Anxious Mice, Beautiful People, and How to Prepare Grains - Fascinating Articles This Week
Last week, the USDA decided that GMO alfalfa is perfectly safe to begin cultivating as food for animals that humans eat. Incidentally, it's hard to fathom any great benefits to come from this GMO alfalfa--unless you happen to be Monsanto. Not only will farmers have to buy the patented seed from Monsanto, but now farmers will also be able to apply Monsanto's Roundup pesticide even more heavily to these new GMO varieties without actually killing the alfalfa. Gosh, thanks, Big Biotech! I couldn't have come up with a better way to make money...er, Feed The Hungry...myself.
The Organic Consumers Association divisively blamed Organic Valley, Whole Foods, and Stonyfield Farm for “supporting” the USDA approval; which, OV, WF, and SF pointed out, was a plenty unfair accusation, since nobody wanted the GMO approval in the first place and yet the USDA placed only two choices on the table: Approval with complete deregulation, or Approval “with restrictions.”
...Coming soon, GMOs to the plate of a dairy cow near you...
I am very intrigued by this theory concerning the cause of Cot Death, or SIDS as it's known on this side of the Atlantic. Jeff and I read this article back before Jem was born, and it makes me want to do something about our old, conventionally-toxic mattress (Ben and Jem sleep on a top-of-the-line organic cotton futon that cost nearly as much as our (used) car).
I know this stuff is not conclusive--but the theory makes so much more sense than current advice, which states that, among a couple of other counter-intuitive theories, babies somehow can't breathe well enough when sleeping on their tummies and should therefore sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS. This has never made sense to me...
“...In 1988, Barry Richardson, a British chemist specializing in deterioration and preservation of materials, and Peter Mitchell, a marquee specialist, were working on Mitchell's deteriorating marquee, awnings and party tents. Mitchell's marquee supplier told him that the chemicals in awnings and tents were the same chemicals that had been approved for use in baby mattresses. Mitchell also learned from Richardson that these same chemicals could be converted into nerve gas. Mitchell and Richardson decided maybe there was a connection here to SIDS. The research by Richardson began immediately.
“The three chemicals of concern are phosphorus used in the baby mattress cover, and arsenic and antimony added as preservatives and fire retardants. Richardson has determined that a common household fungus, Scopulariopsis brevicaulis, gets established in the mattress from the baby's sweating, spitting up and so on. Once established, the fungus begins to consume these three chemicals in the mattress. This results in the production of three nerve gasses: phosphine, arsine and stibine, all of which can be very deadly, especially to infants.
“In late 1988 Richardson asked local coroners to cooperate by releasing mattresses on which SIDS babies had died. He received 200 mattresses of all varieties: foam, plastic, fabric and netted. By June 1989 all mattresses had been tested with the following results:
--Every mattress was infected with the S. Brevicaulis fungus as an organism and spores.
--All mattresses had one or more of the chemicals phosphorus, arsenic or antimony.
--Each mattress generated one or more of the nerve gasses (phosphine, arsine or stibine) when brought to blood/body temperature.
“At this time, Richardson analyzed six blood samples of the SIDS babies who died on mattresses with antimony and found high levels of antimony in each sample. In addition, Richardson learned that 95 percent of mattresses tested had been used by a previous baby...
After following the SIDS/nerve gas controversy for ten years, a mom writes a blog post about it: http://www.healthychild.com/blog/are-toxic-gases-in-crib-mattresses-caus...
Stella reminded me about this article, concerning tooth decay and grain consumption. If you're going to eat grain, this contains a lot of good information about how to prepare it to reduce naturally occurring “anti-nutrients” (such as phytic acid) and increase digestibility. I am not totally thrilled with the author's skills as a scientist, but after reading a lot of supporting evidence elsewhere, I'm convinced that his information is fairly sound, and it's hard to find it collected anywhere else.
I absolutely don't agree with the suggested treatment measures for slowing detox reactions, but it is interesting how oxalate sensitivity might be a symptom of a too-permeable gut wall...
