FOOD CHOICES: A HISTORY

Origins of food choices

Bone marrow soup and sautéed snails, delicacies in France, passions to many are absolutely disgusting to others. Horsemeat is popular in a large area of North Central Asia, but rigidly avoided by many people in Islamic countries. Sautéed snails eyes are delicacies in France; kidney pie is traditional in England. Dog is a popular food in Borneo, New Guinea, and the Philippines where snake is a delicacy in China. In some countries, People enjoying insects are fit only for animal feed in other cultures. And then there steamed clams and raw oysters, food passions for some, but absolutely disgusting to others. When did you first say Yuck! to the above list?

 A 12th century scholar, Maimonides included pigs on his taboo and declared them “unlean” list due to rapid spoilage of pork in in hot climates and in their despicable habit of rooting garbage. However other animals such as goats have the same habit. Pork attained its unique status  in 165 B.C as a taboo and enraged the Jews leading to war. As a result, they retook Jerusalem celebrating Hanukkah in the Roman world.  

The fledging Christians pointed instead of Roman rules, to the book of Matthew in the New Testament.;” It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that what comes out”, the good book says.

“Burger chomping” Americans express incomprehension over the sacred status cattle in India, where the 1947 Constitution spells out the right of cows. Yet those same Americans would never think of eating whale, monkey, dog, cat or parrot  that Americans consider companion animals. Many Americans would consider that the deepest food taboo of all.”

“However, hunger still overrides food aversions from any origin. When German armies laid siege to Paris in 1870, cutting off the cities from country farms and gardens, many bourgeois restaurants offered delicacies such as rat ragu and saddle of cat.  “Many simply say – “tastes just like chicken”

Sources: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition

Harris, David Lyon, Sue McLaughlin. The Meaning of Food: The Companion to the PBS Television Series Hosted by Marcus, Samuelsson, 2005.

In The NEWS

Aging, Activity and Telomeres

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 1500 women, ages from 64 to 95. Results reported that elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours a day, have shorter telomeres – tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes of DNA strands.

Telomeres protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age. As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorter and fray, but unhealthy lifestyles such as obesity and smoking may accelerate this process. Shortened telomeres are associated with heart disease, diabetes and major cancers. This study was funded, in part, by the National Institute on Aging and conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Tea May Protect Against Coronary Artery Disease

A review of randomized trials published in the journal Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, concluded that regular intake of green tea may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regular tea consumption was associated with lower blood pressure and enhanced bioavailability of nitric oxide, which indicate a beneficial effect for tea on endothelial function. In some studies, tea was associated lower markers of oxidative stress and inflammation (C-reactive protein and oxidized low -density lipoprotein (LDL).

NOTE: ENDOTHELIAL= the tissue which forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels.

Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2021 Feb;41:77-87.

More Good News for Garlic Lover

Garlic supplementation Improves metabolic syndrome. Phytother Res. 2021, May 11.

I am not a promoter of supplements except in situations when you don’t want to smell like a raw garlic bulb every day.

Editors Note: Metabolic syndrome is becoming a marker for good health especially in the older population; however its presence can occur even in younger people. It is diagnosed as having three of the following disorders: high triglycerides, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and low levels of HDL cholesterol. These disorders collectively are thought to contribute to a higher risk of developing diabetes and/or heart disease

A randomized clinical trial included 90 men and women with metabolic syndrome were supplemented with tablets containing 1600 mg of garlic powder daily for three months, or a placebo.

In the garlic group, results were as follows:

All parameters were reduced along with appetite, fatty liver index,and waist circumference. Additionally,  beneficial HDL cholesterol was significantly higher than at the beginning of the study compared to the placebo group. 

“Then, there is cancer. Compounds in garlic have been shown in many laboratory studies to be chemoprotecive. Epidemiological studies shows a decreased risk in stomach and colon cancer in areas where consumption of garlic is high. An article In the Journal of Nutrition stated that “evidence continues to point to the anticancer properties of fresh garlic extracts, aged garlic, garlic oil.”

Source: Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. 2007.

How Diet Affects the Brain

“Poor diets lead to a host of medical issues: obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. But diet also influences the brain and can increase the risk for mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers are uncovering the details of how the foods we consume affect our cravings, our moods, and even our memories.”

We hear so much these days about omega 3-rich fish oils as well as omega-6 rich oils. Today we consume ten to 20 times more omega-6 fats and have dramatically reduced our intake of omega-3 fats. This goes against our hunter-gatherer evolutionary history of a 1:1 ratio. Recent research indicates that people who regularly consumed omega-3-rich oils such as flax seed, olive and walnut oils were 60 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who did not regularly consume such oils. Y. Zhang, et al. “Intakes of Fish and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Milk-to-Severe Cognitive Impairment Risks…. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71, no.2 (2016):330-40.

