What Exactly is Herd Immunity?

This morning after reading the latest from our local paper on Covid stats (Citizen Times, Thursday, July 29, 2021) CitzenTimes.com., an opinion article authored by Eugene Robinson, Columnist was titled “The unvaccinated are testing our luck.” With a background of teaching college level courses in Infectious disease, I was drawn to the article that featured herd immunity, which in my opinion, is not well defined on our media.

Quote from the first paragraph:

“It is hard to know how deadly and disruptive the COVID-19 surge brought on by the delta variant will ultimately prove to be. But one thing is clear: It is completely unnecessary. The vast majority of those who now get sick have only themselves to blame.”

Quote from the last paragraph:

“Any effective investment in getting the nation and the world to herd immunity will ultimately be worthwhile. And it is in everyone’s interest to save anti-vaxxers from their own wrongheaded stubborness.”

Please read for more, Click HERE.

When the Prescription is a Recipe?

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”  This famous quote is often attributed to Hippocrates. But, as research by Diana Cardenas in 2013 shows, this quote can not be found anywhere in Hippocrates’ writings. Diana Cardenas discovered that the quote started to emerge from 1926 on and really started to get popular in the 1970s.

There are good reasons for the quote to go round, though. Hippocrates considered nutrition one of the main tools that a doctor can use. More than that, dietary measures play a lead part in the original oath of Hippocrates. I

But the original Greek oath, literally translated, says: “I will apply dietetic and lifestyle measures to help the sick to my best ability and judgment; I will protect them from harm and injustice.”

The dietetic and lifestyle measures are just one word in Greek, διαιτήμασί (pronounce as “deaytimasy”). You may recognize the word “diet” in there. It means as much as a lifestyle regime, with a focus on diet. Exercise is also part of it. Sometimes it is just translated as: dietetic measures.

“Recently, some medical doctors and communities have taken this idea literally and have brought the nutrition to the patient. Sprawling across 2,658 square feet, three stories up Boston Medical Center’s rooftop farm produces more than 25 varieties of crops and houses three beehives to aid in pollination. From collards and chard to radishes, carrots, bok choy and more, the farm supplies the hospital with 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of fresh produce during the brief Massachusetts growing season. More than half goes to the Boston Preventive Food Pantry, which now serves more than 22,000 families annually. The rest is used in hospital meals and the on-site teaching kitchen that offers free culinary classes for staff, patients and their families.” Source: Farming at New Heights, by Pooja Makhijani. Eating Well, June, 2021.

The goal of these innovative programs is to get nutritious food to people who maybe cannot afford or have access to them to ultimately help to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

For more CLICK HERE.

The Med Diet and Inflammation

Believe it or not inflammation starts as a good thing. It happens when your immune system sends white blood cells and compounds like eicosanoids to attack invading viruses, bacteria and toxins. This can result in a classic example of totally normal inflammation:  Pain, heat, redness and swelling around a wound or an injury.

According to Barry Sears, PhD,  creator of the Zone diet, “there’s a separate response called resolution that is the first phase of inflammation that causes cellular destruction and the second phase resolution that begins cellular repair.  As long as those phases are balanced, you stay well. But for more and more of us, balance never happens. That’s because sugar, refined grains and saturated fat can also trigger an inflammatory immune response and the typical US standard diet is packed with them, meaning every time we eat, we are inflaming our bodies over and over. Meanwhile, the average American gets way too little of fruits and non-starchy veggies which are packed with antioxidants that help cool things down as well as fatty fish with omega-3 fats that can reduce the intensity of the initial inflammatory response and can help move your body into the second phase of resolution (cellular repair).

But the plan with the most research behind it is the traditional Mediterranean diet. Several large studies have found that people who follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating have lower levels of the inflammatory markers, C reactive protein and interleukin 6, in their blood compared with those who don’t. “This may be one of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is linked to so many health benefits, from keeping weight down to slashing heart and stroke risks, says Frank Hu, MD , professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

“Air pollution and environmental toxins also trigger your immune system this way but most of the chronic, extra inflammation in our bodies is diet related” says Sears  “in arteries chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, in the brain it’s linked to anxiety and depression, in your joints, it causes swelling and pain, in the gut inflammation throws off balance of helpful bacteria and causes direct damage to the lining of the intestines.”

