endurance and strength.

When the results were tabulated, participants with the highest levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had better physical function. And, although physical function declined over the course of the study, it remained significantly higher among those with the highest vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study compared to those with the lowest vitamin D levels. The scientists were not surprised to learn that, in general, vitamin D consumption was very low in this group of otherwise healthy seniors. In fact, more than 90% of them consumed less vitamin D than currently recommended, and many were relying on dietary supplements.

Bonnie - these results should not surprise anyone. The question becomes: are the caregivers of this age group listening?

Probiotics May Reduce Death and Disease in Preterm Neonates

Use of probiotic supplements may help reduce deaths and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm neonates, according to the results of study to be published in the May issue of Pediatrics. "Systematic reviews of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) indicate lower mortality and ...NEC and shorter time to full feeds after probiotic supplementation in preterm (<34 weeks' gestation) very low birth weight (VLBW; birth weight <1500 g) neonates," write researchers.

Although the risk for NEC and death was significantly lower with use of probiotics, the risk for sepsis was not significantly different. The incidence of NEC was 30% lower with probiotics, based on trial sequential analysis. No significant adverse effects of probiotic use were reported. "The results confirm the significant benefits of probiotic supplements in reducing death and disease in preterm neonates," the study authors write. "The dramatic effect sizes, tight confidence intervals, extremely low P values, and overall evidence indicate that additional placebo-controlled trials are unnecessary if a suitable probiotic product is available."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Who says organic is on the decline?

The Organic Trade Association revealed Thursday findings from its 2010 Organic Industry Survey, which indicated that sales of organic products continued to grow during 2009 despite the distressed state of the economy. Organic fruits and vegetables, which represent 38% of total organic food sales, experienced the most growth, reaching nearly $9.5 billion in sales in 2009, up 11.4% from 2008. Organic fruits and vegetables now represent 11.4% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales.

While total U.S. food sales grew by only 1.6% in 2009, organic food sales grew by 5.1%. Meanwhile, organic nonfood sales grew by 9.1%, as opposed to total nonfood sales which had a 1% negative sales growth rate. These findings are indicative that even in tough times, consumers understand the benefits that organic products offer and will make other cuts before they give up products they value.

Steve - these stats makes this consumer very proud!

Magnesium Bolsters Testosterone Levels in Athletes

Magnesium supplementation may bolster testosterone values in both sedentary and active individuals, with higher increases in people who exercise, according to a new study from Journal Biology Trace Elements Research.

Researchers from Selcuk University assessed how four weeks of magnesium supplementation affect free and total plasma testosterone levels in three groups of practicing athletes and sedentary adults. Testosterone levels were determined at four periods: resting before supplementation, exhaustion before supplementation, resting after supplementation, and exhaustion after supplementation. The sedentary controls received 10 mg/kg body weight magnesium. Tae kwon do athletes practicing 90 to 120 min/d were separated into two groups: an intervention with 10 mg/kg body weight magnesium, and no supplement. Both free plasma testosterone and total testosterone levels increased at exhaustion before and after supplementation compared to resting levels in both athletes and sedentary controls. The increases were greater in the athletes than in the sedentary individuals.

Steve - add another benefit to the ever-increasing list of the super-nutrient magnesium.

New risks for colon cancer

One study to be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting links high levels of circulating C-reactive protein to a higher risk of colon cancer because low-grade inflammation in the body. Women whose protein levels were in the highest quarter had a 2.5-fold higher risk of colon cancer compared to those in the lowest quarter.

In the other study, researchers linked the bacterium Helicobacter pylori to a higher risk of colorectal polyps in blacks. That could make it more likely that they'll develop colon cancer. The study authors, who examined the medical records of 1,262 black patients, found that the polyps were 50 percent more prevalent in those who were infected with H. pylori.