CLICK HERE.

Healthy Lifestyles and Longevity

Highlights from Healthy Habits can lengthen life.

Researchers found that people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors lived more than a decade longer than those who didn’t maintain any of the five.

Americans don’t live as long as people in most other high-income countries.

Study led by Frank Hu at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 78,000 women and 44,000 men who participated in two nationwide surveys (Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study,)

Study was funded by NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and National Cancer Institute and published in Circulation on April 30, 2018.

Data identified five different low-risk lifestyle factors and compared health outcomes for those who adopted all five with those who didn’t adopt any.

The factors:

1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet)

Recommended daily amounts of vegetables fruit, nuts, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids.  

Limiting red and processed meats, moderately.

Limiting beverages with added sugar, trans fats, and sodium

2. Moderate drinking

3.  Not smoking

4.  Getting at least 3.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week 

5. Maintaining a normal weight (18.5 to 24.9) BMI

Each participant’s medical history: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, age at death (when applicable).

Results:

At age 50, women who did not adopt any of the five healthy habits were estimated to live on average until they were 79 years old and men until they were 75.5 years.

 In contrast, women who adopted all five healthy habits lived to 91.1 years and men lived to 87.6 years.

Independently, each healthy lifestyle factor significantly lowered the risk of total death, death from cancer, and death from heart disease.

Note: Epigenetics: With its prefix from the Greek word epi, which means “addition to,” this word relates to factors in addition to DNA base sequence that influence the function of genes.

Please search “Epigenetics” on this blog for more information.

Source:

Tianna Hicklin, PhD. Healthy habits can lengthen life. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Diet and Inflammation

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, PhD

A lot of recent attention has been paid to the role of lifestyle in many chronic diseases (lately referred to as underlying causes of mortality in the Covid-19 viral pandemic).  Deaths due to this virus have been strongly associated with age, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes to name a few. Many people with the viral infection have reported to have had at least one or two of these chronic conditions. Obesity alone has been known to be associated with low-grade inflammation.  

Recently, we have changed our ideas about diet and heart disease.  Many doctors still think the high fat, high cholesterol diet of the last decade was to blame.  However, this is a simplified view that dismisses the research that now supports the possibility that heart disease is mediated by other biological events other than cholesterol, including oxidative stress (free radicals), insulin sensitivity, endothelial dysfunction and blood clotting mechanisms and most importantly low-grade inflammation.

(FYI – endothelium is the tissue which forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels.)

We should be aware that inflammation is a double-edged sword. Inflammation in the body is necessary to protect us from infections and cancer and when appropriate from diseases. In its acute state as when you cut your finger, its reactions are self-limiting and resolve rapidly; the process is meant to heal and repair tissue damage.  However, when inflammation is inappropriate it can get out of hand and contribute to disease especially chronic diseases. That is when inflammation can become your enemy.  We call this low-grade inflammation. In this type, the inflammatory response needs be controlled or managed or at least short lived. Should it continue, persisting cytokines of the immune system can produce excessive damage, leading to a number of diseases.

(FYI cytokines are small protein chemical messengers used by immune defensive cells that affect other cells and the immune response to an infectious agent.

It is thought that accumulating degrees of oxidative stress, and low-grade inflammation can result in what is now commonly called the “cytokine storm.” Septic shock can result from a cytokine abundance, leading to death.

Recently, it is thought that positive dietary choices you can make can help to reduce low grade inflammation and prevent this process. Your inflammatory biomarker status can be measured by a simple blood test. The most used is one called high sensitivity C-Reactive protein (hsCRP).

The goal of this blog post is to guide us to the right anti-inflammatory foods to reduce our risk of illness. Consistently, pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that allegedly promote inflammation – try to limit these foods as much as possible:

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pastries; choose whole grains instead.

French fries and other fried foods

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hog dogs, sausage)

Margarine, shortening, lard (high levels of trans fatty acids)

Foods that allegedly reduce inflammation –   include in the diet as much as possible

Tomatoes rich in lycopene and carotenoids – healthy phytochemicals

Olive oil – rich in monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard and other greens – a randomized German study showed that 8 servings of fruits and vegetables for 4 weeks in men had lower levels of hsCRP.

Nuts like almonds and walnuts – high in monounsaturated fats

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines – Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation.

Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Fiber consumption was associated with less inflammation in seven studies, using hsCRP as a biomarker.