“You don’t have to follow any specific anti-inflammatory (AI ) diet to make a big difference; a healthy body is built to handle the occasional onslaught of inflammation;  It’s the regular, consistent consumption and over-consumption of inflammatory foods like sugar and saturated fat that’s linked to serious disease” says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

A 2012 study of nearly 2000 people, for example, found that those who ate the most sweets over two years had significantly higher levels of interleukin-6  (an inflammatory marker) than people who ate more veggies fruits and whole grains.

Follow these guidelines on most days

Limit added sugar and sweet drinks. A small study in 2005, people who were fed a high-sugar diet for 10 weeks compared to controls had significantly elevated blood levels of an inflammatory marker that in high concentrations is associated with diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and obesity.

 Aim for half to 2/3 of your plate to be non-starchy vegetables as they are packed with gut balancing fiber and powerful antioxidants.

  Eat fatty fish (salmon, tuna)  or take omega-3 supplements (at least 1000 milligrams daily).

“Cut out white flour and limit flour-based foods. Focus on whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and bulgur wheat. Even 100% whole grain flour will cause a spike in blood sugar that exacerbates inflammation, especially for people with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or diabetes,”  Dr. Sears says.

Choose fats carefully. Limit saturated fats like butter and skip vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fats, such as safflower oil and corn oils. (Read ingredient labels). Go for olive oil, avocado oil, or walnut oil instead.

NOTE: Americans came to consume more than 18 billion pounds of soybean oil by 2001 – more than 80 percent of all oils eaten in the U.S – and most of that soybean oil was partially hydrogenated, containing a hefty load of trans fat (not heart healthy).  It is mainly used in processed foods. Source: Nina Teicholz. “The Big Fat Surprise,” 2014,  page 237-238.

Shopping For Health

THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET SHOPPING LIST – Eating Well Magazine

A great body of evidence shows that this way of eating plant-based foods, healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains in modern amounts of wine may help you live longer and stave off chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. One key component of the Mediterranean diet is the emphasis on foods that may thwart inflammation and oxidative stress which is at the root of many chronic diseases. These foods include omega-3 rich fish, fruits, and vegetables, nuts and seeds and healthy oils. The dietary pattern is particularly rich in monounsaturated fats which can help decrease bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol – a win win for the cardiovascular system plus, the heightened emphasis on plant-based foods ensures a bounty of fiber and phyto- nutrients.

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is at the core of the Med Diet. It is rich in tocopherols (vitamin E), carotenoids (vitamin A), and polyphenols. Alternatives include avocado oil and walnut oil.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES) (from any source – fresh, frozen, canned). Emphasize kale, beet greens, mustard greens, collard greens, artichokes, beets, broccoli, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, onions. Garlic is a mainstay in cooking.

Common fruits include apples, apricots, avocados, berries, citrus, dates, figs, stone fruit and pomegranate. Lemons are often used.

FRESH HERBS AND SPICES are staples. Their use reduces the need to add excess salt plus provide many antioxidants. Most common are parsley basil, oregano coriander, bay leaves.

FRESH AND CANNED SEAFOOD provide necessary protein and healthy fats. Omega-3 rich fish such as tuna, sardines, and salmon as well as mussels, clams and shrimp. Consumption is encouraged about twice a week.

WHOLE GRAINS. Wheat is the most common, but other grains like farro, bulgur, couscous, and barley are also favorites. Look for the term “whole” or “whole grain” that should be the first ingredient listed on the ingredient label.

LEGUMES.  One of the most prevalent pulses in  Mediterranean cuisine is the chickpea, which is often whipped into hummus, formed in falafel and tossed into salads. Lentils are also commonly used in soups and stews.  Other meals can include black Eyed Peas, kidney beans and cannellini beans that often are tossed into salads.

NUTS AND SEEDS are enjoyed as a satisfying snack thanks to their fiber, protein, and fat content. A common condiment on the coastline of the Mediterranean is tahini , which is made from ground sesame seeds . Most famously used in hummus this versatile condiment can be used  in sauces or dressings to spoon over roasted veggies or grain bowls.

OLIVES AND CAPERS are enjoyed as a simple snack and are among the most popular as Kalamata olives often tossed into Greek salads and pasta or into a tapenade. Olives are rich sources of antioxidant polyphenols and heart healthy fats. Brined or dried, capers are praised for their briny bite and the way they effortlessly punch up the flavor of pasta, baked fish and dressings.