Yet another mark on the blockbuster class of cholesterol drugs, statins don't lower the risk of colorectal cancer, and may even increase the chances of developing precancerous polyps, new research suggests. The Journal Cancer Prevention Research trial included 2,035 people who were at high risk of colon cancer and had already been diagnosed with precancerous polyps, or adenomas. Patients who had been in the placebo group and who used statins at any time were no less likely to develop adenomas over a five-year period compared with those patients who never used statins. For those who took statins for three years or longer, the chances of developing the adenomas were nearly 40 percent higher than those not on statins.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Wheat Bombshell Part 2: The Dark Side of Wheat

Bonnie and Steve -

This is another incredible, well-researched piece by Sayer Ji, who wrote about WGA (wheat germ agglutinin) that we posted in "The Wheat Bombshell" earlier this month. After reading this, I would be surprised if you won't think twice about eating wheat, whether you have an issue with it or not.

Once again, because it is a very long piece, we have summarized some of its most important points.

"The Dark Side of Wheat - New Perspectives on Celiac Disease & Wheat Intolerance"
by Sayer Ji

The globe-spanning presence of wheat and its exalted status among secular and sacred institutions alike differentiates this food from all others presently enjoyed by humans. Yet the unparalleled rise of wheat as the very catalyst for the emergence of ancient civilization has not occurred without a great price. While wheat was the engine of civilization’s expansion and was glorified as a “necessary food,” both in the physical (staff of life) and spiritual sense (the body of Christ), those suffering from celiac disease are living testimony to the lesser known dark side of wheat. A study of celiac disease may help unlock the mystery of why modern man, who dines daily at the table of wheat, is the sickest animal yet to have arisen on this strange planet of ours.


Celiac disease (CD) was once considered an extremely rare affliction, limited to individuals of European origin. Today, however, a growing number of studies indicate that celiac disease is found throughout the US at a rate of up to 1 in every 133 persons, which is several orders of magnitude higher than previously estimated. These findings have led researchers to visualize CD as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg represents the relatively small number of the world’s population whose gross presentation of clinical symptoms often leads to the diagnosis of celiac disease. This is the classical case of CD characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms, malabsorption and malnourishment. It is confirmed with the “gold standard” of an intestinal biopsy. The submerged middle portion of the iceberg is largely invisible to classical clinical diagnosis, but not to modern serological screening methods in the form of antibody testing. This middle portion is composed of asymptomatic and latent celiac disease as well as “out of the intestine” varieties of wheat intolerance. Finally, at the base of this massive iceberg sits approximately 20-30% of the world’s population – those who have been found to carry the HLA-DQ locus of genetic susceptibility to celiac disease on chromosome 6.

The “Celiac Iceberg” may not simply illustrate the problems and issues associated with diagnosis and disease prevalence, but may represent the need for a paradigm shift in how we view both CD and wheat consumption among non-CD populations. First let us address the traditional view of CD as a rare, but clinically distinct species of genetically-determined disease, which I believe is now running itself aground upon the emerging, post-Genomic perspective, whose implications for understanding and treating disease are Titanic in proportion.


Epigenetic factors are directly and indirectly influenced by the presence or absence of key nutrients in the diet, as well as exposures to chemicals, pathogens and other environmental influences. In a nutshell, what we eat and what we are exposed to in our environment directly affects our DNA and its expression. The basic lesson from the post-Genomic era is that we can’t blame our DNA for causing disease. Rather, it may have more to do with what we choose to expose our DNA to.


