Monday, February 16, 2009

Pandora's GMO Box

Pandora's GMO box has been opened and is already unleashing a torrent of unnatural and unknown consequences on a largely unsuspecting public and world. The earth has plenty of natural diversity. We don't need to be haphazardly creating new organisms simply because a company can copyright it and claim ownership to force the rest of us to pay for it. Most GMOs are now approved with inadequate testing that does not fully cover potential impacts to the environment and human health. Many approved GMOs have already been shown to cause serious health problems in animal models on further testing. Not very reassuring. Also, most GMOs have been developed to promote business interests and not human health. Why should we be risking human health and the world's environment so that privileged businesses can increase their profits?

Even if we manage to close Pandora's GMO box, GMO pollen has already infected many non-GMO crops. Consequently, much irreparable damage has already been done. But unfortunately, the box is only opening wider. Many more GMO plants and animals are planned for release in the near future. It's time to act and put and end to this travesty.

So what can we do?

Buy Organic

In the United States of Big Business ... err America ... about all we can do immediately is to vote against GMO by buying organic foods. By definition, organic foods are not allowed to have GMO, at least not more than 5% at worst. If enough people switch to organic, businesses will follow the money. The rapidly growing organic market is a good sign, but this approach is not likely to stop the GMO epidemic.

Labeling

Push government for required labeling of all products that include GMO. Such labeling would allow more consumers to make their economic voice heard.

Change the Law

The best way to end this plague would be to take away the right to patent genetically modified genes, which should have never been allowed in the first place. This action would take away the financial incentives for GMO. Unfortunately, this would probably take an act of Congress.


Learn More About Genetically Modified Organisms

What are genes?

Are GMOs safe?

Scrambling and gambling with the genome

Scientists speak

Corporate Ties

Farmer's Woes

Biohazards: The Next Generation?

Say no to GMO!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Miraculous Milk

Nature's perfect food? Certainly for young mammals. Developed through evolution to provide all the nutrients needed for young rapidly growing mammals to thrive and mature.

Miraculous? Definitely!

The miracle of milk is that it provides all the nutrients that mammals need for optimal health in a highly bioavailable form that also includes beneficial probiotics and immune system support. Humans began routinely drinking milk from animals around the time that herding of animals began many thousands of years ago. Groups that included milk in their diet thrived and spread across much of the old world, quite possibly from the added health benefits from consuming dairy. In these cultures, milk was often revered as a special food that conferred good health. Milk was an important mainstay in the diet of most Europeans and European colonists of the new world.

Got grass ?As large cities grew in industrialized areas, the demand for milk increased. It wasn't long before large factory dairies appeared in many cities to supply this demand. Unfortunately, the cows were crowded in filthy conditions and fed unnatural diets that made them sick. The sick animals and filthy environment resulted in poor quality milk that was heavily contaminated with pathogens that quickly made many people sick from drinking it. In order to sell this filthy milk, the dairy owners turned to pasteurization to kill the pathogens in the milk. This approach was cheaper than trying to clean up their operations. Today, this has become the paradigm for cheap milk for the masses - quantity at the expense of quality.

Got Raw Milk?



Pasteurization

Can you imagine pasteurizing and homogenizing a mother's milk before giving it to her child? When pasteurized cow's milk is given to calves, they don't thrive and many die prematurely. Many of the important healthful aspects of milk are destroyed by the heat of pasteurization, including beneficial probiotic bacteria, enzymes that promote bioavailability of nutrients, and other special proteins that stimulate the immune system and suppress harmful microbes. Pasteurization is simply an excuse to sell filthy milk. Now most of the public can only buy dead milk from filthy factory farms. Pasteurized milk won't immediately make you sick unless it becomes contaminated, but it will likely contribute to allergies, asthma, and inflammation, and won't provide the proper nutrition for good health.

Requiring milk to be pasteurized to avoid harmful bacteria is like requiring all vegetables and meat to be cooked before being sold. We as consumers have a right to buy clean and healthy unprocessed foods. Many more people are sickened from eating contaminated vegetables and meat, as well as contaminated pasteurized milk, than from raw milk. Most cases of illness from raw milk have resulted from filthy factory farmed milk being accidentally or intentionally distributed without pasteurization. Ironically, raw milk from clean dairies is very resistant to harmful microbes, whereas pasteurized milk is not. That's why raw milk turns sour at room temperature, but sour raw milk will not make you sick. It's known as clabbered milk and was commonly used before the days of refrigeration. On the other hand, pasteurized milk rapidly goes rancid at room temperature and will make you sick.

The real solution to food borne illness is to provide clean food for sale in the first place. Proper farming techniques can provide clean food, including dairy. Animals should be fed their natural diet for optimal health of the animals and for optimal nutrition in the meat and milk they provide. Most factory farmed feed-lot and dairy animals are fed unnatural diets of grain and soy that make the animals sick and more likely to spread pathogens such as e-coli. To keep them alive, they are given massive amounts of antibiotics, which in turn helps to develop strains of harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The dairy animals are also given hormones to make them produce more milk, but of lesser nutritional quality. These tactics allow the production of cheap, but poor quality milk, to outsell competitors and drive larger profits.

Many health practitioners now advise patients to eliminate dairy from their diet because of the harmful effects of this degraded and sorry substitute for real milk. Too bad most of them don't know about the excellent health benefits of fresh clean raw milk. More and more people are learning about real milk as the word spreads from those who switch to raw milk and find that it is a true panacea for good health, unlike the dead milk most people buy.

Raw Milk and Raw Eggs


The Milk Cure

In the past, raw milk from pasture-fed cows was used to successfully treat many diseases. As recently as the early 1900's, patients were treated by feeding them nothing but raw milk from pastured cows, about 5 to 10 quarts a day, in small amounts about every half hour. Dr. J. R. Crewe, of the Mayo Foundation, forerunner of the Mayo Clinic, in 1929 reported that this treatment was used "chiefly in tuberculosis, diseases of the nervous system, cardiovascular and renal conditions, hypertension, and in patients who are underweight". He also reported that "when sick people are limited to a diet containing an excess of vitamins and all the elements necessary to growth and maintenance, which are available in milk, they recover rapidly without the use of drugs and without bringing to bear all the complicated weapons of modern medicine". Unfortunately, the milk cure is not very profitable and was soon replaced by more profitable therapies, including drugs and surgery. In this day of very expensive medical treatments, maybe we need to strongly reconsider the milk cure as a first resort. Modern medicine should be the last resort.


Cultured Milk

Before the days of refrigeration, milk was consumed fresh, shortly after milking, or was cultured for later consumption. Raw milk can be cultured by it's own microbes to create clabbered milk or buttermilk, or with added cultures to make products like yogurt, kefir, and cheeses. Raw cultured dairy offers the same benefits of raw milk and may be a better option for those with blood sugar problems, since the amount of milk sugar is reduced by culturing. Cultured dairy made from pasteurized whole milk may not be as beneficial and "low fat" dairy may even be detrimental to health.

