Saturday, May 24, 2008

Misleading Titles on Vitamin B Supplements

The title of this article is as follows: Supplements a solution for B6 deficiency, says study

But the study said nothing of the kind. This is a glaring example of the slippery slope of inferrance. Here is the opening line, which follows the misleading header:

"Researchers at Tufts University have suggested inadequate vitamin B6 levels across large sections of the US population, which could be reduced via supplementation."

All they found was that vitamin B6 levels are lower than the US RDA. The authors speculate that they could be corrected by pills, but that study has not been done and has no basis here.

It seems like we want this to be true, and the search for a product (pill/supplement/drug) to correct a process (poor food/low exercise/high stress lives) forms the core of our current paradigm on health.

This is not a productive strategy, and should be replaced. In fact, we just read the article stating that vitamin B supplementation does not protect against heart disease. This adds to other examples where supplementation products did not correct health problems that are induced by an unhealthy process, or lifestyle.

Source: American Journal of Clinical NutritionVolume 87, pages 1446 -54."Trends of Vitamin B6 Status in US Population Sample"Authors: Morris MS, Picciano, MF, Jacques PF, Selhub, J.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Food Additives

ANTIOXIDANTS retard the oxidation of unsaturated fats and oils, colorings, and flavorings. Oxidation leads to rancidity, flavor changes, and loss of color. Most of those effects are caused by reaction of oxygen in the air with fats.

CARCINOGEN is a chemical or other agent that causes cancer in animals or humans.

CHELATING AGENTS trap trace amounts of metal atoms that would otherwise cause food to discolor or go rancid.

EMULSIFIERS keep oil and water mixed together.

FLAVOR ENHANCERS have little or no flavor of their own, but accentuate the natural flavor of foods. They are often used when very little of a natural ingredient is present.

THICKENING AGENTS are natural or chemically modified carbohydrates that absorb some of the water that is present in food, thereby making the food thicker. Thickening agents "stabilize" factory-made foods by keeping the complex mixtures of oils, water, acids, and solids well mixed.

Cancer Testing
Chemicals usually are tested for an ability to cause cancer by feeding large dosages to small numbers of rats and mice. Large dosages are used to compensate for the small number of animals that can be used (a few hundred is considered a big study, though it is tiny compared to the U.S. population of more than 300 million). Also, the large dosages can compensate for the possibility that rodents may be less sensitive than people to a particular chemical (as happened with thalidomide). Some people claim that such tests are improper and that large amounts of any chemical would cause cancer. That is not true. Huge amounts of most chemicals do not cause cancer. When a large dosage causes cancer, most scientists believe that a smaller amount would also cause cancer, but less frequently.

It would be nice if lower, more realistic dosages could be used, but a test using low dosages and a small number of animals would be extraordinarily insensitive. It would also be nice if test-tube tests not using any animals were developed that could cheaply and accurately identify cancer-causing chemicals. While some progress has been made in that direction, those tests have not proven reliable. Thus, the standard high-dosage cancer test on small numbers of animals is currently the only practical, reasonably reliable way to identify food additives (and other chemicals) that might cause cancer.

The Delaney Clause is an important part of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That important consumer-protection clause specifically bans any additive that "is found to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal." The food and chemical industries are seeking to weaken or repeal that law.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weight Loss Pills, Products, Potions Finally Falter

Food and Drink reports that weight loss products are flagging under the weight of consumer skepticism. This is great news for the culture of health, as this points to the "growing up" of the diet consumer.

Pills, powders, and other quick fix potions are being disregarded by people who are through with their unfulfilled promises of rapid and easy weight loss.

The Food and Drink report whines that this decline is due to those 'bogus' weight loss supplements and food products, which are $3.7B dollar industry. It is hard to shed a tear for their exploitation of your hopes, and blatant use of come-hither advertising to skirt the need for long term lifestyle solutions.

From the article: There have been 29 new weight loss supplement products launched in the US from January to May 2008. Last year, GNPD recorded a total of 59 new weight loss supplement launches. The food category for weight loss recorded 167 new products in 2007 and 94 new products in the 2008 year to date.

Volatile salesAccording to Mintel, liquid and powder meal replacement drinks have dominated sales in the weight loss category, but this segment has also seen declined sales between 2004 and 2006, "reflecting the market's overall poor performance".