What all of this means for CD is that the genetic susceptibility locus, HLA DQ, does not determine the exact clinical outcome of the disease. We may need to shift our epidemiological focus from viewing this as a classical “disease” involving a passive subject controlled by aberrant genes, to viewing it as an expression of a natural, protective response to the ingestion of something that the human body was not designed to consume. If we view celiac disease not as an unhealthy response to a healthy food, but as a healthy response to an unhealthy food, classical CD symptoms like diarrhea may make more sense. Diarrhea can be the body’s way to reduce the duration of exposure to a toxin or pathogen, and villous atrophy can be the body’s way of preventing the absorption and hence, the systemic effects of chronic exposure to wheat. I believe we would be better served by viewing the symptoms of CD as expressions of bodily intelligence rather than deviance. We must shift the focus back to the disease trigger, which is wheat itself. People with celiac may actually have an advantage over the apparently unafflicted because those who are “non-symptomatic” and whose wheat intolerance goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because they lack the classical symptoms and may suffer in ways that are equally or more damaging, but expressed more subtly, or in distant organs. Within this view celiac disease would be redefined as a protective (healthy?) response to exposure to an inappropriate substance, whereas “asymptomatic” ingestion of the grain with its concomitant “out of the intestine” and mostly silent symptoms, would be considered the unhealthy response insofar as it does not signal in an obvious and acute manner that there is a problem with consuming wheat. It is possible that celiac disease represents both an extreme reaction to a global, species-specific intolerance to wheat that we all share in varying degrees. CD symptoms may reflect the body’s innate intelligence when faced with the consumption of a substance that is inherently (Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) as an example).


In a previous article, I discussed the role that wheat plays as an industrial adhesive (e.g. paints, paper mache’, and book binding-glue) in order to illustrate the point that it may not be such a good thing for us to eat. The problem is implicit in the word gluten, which literally means “glue” in Latin and in words like pastry and pasta, which derives from wheatpaste, the original concoction of wheat flour and water which made such good plaster in ancient times.

There will be 676 million metric tons of wheat produced this year alone, making it the primary cereal of temperate regions and third most prolific cereal grass on the planet. This global dominance of wheat is signified by the Food & Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) (the United Nation’s international agency for defeating hunger) use of a head of wheat as its official symbol. Any effort to indict the credibility of this “king of grains” will prove challenging. As Rudolf Hauschka once remarked, wheat is “a kind of earth-spanning organism.” It has vast socio-economic, political, and cultural significance. For example, in the Catholic Church, a wafer made of wheat is considered irreplaceable as the embodiment of Christ.

Rather than see wheat for what it very well may be: a biologically inappropriate food source, we “blame the victim,” and look for genetic explanations for what’s wrong with small subgroups of our population who have the most obvious forms of intolerance to wheat consumption, e.g. celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, etc.


I believe we need to shift the emphasis of responsibility for the condition back to the disease “trigger” itself: namely, wheat and other prolamine rich grains, e.g. barley, rye, spelt, and oats. Without these grains the typical afflictions we call celiac would not exist.

Grains have been heralded since time immemorial as the “staff of life,” when in fact they are more accurately described as a cane, precariously propping up a body starved of the nutrient-dense, low-starch vegetables, fruits, edible seeds and meats, they have so thoroughly supplanted (c.f. Paleolithic Diet). Most of the diseases of affluence, e.g. type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, etc. can be linked to the consumption of a grain-based diet, including secondary “hidden sources” of grain consumption in grain-fed fish, poultry, meat and milk products. Our modern belief that grains make for good food, is simply not supported by the facts.


With up to a 50% increase in gluten content of some varieties of wheat, it is amazing that we continue to consider “glue-eating” a normal behavior, whereas wheat-avoidance is left to the “celiac” who is still perceived by the majority of health care practitioners as mounting a “freak” reaction to the consumption of something intrinsically wholesome.

The remainder of this article will demonstrate the following adverse effects of wheat on both celiac and non-celiac populations: 1) wheat causes damage to the intestines 2) wheat causes intestinal permeability 3) wheat has pharmacologically active properties 4) wheat causes damage that is “out of the intestine” affecting distant organs 5) wheat induces molecular mimicry 6) wheat contains high concentrations of excitoxins.

