In Flanders Fields by John McCrae was first published in England’s Punch magazine in December 1915 . Within months, this poem came to symbolize the sacrifices of all who were fighting in the First World War. Today, the poem continues to be a part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada and other countries throughout the world.
For some reason, I have remembered this great tribute and we thank all our veterans for their service.
“Flanders Fields ” is a poem about remembrance, a call for those living to not forget the dead who are buried in a foreign land. It demands that the living remember why the fallen died, so that they did not die in vain. Thus, it became one of the most famous poems of the First World War.”
In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, contains two versions of the poem: a printed text as below and a handwritten copy where the first line ends with “grow” instead of “blow”, as discussed under Publication: Wikipedia
In Flanders Fields In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
“Most of us have more control over how long we live than we think. In fact, experts say that if we adopted the right lifestyle, we could add a good 10 years and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely.”
In his book, the Blue Zones, 9 Lessons for Living Longer, Dan Buettner and his team from the National Institute of Health set out to visit 5 regions on our globe that had a long record of longevity. From those lessons, a balanced diet became paramount in life extension. Here is what Robert Kane, MD, director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis said:
“One of the goals to a healthy lifestyle is moderation in all things. The best diet is basically one of moderation. You hear about all these people that live on legumes and plant foods and that’s probably okay, but I don’t think it’s necessary… as far as meat, it’s a question of eating meat a couple of times a week or are you eating it every day for two meals a day (typical of the Standard American Diet). Are you eating processed meats that are filled with fat? Or are you eating good cuts of fairly lean meat?”
In Okinawa (one of the Blue Zones) “while centenarian Okinawans do eat some pork, it is traditionally reserved only for infrequent occasions and taken only in small amounts.”
Reference: The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. Dan Buettner, 2012.
“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.
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.
1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet)
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.
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.
“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!”
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.
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.