Saturday, January 16, 2021

This'll shake you... too LITTLE salt can be bad for us

Health chiefs constantly tell us to slash our salt intake, but new research suggests that having too little also carries health risks.

Doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in London found that too little salt in the body, over a long period of time, weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of infections.

Patients with Gitelman syndrome and Bartter syndrome, which cause an excessive loss of salt through the kidneys, were more likely than others to suffer from recurrent fungal and urinary infections.

The authors of the study, published in the medical journal Nature Communications, explain that a lack of salt halts the production of a type of white blood cell called interleukin 17, which detects and destroys infections.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Is eating fish healthy?

We know of fish as a healthy food, but pregnant women are told to limit consumption. Do the health benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks, particularly as stocks grow more depleted?

In recent decades, one of the biggest concerns about fish has been its potentially harmful levels of pollutants and metals.

One concern is polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Although they were banned by the 1980s, these industrial chemicals were used worldwide in huge quantities and still linger in our soil and our water. They’ve been associated with a range of negative health effects on everything from the immune system to the brain. While PCBs are present in everything from dairy products to drinking water, the highest levels tend to be found in fish.

The solution for limiting your intake of PCBs from fish may be counterintuitive, says Johnathan Napier, science director at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, England.

“The possible problem of the accumulation of toxic compounds is likely to be more of concern for wild species that are caught for direct human consumption,” he says. Because the marine-derived ingredients that farmed fish are fed are cleaned or scrubbed to remove toxins, farmed fish is often safer than wild.

That isn't always the case, however, and PCB content also fluctuates seasonally.

While they are generally viewed as better for our health and the environment, large-scale aquaculture has its own problems, such as polluting the oceans with waste and becoming breeding grounds for diseases that can spill over into the wild.

Another worry is mercury, a neurotoxin that could pass through the placenta and affect child development. There are numerous links between mercury ingestion and cancer, diabetes and heart disease. While mercury can be found in other foods, such as vegetables, one study found that 78% of participants' mercury intake came from fish and seafood.

In fish, mercury levels are high enough for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recommend that pregnant people limit their intake of some popular fish, including halibut and tuna, to one serving a week.

But concerns around the accumulation of heavy metals in fish has been overexaggerated, says Napier. He says it’s only a problem when it comes to species that live a particularly long time – like swordfish, which can live for 15 to 20 years. Swordfish has a mercury concentration of 0.995 PPM, while salmon, which lives on average for four to five years, has around 0.014. While research is still ongoing, the US's Environmental Protection Agency currently states that for pregnant women, the highest allowable average mercury concentration per serving, if eating one serving a week, is 0.46 PPM.

But the issue is set to worsen, as there’s evidence to suggest that levels of mercury found in the ocean may rise as the planet warms. Research has found that as Arctic permafrost melts, it releases mercury that was trapped in frozen ground into waterways.

While mercury poses a small risk, Napier says there stands to be much more to gain from fish – particularly marine omega 3.

Consumption of oily fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, thanks to its marine omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“Both EPA and DHA play a plethora of important roles in human metabolism, but we can’t make them very effectively in our bodies, so it’s really important to have them as part of our diet,” Napier says.

“Population data looking at the effects of marine omega 3 on health is consistent and strong, and shows that people with a higher intake of EPA and DHA have a lower risk of developing common diseases, particularly heart disease, and dying from them,” says Philip Calder, head of human development and health at England’s University of Southampton.

One way to avoid potential damage from mercury exposure while still getting omega 3 is to take fish oil supplements. However, research recently carried out on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) looking at omega-3 supplements across range of health outcomes found they don’t have the same effect as eating oily fish.

“Our findings suggest a very small beneficial effect [in terms of lowering the risk] of dying of coronary heart disease,” adds Lee Hooper, a reader at the University East Anglia and one of the WHO study’s researchers.  

Around 334 people would have to take omega-3 supplements for four or five years for one person not to die from coronary heart disease, she says.

But there’s an issue with population studies like Hooper’s. While some oily fish, such as sardines, aren’t relatively expensive, fish is generally associated with a more expensive diet. It’s widely accepted that socioeconomic status affects health outcomes – so it’s possible that families who eat more fish also have higher incomes and healthier lifestyles in general.

Normally, researchers will take into account such confounding factors, Calder says, but they might not think of everything that could skew a study’s results. The WHO report was a review of 79 studies, which each will have differed in how they controlled for participants' socioeconomic status.

But intervention trials, where people are randomly assigned to a group and an intervention such as taking omega-3 supplements is measured, have problems, too. Analysing potential health impacts of EPA and DHA deficiency, for example, is difficult, Calder says, because people start trials with varying levels of omega-3 in their systems.

In addition, research shows that fish might impact everyone’s health to varying degrees, depending on how well they can convert precursor forms of EPA and DHA. This difference could come down to a person’s overall diet and lifestyle, Calder says, but genetic differences could also play a role.

Another reason the health benefits of fish may vary is because of how fish are raised.

Marine ecosystems are full of omega-3: little fish eat marine plankton, and get eaten by bigger fish, and the whole food chain passes on omega-3 to humans. But the system is different for farmed fish, which is what most of us eat. “In a fish farm, it’s just thousands of fish in a cage. They eat what they’re given by the fish farmer,” Napier says.

As they would in the wild, farmed fish normally are fed smaller fish species. In the wild, however, fish would eat a variety of smaller fish. In farms, fish are often fed fish meal made from Peruvian anchovies.