An interesting example of wheat’s addictive potential pertains to the Roman army. The Roman Empire was once known as the “Wheat Empire,” with soldiers being paid in wheat rations. Rome’s entire war machine, and its vast expansion, was predicated on the availability of wheat. Forts were actually granaries, holding up to a year’s worth of grain in order to endure sieges from their enemies. Historians describe soldiers’ punishment included being deprived of wheat rations and being given barley instead. The Roman Empire went on to facilitate the global dissemination of wheat cultivation which fostered a form of imperialism with biological as well as cultural roots. The Roman appreciation for wheat, like our own, may have had less to do with its nutritional value as “health food” than its ability to generate a unique narcotic reaction. It may fulfill our hunger while generating a repetitive, ceaseless cycle of craving more of the same, and by doing so, enabling the surreptitious control of human behavior. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. According to the biologists Greg Wadley & Angus Martin: “Cereals have important qualities that differentiate them from most other drugs. They are a food source as well as a drug, and can be stored and transported easily. They are ingested in frequent small doses (not occasional large ones), and do not impede work performance in most people. A desire for the drug, even cravings or withdrawal, can be confused with hunger. These features make cereals the ideal facilitator of civilisation (and may also have contributed to the long delay in recognising their pharmacological properties).”


John B. Symes, D.V.M. is responsible for drawing attention to the potential excitotoxicity of wheat, dairy, and soy, due to their exceptionally high levels of the non-essential amino acids glutamic and aspartic acid. Excitotoxicity is a pathological process where glutamic and aspartic acid cause an over-activation of the nerve cell receptors (e.g. NMDA and AMPA receptor) leading to calcium induced nerve and brain injury. Of all cereal grasses commonly consumed wheat contains the highest levels of glutamic acid and aspartic acid. Glutamic acid is largely responsible for wheat’s exceptional taste. The Japanese coined the word umami to describe the extraordinary “yummy” effect that glutamic acid exerts on the tongue and palate, and invented monosodium glutamate (MSG) to amplify this sensation. Though the Japanese first synthesized MSG from kelp, wheat can also be used due to its high glutamic acid content. It is likely that wheat’s popularity, alongside its opiate-like activity, has everything to do with the natural flavor-enhancers already contained within it. These amino acids may contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, Alzhemier’s, Huntington’s disease, and other nervous disorders such as Epilepsy, Attention Deficit Disorder and Migraines.


In this article I have proposed that celiac disease be viewed not as a rare “genetically-determined” disorder, but as an extreme example of our body communicating to us a once universal, species-specific affliction: severe intolerance to wheat. Celiac disease reflects back to us how profoundly our diet has diverged from what was, until only recently a grain free diet, and even more recently, a wheat free one. We are so profoundly distanced from that dramatic Neolithic transition in cultural time that “missing is any sense that anything is missing.” The body, on the other hand, cannot help but remember a time when cereal grains were alien to the diet, because in biological time it was only moments ago. Eliminating wheat, if not all of the members of the cereal grass family, and returning to dicotyledons or pseudo-grains like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, may help us roll back the hands of biological and cultural time, to a time of clarity, health and vitality that many of us have never known before. When one eliminates wheat and fills the void left by its absence with fruits, vegetables, high quality meats and foods consistent with our biological needs we may begin to feel a sense of vitality that many would find hard to imagine. If wheat really is more like a drug than a food, anesthetizing us to its ill effects on our body, it will be difficult for us to understand its grasp upon us unless and until we eliminate it from our diet. I encourage everyone to see celiac disease not as a condition alien to our own. Rather, the celiac gives us a glimpse of how profoundly wheat may distort and disfigure our health if we continue to expose ourselves to its ill effects. I hope this article will provide inspiration for non-celiacs to try a wheat free diet and judge for themselves if it is really worth eliminating.

If interested, please read the full article.

School Lunches: Threat to National Security

Unhealthy school lunches pose a threat to national security, according to a group of retired military leaders. Leaving 27 percent of young adults "too fat to fight," childhood obesity is jeopardizing military recruitment, according to a report released by the non-profit group Mission: Readiness.

