Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Organic" food is no different

The most interesting thing about the article below is the tables that go with it. See the original for those

By picking up a food labelled "organic" you might assume you're taking a positive step towards a more nutritious and healthy diet. Indeed, an Organic Market report by the Soil Association revealed that annual spending on organic food, cosmetics and clothes is o2bn, and that health is the prime motivation for buying organic. But while the sustainable farming methods used to produce organic foods make them kinder to the environment, they are not necessarily kinder to your health or waistline.

In fact, many products carrying the organic label are packed full of fat, sugar and salt and are no better than regular varieties of the same food. A recent report highlighted the confusion surrounding organic food labels designed to woo health-conscious shoppers. In a survey of soups, the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) group found that organic products are often the worst offenders when it comes to sodium content.

According to Anna Denny, nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation: "Organic is not necessarily any different to conventionally produced food when it comes to its nutrient content". Too much salt in any food has been linked to high blood pressure and an increase risk in heart disease, she says. Likewise, a high amount of fat - and in particular the more harmful saturated fat - can increase the likelihood of obesity and health problems such as diabetes, stroke and arthritis.

"The best advice for people who want to shop organically for environmental reasons is to check the label carefully," says Denny According to Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, organic food is typically 63 per cent more expensive than conventional produce.

More here

"Lean gene" may help keep you trim

An "antiobesity" gene may explain why some people always stay thin, researchers say. The gene apparently serves to keep animals lean during times of plenty, and future weight-control treatments might work by stimulating it, they add. The gene, first discovered in flies, also keeps worms and mice trim, according to a report in the September issue of the research journal Cell Metabolism. If the gene works similarly in humans, the findings could lead to a new weapon against our burgeoning waistlines, according to the researchers.

Animals without a working copy of the gene, known as Adipose, become obese and diabetes-prone, while those with increased Adp activity in fat tissue become slimmer, scientists found. Moreover, the gene's "dose" seems to determine how slender an animal turns out to be. If treatments could stimulate this gene "even just a little bit, you might have a beneficial effect on fat," said Jonathan Graff of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

He noted that people often become overweight very gradually -- adding just one or two pounds a year. "After 30 years, that's a lot." While worms and flies are routinely studied as models of human health and disease, that trend has been less true in fat biology, Graff said. That's because unlike mammals, worms and flies store their fat in multifunctional cells rather than in dedicated fat cells known as adipocytes. However, those differences didn't preclude the possibility that the animals might use similar genes to accomplish their fat storage goals, he added.

Graff's team found that worms lacking Adp activity became fat, although they appeared to be otherwise healthy and fertile. Indeed, another scientist, Winifred Doane, had found a naturally occurring strain of plump flies in Nigeria almost 50 years ago that carried a mutation in their Adp gene. The flies lived in a climate marked by cycles of famine, where they may have benefited from being highly efficient at fat storage, Doane had suggested.

Graff and his colleagues produced a strain of mutant flies like those that Doane had found years earlier. They found that the mutant flies were indeed fat and also had trouble getting around. Flies with only one copy of the Adp mutation fell somewhere in between the fat and normal flies, evidence that the gene's effects are "dose dependent," they reported. Treatments that increased Adp in the insects' fat tissue led them to lose weight, suggesting the gene works within fat cells themselves.

In mice in which the gene functioned in in fat-storing tissues, the same patterns emerged. "We made mice that expressed Adp in fat-storing tissues, and lo and behold... they were skinny," Graff said. They "weighed less with markedly less fat -- and their fat cells were smaller." Smaller fat cells usually translate into better metabolic function, he said, including better blood sugar control.

The search for molecules underlying weight gain and poor blood sugar control "has taken on additional urgency due to the recent dramatic increase in obesity and diabetes," Graff said. But in a modern world where many people have essentially unlimited access to food, it's a wonder that even more people aren't overweight, he added. If this gene plays a similar role in humans, "it may be that some people's Adp works very well."



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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