Nutrients in Human Milk

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has compiled nutrient data on human milk, which is shown in the table below, along with the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for children ages 1 to 3 from the US Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, for comparison. This table shows data for the amount of milk required to achieve 100% of the calcium DRI. It is interesting to note that when the calcium DRI is satisfied, the average human milk is greatly deficient in iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, manganese, and vitamins B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), E (alph-tocopherol), D (cholecalciferol), and K (phylloquinone), with less than 50% of these nutrients compared to the DRI. In contrast, copper and vitamins A and C in human milk are two to five times higher than the DRI when calcium is at 100% of the DRI. If we assume that the average human milk documented by the USDA is sufficient for good health of the child at the quantity necessary to provide 100% of the calcium DRI, then the implication for the deficient nutrients is that either the DRIs are over-estimated for these nutrients, or the bioavailability of these nutrients is much less in foods other than milk (or some combination of these two possibilities). As for copper and vitamins A and C, perhaps the DRIs for these nutrients are too low relative to calcium.

Nutrients in Human Milk
(click to enlarge)

Comparing Milk from Humans, Cows, and Goats

Milk from all mammals is similar in content, though each mammal produces milk best suited to the needs of their own offspring. However, even within species, the nutrients in milk can vary substantially depending on the diet of the mother. Mammals eating a healthy native diet will produce the healthiest milk. When important native foods are missing from the diet, milk quality will suffer.

Even though milk evolved primarily to boost the survival odds for offspring, it has the complete package of nutrients, probiotics,and enzymes to sustain adults of many species as well. Human use of milk from herded animals over thousands of years is a prime example. Nonetheless, it is interesting to compare the nutrients in human milk versus those in cow's milk. The table below shows nutrient data for human, cow, and goat milk for comparison. Human milk has less protein and more fat and carbohydrate that cow and goat milk, possibly because human babies don't grow as fast as young cows and goats. Human milk is also lower in most minerals, except for iron, copper, manganese, and selenium. It is substantially lower by weight in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Human milk is substantially higher in vitamin C than cow or goat milk and substantially higher in vitamins A and B3 (niacin) than cow milk. Human milk is much lower in vitamin B12 than cow milk and substantially lower in vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B9.

Nutrients in Human, Cow, and Goat Milk
(click to enlarge)

Milk Intolerance

Not all humans can properly digest milk, for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is that a large number of people lose the ability to produce the digestive enzyme lactase as adults. Lactase is needed to digest the lactose sugar in milk. Most people who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk because it has lactase provided by bacteria in the milk. However, this natural lactase is destroyed by pasteurization. Consequently, lactose intolerant individuals will have difficulty digesting pasteurized milk and will suffer unpleasant symptoms such as excessive gas or diarrhea. A few individuals have difficulty digesting the casein protein in milk. This problem may be aggravated by inadequate stomach acidity. The type of casein from the most modern breeds of cow, like the pervasive Holsteins, appears to cause the most problems. The casein from older breeds, like Jerseys and Guernseys, or from goat milk is usually better tolerated by these individuals.

Update 3/21/09 A1 and A2 Milk

The primary reason for casein related health problems may be the form of the casein. The casein in human, goat, and sheep milk is the A2 form of casein that is well tolerated by humans. However, most modern cows also have the A1 form of casein, which is not as well tolerated. Heritage breeds like Jersey and Guernsey have much less of the suspect A1 casein. However, the much more common Holsteins often have as much as 50-70% of the casein as A1, while pure-bred Jerseys have more like 10-30% of the casein as A1. Since Holsteins dominate milk production in many areas, these populations are exposed to greater risk of problems from the A1 form of casein, including auto-immune disease, heart disease , type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia. For more details read The Devil in the Milk and Beta Casein A1 and A2 in Milk and Human Health.

References and Further Reading

What Is Real Milk?
Raw Milk - History, Health Benefits and Distortions

The Health Benefits of Raw Milk from Grass-Fed Animals
The Health Benefits of Raw Milk

Milk: It Does a Body Good
What's in Raw Milk?

Milk History

Real Milk Cures Many Diseases

The Raw Milk Revolution

Where to Find Raw Milk

United States

Other Countries

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vaccine Overload


The companies that develop and manufacture vaccines for profit and the clinics that provide the vaccines also for profit, would have us believe that vaccines will save us from disease while causing negligible harm. They point to the dramatic drop in disease as evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines and claim that risks in taking vaccines are minimal and well worth the benefit.

But a closer and independent look at the data paints a different picture. While some vaccines may confer a reduced likelihood of infection, all vaccines have significant side effects, with substanitial numbers of severe adverse reactions, sometimes resulting in death. Not surprisingly, there have been no long-term safety studies for vaccines where the health of vaccinated children is compared with an unvaccinated control group! We need to take a very careful and unbiased look at the benefits and risks of any vaccine before accepting it.

Most infectious diseases were already declining rapidly before vaccines were introduced, with little evidence that vaccines have made an improvement. Some vaccines are notoriously ineffective, such as the influenza vaccine. Many people who take the vaccine get the flu anyway. Even the most effective vaccines offer no more than about 40 to 60 percent effectiveness and some vaccines are actually suspected of causing cases of the disease they are supposed to prevent.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty about the effectiveness of the vaccines, we have the problem of side effects caused by vaccines. In order to make a vaccine work, it must strongly stimulate the immune system into responding to the target agent given in the vaccine, usually a disabled version of the target infectious agent. But strongly stimulating the immune system has its own hazards, one of which is possible triggering of allergies to other non-infectious agents that just happen to be present when the vaccine is given or shortly thereafter. The rapid rise in asthma and allergies in recent years could be one of the consequences. Another hazard is the possible triggering of auto-immune problems like lupus and type I diabetes, and neurological problems, like autism. The pertussis vaccine has actually been used to induce auto-immune disease in laboratory animals. Another problem is that vaccines are often given several at a time to young children. This practice is likely to compound the effect on the immune system, which is not fully developed in young children. Yet another problem is that some of the adjuvants used to stimulate the immune system are poisons in their own right and can cause harmful side effects, such as aluminum hydroxide and aluminum phosphate. Finally, the production and preservation of vaccines introduces even more potentially harmful compounds directly into the blood, such as foreign animal proteins used to incubate the infectious agent, poisonous formaldehyde used to deactivate live infectious agents, and thimerosal with poisonous mercury which is still used to preserve some vaccines.

An excellent resource for vaccine information is the National Vaccine Information Center. They have information about individual vaccines as well as state laws and exceptions regarding vaccines.
Further Reading

An Introduction to the Vaccination Controversy

Vaccines and Autism

Why Vaccines Aren't Safe

Do Vaccines Work and Are They Safe?

Vaccines: A Second Opinion

Avoid Flu Shots, Take Vitamin D Instead

Significant Harm from Just ONE Mercury-Containing Vaccine

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cholesterol Confusion

Everyone knows what cholesterol is now - that stuff that clogs arteries and causes heart attacks, right?

Wrong!

When you get a blood test for "cholesterol", what they are measuring is not the chemical cholesterol directly, but instead is the total amount of certain lipoproteins that just happen to contain some cholesterol. It's a bit of a misnomer - sort of like calling a car an engine. Let's measure the weight of all those engines on the road by totaling the weight of all the cars on the road. What's worse, there are many other vehicles on the road that have engines but are not cars, like trucks and buses. Does it make sense to total the weight of just cars as an indication of the weight of engines on the road?

There is a chemical called cholesterol and it's an essential part of every cell membrane. It's a precursor to several important hormones and to vitamin D. It's considered both a sterol and a lipid, but not a fat. All fats are lipids, but not all lipids are fats. Cholesterol and fats are not soluble in water, but are needed by our cells. In order to transport cholesterol and fats through our blood, which is largely water, our body bundles them into packages of protein, fat,and cholesterol that can be carried in the blood. These packages are lipoproteins.