In the report, the retirees called for less junk food in schools, better nutrition programs for kids and overall better funding for federally provided school lunches. The group also appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday with Sen. Richard Lugar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to show their support for new legislation on the issue pending in congress. "Since 1995, the proportion of recruits who failed their physical exams because they were overweight has risen by nearly 70 percent," said Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We need to reverse this trend, and an excellent place to start is by improving the quality of food served in our schools," he added.

According to the USDA, the National School Lunch Program provided low-cost or free lunches to more than 30.5 million children each school day in 2008. Through a combination of school lunch and breakfast programs, children "acquire close to 40 percent of their daily calories at school," said Barbara Moore, president of Shape Up America! If the food provided at school and the quality of education about nutrition isn't sufficient to teach good eating habits and stave off childhood obesity, then there's a good likelihood that these overweight kids will not be fit to enroll in the military, because an overweight child has about an 80 percent chance of remaining overweight as an adult.

Steve - will the threat of a withering military recruitment pool because of obesity wake people up?

Added sugar bad for cholesterol?

As reported in USA Today

Worried about your cholesterol? You may need to cut back on your sugar intake, a new study suggests. For years, medical experts have said that to reduce your cardiovascular disease risk, you need to watch your consumption of saturated (animal) fat and cholesterol. They also have known that high intake of added sugars is linked to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. But this is one of the first studies to take a close look at the association between added sugars and cholesterol in adults.

Bonnie - this is me bursting out in laughter! One of the first studies. What a joke. For years, health professionals worth their salt have known that sugar is just as much a risk factor, if not more, for bad cholesterol than saturated fat. And as I have said incessantly, it is not all about LDL (bad cholesterol). Cardiac risk has just as much to do with low HDL (good cholesterol), high triglycerides, and high C-Reactive Protein.

Researchers at Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta examined the added sugar intake and blood fat levels in more than 6,100 adults. Added sugars included table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, brown rice syrup, agave syrup and other caloric sweeteners in prepared and processed foods — for instance, in soft drinks, iced tea, candy, pastries, cookies and canned fruits. Not included: the sugars in fruit, 100% juice and other whole foods.

Findings in Journal of the American Medical Association:
  • Participants consumed an average of 21.4 teaspoons of added sugars a day, or more than 320 calories a day from these sources.
  • About 16% of participants' total daily caloric intake was from added sugars. That compares with 11% in 1977-78.
  • People with the higher intakes of added sugars were more likely to have lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides (blood fats).
"We need to get used to consuming foods and drinks that are less sweet," says senior author Miriam Vos, an assistant professor at Emory. "People have been so focused on fat that we haven't been focused on sugar, and it's gotten away from us. This data show we can't let either one or the other get too high."

Bonnie - where have you heard this line before?

Stress a trigger in IBD

Courtesy of Reuters Health

People with inflammatory bowel disease commonly believe that stress can trigger their symptoms, and a new study suggests they may be right. Canadian researchers found that among 552 bowel-disease patients they followed for a year, the risk of a symptom flare-up increased when patients were feeling particularly stressed. The findings, reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, lend support to what many people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have believed to be true. IBD refers to a group of conditions marked by chronic inflammation in the intestines, leading to symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea. The major forms are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The precise cause of the conditions is unclear, but they are thought to involve an immune system overreaction that injures the body's own intestinal tissue.

While stress does not cause IBD, it is one of the environmental factors suspected of triggering symptom flare-ups in some people. The researchers found that patients' risk of a symptom flare-up increased by more than two-fold when they had reported high levels of perceived stress in the preceding three-month period. Of patients who reported a flare-up, 52 percent had had high perceived stress levels in the preceding three months, compared with 29 percent of those who remained symptom-free.