CANNED TOMATOES Whole, diced, stewed or concentrated into a paste, both canned and fresh tomatoes are everyday staples in the Mediterranean . Canned tomato products are particularly rich in lycopene due to the heating process which may help protect against certain cancers. A few tomato centric staples in the Mediterranean include stuffed tomatoes, baked fish with tomatoes and of course, marinara sauce.

GREEK YOGURT AND ARTISANAL CHEESES The Mediterranean diet encourages savoring small amounts of full fat dairy, in addition to providing extra protein. Yogurt can provide healthy probiotics for the microbiome. Be sure to watch the labels and avoid those with a lot of added sugars. The Mediterranean regions spotlights traditionally cultured cheeses made from milk and natural cultures as to some of the more processed varieties (Velveeta) commonly available in the US. The French are famous for their love of hard cheeses eaten in moderation (not added to fast foods). They offer cheese with fruit as a dinner course.

Beyond being used in the classic Greek salad, feta cheese often accompanies stews and fish dishes. Halloumi cheese is known for its firm texture, which makes it suitable for grilling and frying. Harder cheeses like Pecorino Romano and Parmegiano Reggiano are often grated into pasta., while manchego can be baked into egg dishes.

RED WINE. Vine is a common accompaniment to Mediterranean meals, but it’s generally consumed in moderation (a five ounce pour is the standard.) Red wine, in particular, contains antioxidant polyphenols and the flavonoid resveratrol , which will help increase HDL cholesterol (good) and decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

Born to Be Fat? An Update.

by foodworksblog 1 Comment

Is It In Your Genes?

Have you ever wondered why some people gain weight very easily and others can eat all they want and not gain an ounce?   Please read a previous post entitled “Born to Be Fat?” Click here.

Ethan Sims of the University of Vermont studied prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight.  They succeeded with great difficulty to increase their weights on average by 20-25% and it took 4-6 months.

Some consumed 10,000 calories/day and once fat, their metabolisms increased by 50% When the study ended, the prisoners had no trouble losing weight. Within months, they were back to normal and kept their weights stable.

These results suggest that there is a reason that overweight people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when forced to gain weight. The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range.

Recently, some new research adds more insights about how our DNA is involved. Here are some highlights:

Researchers deleted a gene called MRAP2 in mice that acts in the brain and controls how quickly calories are burned.  It turned out that this gene helped another gene known to control appetite. These animals ate the same amount of calories as lean mice, but gained weight.

They also found a mutation in the same gene in a severely obese child and are now searching for other mutations that have the same or similar effects. If the gene that was helped to control appetite was not controlled by the helper gene (MRAP2), then the animals developed tremendous appetites, gained the weight without eating more calories and the weight resulted in fat accumulation.

People are often blamed for their own lack of self-control over eating or that they do not exercise, but in some people this is just not the case.

Researchers based at University College London reported that a specific form of a gene previously linked to obesity, FTO, could increase craving for high-fat foods. This gene makes an appetite hormone named ghrelin that works on the brain’s pleasure center to make high calorie foods more appetizing and desirable.

In this study, the researchers divided a group of 359 healthy men of normal weight by their FTO gene makeup. The majority of the men had low-risk versions of the gene, while 45 of the participants had mutations that have been linked to greater appetite and caloric consumption. They then measured levels of ghrelin both before and after meals that the participants ate. The men with the low-risk form of FTO showed a significant drop in ghrelin levels after the meals that signified that they were full while the men with the mutated form did not show this effect.    

It is thought that about 70% of obesity causes are genetically controlled but that environmental influence on the genes can certainly occur.

The results did not mean that people are completely helpless to control their weight, but it does appear that people who tend to be overweight have a greater battle with their genes if they want to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.

As stated before, body weight is so highly regulated by so many physiological and psychological factors with many body systems involved, especially the brain.  Maybe in the next few years or so, we can begin to figure out what actually causes weight gain and that it’s not just gluttony and lack of self-control. All these studies are valuable pieces of the puzzle.

Is Aging Affected by How We Live?

In order to understand how aging or longevity  can be influenced by our lifestyles one has to have a basic understanding of epigenetics  – still considered a controversial factor in disease and our overall health (morbidity and morality). Even though it is still to be determined, epigenetics is an interesting topic and thought-provoking hypothesis. Simply it is how we treat our bodies and how the resultant “wear and tear” on our health can lead to chronic diseases as well as how long we may live as determined by its affects on our genes. Here is how it works:

CLICK HERE.