Weston Price again, as he documented his study of native populations in north-central Europe:
“One of the sad stories of the Isle of Lewis has to do with the recent rapid progress of the white plague. The younger generation of the modernized part of the Isle of Lewis is not showing the same resistance to tuberculosis as their ancestors. Indeed a special hospital has been built at Stornoway for the rapidly increasing number of tubercular patients, particularly for girls between twenty and thirty years of age. The superintendent told me with deep concern of the rapidity with which this menace is growing. Apparently very little consideration was being given to the change in nutrition as a possible explanation for the failure of this generation to show the defense of previous generations against pulmonary tuberculosis. In this connection much blame had been placed upon the housing conditions, it being thought that the thatched-roof house with its smoke-laden air was an important contributing factor, notwithstanding the fact that former generations had been free from the disease. I was told that the incidence of tuberculosis was frequently the same in the modern homes as it was in the thatched-roof homes. It was of special interest to observe the mental attitude of the native with regard to the thatched-roof house. Again and again, we saw the new house built beside the old one, and the people apparently living in the new one, but still keeping the smoke smudging through the thatch of the old thatched-roof house. When I inquired regarding this I was told by one of the clearthinking residents that this thatch collected something from the smoke which when put in the soil doubled the growth of plants and yield of grain. He showed me with keen interest two patches of grain which seemed to demonstrate the soundness of his contention.
“I was particularly interested in studying the growing boys and girls at a place called Scalpay in the Isle of Harris. This Island is very rocky and has only small patches of soil for available pasturage. For nutrition, the children of this community were dependent very largely on oatmeal porridge, oatcake [were these fermented?? I can't imagine that they weren't, but I'd love to know...] and sea foods. An examination of the growing boys and girls disclosed the fact that only one tooth out of every hundred examined had ever been attacked by tooth decay. The general physical development of these children was excellent, as may be seen in the upper half of Fig. 7. Note their broad faces.
[Check out the photos showing the substantial difference between broad vs. narrow faces.]
“This is in striking contrast with the children of the hamlet of Tarbert which is the only shipping port on the Isle of Harris, and the place of export of most of the famous Harris tweeds which are manufactured on looms in the various crofters' homes. These Tarbert children had an incidence of 32.4 carious teeth out of every hundred teeth examined. The distance between these two points is not over ten miles and both have equal facilities for obtaining sea foods, being on the coast. Only the latter, however, has access to modern foods, since it supports a white bread bakery store with modern jams, marmalades, and other kinds of canned foods. In studying the tragedy of the rampant tooth decay in the mouth of a young man, I asked him regarding his plans and he stated that he was expecting to go to Stornoway about sixty miles away in the near future, where there was a dentist, and have all his teeth extracted and plates made. He said that it was no use to have any teeth filled, that he would have to lose them anyway since that was everybody's experience in Tarbert. The young women were in just as poor a condition.”
“...Since a fundamental part of this study involves an examination of the accumulated wisdom of the primitive racial stocks, it is important that we look further into the matter of the smoked thatch. I was advised by the old residents that a serious conflict existed between them and the health officials who came from outside to their island. The latter blamed the smoke for the sudden development of tuberculosis in acute form, and they insisted that the old procedure be entirely discontinued. For this purpose the government gave very substantial assistance in the building of new and modern homes. The experienced natives contended that the oat crop would not mature in that severe climate without being fertilized with the smoked thatch. While they were willing to move into the new house, they were not willing to give up the smoking of the oat straw used for the thatch to prepare it for fertilizing the ground. I brought some of this smoked thatch with me both for chemical analysis and for testing for the influence on plant growth. This was done by adding different quantities of the smoked thatch to a series of pots in which oat seeds were planted. In Fig. 8 will be seen the result. The pot to the right shows the result of planting the oats in a sandy soil almost like that of the Islands of the Outer Hebrides. The oats only grew to the fuzzy limited condition shown. As increasing amounts of this thatch were added to the soil, there was an increase in the ruggedness of the plants so that in the last pot to the left tall stalks were developed heavily loaded with grain which ripened by the time the growth shown in the other pots had occurred. The chemical analysis of the thatch showed that it contained a quantity of fixed nitrogen and other chemicals resulting from the peat smoke circulating through the thatch. This explains the confidence of the hardy old natives who insisted on being permitted to continue the smoking of the thatch even though they did not live in the house.”
