Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ask Will: Dissing Dairy

Dear Will, 
Our son and daughter-in-law have informed us that based upon advice of co-workers in the medical profession, they will give our grandson almond milk rather than regular milk once he’s off formula. 

I may be old school, but I’ve never heard of such a thing unless a child is allergic to regular milk.  Is there medical evidence that this is better for a toddler or for that matter a child of any age? 

Thank you, 

Hi Bob, 

I totally understand their concerns, as it's so common lately to hear how milk has become the secret cause of every health problem from obesity and heart disease to colic, constipation, and cancer! Even high profile organizations (such as the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine) aggressively market this way of thinking that turns out to be very anti-dairy.  

Fair enough, and groups like this are certainly entitled to push their perspective, but there's far more going on and, for our kids' health, we need BOTH sides of the story to truly get a clear picture.  

The first and most pedestrian reason to avoid dairy would be due to milk allergies. But 97.5% of all children under 3 years old do NOT have an allergy to milk (source here), and most of the remaining 2.5% outgrow as they grow. If you happen to have a child with a dairy allergy, don't give them dairy. 

But the biggest reason cited to eliminate dairy for our kids comes down to the claim that it causes systemic inflammation in the body. 

In this article "The Dangers of Dairy", we read that Dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, second only to gluten. How could they possibly make such a strong assertion -- that your yogurt is THE MOST inflammatory food behind gluten -- unless there were definitive evidence? 

Does Dairy Cause Inflammation?
If this were true, the consumption of any form of dairy would lead to a closet full of health problems: cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergies, arthritis, auto-immune disorders, cancer, and others. Anyone who eats any dairy would suffer from all of these ailments.  

Reading claims like this is very frustrating, and feels like someone who is simply echoing what everyone happens to be saying right now. So I took the time to look up some actual studies that investigated the claims. 

Here are some highlights: 
1. In a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies, they found that circulating inflammatory and atherogenic biomarkers are NOT increased following meals of dairy foods.

2. “Dairy product consumption does not exert adverse effects on biomarkers of inflammation in overweight or obese adults.” 

3. Study: Dairy Product Consumption Has No Impact on Biomarkers of Inflammation among Men and Women with Low-Grade Systemic Inflammation. As a matter of fact, Among subjects, significant falls occurred ... in inflammatory biomarkers after cream and butter

4. "Consistent with data from previous work, these results suggest that short-term consumption of a combination of low- and high-fat dairy products as part of a healthy diet have no adverse effects on inflammation.” 

Not only do these studies show that dairy is not inflammatory, in this review "we indicate how milk proteins could be useful for the prophylaxis and therapy of intestinal inflammation in infants and children.


For intestinal inflammation. 

In children. 

So Bob, your sense of things is spot-on. If your grandchild is one of the 97.5% of people who do not have a dairy allergy, then there is really no reason (based on nutrition research) to move them away from dairy.  

Of course, as with all things, you do have to eat it in control. But this is the case not matter what you're eating. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does T-Day Turkey Put You Into a Narcoleptic Coma?

I’ve honestly had someone ask me whether they should be concerned. 

“I’m going over to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving. I’ll have a lot of turkey, but then I have to drive home. Won’t this make me go to sleep? Should I just plan to stay there for the night?”, as if they’d had 6 drinks, or were just worried that they’d lapse into spontaneous unconsciousness on I-95.

Like every pearl of a myth, there’s an irritating single grain of truth that starts it all.
Turkey does contain tryptophan, tryptophan is an amino acid that gets converted into melatonin, and melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone [grain of truth ... check]. So there is a series of logical stepping stones that can take you from your T-Day feast straight to sleep in no time.


First of all, turkey isn't the only food with tryptophan, and it's not even the food with the most tryptophan. Pork chops and cheddar cheese both have more than turkey, and when’s the last time you face planted into your pork-o-melt sandwich before even getting half way through it? Don’t answer that. Regardless of the true cause, you’ll never convince your date that it was the “tryptophan” that made you pass out.  

The point is that oral consumption of tryptophan must get into the brain before getting converted into anything that can influence your likelihood of going to sleep. And before it gets through the blood-brain gate keeper at all, some of it gets lost to the production of the vitamin niacin in your liver.