Bottom Line:

No one food can be the “magic bullet” for good health. A Mediterranean diet is a good example of a diet that reduces low-grade inflammation and at the same time appears to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is a diet pattern that has been studied extensively and without a doubt scores high in the healthy column.

Alert: Meat, coffee and chocolate?

Nearly 50% of food influencers are actively seeking more plant-based options. Major retailers are asking their suppliers for more plant-based products for their shelves and restaurants that have added vegan options to menus have seen an increase in business while the competition has struggled. These are all signs that point to plant-based being more than just a trend. It is a blossoming cultural movement and we are still in the earliest stages!”

Reference: Plant-based World Newsletter, 2021

CLICK HERE.

Has anyone noticed the emphasis on plant-based food in the food magazines lately? Interesting!! Just saying – stay tuned. SJF (my opinion).

A Lesson from the “Limeys”

A Brief History of Vitamin C

The vitamin C deficiency disease, scurvy,  was the scourge of armies, navies, and explorers throughout history. It particularly affected those sailors on long voyages who had little access to fresh fruits and vegetables (high in Vitamin C). Despite some recommendations of transporting these foods on their voyages, 10,000 British sailors died of scurvy in 1594. A Scottish physician, James Lind serving in the British Navy had an idea and developed a “crude”experiment on an upcoming long voyage.

To set the stage for this experiment, a historic account is given us from a 16th century surgeon who describes the scourges of scurvy:

It rotted all my gums, which gave out a black and putrid blood. My thighs and lower legs were black and gangrenous, and I was forced to use my knife each day to cut into the flesh in order to release this black and foul blood. I also used my knife on my gums, which were livid and growing over my teeth…

William Faloon. Misconeptions about Vitamin C, Life Extension: The Science of a Healthier Life, November 2021

James Lind did his clinical trial aboard HMS Salisbury in 1847.  He took 6 groups of two sailors with scurvy and gave the following treatments:

Group 1: A quart of hard cider a day

Group 2: 25 drops of vitriol (sulphuric acid)

Group 3: Six spoonful’s of vinegar

Group 4: Half a pint of seawater

Group 5: Two oranges and a lemon (ran out of fruit in a week) but recovered from scurvy in six days. There were no signs of scurvy prevention in any of the other groups (to my knowledge).

Group 6: Spice blend

(The cure of scurvy should have been obvious but Lind wanted to fit his observation into the prevailing ideas of the model of humors as the basic model of disease (described above).   This idea of humors had been around since the Ancient Greeks and taught that the body contains four fluids (the humors – phlegm, blood, yellow bile, black bile) associated with certain personalities (phlegmatics, sanguine, choleric and melancholy). Lind thought that scurvy was associated with the build up of black bile due to blocked sweat ducts and downplayed the power of his discovery to a paragraph buried in the middle of a long book. Despite this the British Navy progressively eliminated  scurvy over the remainder of the century using lime juice and were called “limeys”. The rest  of the world did not heed the lesson of  the limeys. In the mid—19th century, during the U.S. Civil War, scurvy was rampant.  Science moves very slowly. (SJF)

“In the original timeline (OTL, our world), germ theory wasn’t even on the radar until 1847, when Ignaz Semmelweis made the connection between puerperal fever and doctor hygiene (or lack thereof). This was the first strong proof for germs being the cause of disease, but his theory was ridiculed by the scientific community. It took over ( at least) 30 years before the germ theory was accepted as fact.” Wikipedia.

Looking at a Blue Zone: Costa Rica

The Blue Zone diet is based on populations in the world that live the longest. The study was pioneered by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic best-selling author. After many years of interviews with centenarians, he and his team discovered five zones of the world that exhibited the most longevity: Okinawa, Japan, Sardina, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Loma Linda, California and Nicoya, Costa Rico. They called these areas “Blue Zones” and here is just one of their stories.

CLICK HERE.

Your Brain on Processed Food

https://eladsi.medium.com/ultra-processed-food-is-messing-with-your-brain-2da37c98a09e

A real-life experiment -that speaks for itself. There is a great need for studies that attempt to measure the actual effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD) on the body. This study is not a clinical trial, and the results are somewhat subjective. It was only one subject but maybe more effective to everyone than obtaining food records from study participants relying on memory. The best way would be to measure metabolic parameters like LDL or HDL cholesterol, liver enzymes, hormones, blood pressure, e.g. This study did rely on brain scans and some lab work.

Many studies are often funded by the industry and the results are only for Big Food promotion of their own products. “Without understanding who paid for the research, it’s hard for anyone to know what dietary advice to follow.” Source: Marion Nestle, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, 2018.

Neverthless, I find the above study interesting and worth a read. (my opinion, SJF)

Do you remember what you ate last Tuesday?

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