But these anchovies are already being fished at the maximum level at which the industry can be sustained, Napier says – even as global aquaculture is expected to keep growing. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, growing demand for fish oil supplements means that the fish oil contained in the fish meal fed to farmed fish is diminishing. That means the amount of omega-3 in the fish we consume is declining, too.

“There are finite levels of omega fish oils that come out of the ocean each year – that’s all we’ve got,” he says. “If aquaculture is expanding but the most important input you need to put into people’s diets, the fish oil, is completely static, you’re diluting how much is fed to the fish.”

Research from 2016 found that levels of EPA and DHA in farmed salmon decreased by half over a decade. Even so farmed salmon still has more omega-3 than wild salmon, Napier says.

“Wild salmon swims back forth across the Atlantic; it’s a lean animal. It’s not laying down fat because it’s burning everything it consumes,” he says.

Still, because there isn’t robust research suggesting major health inadequacies for people who don’t eat fish, Calder says it’s difficult to definitively say that fish is essential to overall human health. However, he adds, it is clear that omega-3 promotes health and reduces the risk of disease.

But getting to the bottom of how healthy fish really is may be a moot point after long. “Since fish isn’t a sustainable food source, research now will probably focus on solutions to that – such as how to grow algae and harvest omega-3 oil, instead of more studies into fish,” Calder says.

Individuals can help by choosing the most sustainable fish species available. Guides like the one by the Marine Conservation Society show which fish are the best, with 50 of the 133 species listed coming up as mostly sustainable, “good” choices – including, fortunately, popular favourites like farmed salmon, prawns, cod, mackerel, mussels, oysters and farmed halibut.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Juice industry in damage control after health star rating changed to rank lower than diet cola

Fruit growers and processors say they are crushed by a decision to cut the health star rating (HSR) for 100-per-cent no-added-sugar juices from five stars to as low as two stars.

The decision came down to a vote at the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, a group made up of state and territory ministers as part of its ongoing response to the five-year HSR review.

Food is rated from half-a-star to five stars depending on how its healthy and risk nutrients compare but the system has come in for criticism.

The Federal Government's aim in developing the ratings is to give shoppers an easy way to identify better choices of packaged and processed foods, something Agriculture Minister David Littleproud asserts is undermined by this decision.

"What I don't accept is the insanity of this decision, which really has no basis on nutritional value — it really just is mind-numbingly dumb," he said.

Last chance to improve the HSR

The forum's July communique revealed Mr Littleproud's initial push — to see 100-per-cent fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar receive an automatic HSR score of five stars — not supported and the review recommendations were maintained.

The Minister's last chance to improve the rating was Friday's meeting, when he put forward a proposal aiming for an automatic four HSR, a rating he said was supported by the Commonwealth and the farm industry.

"This was it, this was my second crack at it. I had a go in July and got rolled and then rolled again," Mr Littleproud said.

"It would appear that our bureaucrats are working off some other scientific sheet that what reality is."

Orange industry outrage

Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock said he was disappointed with the decision.

"It sends a really poor message to our consumers, who, let's face it, need to have more fruit and vegetables," he said.

"Being told that diet soda is better for them than a juice product, we think, is confusing.

"Ministers across the country were given the opportunity to review the information that we provided them on the health benefits of natural juices, and unfortunately states like Queensland let us down."

Mr Hancock said the forum had overlooked the nutritional benefits of drinking juices that cannot be gained from a manufactured product with artificial sweetener.

"The message that they've been giving us is that they want people to drink more water, because it's better for hydration, and they want to take sugar out of the diet," he said.

"Because diet soft drinks have artificial sugars, it elevates them above juices which have natural sugars."

Casualty of the war on sugar

Mr Hancock said the campaign against sugar was painting every type of sugar in a bad light.

"The desire to stamp sugar out of the consumers' diet has been misconstrued and taken off in a different direction," he said.

"There's so many other products consumers are eating these days, unwittingly eating sugar — it's added sugar, it's not naturally in the product."

Mr Hancock said although he was not sure in reality how many people used the HSR when selecting products, it was bound to have a knock-on effect.

"If you do use that system and you let it guide you in the choices that you make, then you're going to be given a bum steer here.

"The other effect is that producers will stop using the HSR system on their products.

"They don't have any faith in it, they don't trust it — it's sending a poor message to the consumer and I think we'll see businesses stop using it."

Producers remove rating

Major juice processors like Nippy's in South Australia are disappointed in the outcome and fear the new downgraded rating will have a significant impact on the industry.

Jeff Knispel, joint managing director of Nippy's group of companies, said the decision to rate Diet Coke higher than fresh juice was counterintuitive.

He believed a health star rating implied a full package of health benefits.

"If you take out all of the nutrients in how you score well in this rating system and focus on sugar, the question is then raised: 'Well, why are we calling it a health star rating?'

"If you are so insistent on the sugar focus, why don't you call it a sugar star rating, because to call it a health star rating is bordering on deceptive."

Nippy's companies in South Australia alone produce about 12.5 million litres of juice per year.

Mr Knispel said they now decided to remove the health star rating from their packaging to limit the negative impact on their products.

"As a company, we don't want to promote a negative message with anything we do with our packaging, so we will remove the logo.

"It's not good news for us, but we will just deal with it as best as we can."

Citrus SA chair Mark Doecke said the group feared it could be faced with less fresh fruit sales, impacting growers and processors.