I am fascinated by this semi-unrelated point from an earlier bit in _Nutrition and Physical Degeneration_:
“Buckle, in writing his epoch-making 'History of Civilization' about the middle of the last century, summed up his years of historical studies with some very important conclusions, some of which are as follows:
--It is proved by history, and especially by statistics, that human actions are governed by laws as fixed and regular as those which rule in the physical world.
--Climate, soil, food, and the aspects of Nature are the principal causes of intellectual progress.
--Religion, literature, and government are, at best, but the products, and not the cause of civilization...”
Have you heard of Hydrofracking? If not, then take note: you probably will soon.
“Josh Fox's home sits in the woods of Milanville, Pennsylvania, near the rushing waters of the Delaware River. In May 2008, a strange letter appeared in his mailbox. A natural gas company was offering him $100,000 if he granted them permission to drill on his property.
“Instead of signing, Fox decided to investigate. Armed with a video camera and a banjo, he set off on a journey up and down the Marcellus Shale, a massive reserve of natural gas that stretches 600 miles from Pennsylvania to Maryland, Virginia and into Tennessee. Known as the 'Saudi Arabia of natural gas,' the shale contains billions of dollars in untapped fuel.
“Fox wanted to know: What happened to other families who agreed to drilling on their property?
“What he found was a heartbreaking collection of severely ill families whose aquifers had become so tainted by the gas, they could literally light their tap water on fire. He edited his footage into a modest documentary, Gasland, which was soon embraced by outraged viewers across the country. It won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the Lennon-Ono Peace Prize, and now has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.”
“...I hope the larger message doesn't get lost, though. This isn't about one or two families, or even one or two towns. Drilling is underway in dozens of states, and there's no moratorium until they 'get the process right.'...”
“...Gut flora were once thought to be harmless residents of the guts of mammals, and in time it became clear that they not only aid in digestion but also protect against the arrival of more harmful invaders.
“But research in recent years has shown an increasingly complex picture in which the bugs play significant roles in several critical bodily systems, having already been implicated in obesity, asthma, and liver function.
"...'We know that animals in 'germ-free' conditions can reproduce, they have a longer lifespan, and they seem to live perfectly OK, provided you don't expose them to stress or damage,' said Sven Pettersson, the Karolinska Institute microbiologist who, along with neuroscientist Rochellys Diaz Heijtz, led the research.
"'The moment you do that they're much more fragile - that means there are certain aspects of life which seem to be taking place in the absence of microorganisms, but there are clearly aspects connected to the presence of them,' he told BBC News.
“'The microorganisms were there long before us - so all aspects of life would have to involve an adaptation to them.'
“Professor Petterson and his colleagues bred a number of mice under normal and germ-free conditions. In standardized tests of activity, the germ-free mice explored more of an 'open-field activity box', rearing up on their hind legs more often, and showed less of the signs associated with anxiety.
“In studies of the animals' brains, they showed higher levels of a number of hormones, and even differences in the expression of over 170 genes.
“The result does not paint a clear picture of whether the development of the germ-free mice is specifically 'better' or 'worse' for the animals, Professor Pettersson explained, but is a 'very, very interesting' first demonstration that the bugs can have such profound effects even within the brain.
“It follows a long line of studies that suggest the bugs are far more involved in mammalian function than just in their digestion.”
The detailed abstract: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/01/26/1010529108.full.pdf+html
Haven't I been talking about the importance of squatting for YEARS?? Now I've discovered a woman after my own heart, and she even has a blog. If you think kegels are important; if you haven't thought about your pelvic floor...ever; if you have the beginnings of pelvic floor disorder or periodic incontinence; if you NEVER want to get incontinent EVER; if you're pregnant or about to give birth or have given birth or might want to someday; or if you have a partner who may give birth someday...then you should check out some of these articles:
Also, want to read some of her other articles on posture, biomechanics, etc.
Jeff and I are currently in the middle of reading “Deep Nutrition,” by Catherine Shanahan, M.D. This book takes Weston Price and adds more current science to the stew, and I'm intrigued. Therefore, you get a bunch of excerpts.