With the remaining tryptophan, the blood-brain barrier gate keeper only lets certain amino acids across, and all of the many amino acids have to compete for just a few seats on the bus. Tryptophan is the red headed step child that is the last to go (gets out-competed for the receptors of the amino acids transporters). 


When you have a meal high in carbohydrates, your body produces insulin which helps poor stuck-at-the-station tryptophan out. It does this because insulin escorts all the competitor amino acids from the blood stream into muscles and organs. All of them except tryptophan!! 

This leaves more tryptophan in the blood and allows some of it to get across and into the brain while the other amino acids are off messing around in the muscles.

So. Carbohydrates. You mean like potatoes and stuffing and yams and my amazing pumpkin pie? Yeah, like that. 

No worries though, because the impact of that little bit of tryptophan on your ability to stay awake on the college football recovery couch is minimal. Think about it this way. When people dose up on tryptophan supplements (as a sleep aid), they’re instructed that it must be taken on an empty stomach to have any effect – but in this case you’re eating turkey so you're safe!

That’s not to say that you won’t need a recovery-nap after the Thanksgiving turkey-palooza, but you’re sleepiness will be coming from the volume of food and libation you consumed rather than the biochemical blahbiddy blah percolating around in your cerebrovascular whatnot. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

A Tasty T-Day Turkey Riddle. Please solve this for me.

Brining your turkey violates a basic law of science. Help me out with this. 

To explain what I mean, we'll have to do the "Tasty T-Day Turkey Test". But first, let's establish what we know.

Fact #1, in "science-speak": 
  1. Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a partially permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.
  2. A Science-to-English Translation:
  3. Osmosis is an example of what happens when nature equalizes things out. Check out this classic picture on the left. 
  4. The left-hand "U" is filled with salt water, and separated by a little membrane at the bottom. But the left side is saltier than its right side (the amount of salt is represented by the little red dots). 
  5. Osmosis makes the salt on the left side balance with the right side by going across the membrane in that direction (see how the dots equalize on the right side?). It also makes water on the right side travel to the left side by moving in THAT direction (see that there is more water on the left U?). 
  6. Because of this basic law of science, the "Final State" happens when the concentration of the salt water is the same on both sides.  
  7. Fact #2: Brining your turkey makes the most amazingly juicy turkey you've ever had! It's amazing, but Fact #2 also seems to violate Fact #1!
  8. To brine a bird, just dissolve about 1 cup of salt per gallon of water. That's some salty water -- it isn't called BRINE for nothing!
  9. So let's just test whether this whole osmosis theory holds water. 
  10. In theory, like in the little tube-tutorial above, the concentration of salt is higher in the water than it is in the turkey meat (by a lot). Thus, the salt should leave the water bath and enter the turkey. At the same time, the water should leave the turkey and enter the bath.  
  11. IF that were true ...
  12. THEN ...
  13. you would end up with a turkey that is dryer and saltier.
  14. However, what you get when you brine the bird is moister meat that isn't salty at all! 
  15. I HAVE to share this with you. In a brilliant book called "What Einstein told his cook", Dr. Robert Wolke explains brining like this. When talking about the mechanism of osmosis and diffusion during brining he states, "There, by a mechanism that still isn't completely understood, it increases the protein's ability to hold water. The result is a seasoned, moister piece of meat."
  16. By a mechanism that still isn't completely understood! That's hilarious. In other words, it happens, but we have no idea why it happens. 
  17. I wonder if some of my brilliant science friends can help me out here. And, now that we have destroyed your faith in science forever, be sure to brine your turkey this Thanksgiving, and share it with your wonderful family this holiday season!

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wild Turkey VS Supermarket Turkey: Who's the better bird?

Wonderful graphic from the World Science Festival.

They've made them gigantic, but at what cost? If you want to learn more about these amazing birds, here's a PDF by the USDA on our remaining wild turkeys.

As with all game, the meat will be richer, less likely to have been treated with antibiotics to Hulk-it-up, and are 100% pop-up-button free. 

All in all, normal turkeys will be healthier for you of course. That doesn't mean conventional gobblers are NOT, just that the high quantity poundage of that bird comes at a cost.  

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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