"If you look at sugar only, of course the Diet Coke has got less sugar in it so it is going to get a higher rating, but it's a bit of a silly way of looking at a product," he said.

Risking food waste

Granite Belt Growers Association vice president Nathan Boronio said it certainly made him question the relevance of the HSR.

"I can't understand why they would want to encourage people to move away from fresh fruit juice."

He said he feared the worst outcome would see people shying away from fruit juice, reducing demand and resulting in fruit being wasted.

"We want to ensure that fruit wastage in this country is reduced; if you discourage people from drinking apple juice, we are going to have more apples being dumped."

Mr Hancock shares those fears and said he was worried about what would happen if juice was widely thought of as unhealthy.

"As an industry we can't afford to have that happen.

"There's a lot of pressure on growers to look at what variety of crop they grow — we might start to see this isn't a viable industry for them into the future, and we may see less and less orange juice produced in Australia."

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Vegans 40% more likely to suffer a bone fracture

Vegans who forgo all foods derived from animals have a far higher risk of broken bones than people who eat meat and fish, a study has shown.

The findings, by Oxford University researchers, have raised concerns that a recent increase in the popularity of veganism will cause health problems unless adherents plan their diets. The NHS advises vegans to think carefully about how they obtain enough calcium, iron and vitamin B12.

The number of vegans in Britain more than doubled to 600,000 between 2016 and 2019, according to surveys by the Vegan Society published this year. Food manufacturers have responded by creating scores of plant products designed to mimic red meat, such as vegan sausage rolls and burgers that “bleed” with beetroot juice.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The Inuit can survive on an all-meat diet, but can you?

You might have seen celebrities endorsing meat-only diets, claiming it's cured them of chronic diseases and, of course, helped them stay lean.

To people who are tuned in to health research, these diets seem ... iffy.

They certainly go against the Australian dietary guidelines that prioritise fruit, vegetables and grain foods, and recommend limiting animal products to a couple of serves a day.

And for some people, eating meat or even any animal products is absolutely off the table for ethical or environmental reasons.

But let's say you did choose to follow an all-meat diet. Would it be possible to get everything you need from it? And how new is this idea really?

On paper, the carnivore diet looks OKish

The carnivore diet takes the low-carbohydrate approach of paleo, keto or Atkins to a new level, cutting out everything but animal products.

There are variations: some people eat only beef, some eat a wider variety of meat, and whether cheese and butter are on the menu also varies between followers.

But if we approach the question from strictly a health perspective, is it even possible to get all the nutrients your body needs from only animal products?

The answer is yes, or pretty close to it, says Veronique Chachay, a nutrition scientist from the University of Queensland.

She put versions of a carnivorous diet through dietary composition analysis software and found that, depending on the particular mix of animal foods included, pretty much all the necessary vitamins and minerals were accounted for.

"From purely a micronutrient point of view, we can't say people cannot meet their requirements," Dr Chachay says.

Ticking the boxes on nutrients is only part of the story. We know that fibre is important for digestive health and fostering a diversity of health-promoting gut bacteria — and fibre is notably absent in carnivorous diets.

So experts are keen to know more about the science of why some people report feeling good on such diets, even after following them for a long time.

But we don't know much about the long-term impacts of this diet, and scientists are calling for more research.

Lessons from the Inuit diet

The Inuit — First Nations people from northern North America — have a traditional diet made up almost exclusively from animal products.

They're often held up as evidence that a carnivorous diet can be healthy. So what does the Inuit diet actually look like?

Researchers in 2004 conducted surveys in 18 Indigenous communities in Canada where people followed the traditional diet, or pretty close to it.

They found community members ate well over a kilogram a day of animal products, and between 28 and 160 grams a day of plant foods.

The research shows it is possible to thrive on a very animal-heavy diet, says Clare Collins, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle.

"[The Inuit people] had a really low carbohydrate intake, a really low vegetable intake on their traditional diet, and they ate some stuff that we wouldn't eat, for example, they ate the organs of a lot of animals, they ate a heck of a lot of seafood, and they ate some of their meat raw, which is actually higher in vitamin C," she says.

"With some of those nutrients, because they ate a lot of those foods, they could meet their requirements."

But Inuit people aren't particularly long-lived. And while the factors that affect life expectancy are hard to tease out, especially when studying First Nations people during modern times, Professor Collins says big drivers do come from diet.

"Life expectancy is not high and they have very high rates of some cancers. It's partly attributable to their genetics. And that's exacerbated by a really high salted, smoked food diet."

In contrast, the traditional diets of the longest-lived peoples in the world have very high vegetable intake, she points out.

But whichever traditional diet you look at: "They're all less refined foods," Professor Collins says.

"And that's the big thing that people don't really want to want to look at."

The myth of the one optimal diet

As with many fad diets, proponents of the carnivore diet often hold it up as the ideal way to eat.

And that's simply not true, Dr Chachay says, because there is no one optimal diet.

We humans are similar to each other, but we're not clones. We have genetic differences. And just like some humans can digest the lactose in milk and others can't, it could be there are other differences that explain why some people report that they thrive on a carnivorous diet.

Dr Chachay's research deals in part with the potential for personalised diets based on an individual's unique genetic makeup, and even the makeup of their microbiome. We're not there yet, but she hopes to see it begin to happen in the near future.

"We will be able to tailor diets and ideal ratios of the micronutrients that would fit with the optimal health for the individual."

And, while the evidence around carnivore diets is sparse, she suspects it may be the case that for some individuals, it works for their bodies.