There are several kinds of lipoproteins the body uses for different purposes. They are classified by their density, which also roughly corresponds to their size. The largest and least dense are chylomicrons, followed by very low density lipoprotein (VLDL). Both of these contain cholesterol but are not included in total "cholesterol" blood tests. Next are low density lipoproteins (LDL), intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL), and high density lipoproteins (HDL).

In blood tests, the VLDL is called "triglycerides", even though all lipoproteins contain triglycerides (more confusion?) and "total cholesterol" is the total of LDL, some IDL, and HDL.

So how do cholesterol and lipoproteins relate to heart disease?

True cholesterol does not really appear to be a player in heart disease. It is actually very important for good health. However, glycated proteins and fats as well as oxidized fats, all of which can be incorporated into lipoproteins, do appear to play a role. Glycation occurs when a sugar molecule, such as fructose or glucose, binds to a protein or fat and oxidized fats are generally polyunsaturated fats that have been oxidized into peroxides. Some types of glycated proteins and all fat peroxides can cause a variety of problems and are implicated in both heart disease and cancer.

For optimal health, and thus avoidance of heart disease and cancer, we should be striving to reduce our load of glycated proteins and oxidized fats. Elevated blood sugar and triglyceride levels are correlated with elevated blood levels of glycated protein. So, obviously, keeping blood sugar and triglyceride levels normalized is ideal. Eat starches with fat and protein to minimize blood sugar spikes after meals or snacks. Don't eat foods with added refined sugar and don't eat too much fruit. Low-carb diets and/or excercise tend to normalize blood sugar and triglycerides.
The fats most prone to oxidation are polyunsaturated fats. Large amounts of dietary polyunsaturated fat are new to the human diet. Up until the last couple hundred years, the typical amount of dietary polyunsaturated fat was around five percent of dietary calories or less. Only recently has the amount of polyunsaturated fat been increasing dramatically in the human diet as cheap vegetable oils have displaced healthier animal fats in commercial food products. Keeping dietary polyunsaturated fats under four percent of total calories is ideal. That means avoiding most processed foods like sauces, dressings, baked goods, and most cooking oils, and eating only small amounts of nuts. Most commercial sauces and dressings are loaded with soybean oil or other oils high in polyunsaturated fat. Most commercial cooking oils are also high in polyunsaturated fat and sometimes trans-fat (made from hydrogenated polyunsaturated fat). That means avoid most commercial fried and baked foods.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

WAP Diet

No, it's not another fad diet for losing weight!

It's really a philosophy for healthy eating that's been around for thousands of years and was put into perspective about 70 years ago by the work of Weston A. Price (WAP). The idea is to eat foods that kept our ancestors healthy and to avoid highly processed and refined foods that are low in nutrients and high in harmful additives. Actually, many people do lose weight using this approach to eating, but the main goal is getting good nutrition for optimal health. Normalizing weight is a fringe benefit :)

Not all of the foods that our ancestors ate were equally healthy. Some foods confer greater health than others. That's what Weston Price studied in the 1920's and 1930's when he traveled around the world to document the native foods that people ate and their health. His conclusion was that the healthiest native diets included animal seafoods, organ meats, and/or dairy in their diet. These are the foods that have provided optimal nutrition for thousands of years. He found that when people abandoned the healthy diet of their ancestors for a more modern diet of refined flour and sugar and highly processed foods, their health suffered greatly.

Today we see a massive shift to highly processed foods in much of the world and a corresponding rise in poor health. Rates of obesity are increasing rapidly as people follow sadly misguided conventional dietary and health advice and are confused and misled by advertising for manufactured fake foods. When they get sick, they are given expensive drugs that often cause more health problems than they solve. It's time to get back to the foods that kept people healthy for thousands of years and shun the modern manufactured fake foods.

The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) has been teaching the about the WAP approach to eating for about 10 years now and is a good source for health and diet information. My experience is that each of us has to discover which ancestral foods are best for us by trial and error. Not all traditional foods are best for everyone. Try them out and find the ones that work best for your health. Here's a WAPF video that discusses Price's teachings:



Some people have food sensitivities to even some traditional foods that others are able to tolerate. Read here for more information about food sensitivities. That's why it's important to find the traditional foods that work best for your own health.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fluoride - Friend or Foe ?

Most of us were taught that fluoride is our friend and helps to prevent cavities and strengthen bones. But toxicologists rate fluoride as more poisonous than lead and almost as poisonous as arsenic. So how can it be our friend?

The supporting argument is that fluoride in small amounts is beneficial and only in large amounts is it harmful. Well, this is true of many beneficial minerals, but what does science show us about the benefits and toxicity of fluoride? The evidence suggests that fluoride has little if any beneficial effects and even at relatively low concentrations has a variety of serious harmful effects. Yes, topical application of fluoride at high concentration will kill bacteria in your mouth and that may possibly confer some benefit against tooth decay. But at what cost to your health?


Because of it's poisonous effects, fluoride is a common ingredient in many pesticides. That should tell us something. Too much fluoride can cause obvious bad symptoms, the most common of which is dental fluorosis. The rates of dental fluorosis have increased dramatically in the U.S. over the last several decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dental fluorosis now impacts 32% of American children, whereas in the 1940s, dental fluorosis rates in fluoridated areas averaged 10%. But that's not the only potential problem caused by too much fluoride. Fluoride apparently interferes with proper thyroid function and iodine metabolism in the body. It may be a factor in the recent epidemic of hypothyroidism, since low thyroid function is related to problems with iodine metabolism. Also, studies of fluoride levels in drinking water show a clear inverse relationship with intelligence in children. Apparently, higher levels of fluoride reduce the intelligence of children by negatively affecting brain development.

So many people were sold on the idea that fluoride is beneficial in preventing tooth decay that it has been added to public water supplies in much of the U.S.A. for many years, typically at concentrations of around one part per million (ppm). But is this really beneficial? In Europe, fluoride has been banned from water supplies in most areas, and yet levels of tooth decay are not higher as a result. There is little evidence to show that adding fluoride to drinking water prevents tooth decay. Unfortunately, adding fluoride to drinking water increases our exposure not only directly by drinking the water, but indirectly by consuming food and beverages that were processed with fluoridated water. Considering that we also get fluoride from pesticides in our food, from toothpaste, from non-stick cookware, household pesticide sprays, and from some pharmaceutical drugs, that can add up to quite a bit of fluoride intake. This increased fluoride exposure may be enough to explain the large increase in dental fluorosis and to raise suspicion in the large increase in hypothyroidism.

We were also taught that fluoride helps to strengthen our bones. This may possibly be true in very small amounts, but even this possibility is controversial. Animal studies show either no effect or a negative effect of fluoride on bone strength. But at the typical exposures today, fluoride may contribute significantly to bone brittleness and easier bone breakage.

If you drink fluoridated water, it typically has about one ppm or one milligram per liter (mg/l) of fluoride. That means if you drink two liters per day (about two quarts per day) you get two milligrams (mg) of fluoride per day just from your water alone.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, has set the Adequate Intake (AI) per day for fluoride at 4 mg for men and 3 mg for women (ages 14 and over). They list the "Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL)" at 10 mg per day. Unfortunately, it appears that this recommendation was heavily influenced by pro-fluoridation proponents and is much too high. The UL should probably be more like 2 to 4 mg per day and ideally we should try to keep total fluoride intake to less than one mg per day to minimize risk of harmful effects.