“In ancient Greece the philosophy of wellness was balanced by two complementary ideas. The female, Hygeia, the goddess of health, personified the first. Hygieia was all about building healthy bodies with sound nutrition from the start--prenatally and throughout the formative years of childhood--and maintaining health for the rest of a person's life. In other words, she embodied the most effective form of preventative medicine there is. When that first line of defense failed, and people succumbed to infections or the inevitable accident, Aesculapius, the god of medicine, acted as a kind of Johnny-on-the-spot. He provided knowledge of healing surgical procedures and therapeutic potions. The Hippocratic oath I took on graduation day invokes the wisdom of Aesculapius, Hygeia, and Panacea (the god of potions or cure-alls). But like hundreds of other fresh-faced MDs standing beside me in the lecture hall, hands raised, I had no idea who she was or what she stood for.
“Over the last 3000 years of civilization, the male aspect of medical science has completely taken over. Hygiene, which was once a highly scientific and advanced compendium of nutritional information, has been reduced to simplistic notions of cleanliness, like washing your hands and brushing your teeth. It's time to bring Hygeia back...”
Shanahan spends a good deal of time discussing “epigenetics”--essentially, why and how genes express themselves, or don't, and what that means for our bodies, our children, our health, and even (again! Oh cursed topic!) our physical attractiveness.
“...One of the most fascinating, and unexpected, lessons of the Human Genome Project is the discovery that our genes are very similar to mouse genes, which are very much like other mammalian genes, which in turn are surprisingly similar to fish. It appears that the proteins humans produce are not particularly unique in the animal kingdom. What makes us uniquely human are the regulatory segments of our genetic material, the same regulatory segments that direct stem cell development during in-utero growth and throughout the rest of our lives. Could it be that the same mechanisms facilitating cell maturation also function over generations, enabling species to evolve? According to Arturas Petronis, head of the Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, 'We really need some radical revision of key principles of the traditional genetic research program.' Another epigeneticist puts our misapprehension of evolution in perspective. Mutation- and selection-driven evolutionary change is just the tip of the iceberg: 'The bottom of the iceberg is epigenetics.'
Epigenetics summed up:
“...It seems our genes have found ways to take notes, to remind themselves what to do with the various nutrients they are fed. Here's how. Let's say a gene for building bone is tagged with two epigenetic markers, one that binds to vitamin D and another that binds to calcium. And let's say that when vitamin D and calcium are both bound to their respective markers at the same time, the gene uncoils and can be expressed. If there is no calcium and no vitamin D, then the gene remains dormant and less bone is built. The epigenetic regulatory tags are effectively serving as a kind of Post-it note: _When there's lots of vitamin D and calcium around, make a bunch of the protein encoded for right here._...”
“Of course, DNA doesn't 'know' what a given gene actually does. It doesn't even know what the various nutrients it contacts are good for. Through mechanisms not fully understood, DNA has been programmed at some point in the past by epigenetic markers that can turn certain DNA portions on or off in response to certain nutrients. The entire programming system is designed for change; these markers can, apparently, fall off, causing the genetic brain to forget, at least temporarily, previously programmed information.”
“What helps regulate all these cellular events? Food, mostly. After all, food is the primary way we interact with our environment. But here's what's really remarkable: Those tags that get placed on the genes to control how they work and help drive the course of evolution are made out of simple nutrients, like minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids, or are influenced by the presence of these nutrients. In other words, there's essentially no middleman between the food you eat and what your genes are being told to do, enacting changes that can ultimately become permanent and inheritable. If food can alter genetic information in the space of single generation, then this powerful and immediate relationship between diet and DNA should place nutritional shifts at the front of the stage in the continuing drama of human evolution.”
“...This has enormous implications for us, as researchers are finding abnormal regulatory scars all over our genes, records of our ancestors' experiences... Toward the end of WWII, an unusually harsh winter combined with a German-imposed food embargo led to death by starvation of some 30,000 people. Those who survived suffered from a range of developmental and adult disorders, including low birth weight, diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, breast and other cancers. A group of Dutch researchers has associated this exposure with the birth of smaller-than-normal _grandchildren._This finding is remarkable as it suggests the effects of a pregnant woman's diet can ripple, at the least, into the next two generations...”