Bonnie - this is absolutely true. Along with offending foods and some medication, stress is a big contributor to IBD flare-ups.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Asthma higher in vitamin D deficient persons

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with lower lung function and greater medication use in children with asthma, according to a study in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology. Researchers reported that vitamin D enhances the activity of corticosteroids, the most effective controller medication for asthma. "Asthmatic children in our study who had low levels of vitamin D were more allergic, had poorer lung function and used more medications," said Dr. Searing. "Conversely, our findings suggest that vitamin D supplementation may help reverse steroid resistance in asthmatic children and reduce the effective dose of steroids needed for our patients."

Overall, 47 percent of subjects had vitamin D levels considered insufficient, below 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/mL). Seventeen percent of the patients had levels below 20 ng/mL, which is considered deficient. These levels were similar to vitamin D levels found in the general population. Patients low in vitamin D generally had higher levels of IgE, a marker of allergy, and responded positively to more allergens in a skin prick test. Allergies to the specific indoor allergens, dog and house dust mite, were higher in patients with low vitamin D levels.

Bonnie - music to my ears :) I implore you to get your D3 level tested!

Brief Meditative Exercise Helps Cognition

While past research using neuroimaging technology has shown that meditation techniques can promote significant changes in brain areas associated with concentration, it has always been assumed that extensive training was required to achieve this effect. Though many people would like to boost their cognitive abilities, the monk-like discipline required seems like a daunting time commitment and financial cost for this benefit. Surprisingly, the benefits may be achievable even without all the work.

New research now suggests that the mind may be easier to cognitively train than we previously believed. Psychologists studying the effects of a meditation technique known as "mindfulness " found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day.

"Simply stated, the profound improvements that we found after just 4 days of meditation training- are really surprising," researchers noted. "It goes to show that the mind is, in fact, easily changeable and highly influenced, especially by meditation." The study appears in the April 2 issue of Consciousness and Cognition.

Bonnie - twenty minutes is ideal, but even ten minutes daily (five minutes upon arising and five minutes before bed) has shown to be not cognitively helpful, but reduces stress and anxiety.

Depression Medication: Patients Report 20 Times More Side Effects Than Recorded in Charts

A study from Rhode Island Hospital shows that patients report side effects from medication for the treatment of depression 20 times more than psychiatrists have recorded in the charts. The researchers recommend the use of a self-administered patient questionnaire in clinical practice to improve the recognition of side effects for patients in treatment. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Researchers asked 300 patients in ongoing treatment for depression to complete a self-administered version of the Toronto Side Effects Scale (TSES). The patients rated the frequency of the 31 side effects and the degree of trouble they experienced. Those patients' charts were then examined to extract side effects information recorded by the treating psychiatrist. The findings indicate that the mean number of side effects reported by the patients on the TSES was 20 times higher than the number recorded by the psychiatrist. When the self-reported side effects were limited to "frequently occurring" or "very bothersome" the rate was still found to be two to three times higher than recorded in their charts. According to researchers, "Despite the importance that side effects have on premature medication discontinuation, there is some evidence that clinicians may not do a thorough job of eliciting information regarding their presence. This study finds that clinicians do not record in their progress notes most side effects reported on a side effects questionnaire."

Bonnie - if this is an indication of how other health professionals log side effects, we are looking at an even greater systemic issue than what already exists.

B Vitamins Reduce Stroke, Heart Disease Deaths

Courtesy of WebMD

Foods rich in B vitamins such as folate and B-6 may reduce the risk of death from stroke and heart problems, Japanese researchers say. Their study looked at the effects of B vitamins on men and women separately, but findings suggest that foods containing the B vitamins might benefit people of both sexes.

Folate and B-6 may reduce the risk of heart failure in men. The same vitamins seem to reduce the risk of death from stroke and heart disease in women.

The researchers examined data from 23,119 men and 35,611 women between ages 40 and 79 who completed questionnaires about dietary habits as part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study. They found that at a median of 14 years follow-up, 986 people had died from stroke, 424 from heart disease, and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system.