"What I'm interested in knowing is, these people that practise it, obviously they didn't die after a year. They didn't lose their hair. They didn't start to become completely crazy. They are functioning," she says.

"There's going to be some mechanism behind the scene."

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Smog-infested Delhi slum that may show link between pollution and Covid-19 levels

It's an obvious conclusion to blame the illness on pollution but it may not be so.  The polluted areas are also ones where poor people live and we already know that poor people have worse health.  

But a distinction could be drawn between low levels of pollution and the extraordinary levels in Delhi.  The body can cope with low level polution but very high levels may overwhelm its coping measures.

So the point is that the respiratory illness noted below may be specific to levels of polution found in the Third world only.  Extrapolating it to the developed world would be adventurous

During the winter months, it’s hard to tell whether the sun rises at all in the New Delhi neighbourhood of Sukhdev Vihar.

Enveloped in a thick layer of impenetrable smog, the natural light is blocked out and a gloomy shadow hangs over the hundreds of high-rise residential flats.

Breathing the air outside triggers waves of nausea and a throbbing headache, while walking up a flight of stairs leaves people breathless.

The sprawling megacity of New Delhi, home to approximately 30 million people, is the most polluted capital in the world.

Earlier this month, the Air Quality Index (AQI) - which measures the level of pollutants - exceeded 1,300 in Sukhdev Vihar, over thirty times the safe level set by the World Health Organization.

The level of pollution in New Delhi is hazardous all year, thanks to largely unregulated industrial and vehicular emissions, but it peaks during the winter months when thousands of farmers in surrounding states burn crop stubble to fertilise their soil.

As the pollution levels soared in the city in November the number of daily Covid-19 cases also rose, doubling to more than 7,000.

This bucked the national trend, with India as a whole seeing half the number of new daily infections halving from its September peak.

Public health experts are still exploring the link between Covid-19 and air pollution but initial reports indicate a strong correlation.

A Harvard University study of 3,000 districts in the United States found that areas witnessing small increases in pollutants also had a large uptick in Covid-19 fatalities.

In late October, a second study by a group of German researchers found 15 percent of global deaths from the virus could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.

There has been both a 70 percent increase in the number of Covid-19 patients and also far more cases where patients have severe symptoms since pollution began to surge in New Delhi, according to Dr Sumit Ray, a critical care doctor at Holy Family Hospital in Sukhdev Vihar.

“The direct effect is on the lungs, prolonged exposure to pollutants makes your airwaves hyper-reactive and they go into constriction, then reacting badly to any infection,” explains Dr Ray.

“Long-term exposure to air pollution causes damages to the air sacs themselves and if someone gets a respiratory infection it becomes much more difficult to fight it off because they already have lung damage.”

The Covid-19 fatality rate in Holy Family Hospital has increased from 3.3 per cent between June and September to 5.05 percent since October 1.

Air pollution can also cause underlying health problems such as heart disease, which in turn can cause the fatality rate from Covid-19 to soar.

A three-month study from the virus epicentre in Wuhan found Covid-19 patients with heart disease had a fatality rate of 16.7 percent, compared to four percent for those without.

The record-breaking pollution levels in Sukhdev Vihar are exacerbated by a waste-to-energy plant that pumps out toxic gasses every evening.

“I receive a lot of patients with breathing difficulties, especially in October and November” explains Dr M. Rehman, who runs a clinic in the neighbourhood.

“Many inhabitants are asthmatics and are forced to use inhalers, even the younger generation, and I have seen many people die of pulmonary disorders.”

Despite growing public outrage the Delhi Government has failed to make any dent in lowering pollution levels.

Politicians are cautious to limit industrial growth and attempts to curb stubble burning have failed in surrounding states, with the practice so entrenched.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Corn Oil Controversy: Are Polyunsaturated Fats Bad For Us?

Rummage around the fringes of nutrition “science” for a while and you’ll soon bump into a strongly held belief that the vegetable oils most of us consider a healthier option—like canola, soy, corn, safflower, peanut and soy oils—will actually lead to your grizzly (drizzly?) demise, usually via the route of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Detractors lump these vegetable oils into the bracket “industrial seed oils,” with hashtags such as #vegoilsucks or #fakefats, and emotionally charged narrative around the “chemicals” used to extract and refine them (in fact, refining to remove free fatty acids, gums and other impurities makes vegetable oils less likely to smoke and oxidize and thereby potentially safer for human health).

For the most part, it’s proponents of the paleo and other “ancestral” diets who promote the theory that seed oils are bad for us. The paleo diet postulates that the only healthy foods are those that were around during the Paleolithic era—which obviously doesn’t extend to a bottle of vegetable oil for your stir fry or salad. But the half-baked theory completely overlooks that subsequent evolutionary changes have allowed us to adapt to a more industrialized diet.

There’s another reason the seed-oils-are-death brigade give for ditching vegetable oils that is more cited than any: their high content of polyunsaturated fats. The irrational hatred runs alongside a conspiracy theory that the American Heart Association, who have always promoted vegetable oils over animal fat, grew their profile based on funding from Proctor and Gamble, makers of the first 100% vegetable oil brand, Crisco.

So, what does science actually say about polyunsaturates, and their effect on health?