There are a few foods that have higher amounts of fluoride and should be consumed in modest amounts, including tea, wine, and raisins. Natural ground water can also be high in fluoride in some areas and may need to be tested before use as a drinking water supply.

Here's what the USDA reports for the concentration of fluoride (ppm):
1.15 Tea, green, brewed (23 samples)
2.72 Tea, green, decaffeinated, brewed (10 samples)
3.73 Tea, black, brewed, regular, all (63 samples)
1.05 Wine, red (14 samples)
2.02 Wine, white (17 samples)
2.13 Grape juice, white (12 samples)
2.34 Raisins (1 sample)

Note that 1 ppm = 1 mg/l = 0.24 mg per 8 ounce cup

The Linus Pauling Institute reports the following measurements of fluoride in brewed tea (ppm):
0.6-1.0 Oolong
1.2-1.7 Green
1.0-1.9 Black
2.2-7.3 Brick tea

The amount of fluoride varies by the age of the tea leaf. The newest buds have the least and the oldest leaves have the most. That means white teas made from the buds have the lowest fluoride and high quality teas made from younger leaves will have less than low quality teas and brick teas made from older leaves.

Organic teas may also tend to have less fluoride. The Weston A Price Foundation reported the following concentrations of fluoride (ppm):
0.86 Tap water
0.62 Filtered water
0.94 Organic black tea (made with filtered water)
0.90 Kombucha (made with organic black tea)

Regarding prevention of tooth decay, Weston Price found that people eating healthy native diets had little tooth decay. But when these same people began eating refined flour and sugar, tooth decay became rampant. The moral is that proper diet and hygiene will prevent tooth decay. Added fluoride is just another poison that we don't need in our water and diet.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Bit About Me

Several readers have asked me for more information about myself. Blogspot doesn't have much room in the profile, so I decided to make a post about my perspective on health and happiness. The photo above is me with my 10-year old daughter before the daddy-daughter girl scout dance last March. As you can see, my daughter doesn't take me too seriously :)

First, I am not selling or endorsing any products or services nor do I receive any money for what I do with this blog. The views presented here are those that I feel are most likely to be correct based on careful consideration of the evidence. However, I have found that the more I read about health, the more extremely complicated it is to fully understand - especially the science behind it all. It's so complicated that I'm skeptical anyone really has all the right answers. I certainly don't. For any health question, the best we can do is to learn as much as we can about differing views and make judgments based on the preponderance of the evidence. But be careful about the source of the information. There are many groups that offer health advice who are heavily funded by large commercial interests that have a vested interest in the recommendations. In other words, beware of those pedaling advice that will increase their profits. They may be more interested in your money than your health.

The internet and search engines are a wonderful tool for accessing health information. That's why I set up this blog, to help serve as a guide to some of the good health information that I have found. The trouble is, there are so many conflicting opinions, how do you sort out what is right and what is wrong? My gut feeling (pun intended :) is that historic and prehistoric evidence of diet and related health are a good context to use in making hypotheses about diet and health. Studies of traditional diets and the health of people eating these diets can tell us volumes about the types of foods necessary for adequate health and even optimal health.

Science is all about testing these hypotheses. Ideally science should be conducted in an unbiased manner with carefully developed studies that clearly support or refute various hypotheses. Unfortunately, health science has become more about finding ways to make money, as in selling drugs or other products, rather than to find out how diet can best provide optimal health. Many scientific studies are poorly conceived and end up providing meaningless results. Others are statistically manipulated to favor pet hypotheses that are not well supported by the evidence. And a few are downright frauds. Interpreting the results of scientific studies can also be very difficult because you have to consider the details of how the study was conducted and analyzed in order to determine what the results mean. You also have to wade through all the sciencese and baffling terminology, which is almost as bad as legalese.

Financial investments tend to follow avenues that yield the most profit, and unfortunately drugs are where the money is. Even government funds are often channeled toward studies favored by large commercial interests with strong political influence through lobbying efforts and direct political support. I am not totally against drugs. I believe they do have a place, mainly in traumatic situations where quick fixes are needed. However, for long term health I suspect that most drugs cause more problems from side effects than they solve. And they are usually targeted at symptoms rather than treating the cause of the problem. If you don't treat the cause of the problem, it won't go away. The drugs will only mask the symptoms and cause further problems through their side effects.

Of course, I recognize that finding the cause for many health problems is no easy task. There may be as many causes as there are problems. But diet and lifestyle are likely to be major players for most chronic illnesses and most health problems today are the chronic type - like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Some health problems may be genetically mediated, but even many of these may respond to dietary and lifestyle choices.

As you can tell, I have come to believe that diet and lifestyle are the main factors that shape our health. Please read some of my other posts for more details and also visit the links on the sidebar for a lot more information.

And now, if I haven't thoroughly bored you to death already :) I'll tell you a little about myself. I have not had to deal with any major health problems thankfully - just the usual metabolic syndrome tendencies that most people over 40 seem to have these days. I was born in 1952 and did receive some dubious vaccines and sulfa drugs as a child in the late 1950's. My tonsils were removed when I was about 5 years old and I can still remember the awful smell of the ether gauze they placed on my face to put me out. And a dentist with dollars in his eyes gave me lots of amalgam fillings in the early and mid 1960's. I was skinny and shy while growing up near the border in South Texas. I worked on my grandfather's conventional farm during the summers in high school and early college years.

I had enough interest in health to take a college course on nutrition on my way to getting a master's degree in engineering. I also briefly became a vegetarian for about 6 months to join a meditation group, but quit when I ended up joining a different group. I started eating whole wheat bread and joined a local food coop when I was in college. I majored in meteorology and minored in environmental health engineering. I wanted to be a weather forecaster, but ended up getting into the environmental field where I now work as an air quality forecaster and I'm also involved in air quality data validation and analyses. I have lived in the Austin, Texas area since 1970. I met my wife here in 1992. We got married in 1994 and our daughter was born in 1997.

After college, I became a soda junky, drinking 3 or 4 every day and regularly ate sweets for dessert. That's a lot of sugar and caffeine. I also ate a fair amount of fried commercial foods, though not every day. Otherwise, I had a fairly good diet, with whole grains, vegetables, fruit, meat, and conventional dairy. My sweet tooth led me to gradually gain weight. I'm about 6 feet 1 inch tall and I weighed about 170 pounds at age 20, about 185 pounds at 30, and was up to about 195 pounds when I met my wife at age 40. After college, I started jogging about 2 miles several times a week. Then a girl friend talked me into doing a one-hour aerobics class several times a week in my mid 30's and I kept it up even after we broke up several years later. Not long after I got married, I moved and quit the aerobics class because the location wasn't convenient any more. My only remaining exercise was yard work and walking the dog a few times a week.

My wife encouraged me to take advantage of the free annual physical offered by the health plan I had from work, so I went for my first full physical in 1995. The doctor sent me to the dermatologist to check out a pink irregular patch on the side of my face by the ear and the biopsy tested positive for basal cell carcinoma. That's the least dangerous kind, so I didn't worry about it after it was removed. Although, I did begin avoiding the sun as much as possible and using sunscreen when I had to be in the sun, based on conventional skin cancer avoidance advice.