Why are consumers sour on the pills/products/potions? A huge factor are all the law suits, health problems, and the fact that they just don't work in the long term.

"The FTC has prosecuted over 100 such cases since 1990, and by all indications appears to be tightening its regulatory methods in the near future. Furthermore, consumer worry about physical side effects and dependency also mitigate sales."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When fat can be healthy

The New York Times reported today that there are some great ways to cook vegetables to maximize the vitamin content, and that eating them raw was not always as good for you. Here is the full article.

But the most interesting aspect was in an afterthought at the bottom of the article, concerning the problem of getting kids to eat their vegetables:

What accompanies the vegetables can also be important. Studies at Ohio State measured blood levels of subjects who ate servings of salsa and salads. When the salsa or salad was served with fat-rich avocados or full-fat salad dressing, the diners absorbed as much as 4 times more lycopene, 7 times more lutein and 18 times the beta carotene than those who had their vegetables plain or with low-fat dressing.

Fat can also improve the taste of vegetables, meaning that people will eat more of them. This month, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported on 1,500 teenagers interviewed in high school and about four years later on their eating habits. In the teenage years, many factors influenced the intake of fruits and vegetables. By the time the study subjects were 20, the sole factor that influenced fruit and vegetable consumption was taste. Young adults were not eating vegetables simply because they didn’t like the taste.

You get more out of your vegetables when they are accompanied by olive oil, a little butter, or avocado -- what a wonderful food!! Well of course it does, and what in the world is wrong with that? Nothing.

We simply need to eat those fabulous fats in control. This becomes is a key for our health and that of our kids. A wonderful take-home message of this passage is that food is not the bad guy. Food is not the enemy, any more.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Baby Food For Parents

It is a catch-22. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

In this article in the New York Times, we hear the concerns of parents who want to buy the best formula for their babies, but end up giving them something that may be bad for them later.

The infant formula, Similac, has the words "organic" right on the label, and so is becoming incredibly popular. Parents pick that one because they don't have the time or inclination to become a Ph.D. in nutrition in their spare time, just to judge the constant spray of new products that hit the shelves every day.

So you choose the one that should be the healthiest, but is it? The concern with these formulas is that they are loaded with sugar. Granted, at least the form of the sweetener is not high fructose corn syrup, but it is still way overdosing the children on sugar.

What is the problem?
The concern is that you can train tastes of your baby early to crave sugary foods. Moreover, why in the world would they need the all that sweetness anyway? Just because something is safe (the sugar used in these formulas is cane sugar) doesn't mean is healthy at any dose!

The product is created to sell more product, but the question is ... who did they add the sugar for -- not the baby. The child cannot say, "Mom, I'd like this brand over that brand", but moms will taste the formula before they give it to the baby. If moms like it, the baby gets it.

This is just another confusion we face, when food products have ingredients that are ostensibly for one purpose, but are actually added for some other reason that helps them sell more product.

What is the solution?
The best solution, obviously, is to breast feed. The people who are telling you not to do this are the people with product to move, and your decision to engage in a natural act is standing between them and their sales goal. Of course, if you cannot breast feed for some reason then, unfortunately, you are saddled with having to be the ingredient Nazi because we simply cannot count on the products on the shelves to be good for us -- and especially for our children.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Doctors Dissing Dairy Debatable

Our culture of health can be so misleading, especially when we hear reasonable.

This woman is Amy Lanou, who co-authored this article dissing the prospective role of dairy in diet . If you read the release, you'll see that they make it seem like she is an academic who is helping Dr. Barnard on their dairy research project.

However, she is actually a part of the same group -- the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine -- which is an extreme and aggressive organization.

When Robert Atkins tragically slipped, cracked his head, and ultimately diet, this group had the foul taste to publish an article stating that Dr. Atkins was obese upon his death and that his weight was due to his dietary approach. This was blatantly untrue ... not only was he not obese, but he simply gained water weight due to the edema that was caused by his fall.

But this group took advantage of his tragedy, twisted it to their own ideological ends, even when they (if they are indeed physicians) knew this to be false.

Now they are slamming dairy. Maybe they are right this time, but such inappropriate and unsavory behavior on their part makes anything they say suspect.

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