Patients were divided into five groups based on their intake of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Researchers compared people with the diets lowest and highest for each nutrient and found that higher consumption of folate and B6 was associated with significantly fewer deaths from heart failure in men. In women, they detected significantly fewer deaths from stroke, heart disease, and total cardiovascular deaths.

The researchers say B6 and folate may fight cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that is affected by diet, but also heredity. The researchers say the findings on the value of B vitamins were consistent with studies in North America and Europe. Homocysteine is believed to cause damage to the inner linings of arteries, promoting blood clots.

The study is published in the April issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Claim: Alcohol Worsens Allergies

Courtesy of the New York Times

By Anahad O'Connor

The Facts
Sniffling, sneezing and struggling through allergy season this year? You may want to lay off alcohol for a while. Studies have found that alcohol can cause or worsen the common symptoms of asthma and hay fever, like sneezing, itching, headaches and coughing. But the problem is not always the alcohol itself. Beer, wine and liquor contain histamine, produced by yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process. Histamine, of course, is the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms. Wine and beer also contain sulfites, another group of compounds known to provoke asthma and other allergy-like symptoms. In one study in Sweden in 2005, scientists looked at thousands of people and found that compared with the general population, those with diagnoses of asthma, bronchitis and hay fever were far more likely to experience sneezing, a runny nose and “lower-airway symptoms” after having a drink. Red wine and white wine were the most frequent triggers, and women, for unknown reasons, were about twice as likely to be affected as men. Another study of thousands of women published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy in 2008 found that having more than two glasses of wine a day almost doubles the risk of allergy symptoms, even among women who were free of seasonal and perennial allergies at the start of the study. It helps to be on the lookout for other foods that either contain or release histamine, like aged cheeses, pickled or fermented products and yeast-containing foods, like bread, cider and grapes.

The Bottom Line
Drinking alcohol can cause or worsen allergies, particularly in women.

Behavioral rewards 'work like drugs' for ADHD

The brains of children with attention-deficit disorders respond to on-the-spot rewards in the same way as they do to medication, say scientists. A Nottingham University team measured brain activity as children played a computer game, offering extra points for less impulsive behavior. Their findings, published in Biological Psychiatry, could mean lower doses of drugs such as Ritalin in severe cases. But they warn teachers and parents may often struggle to give instant rewards.

In severe cases, stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, which act on parts of the brain associated with attention and behavior, can be given. In addition, parents are often asked to try to influence the child's actions directly by rewarding positive behavior and making sure that there are negative consequences if a child behaves badly. Research has suggested that, unlike in non-ADHD children, these incentives and disincentives only work well if delivered on the spot, as opposed to later in the day or week.

The Nottingham team wanted to look at the effects of this "behavior therapy" in the brain of the child. They devised a computer game in which children had to "catch" aliens of a certain color, while avoiding aliens of a different color. The game was designed to test the children's ability to resist the impulse to grab the wrong sort of alien. To test whether incentives made a difference, in one variant of the game the reward for catching the right alien was increased fivefold, as was the penalty for catching the wrong one.

Professor Chris Hollis, who led the research, said that the combination of drugs and incentives produced the best results, and might mean children with ADHD could take lower doses of drugs while maintaining control of their behaviour. He said: "Although medication and behaviour therapy appear to be two very different approaches of treating ADHD, our study suggests that both types of intervention may have much in common in terms of their effect on the brain."

Steve - any non-invasive therapy that can reduce the amount of stimulant drugs for these children is a benefit.

Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Women who take multivitamin tablets along with calcium supplements seem to have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. The authors of the study, which is to be presented Sunday at the American Association for Cancer Research annual conference, did not separate out which specific vitamins might be beneficial but suggested that the interactions of different vitamins together might account for the beneficial effect.