I was still eating too much, especially sweets, though I can't blame my wife for that :) and my weight went up to around 215 pounds, my total cholesterol was 218, HDL 36, triglycerides 402, and LDL wasn't calculated because the triglycerides were too high. Unfortunately, my doctor suggested that I go on a low-fat diet to try and lower the cholesterol. I switched to low-fat everything. But many of these foods were high in sugar to make up for the lost flavor of the fat. I switched to skim milk even though I didn't like the flavor. I even switched from butter to margarine because it was supposed to be "more healthy" (yuck!). By the next annual checkup in 1996, my cholesterol was 230, HDL 32, triglycerides 438, LDL not calculated.

Low-fat obviously didn't work for me. Too bad the doctor didn't put me on a low-carb diet back then. Instead, he put me on a statin to lower my cholesterol and told me to stick with the low-fat diet. Well, I figured the doctor should know what's best, so I kept it up. The statin did lower my cholesterol to 163, HDL was up to 39, triglycerides down to 252, and LDL was 74 in 1997. My risk ratio was now in the good range, so I thought I was doing well. However, I was hungry all the time and continued over-eating and gaining weight. I was up to around 225 pounds by then. I switched to diet sodas in vain. My weight kept going up. By the time I turned 50 in 2002, I was around 235 pounds. My blood pressure was borderline high at about 140/80 and sometimes higher. But my cholesterol was down to 134 after I switched to Lipitor because of a medical plan coverage change. My triglycerides dropped to 167, with HDL 37 and LDL 64, giving a good risk ratio, so I thought I was still doing well. After all, the adds on TV were saying to "ask your doctor if lower is better" for cholesterol and heart disease.

My weight continued going up and was around 245 pounds in 2005 when I started seeing a new doctor. My cholesterol was 127, triglycerides 178, HDL 35, and LDL 56, which still gave a good risk ratio. But she recommended that I try exercising more to lose weight. She said I needed to exercise at least 30 minutes every day to lose weight. I started walking 2 miles every day, which takes me about 35 minutes. A friend of mine at work had lost 30 pounds on a low-carb diet, so I also decided to drop the low-fat diet and try lowering the carbs. I started buying all the foods that said "low-carb". But I was still drinking diet soda full of aspartame and now eating foods loaded with sucralose. And I was still addicted to sugar. I cheated every weekend with big desserts. I still managed to lose some weight for the first time. I lost about 10 pounds in 6 months from spring to fall. But I promptly gained most of it back over the holidays by cheating too much on sweets.

Then, over the holidays in December 2005, I decided to look on the internet for information about how diet might affect floaters in the eyes, which had gotten worse in recent years. I read that high blood pressure may aggravate floaters and since my BP was borderline high, I started searching for dietary ways to lower blood pressure because I didn't want to take drugs for it. I found links that led to many alternative health web sites, including Dr Mercola, Weston A Price Foundation, and Life Extension Foundation. Initially, I was impressed by the scientific information provided by LEF and began taking a lot of supplements. However, I did not like their heavy emphasis on supplements since they were selling lots of supplements - too much of a conflict of interest. And I have always felt that diet must greatly influence health. I still had trouble believing that much of what I thought I knew about health and diet was wrong. But after a week or two of carefully reading and re-reading the abundant information from WAPF and Dr Mercola, I was convinced they are likely to be right and much of what I had learned from conventional sources was wrong. Trans-fats and polyunsaturated fats are bad. Saturated fats are good. Dietary cholesterol is good. Raw dairy is good (for most people). Conventional dairy is bad. Sugar, as well as aspartame and sucralose are bad. Getting sun is good. After a couple of weeks I finally decided to make some major changes in my diet.

In mid-January 2006, I dropped the Lipitor, broke my sugar addiction, switched from diet soda to coffee for my caffeine habit, started using coconut oil, and switched to organic foods and pastured meats. I continued keeping carbs low and my weight started dropping by about a pound a week. I lost about 20 pounds from January to March of 2006. In March 2006, my cholesterol was back up to 162, which is in the "normal" range (it was below normal with Lipitor, which is not good), triglycerides 131, HDL 38, LDL 98, and fasting insulin 13 (I had to pay extra for the insulin check that's ironically not covered by my health insurance). In March 2006 I found a local raw dairy source for milk and cream and I broke my caffeine habit as well. I started making my own kefir from the raw milk in July 2006. I switched to raw milk and cream from an all Jersey herd in August 2006 and increased my daily walk to 2.5 to 3 miles a day. In May 2007, I started jogging some of my daily walk. I haven't done any more blood work.

Today, I feel much better than I did three years ago. My weight is still around 220 pounds, but I have added a lot more muscle mass from the walking and jogging. My goal is to get my weight back down to at least 200 pounds, so I still have 20 pounds of fat loss to go. My blood pressure is down to around 125/70 and my resting heart rate has dropped from 80 to 90 beats/minute to around 60. I am drug-free, except for an occasional beer :) and I have to look in the mirror to remind myself that I'm 55 and not 35.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cancer Concerns

Alternative Cancer Net

Cancer is one of the more feared diseases that unfortunately strikes many more people now than in the past. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all share a common theme - human cells gone awry and proliferating out of control such that they eventually disrupt normal bodily functions and eventually cause death. There are several factors that appear to play significant roles in causing cancer: diet, exposure to carcinogens, exposure to ionizing radiation, and genetics.

Cells may become damaged by poor nutrition or exposure to harmful chemicals or by ionizing radiation such as cosmic rays or x-rays. Most damaged cells die and cause no problems. But with trillions of cells constantly reproducing to sustain our bodies, sooner or later there will be cells that are damaged in such a way that they survive, but function abnormally. When these abnormal cells lose their normal propensity to die (apoptosis) they can proliferate out of control and then you have cancer.

Cancer and the Immune System

Research indicates that our immune system normally attacks and destroys cells that are no longer functioning properly, as is the case with cancer cells. Cancer is only able to proliferate when it can manage to avoid the body's defenses, which may happen if the immune system is weak or if the cancer is able to deceive the immune system into accepting it as normal. Excess dietary sugar and polyunsaturated fat both weaken the immune system. Some toxins and poisons can also weaken the immune system. Ironically, conventional chemotherapy for cancer also weakens the immune system.

Alternative Cancer Net

Cancer and Glucose

Another characteristic of cancer is that cancer cells are only able to burn glucose for energy, unlike normal cells, which can also burn fat for energy. They also consume much more glucose than normal cells. Because of this peculiarity, it is possible that high blood glucose levels may add fuel to the fire once it has started. A study in Korea showed that people with elevated fasting blood glucose levels had about a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of all types of cancer and about double the risk of pancreatic cancer. Another study found that people with elevated fasting insulin and glucose levels were about 50% more likely to have recurring colon polyps and about 2.4 times more likely to have advanced colon tumor recurrence. Low carbohydrate diets may help to slow down the run-away proliferation of cancer cells by helping to normalize blood insulin and glucose levels and to keep them from spiking after meals.

Alternative Cancer Net

Cancer and Genetics

Studies of identical twins suggest that most cancers have a genetic component to susceptibility, some cancers more than others. Thyroid, testicular, and laryngeal cancers and lymphocytic leukemia and multiple myeloma appear to have a stronger genetic component. Also, cancers with early age diagnosis generally have a higher familial risk. However, the overall heritability has been estimated at only about 18% for all types of cancer on average, leaving environment as the major factor in causing cancer.