The Sydney Diet Heart Study

Much of the backlash against polyunsaturated fats centers around a retrospective data dredge of a study conducted in Sydney, Australia. The original 1970s study involved men aged 30-59 with coronary heart disease who ate either a safflower oil-supplemented diet where 9.8% of calories came from saturated fatty acids and 15.1% from polyunsaturated fatty acids (mostly linoleic acid), or one where saturates contributed 13.5% and polyunsaturates 8.9% of total calories. Survival, measured at the time only in terms of all-cause mortality, was slightly better in the group that ate more saturated fats (typically found in meat and dairy), though multivariate analysis showed that none of the dietary factors were significantly related to survival.

The 2013 re-analysis showed that men with a high intake of safflower oil had a statistically higher risk of dying from a second cardiac event, even though their cholesterol levels fell.

However, in the context of now, these results are of little concern, given nobody recommends linoleic acid intake being as high as in the treatment arm of this decades-old study anymore. The current US recommendations are for 5-10% of energy to be provided by linoleic acid, while actual intake comes in at around  6-7% according to dietary surveys.

For the men in the Sydney study, 70% of whom were smokers with already damaged arteries, piling excessive quantities of linoleic acid into them wasn’t a sensible thing to do in retrospect: we now know that when linoleic acid oxidizes, which it’s chemistry means it has a tendency to do, it creates potentially atherogenic metabolites. Perhaps even more relevant, is that the safflower oil was consumed in the form of margarine, which in the 1970s, was almost certainly likely to have been partially hydrogenated and therefore to contain trans fats, which have since been found to increase risk of heart disease.

The Minnesota Coronary Experiment

The Minnesota Coronary Experiment is also regularly used as evidence for rejecting vegetable oils and embracing animal fats.

The original randomized controlled trial tried but failed to show that replacing saturated fatty acids in the diet with linoleic acid from corn oil reduced coronary heart disease (CHD).

A 2016 reinvestigation, which unearthed and used new raw data, focused on a subgroup of 2355 of the original 9570 participants on whom blood cholesterol measurements were available. It confirmed no overall difference in all-cause mortality between groups, but also found that the greater the fall in blood cholesterol, the greater the risk of death.

However, despite the brouhaha that surrounded this study and the new data, it still didn’t uniquely incriminate polyunsaturates, as the noted association between a fall in blood cholesterol and a greater risk of death occurred both in the group eating a lot of corn oil and the control group. There’s also the confounding complication that illness can result in a fall in blood cholesterol.

More recent analysis lets linoleic acid off the hook

A big multinational review published last year in Circulation gives reason to be fairly relaxed about polyunsaturated fats. The individual-level pooled analysis of 30 cohort studies involved 15,198 cardiovascular events occurring among 68, 659 participants, with medians of follow-up ranging from 2 to nearly 32 years. The analysis showed higher levels of linoleic acid to be significantly associated with lower risks of total CVD, cardiovascular mortality, and ischemic stroke. Arachidonic acid levels—arachidonic acid is a metabolite of linoleic acid that has also come in for some stick as a potential driver of inflammation in arteries —were also not associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events.

As you were — seed oils won’t kill you!

As unexciting as it is, current dietary advice— including from the American Heart Association—probably has it about right. That advice doesn’t promote large amounts of polyunsaturates anymore, but recommends a balance of monounsaturates and polyunsaturates, with the additional recommendation that polyunsaturates consumed should not be just the omega-6 variety (linoleic acid) but should also include omega-3s.

In terms of an everyday diet, that means consuming a mix of vegetable and olive oils—or if you were to just pick one, canola oil, as it has a good balance of monounsaturates, omega-6 polyunsaturates and some omega-3 polyunsaturates—as well as having 1–2 oily fish meals weekly. Other foods to include as a part of a heart-healthy portfolio of foods include more dietary fiber, less salt, more fruit and vegetables, along with modest alcohol.

The bottom line? “Seed oils” aren’t poison, nor are they the sole dietary answer to heart disease either. It’s 40 years since scientists flirted with this notion, and now it’s time to move on.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Vegans have TWICE as much sex as meat-eaters and are more adventurous in the bedroom, survey reveals

It should be noted that this finding is based on the statements of married people using a dating site to start affairs.  So the generalizability of the findings to the population at large is unknown.  

The findings are in any case probably the result of "faking good".  As very deviant people, vegans have a strong incentive to promote themselves as being superior people.  They would appear to have done that in their responses to this survey.

The findings are therefore unlikely to represent real-life even within the group concerned

Vegans have twice as much sex as meat-eaters and are more willing to experiment in the bedroom, according to a new survey.

Dating website found over half of the vegans asked claimed they have sex four times a week, while only half of meat-eaters reported having sex twice in the same time period.

The research found two thirds of vegans were prepared to experiment in the bedroom, while over half of the meat-eaters surveyed admitted they were less adventurous between the sheets, reports the Mirror.

The survey also suggested that vegans have a better time in the bedroom with 84 per cent saying they're satisfied with their sex life compared with a measly 59 per cent of those with a meat-based diet.

Meanwhile 35 per cent of those on a meat-based diet describe themselves as 'givers', compared to 58 per cent of vegans.     

Spokeswoman Jessica Leoni said: 'Vegans are masters of seduction it would appear. Our statistics don't lie and vegans eat foods known for their aphrodisiac qualities such as ginseng and aniseed.'

Saturday, November 07, 2020

'Super pea' could reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes, researchers find

A "super pea" should be added to flour to stave off diabetes, Imperial College London researchers have said, with a study finding that it helps prevent blood sugar spikes.