“I subscribe to the school of nutritional thought that counsels us to eat the same foods people ate in the past because, after all, that's how we got here. It's how we're designed to eat. Epigenetics supplies the scientific support for the idea by giving molecular evidence that we are who we are, in large part, because of the foods our ancestors ate. But because healthy genes, like healthy people, can perform well under difficult conditions for a finite amount of time there is, in effect, a delay in the system. Since nutritional researchers don't ask study participants what their parents ate, the conclusions drawn from those studies are based on incomplete data. A poor diet can seem healthy if studied for a 24-hour period. A slightly better diet can seem successful for months or even years. Only the most complete diets, however, can provide health generation after generation.”
Shanahan presents a compelling argument: it's not necessary to go back in time to our paleolithic ancestors in order to understand what Real Human Food should be. All we have to do is look to healthy native cuisines, all over the world, that use local, fresh foods prepared in traditional ways that have supported good health for countless generations. If we use these true native diets as models for our own, we don't need to follow any one particularly strictly.
“...My point is not to suggest that America isn't a wonderful country with our own rich history of cuisine. My point is that we're out of touch with our roots. That disconnection is the biggest reason why we have bookshelves full of conflicting nutritional advice. It's also why, though many of us still have good genes, we have not maintained them very well.”
“...Ask ten people what the healthiest diet in the world is, and you'll get ten different answers. Some people swear by the Okinawa diet. Others like the Mediterranean or the French. But have you ever thought to wonder what it is about all these traditional diets that makes the people eating them so healthy?”
“...The messy amalgamation of vastly different dishes comprising every authentic cuisine can be cleaved into four neat categories, which I call the Four Pillars of Authentic Cuisine. We need to eat them as often as we can, preferably daily. They are as follows: I: meat cooked on the bone; II: organs and offal ...III fresh (raw) plant and animal products; and IV: better than fresh--fermented and sprouted. These categories have proven _essential_ by virtue of their ubiquitousness. In almost every country other than ours people eat them every day. They've proven _successful_ by virtue of their practitioners' health and survival...
Shanahan devotes several chapters to a topic that could be termed the Physics of Beauty.
“...Writer Nancy Etcoff has suggested that the most beautiful among us are 'genetic freaks.' It's not an insult: she is merely referencing the statistical improbability of someone growing up to look like, to use her example, Cindy Crawford. But the suggestion seems to capture Etcoff's general thesis accurately: When a stunningly beautiful person is born, it's largely the result of (genetic) chance. These select few, the thinking goes, played the genetic lottery and won big. But I couldn't disagree more. Why would biology program us to be hot for 'genetic freaks'? It seems to me far more probable that we are attracted to beautiful bodies because they advertise health. In keeping with this idea, researchers studying the effect of these four female body types [banana, apple, pear, hourglass] on the life span find that women with the most attractive of the four body types, the hourglass, live the longest. Women with the least attractive figure, the blocky, often overweight apples, have the shortest life spans, frequently dying from complication of diabetes.”
So what's wrong? Why are so few of us in the industrialized world expressing our genetic potential, while native peoples living on “subsistence”-level traditional diets have gorgeous faces, good skin, and attractive bodies well into old age?
Shanahan says it's because traditional diets exceed “the RDA by a factor of Ten.”
“Contrary to what Westerners tend to assume, indigenous people of the past were not merely scraping by, skinny and starving, desperate to eat whatever scraps they could find. Their lives did revolve primarily around finding food, but they were experts at it, far more capable than we are of making nutrient-rich foods part of daily life. By fortifying the soil, they grew more nutrient-rich plants. By feeding their animals the products of healthy soil, they cultivated healthier, more nutrient-rich animals. And since different nutrients are stored in different parts of the animal, by consuming every edible part, they enjoyed the full complex. They used their own version of biotechnology to create the most nutrient-dense foods possible, foods that functioned to design every sinew and fiber of their bodies, and upon which we have now come to depend.”
In this section, Shanahan talks a lot about Weston Price and his research into native nutrition and health.