For this study, the authors compared vitamin and calcium intakes of 268 women with breast cancer and 457 women without breast cancer, all in Puerto Rico. They also measured the ability of the women's DNA to repair itself, a function that is critical to keeping cancer at bay. "We've known that DNA repair capacity is linked to several other types of cancer," said researchers. "DNA repair capacity is very, very linked to breast cancer risk." Here, women who were older, had low DNA repair capacity levels, a family history of breast cancer and who had not breast-fed all had a higher risk of breast cancer.

Taking a multivitamin tablet reduced the risk of tumors by about 30 percent, while calcium supplements reduced the risk by 40 percent. But when the DNA repair capacity was taken out of the equation, calcium was no longer protective, strongly suggesting that calcium's protective effect came only from its influence on DNA repair. Vitamins, on the other hand, seemed to have a beneficial effect even beyond contributions to DNA repair, the researchers said.

One drawback of the study is that the authors did not measure women's actual vitamin levels, instead relying on responses to questionnaires.

Bonnie - small study to be sure, but first I've seen to actually measure the patient's ability to repair DNA.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Children may groan, but Mom was right, scientists find

By Tom Spears

The more scientists study us, the more they confirm that your mother was right.You should eat your veggies, wash your hands and play with friends outdoors.Here's a look at some motherly wisdom as the modern lab takes it apart at the molecular level:

"There are lots of compounds, lots of chemicals that lie within those fruits and vegetables, that we're discovering and that have effects in terms of our health and wellness," says Jeff Zidichouski, a neuroscientist with the National Research Council. "They have a lot of nutrients that we're just starting to understand (regarding) their biological activity," says the researcher at the NRC's Institute for Nutrisciences and Health in Charlottetown.Take resveratrol, an antioxidant in grapes and red wine, for instance. "They're just finding out now that it has an influence on genes that are important in the aging process."There's lycopene in cooked tomatoes, anthocyanins in blueberries. On and on, they're all being studied, because scientists have known for some years that these are good for you, but they don't always know why.

This is actually a big deal in hospitals, and among pandemic people. Just ask Dr. Allison McGeer of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, one of the senior people in charge of fighting Toronto's SARS epidemic a few years back.Handwashing prevents more than simple colds, she said at the time. It helps us prevent infection the simple way in a world where superbugs are evolving in response to all the antibiotics we slosh around: "Increasing handwashing reduces respiratory infections by an average of 40 per cent. If we did that, we'd have a huge impact on antibiotic use ... and not so much antibiotic resistance."

We go back to Zidichouski in Charlottetown. Once again, cod liver oil has been put through the modern lab. That's really the beginning of the omega-3 story in a way -- heavy consumption of that particular form of oil. There's a period of maybe the last couple of generations where it wasn't consumed all that much. "People didn't like the taste of it," he said. "And now you're starting to find that, OK, these compounds (in cod liver oil) are very beneficial to you.

Dr. Spock recommended two-plus hours of fresh air every day for kids. Your mother may simply have wanted you out from underfoot.Either way, it aligns with modern findings on cardiac fitness, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other ailments related to inactivity.The friendship is also healthy. And kids care more about their environment if they have thrown sticks in the local stream than if they stayed inside and memorized "save-the-planet" slogans.

At the University of Chicago's psychology department, Boaz Keysar tested the common wisdom that if you're nice to others, they'll be nice to you. Results are published in the December issue of Psychological Science.Common wisdom "suggests that if you do something nice to me, I reciprocate in kind, and if you do something nasty to me, I also reciprocate in kind," he said. This turned out to be only half right. He tried some simple games in which two people take turns taking money from each other. Some of them were students with play money; some were people in downtown Chicago, who got to keep the money. The game gave players a chance to share generously, or to grab more for themselves at the other player's expense.Sharing does indeed cause other people to share on a similar scale, he found. But that wasn't true of hurting other people. "So if you do something not very nice to me, I turn around and respond more strongly. Then you think I'm overreacting and respond even more strongly, and there's escalation."

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