Dealing with Cancer

Once cancer begins to proliferate enough to cause symptoms, it is very often at an advanced stage and difficult to control. Billions of dollars have been spent over decades to find ways to cure cancer, but so far, no consistent cures have been found. Consequently, avoiding cancer is all the more important.

If cancer does strike, be sure to evaluate all of the options available before deciding on a strategy to try and overcome cancer. The Annie Appleseed Project is a good resource for finding information about complimentary and alternative methods of cancer treatment.

In reality, we all may be dealing with cancer. Our choices in life may affect whether cancer can take root and grow.

Make your choices carefully!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Causes of Death 2005 versus 1900

It's interesting to compare the causes of death in 1900 to those in more recent years. The causes of death have changed significantly since then. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has statistics on life expectancy and cause of death for the United States going back to 1900. These statistics show that a lot more people died before the age of 40 back then than now. Life expectancy at birth has risen by 29 years from 49 in 1900 to 78 in 2005. But life expectancy at age 60 has increased by only about 8 years since 1900 as shown in the table below. Most of the large improvement in life expectancy at birth is because of much lower mortality in children in recent years.

CDC source:
Table 6. Expectation of life by age, race, and sex: United States, final 2004 and preliminary 2005

Based on CDC statistics in the two tables below, the death rate per 100,000 population has decreased almost in half from about 1,548 in 1900 to 799 in 2005. But in 1900, about a third of the deaths were from pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea, the top three causes. By comparison, in 2005, almost half of the deaths were from heart disease and cancer, the top two causes. In 1900, heart disease and cancer accounted for only 13 percent of the deaths. The rate of death from cancer has nearly tripled and the rate for heart disease has nearly doubled from 1900 to 2005. The rate of death from accidents was almost twice as high in 1900 as in 2005.

It is likely that hygiene and medicine have helped to greatly reduce deaths from infectious diseases, more than offsetting the large rise in heart disease and cancer. It is also likely that diet and lifestyle changes account for much of the increase in heart disease and cancer. Since 1900, Americans have greatly increased the comsumption of sugar, vegetable oils, food additives, pesticides, soy, and highly processed foods and these dietary changes may very well be largely responsible for increasing the rates of heart disease and cancer.

The accuracy of these statistics is probably somewhat crude at best. Many people have multiple problems when they die and assigning a cause may be just a best guess. The same problem exists in classifying disease in the first place. But nonetheless, these statistics are the best estimates we have.

CDC source for 2005 data:
Table B. Deaths and death rates for 2005 and age-adjusted death rates and percent changes in age-adjusted rates from 2004 to 2005 for the 15 leading causes of death: United States, final 2004 and preliminary 2005

CDC source for 1900 data:
Leading Causes of Death, 1900-1998

Update 2009 May 14
Be sure to read this great analysis:
The Coronary Heart Disease Epidemic

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Native Nutrition Photos

If you enjoy taking photos and/or looking at photos, there's a new Flickr photo group devoted to photos related to native nutrition, nourishing traditions, and paleo-diet. It includes photos of healthy traditional food, meals, food preparation and processing methods, cooking tools and techniques, as well as healthy people and animals, gardens, farms, and ways of growing your own food.

The idea behind this photo group is to share healthy ideas in the form of photos, along with helpful comments so that we can all help each other to learn and grow. The photos on this post are linked back to the original photos on Flickr. To see the group photo page click on this link: Native Nutrition. On the group photo page, click on the "More photos ..." link to see all of the group photos. Click on the individual photos to see a larger image, along with information about the photo and any comments.

Bison marrow bones
If you've never heard of Flickr before, it may be the world's largest repository of photos. Typically, about 3,000 to 4,000 photos are uploaded to Flicker *every minute* from all over the world. Today it ranked number 39 among the world's most visited web sites.

Enticement
If you'd like to join the group, it's easy. You can get a free account at Flickr for up to 200 photos. If you have SBC-Yahoo internet service, you get the "pro" account for free, which includes unlimited uploading of photos and otherwise costs about $25 a year. No April fooling :)

Sauerkraut.. The Elixer of Life!
Hope to see you soon - your photos, that is :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Real Farm!

I recently went to the Sand Creek Farm and dairy for a tour. About 10 or 15 families came for the tour. It's a beautiful and ideal farm run by Ben and Alysha Godfrey, near Cameron, Texas. The tour was great fun for all. There was a visit to the dairy, a ride on a horse drawn trailer, a visit to the field for a romp in some haystacks and a hands-on demonstration of plowing with horses, a visit to a pasture with pigs, chickens, and cows, and an opportunity to collect eggs from the hen house.

Click here to see a set of photos from the tour.
The photos can be viewed individually, by clicking on the photo miniatures, or as a slideshow, by clicking on the "View as slideshow" link on the upper right side of the page. Click on the "Map" link to see a map showing the location (use the zoom bar on the upper right to zoom out or switch to the satellite view).

Sand Creek Farm is a real farm, where the animals are pastured, well treated, and fed their natural diet. The dairy produces clean fresh real milk, cream, and cheese that are not damaged by pasteurization and homogenization. The crops and feed are organic. No GMO here!

Ben and Alysha were raised in the city and graduated from Texas A&M University with backgrounds in agriculture leadership and scientific nutrition. They are home schooling four beautiful daughters. Ben led the family to a farm in 2003. They more recently moved to a larger farm, where they are working to achieve a sustainable farm based on holistic principles of proper soil and animal health.

We need more farms like this one. Instead, most farms have become factories where profit is maximized at the expense of nutrition and health benefit. Animals are caged, poorly treated, and fed grossly unnatural diets. Plants are genetically modified to withstand pests and herbicides - not to make them healthier to eat. They are sprayed with harmful chemicals that end up in the bodies of animals and humans that consume them.

Food produced using traditional methods is much healthier. It can also be more expensive, but what better investment can you make than your health and the health of your family?

We vote with our dollars. Buy sustainable, traditional, humane, organic foods!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Health Check List

The typical modern diet is missing important foods that kept our ancestors healthy and instead is loaded with highly processed fake foods that are low in nutrients and high in additives that are not good for health. Also, modern lifestyles are often stressful and sedentary. Together, poor diet and lifestyle choices are largely responsible for declining health and quality of life in the modern world.

What can we do to improve our health?