A type of wrinkled pea may help control blood sugar levels and could reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, a study published in the journal Nature Food suggests.

Scientists have said incorporating "super peas" into foods in the form of whole pea seeds or flour may help tackle the global Type 2 diabetes epidemic.

The research focused on a naturally occurring wrinkled pea which, while genetically identical to the regular smooth peas often found in supermarket frozen food aisles, contains higher amounts of so-called resistant starch due to a natural mutation.

"If peas were not harvested fresh for freezing, but allowed to mature on the plants, it is likely that many would develop into wrinkled seeds," said Dr Katerina Petropoulou, of the Centre for Translational and Nutrition Food Research at Imperial College London and first author of the research.

The body breaks down starch to release sugar but resistant starch is broken down more slowly, meaning sugar is released more slowly into the bloodstream. This results in a more stable increase rather than a "sugar spike" in which blood sugar levels rise sharply after a meal, researchers say.

The same effect was seen when consuming flour made from wrinkled peas incorporated in a mixed meal. Researchers suggested this could be important because frequent, large sugar spikes are thought to increase the risk of diabetes.

They added that flour from these peas could potentially be used in commonly consumed processed foods which, if eaten over the long term, could prevent these sugar spikes.

In the experiments, researchers at Imperial College London, the John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute Bioscience and the University of Glasgow compared the larger, mature wrinkled peas, which produced a lower overall carbohydrate content, with normal peas.

The team gave healthy volunteers a mixed meal including 50 grams of wrinkled peas, and in a series of control experiments gave them regular peas. They also added a tracer molecule to the peas, so they could track how they were absorbed and digested by the human gastrointestinal tract.

The experiments were repeated using flour made from wrinkled peas or regular peas.

To further investigate the impact of long-term consumption, they recruited 25 volunteers and asked them to consume pea hummus and mushy peas made from wrinkled or regular peas for a period of four weeks.

Previous research from the same group suggested that, as these bacteria ferment the starch, they produce compounds called short chain fatty acids. These compounds help boost the function of cells that produce insulin, which helps control blood sugar.

Further tests using a mimic of the human gut showed that the way in which the peas were prepared and cooked affected how quickly they were digested.

Dr Petropoulou said: "There is much evidence that diets rich in a type of carbohydrate called resistant starch have a positive impact on controlling blood glucose levels, and hence reduce susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes."

Professor Pete Wilde, of the Quadram Institute, said: "This study has shown us that, by preparing these peas in certain ways, we can further reduce blood sugar spikes, opening up new possibilities for making healthier foods using controlled food processing techniques."

The researchers are now planning further trials involving volunteers with early stage Type 2 diabetes.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Diet Coke could be just as bad for you as sugared one: Artificially sweetened drinks and sugary beverages BOTH increase the risk of heart disease by up to 20%

They were probably looking just at poverty.  Poor people drink a lot of fizz and are generally unhealthy.  So the health outcomes that they  found were probably a poverty effect rather than a sweetner effect.  They had no data on income so could not control for poverty

The study was "Sugary drink consumption and risk of cancer: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort by Chazelas et al.

An additional concern about the study is that it was an internet study only -- with all the biases consequent on that.  Less sophisticated people would have been much under-represented in the study sample

French researchers tracked more than 104,000 people over ten years, looking at how many sugary or sugar-free soft drinks they consumed.

They found the consumers of both sugary and artificially sweetened drinks are up to  20 per cent more likely to suffer heart disease, stroke or heart attacks than those who avoid soft drinks.

The scientists, at Sorbonne University in Paris, split people into three groups based on their consumption of sweetened beverages.

These categories were labelled as non-consumers, low consumers and high consumers and drinks split into either artificially sweetened or sugary.

A sugar content equalling or exceeding five per cent meant it was considered sugary whereas a sub-five percentage and the presence of 'non-nutritive sweeteners' was enough to be classified as an artificially-sweetened beverage.  

The study required participants to fill in three daily diet diaries every six months.

A decade of records from 2009 to 2019 looked for any relationship between intake and heart-related issues, such as stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome and angioplasty.

A study of more than 5,000 US-based couples found that in 79 per cent of relationships, both people fall into the 'non-ideal' category for heart health. On average, couples also share the same risk factors which can make events such as a stroke or heart attack more likely.  This is due to both people falling into an unhealthy routine with poor diet and inadequate levels of exercise.

It revealed people who drank lots of low-sugar diet drinks had the same elevated heart disease risk as those who drank the full-sugar versions.

People who are considered to be high consumers of either artificially sweetened or sugary drinks were 20 per cent as likely to suffer heart problems than people who avoided both types of soft drinks, sticking to other options such as water, tea or coffee.

There was no difference between the two types of drink.  

Diet drinks such as Diet Coke, and the artificial sweeteners they contain, are often marketed as a way of reducing calorie and sugar intake.

But experts are concerned at growing evidence that artificial sweeteners alter the body's metabolism, increasing the speed at which sugar is absorbed.

Lead author Eloi Chazelas concluded: 'Higher intakes of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages were associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, suggesting that artificial sweeteners might not be a healthy substitute for sugary drinks.'

'These data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labeling, and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.'

'To establish a causal link, replication in other large-scale prospective cohorts and mechanistic investigations are needed.'

Saturday, October 24, 2020

How pink salt could be damaging your health

It is one of the trendiest items on health food and supermarket shelves, but some brands of pink salt have been found to contain toxic levels of lead and other harmful heavy metals.