“At eleven locations around the world, Price secured samples of indigenous community’s staple foods for lab analysis. His nutritional survey rivals that of our best nationally sponsored programs in having tested for all four fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and six minerals, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and iodine. Here's what he found:
'It is of interest that the diets of the primitive groups which have shown a very high immunity to dental caries and freedom from other degenerative processes have all provided a nutrition containing at least four times these minimum [mineral] requirements; whereas the displacing nutrition of commerce, consisting largely of white-flour products, sugar, polished rice, jams [nutritionally equivalent to fruit juice], canned goods, and vegetable fats have invariably failed to provide even the minimum requirements. In other words the foods of the native Eskimos contained 5.4 times as much calcium as the displacing foods of the white man, five times as much phosphorus, 1.5 times as much iron, 7.9 times as much magnesium, 1.8 times as much copper, 49.0 times as much iodine, and at least ten times that number of fat-soluble vitamins.'
“He continues, listing the findings for each of the other groups he studied. There was a clear pattern: The native diets had ten or more times the fat-soluble vitamins and one-and-a-half to 50 times more minerals than the diets of people in the US. It is obvious that diets of people living in what doctors at the time would have called 'backward' conditions were richer than those living in the technologically 'advanced' US by an order of magnitude.
“Though his laboratory was dismantled over 50 years ago, I consider Price's data a more accurate indication of how much nutrition we need than the RDA, or Recommended Daily Allowance.
“What makes his 60-plus-year-old data superior to the state-of-the-art nutrition science today? Chiefly, the fact that today's state-of-the-art nutrition science leaves much to be desired. While Price's data may be old, he identified the healthiest people he could and then systematically analyzed the nutrient content of their staple foods. But if you ever look into how today's RDAs are set, you'll find a hodge-podge of differing opinions, unstandardized techniques, and poorly thought-out studies. For instance, the RDA of vitamin B6 for infants younger than one year old was set at 0.1 mg per day based on the average B6 content in the breast milk of only 19 women. Six of these women did not even themselves consume the RDA of vitamin B6 for their age group, and their breast milk contained only one tenth of the B6 of the women with healthier diets. So you might wonder, then, if a third of the women were by our own definition undernourished, shouldn't they have been excluded from the study? The fact that they were not suggests to me that the researchers in charge of this study were not interested in what a baby might need to be healthy, but merely in calculating the averages and getting their job done quickly. This is just one example of the poor quality research that defines state-of-the-art, modern nutrition science. (It also determines what gets put into infant formula--and what gets left out.)
“If you believe Price's data, which I do, then clearly our bodies seem accustomed to a far richer stream of nutrients than we manage to sip, chew, swallow or scarf down on the way to work today. Our need for nutrients is, apparently, quite extraordinary. But what is more extraordinary is the totality to which indigenous cultures, and presumably also our ancestors, involved themselves in the production of these foods. In contrast to our general attitude of nourishment as a necessary evil demanding expediency, traditional life seemed to revolve around collecting and concentrating nutrition...”
As quoted in “Deep Nutrition”:
People often say we're living longer than ever. But is that really true? According to an article called Length of Life in the Ancient World, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in January 1994, from circa 100 BC until 1990, we have managed to tack an additional six years onto the life span. This modest increase is easily attributable not to better nutrition or even better health, but to emergency room care, artificial life support, life-sustaining pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and other technology, not to mention the many leaps in accident prevention. Presuming that it's sensible to gauge health by longevity of life span as opposed to longevity of function, the numbers still tell a surprising story. Even though the _average_ life span has increased slightly, according to the US census, in the past 200 years the _percentage_ of people living a really long time may actually have gone down:
Percentage of Americans aged 100 in 1830: 0.020
Percentage of Americans aged 100 in 1990: 0.015
Percentage of people living today expected to live to 100: 0.001
(Wise Traditions Vol. 8 No. 1, 2007 p. 13)
Some articles I plan to read soon:
How Monsanto can Save The World!
The depressing future of Itchy Skeezy Night Time Bug Encounters, no thanks to synthetic pesticides.
“Unsolicited Advice: I Hate It, You Hate It, and so Do Your Kids” ...Why do we especially dislike unsolicited advice from loved ones?
A video concerning stretching, and the effects on fascia and connective tissue.
A Book Review of “Life Without Bread.”