1) Include animal seafoods and/or organ meats and/or raw dairy
(from Weston A Price study of most healthful native diets)

2) Eliminate refined sugar and minimize sweets
(keep total sugars to less than 5-10% of calories)
and if overweight, minimize starchy foods as well
(keep total carbohydrates to less than 10-20% of calories)

3) Eliminate artificial trans-fats (hydrogenated oils and fats)

4) Restrict polyunsaturated fats to less than 4% of total calories
and minimize omega-6 polyunsaturated fats

5) Get at least 30 minutes of active exercise daily
(appropriate for your level of conditioning)

6) Learn to avoid and properly handle stress
(relaxation, meditation, EFT, diet, exercise)

7) Get plenty of sleep (ideally 6 to 8 hours)

8) Get plenty of sun if possible
(avoid sunscreen but be careful not to get sunburned)

9) Take good quality high vitamin cod liver oil daily
(if you don't get adequate sun, seafood, and liver)

10) Include cultured and fermented foods and beverages
(if tolerated)

11) Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals
(artificial food additives, pesticides, natural food toxins,
unfermented soy, drugs, poisons, health care products)

12) Avoid foods that cause noticeable adverse effects
(identify possible food intolerances)

13) Choose fully pastured or wild animal foods
(from a clean environment and include bone broth)

14) Use coconut oil, tallow, and/or butter for cooking

15) Include a variety of plant foods to taste and tolerance
(prepared to optimize nutrient availability,
preferably high brix organic and locally grown)

16) If dairy is consumed, use raw and cultured dairy

17) If grains and nuts are consumed, soak or sprout them

18) Eat at least half of your food uncooked

19) Minimize or eliminate factory processed/packaged fake foods
(supports 2, 3, 4, 10)

20) When eating out, avoid fried foods, dressings, and sweet foods
(supports 2, 3, 4, 10)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Antibiotics - Probiotics

Modern medicine has conjured a deep fear of microbes that has led to gross over-use of antibiotics, most commonly for sinus and ear infections. Antibiotic literally means "against life", but is largely used to refer to medications that kill bacteria. Many of these medications are derived from mycotoxins produced by fungi for the purpose of killing competing bacteria. What most doctor's don't tell you is that many of the antibiotics they prescribe kill not only harmful bacteria, but also health promoting bacteria. Not only that, but when bacteria are suppressed, fungi can go into a feeding frenzy and multiply like crazy. And most fungi are not beneficial. What's worse, antibiotics also depress our immune system, allowing unaffected microbes to flourish. And furthermore, over-use of antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can take advantage of any depressed immune system. Consequently, antibiotics should be reserved for only the most severe bacterial infections.

Most people don't realize there are many more microbes in our bodies than human cells, by at least a factor of two or three. We are really symbiotic cultures of human cells and microbes. Most of these microbes are in our digestive system and can weigh as much as three or four pounds. When we are healthy, most of the microbes are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food and even add nutrients to our system and help support our immune health. This is "symbiosis". Taking powerful antibiotics greatly damages this symbiotic system by killing the beneficial bacteria and allowing harmful microbes, mainly fungi and resistant bacteria, to multiply, causing "dysbiosis". These unfriendly microbes can damage the mucosal lining of the intestines allowing undigested harmful proteins and chemicals to enter the body and the bad microbes can also generate toxins that are absorbed into our body. Dysbiosis often leads to food allergies and may trigger auto-immune diseases, which are malfunctions of our immune system. Dysbiosis may also cause or contribute to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

We are born without beneficial microbes in our digestive system, but mother's milk provides a host of beneficial microbes that quickly colonize our infant digestive systems. The microbes change in composition over time, influenced largely by the foods we eat. These beneficial microbes serve as our first line of defense in combating harmful microbes. When they are healthy, they can out-compete undesirable microbes and may even kill them directly. So, it is imperative to eat foods that promote the beneficial microbes. These can be foods that feed the microbes or foods that actually have live beneficial microbes to re-enforce the supply in our system. Foods with live beneficial microbes are called probiotic, which literally means "for life". Some of the best probiotic foods are raw dairy, fermented dairy such as kefir and yogurt, fermented beverages such as kombucha and beet kvass, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as traditional sauerkraut and pickles (unpasteurized). Foods that benefit the good microbes are called "prebiotic" and include vegetable foods with oligosaccharides. Foods high in refined sugar and refined carbohydrates may in quantity promote microbes that are not beneficial. Maintaining proper digestion is critical to our health.

So what can we do to avoid antibiotics? Ideally keep our immune system as healthy as possible to avoid infections in the first place. That means eating plenty of nutrient dense foods and minimizing dietary sugar, refined carbohydrates, and omega-6 fats that can hamper immune function. Also, eating foods with good saturated fats, such as pastured animal and dairy fats and coconut oil, helps to boost immune function. And consuming probiotic foods helps to maintain beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, which in turn helps to boost immune function. Choosing fresh organic foods and staying away from factory processed/packaged foods loaded with harmful food additives, preservatives, and pesticides also helps to reduce the burden on our immune system.

When infections do manage to bring illness, we need to boost the functioning of our immune system - preferably by diet as much as possible. Taking additional probiotic foods and/or supplements may help against many infections, especially gastro-intestinal infections. Herbal medicines may also provide help against many infections. Consult a naturopathic physician or herbal medicine practitioner for diagnosis and prescription. Bone broth is a traditional remedy that can also help our immune system fight many infections, Broth is Beautiful.

For an in depth and well-referenced discussion of dysbiosis read:
"The causes of intestinal dysbiosis: a review"

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sugar - a Toxin?

YES! And it's also a very addicting DRUG!

Take a look at the definitions. A toxin is a chemical produced by living organisms that causes harmful effects on the body at high enough concentration. Sugar easily meets that definition. It is plant derived and there are numerous studies that show a variety of harmful health effects from excess dietary sugar. Below are the definitions from Wikipedia.

Toxin:
A poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms.

Poison:
In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause damage, illness, or death to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism.

Drug:
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that alters normal bodily function. Recreational drugs are chemical substances that affect the central nervous system, such as narcotics or hallucinogens. They may be used for perceived beneficial effects on perception, consciousness, personality, and behavior. Some recreational drugs can cause addiction and habituation.

OK, is sugar a drug? If you've ever had a feel-good high immediately after eating sweet "comfort" foods, it's a psycho-active drug. If you've ever had a "craving" for something sweet, it's an addicting psycho-active drug.

So, my point is that we need to start thinking of refined sugar as a toxin and drug. That makes sugar by far the most common and abundant toxin and drug in the modern food world!

The body needs small amounts of sugar to function properly. But the body can make all the sugar it needs. There is no minimum daily intake requirement for sugar or even for carbohydrates. There are many nutrients that in small amounts are necessary for good health, but in excess are detrimental. Zinc,copper, iron, iodine, and vitamins A and D are examples. Likewise, sugar in small amounts is necessary for health, but in excess causes problems.

When natural sugars are ingested unrefined, as in fruits or dairy, the amounts are generally low enough not to cause problems. However, when the sugar is refined and concentrated as a food additive, it is easy to get too much. Because of it's addicting and feel-good qualities, sugar is often added in large quantities to processed/manufactured foods to make them sell better. So, if you eat a lot of processed/manufactured or restaurant foods, it is very easy to get too much sugar. People eating a lot of these foods commonly get as much as 20 to 30 percent or more of their calories from sugars. What's worse is that most of that sugar is now in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is even more harmful than table sugar. Most healthy primitive diets had only small amounts of sugar, mainly from raw dairy or from fruit when in season.

Too much dietary sugar certainly won't kill you right away, but it does have short-term harmful effects, like suppression of the immune system, even with relatively small doses. That leaves you more vulnerable to infectious diseases and cancer. One study showed that ingestion of 100 grams of sugar caused about a 40% reduction in white blood cell activity against pathogens and found that it took about five hours for immune function to return to normal.

Over many years, too much sugar can lead to metabolic syndrome diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These are the diseases of aging and that's exactly what too much sugar does - speeds up the aging process.