The salt, which is promoted by health websites because it contains more minerals, sells for up to $10 a pack — three times the price of the white stuff which retails for as little as $3.

However an alarming study found the level of healthy minerals in the salt were so low you would need to eat six teaspoons of salt a day, six times as much as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is healthy, to get any benefit.

And worse of all, pink salt could actually be harmful to your health.

Nutrition Research Australia tested 31 samples of pink salt and found one brand – Peruvian Pink Salt – contained so much lead it exceeded Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) safe levels by 25 per cent and had 130 times more lead than white table salt.

According to US Food and Drug Administration guidelines “one teaspoon of Peruvian salt would be four times the daily limit of lead for a child,” researcher Flavia Fayet-Moore told News Corp.

There is no level of exposure to lead without harmful effects, she said. Young children, including unborn babies, are at greatest risk from lead exposure and it can permanently damage their brain and affect their intellectual development.

Symptoms of lead poisoning include muscle pains, fatigue, abdominal pains, headache nausea and vomiting, seizures and coma.

Other brands of pink salt were found to contain heavy metals that are dangerous if consumed long term. These included mercury, cadmium and aluminium.

Although these heavy metals were present in only tiny amounts they accumulate in the body as we age and can be toxic if consumed regularly, Ms Fayet-Moore said. “It could accumulate and result in adverse health effects,” she said.

Cadmium is stored in the liver and kidneys and is slowly excreted in urine but if it builds up it can affect the kidneys, lungs, and bones causing stomach irritation, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, headaches and flu-like symptoms.

Aluminium has been detected in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and may reduce the rate of growth of brain cells.

“Our study shows that pink salt’s reputation for being ‘healthier’ has now been debunked, with the nutrient level too low and variable for it to be a consistent source of nutrients,” she said.

“While pink salt may look prettier on the dining room table, there are many healthy ways to enhance flavour and add colour to your meal, such as using herbs and spices like paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and even pink peppercorns,” she said.

The World Health Organisation says we should consume less than 5g or one teaspoon of salt per day but because it is in high levels in packaged foods, even sweet foods, most people consume 9-12 grams per day.

Foods with healthy salt levels contain less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

'My vegan diet ruined my health'

A couple of years ago, veganism was booming. I was editing a glossy vegan food magazine and every day brought more plant-based product launches and glowing Instagram stars proffering raw Buddha bowls.

I, too, went vegan in the summer of 2016, aged 45. After years as a vegetarian with an abiding love for animals, it seemed ridiculous to keep eating eggs and dairy when alternatives made from soy, pea protein and lentils were suddenly available. I had constant access to health information and a cabinet rattling with supplements. What I didn't have, unfortunately, was any understanding of how veganism would affect my health.

Despite reading glowing reports from other vegans of how their energy had increased, I was tired for hours every day. My hair was dry and brittle. My gums bled, I caught colds and felt low much of the time.

It took two years of inexplicable skin rashes and pain before I was diagnosed with a severe nickel allergy - a mineral in abundant supply in soy, pulses, beans and wholegrains. My entire diet, effectively. I had no idea that nickel allergy existed, but the dietitian I was finally assigned told me that she was seeing increasing numbers of patients developing it after turning vegan.

Despite my moral reservations, the specialist told me that I had to stop being vegan. I braved a piece of fish, and was amazed by its deliciousness. I introduced prawns, salmon, tuna and mackerel to my diet, along with eggs and cheese.

Within a few days, my low mood lifted and my energy returned. I felt like taking long walks again, and over the months my hair was thicker, and my skin less rash-prone, too. Most importantly, I slept better.

A few years into the vegan revolution, it seems, the uneaten chickens are coming home to roost.

Increasingly, dietitians and GPs are expressing concern that in the stampede to save the planet, we may be risking our wellbeing. Last week, it was reported that Cheltenham Ladies' College in the UK has taken the unprecedented step of giving regular blood tests to newly vegan pupils to maintain health and prevent eating disorders such as anorexia, often linked to highly restrictive diets.

And though many advocates remain healthy, others, like me, are admitting defeat. Singer Miley Cyrus recently revealed that she'd reverted to a less restricted diet. "I've had to introduce fish and omegas into my life because my brain wasn't functioning properly," she said. Despite following "the strictest [vegan diet] you've ever known" for six years, other health issues reared up, including hip pain and a feeling of malnourishment. She reluctantly gave in and ate fish after suffering agonising kidney stones from excess oxalates, found in beans and spinach.

Actor Anne Hathaway has also spoken about her change of heart after going vegan - she "just didn't feel good or healthy". Dietitian Jane Clarke accepts that cutting down on meat can be beneficial, but is concerned by veganism's wholesale promotion by bloggers, rather than health experts.

"It's great that there is now a much wider range of non-meat sources of protein, but the power of social media and supermarkets to influence our food choices needs to be combined with scientific evidence," she warns, adding that the trend for highly processed vegan food with lots of sugar, fats and salt added shows "you can easily be unhealthy as a vegan".

She says the evidence still points to the health benefits of a balanced diet - including a limited amount of animal protein and dairy. Research recently published in the journal BMC Medicine found the lowest mortality rates in those eating up to 80g of meat a day.

"Calcium-rich foods including cow's milk are proven to be beneficial to bone health and help produce anticancer substances such as butyrate. The fact is, meat is a great source of easily accessible protein."