So, how much sugar should we allow in our diet? Probably no more than about 5% to 10% of total daily calories and the less, the better. That means if your normal dietary intake is 2,000 calories per day, you should not get more than 200 calories from sugar. Since sugar has 4 calories per gram, that means no more than about 50 grams (2 ounces) of sugar per day on a 2,000 calorie diet. And that's total sugar from all sources. Here's the amount of sugar you get from single servings of some common "comfort" foods, listed in grams, to the left of the food name (from NutritionData).

Grams of sugar:
96 cake (1/8 slice 9 inch white with coconut icing)
57 candy (4 oz Snickers)
56 milk shake (11 oz vanilla)
39 soft drink (12 oz cola)
39 yogurt (8 oz low fat strawberry Breyers)
37 coffee (12 oz caramel mocha Starbucks)
34 apple juice (12 oz Starbucks)
32 pie (1/8 slice 8 inch pecan)
30 ice cream (1 cup chocolate)
29 orange juice (12 oz McDonald's)
28 muffin (101 g blueberry Starbucks)
24 donut (5 inch)
21 brownie (56 g large chocolate)
18 granola (2/3 cup low fat fruit Nature Valley)
15 cereal (1 cup frosted flakes Kellogg)
07 hamburger (105 g McDonald's)

For comparison - grams of sugar:
19 apple (3 inch with skin)
15 peach (2 3/4 inch)
12 orange (2 7/8 inch navel)
12 grapes (15 red or green seedless)
07 strawberries (1 cup whole)

Breaking the Sugar Addiction
To break your sugar addiction, eliminate foods with added refined sugar and reduce intake of other refined carbohydrates. Increase intake of foods with good quality animal or dairy fat, preferably from pastured animals, and add probiotic foods. Also, try coconut oil. And be sure to eat a variety of foods to get good nutrition. If you have Excel or Open Office, try out my dietary nutrition calculator. Dropping sugar may seem difficult the first few weeks, but after a few months of abstinence from refined sugar and with intake of more good fat, probiotics, and nutrients, you should lose any cravings for sweets. If you still have difficulty, another tool to try is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a type of accupressure that employs tapping instead of the needles used in accupuncture. Once you have broken your addiction, you can still allow occasional sugary foods, but not very often or you run the risk of becoming addicted once again. You may also find that sugary foods that used to be "treats" no longer taste as good - they're too sweet!

If a food does not taste good without adding sugar to it, then either learn to like it without the sugar, or find other foods that you like that don't have added sugar. You may find as you lose your sugar addiction that many foods that formerly did not taste sweet enough now taste good. Sour and tart foods may become more appealing. You may even develop a new appreciation for all of the wonderful flavors in nature!

Update 2008 December 20

Fructose appears to be the worst dietary sugar for causing long-term health problems from excess consumption. Fructose is 50% of table sugar (sucrose) and typically 55% of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Read this interesting editorial from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: How safe is fructose for persons with or without diabetes?

Update 2014 January 5

A more recent discussion of health problems caused by too much dietary fructose:
Clinical Scientist Sets the Record Straight on Hazards of Sugar

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Avoiding Harmful Chemicals in Food and Environment


We are constantly exposed to a bewildering horde of artificial and natural poisons and toxins in our food and environment. The human body can properly handle small amounts of most natural poisons and toxins, but there are many new artificial chemicals for which the human body has not had time to evolve effective means of detoxification. All of these harmful chemicals can cause a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms and if exposure levels are high enough, serious complications like cancer or even death can result. The harm level of these chemicals can vary widely among individuals, influenced by health status, genes, and cumulative exposure effects. Most of these chemicals will cause serious harm in everyone at high enough concentrations. Some of these chemicals are actually nutrients that the body needs at low concentrations but become harmful if the intake is too high. The biggest problem, however, is the pervasiveness of these chemicals, such that individually they might not be a problem, but collectively, they can be overwhelming to our body.

So what can we do? It's nearly impossible to eliminate exposure to all potentially harmful chemicals. The best we can do is to learn where significant sources lie in our food and environment and try to avoid them. Also, if you can detect cause and effect relationships between symptoms and sources, you can avoid things that bother you.

There are a variety of actions you can take to lessen the toxic burden. Eat organic vegetables and fruits and fully pastured or wild animal foods for starters. Minimize sweets and foods high in omega-6 fats. Minimize highly processed commercial foods that are often full of artificial additives such as artificial preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and artificial trans-fats. Don't eat spoiled food or any food that does not taste good. Minimize consumption of large fish, like albacore tuna or swordfish, which often have high levels of mercury. Avoid processed meats preserved with nitrites (including those with added "celery juice" that have hidden nitrites). If your water supply has added chlorine or fluoride, get water filters that remove these and other contaminants. Use only plastics with recycle numbers 2 HDPE, 4 LDPE, or 5 PP. Don't use teflon or aluminum cookware. Be very careful in choosing skin, hair, and mouth care products (EWG has excellent helpful information). Don't get "silver" amalgam dental fillings and properly remove any that you may already have. Avoid vaccines and long-term use of medications. Don't use commercial pesticides or herbicides.

For those of you who may do all these things and still have sensitivity issues, an elimination diet may be helpful for determining problematic foods. Some seemingly healthful foods can have salicylates, amines, or other natural food chemicals that cause unpleasant symptoms in sensitive individuals.

Below is a partial list of some of the more common poisons and toxins with links to more information.

Medicines
Antibiotics - a double edged sword
Pesticides - in produce

Herbicides

Food Additives
Artificial Colors
. annatto - yellow food color
Artificial flavors
. MSG (free glutamate) - flavor enhancer
. ribonucleotides - flavor enhancers
Artificial Trans-Fats
Dough Conditioners (mono and diglycerides)
High Omega-6 Vegetable Oils
Sugar-free sweeteners
. aspartame (nutrasweet)
. sucralose (splenda)
. saccharin
. cyclamate
Sugar alcohols
. mannitol
. sorbitol
Sugars - how sugars can ruin your health
. sucrose (table sugar)
. dextrose
. HFCS - health hazard
Preservatives
. BHA/BHT
. EDTA
. proprionates
. nitrites
. sulfites

Toxins
. botulinum
Mycotoxins
. aflatoxin
. alcohol

Natural Plant Chemicals
alkaloids
cyanides
flavonoids
goitrogens
lectins
polyphenols
phytoestrogens
salicylate

Biogenic Amines

Venoms

Metals
aluminum - vaccines, anti-clumping agents
arsenic - pesticides, antibiotics
copper - also a nutrient
lead - glazed pottery, old paint
mercury - hazards, dental fillings, vaccines, large fish
nickel - some stainless steel cookware
selenium - also a nutrient
zinc - also a nutrient

Halogens
bromine - flour, antacids
chlorine - water
fluorine - water, toothpaste, pesticides, tea
iodine - kelp, also a nutrient

Petrochemicals
benzene
butadiene
parabens
propylene glycol
toluene
Plastics
. bisphenol A (BPA)
. polycarbonate (#7 PC)
. polystyrene (#6 PS)
. polyvinyl chloride (#3 PVC)
. pthalates

Other Chemicals
acrylamide - baked and fried starchy/sugary foods
asbestos - insulation and flooring in some older homes
carageenan - thickening agent in foods and skin care products
dioxins - a case for vegetarianism?
formaldehyde - vaccines, plywood, carpets
perchlorates - rocket fuel, fireworks, chlorinated water
polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) - fire retardant
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) - fire retardant
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) - combustion product
teflon - cookware

Comprehensive Harmful Chemical Listing from EWG