GP Noreen Nguru, the founder of, says deficiencies of nutrients and vitamins are "common among new and even established vegans, and include micronutrients deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc - all responsible for building strong immune systems and protecting against bone fractures, high blood pressure and fatigue.

"Vegans are also at a much higher risk of developing a vitamin-B12 deficiency which, if left untreated for too long, can potentially cause irreversible neurological effects such as paresthesia (numbness or tingling in the hands and feet), co-ordination difficulties and even problems with memory."

Such deficiencies can be prevented with careful supplementation, but some argue that nutrients and vitamins can be harder for the body to absorb this way. In one Oxford University study published in 2010, half the vegans in the sample were B12 deficient.

"The implications of diving into a meat-free, egg-free and dairy-free diet without adequate preparation and research are likely to bring more harm than good," says Dr Nguru. And though she agrees that meat and dairy consumption have been linked to problems such as bowel cancer, "there are several less restrictive diets that offer heart-protective benefits and reduce the risk of cancer, such as low carb and Mediterranean diets rich in omega 3 and good fats".

Life coach Bianca Riemer, 41, went vegan in 2011, having been largely vegetarian. Despite taking all the recommended supplements, including omegas and B12, she kept craving lamb and chicken.

Though she initially felt better, "my energy was still very depleted and my acupuncturist suggested I should eat eggs and meat again. I added salmon, and then I got pregnant after two years of trying. I also started eating chicken and felt so much better for it."

After returning to meat, "the impact on my mental and physical wellbeing was close to immediate. But I don't think there's a one-diet-fits-all approach," she goes on. "Each of us should eat whatever suits us at different stages of life."

In Australia, 12 per cent of the population eat a mostly vegetarian diet. While in the UK, it's closer to 7 per cent and 4 per cent are, like me, pescatarian; between 1 and 2 per cent are vegan.

Many ex-vegans find vegetarianism a more successful refuge.

Sophia Husbands had a failed attempt at veganism in 2018. "I did Veganuary for my health," says Husbands, 41, founder of wellbeing site LoveHappyBody, "but I started to get run down and developed mouth ulcers in just a month. I felt dizzy and it turned out my iron levels were very low."

Last year she went vegetarian, and says she's found the diet much more sustainable. "I've lost weight, my skin has improved. But I try to keep a balance now, and I'm wary of totally eliminating anything, as I think that can spark intolerances. If I craved meat or fish, I would return to it."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Fluoride Fear Makes a Comeback

“Have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol? Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation of water? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?”

That was Gen. Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) in the 1963 Cold War send-up Dr. Strangelove. Gen. Ripper is so concerned about his precious bodily fluids that he launches an attack on the Soviet Union. Such an attack never occurred, but conspiracy theories did indeed swirl around fluoridation. A re-run of sorts is now occurring courtesy of York University (Toronto) neuropsychologist Christine Till, author of a study that links fluoride in drinking water to lower intelligence in children.

The Journal of the American Medical Association notes that it subjected the study to added scrutiny and peer review, but experts from six countries are taking aim at Till. Harvard dental professor Myron Allukian Jr., former president of the American Public Health Association, charges that Till is “misleading the public and others by distorting the data and not doing the proper analyses.” In similar style, a report by Canada’s independent health agency claims Till’s conclusions were “not supported by the data” and Till was reluctant to hand it over. According to McGill University chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz, “Whoever owns the data should be willing to release it.”

Fluoridation of drinking water to prevent tooth decay began in the 1940s, and as Jesse Hicks notes at Science History, anti-fluoridation literature goes back more than half a century. Critics claim fluoride is linked to cancer, diminished intelligence, and birth defects, among other serious concerns. Christine Till has also linked fluoridated water with ADHD, and her new work provides some takeaways.

When it comes to medical science, peer review is not enough. Studies must be subject to replication by independent parties. When it comes to tooth decay, fluoridation is not the only factor, and other substances in water also raise cause for concern.

For example, in 2018, waters at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers were contaminated with E. coli bacteria, caused by fecal contamination. As KCRA reported, while only a small percentage of E. coli strands are harmful, “they can cause significant health problems.”

So if General Ripper were around today, he would have a lot more to worry about than just fluoride.

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Saturday, October 03, 2020

Subway bread isn't bread, Irish court rules

London: Ireland's Supreme Court has ruled that bread sold by the fast-food chain Subway contains so much sugar that it cannot legally be defined as bread.

The ruling came in a tax dispute brought by Bookfinders Ltd, an Irish Subway franchisee, which argued that some of its takeaway products – including teas, coffees and heated sandwiches – were not liable for value-added tax.

A panel of judges rejected the appeal on Tuesday, ruling that the bread sold by Subway contains too much sugar to be categorised as a "staple food", which is not taxed.

"There is no dispute that the bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10 per cent of the weight of the flour included in the dough, and thus exceeds the 2 per cent specified," the judgment read.

The law makes a distinction between "bread as a staple food" and other baked goods "which are, or approach, confectionery or fancy baked goods", the judgment said.

Subway disagreed with the characterisation in a statement. "Subway's bread is, of course, bread," the company said in an email.

"We have been baking fresh bread in our restaurants for more than three decades and our guests return each day for sandwiches made on bread that smells as good as it tastes."

Bookfinders was appealing against a 2006 decision by authorities who refused to refund value-added tax payments. Lower courts had dismissed the case before it reached the Supreme Court.

Subway said it was reviewing the latest tax ruling. It added that the decision was based on an outdated bread exemption set by the Irish government that was updated in 2012.