 

“Op-Ed: Why Diet Matters in Covid-19”

The following article by Arnold R. Eiser, MD, presents some interesting points about diet as a lifestyle. Nutrition is just one lifestyle factor that may play a role in the prevention and treatment of other inflammatory diseases as such as rheumatoid arthritic, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. Obesity itself is a proposed risk factor for Covid-19. Could lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, among others, play a part in the susceptibility of contracting and dealing with severity of the infection? If so, prevention along with vaccines could be a key intervention in the disease process.

“At present, the most effective measure in halting the transmission of COVID-19 and preventing associated chronic complications is unarguably the avoidance of exposure to the virus through physical distancing, face masks and eye protection. In addition, changes in lifestyle factors, including nutrition, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, screen time and sleep, may be able to contribute to shifting the risk distribution for COVID-19.These factors also appear to play a role in the management of mental disorders,which are commonly observed in pandemics such as the current one. The present overview will discuss the potential role of lifestyle factors in regard to immune functioning and prevention of severe outcomes of COVID-19.” Eiser, MD, MEDPAGE Today, January 30, 2021

CLICK HERE

Working for an extension of a Healthy Lifespan

The Power of Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals in addition to vitamins, minerals, and fibers are thought to be the bioactive compounds responsible for contributing to the health benefits of a plant based diet.

How to Choose Phytochemicals

  • Choose three different colors of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable each week.
  • Use new spices – not just salt and pepper.
  • Add vegetables to sauces and casseroles.
  • Double your typical serving of vegetables.
  • Add asparagus, pesto, artichokes to pizza.
  • Buy jars of chopped garlic and basil.
  • Snack on whole grain crackers.
  • Switch to whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
  • Add fruit to cereals or vegetables to eggs.
  • Try High Fiber V-8 juice instead of sugary orange juice.
  • Include nuts in stir frys and baked goods.
  • Sprinkle flaxseed on your oatmeal.

CLICK HERE. for more.

Century of Food 1960 – 1969

A Century of Food 1960 – 1969

In 1945, an American woman went to Paris with her husband. While there, she attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and became very fascinated with French cooking. She was eager to share her fascination with others back in America, so when she returned she ended up writing a cookbook. In 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child was heralded by critics and housewives alike. But her TV show, The French Chef, which aired from 1963 to 1967, made her America’s first true celebrity chef. She inspired a generation to see the act of cooking as a joy and an art
In the United States. She alone is credited with restoring our culinary culture after a decade in the 50’s of processed food and a trend away from home cooking. She introduced us to the luxuries of butter, cream and cognac. The newly affluent were eager to try to attain culture and she made it very approachable. We were introduced to Cog au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Mousse au Chocolate and Duck a l’Orange.  The 1960s decade was  stormy  shaped by the clash of conforming tradition and radical change. WWII rationing was a distant memory; 50s casseroles were old & boring. The late 60’s brought social unrest with growing frustration over the Vietnam War, assassinations of a President (JFK), a civil rights leader (Martin Luther King), and a political candidate (Robert Kennedy).

Asian Invasion

The 60s encouraged showy, complicated food with French influence (Julia Child, Jacqueline Kennedy), suburban devotion (backyard barbecues), vegetarian curiosity and ethnic cuisine (soul food, Japanese Steak houses). This was also the decade of flaming things (fondue & Steak Diane) and lots and lots of junk food (aimed at the baby boom children). “Average” suburban families patronized family-style restaurant chains like Howard Johnson’s. The first Wendy’s restaurant opened in 1969.

Immigrant dishes changed from the traditional Chinese, Italian dominance to that of Vietnam and Laos after the Vietnam War. The Asian food invasion began in California Gold Rush days, but this Asian food provided more variety than before. Asian immigration more than quadrupled by 1970. Some dishes brought new flavors like a Vietnamese beef soup called pho, deep-fried spiced potato-stuffed samosas from India, and preserved Korean vegetables called kimchi.  Japanese food prepared at the table became “trendy”.

Interestingly, immigrant food was class conscious. Mexican food was considered low class, but Indian cuisine with fewer immigrants is admired. That is more likely due to the Indian immigrants are nearly 60% professionals, says Krishnendu Ray, a professor and author of The Migrants Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households.

Many Cuban people, namely the educated upper classes moved to America after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and brought their cuisine with them. Like other Caribbean countries, staples were black beans and rice, and plantains. They also like pork marinated in vinegar and orange juice and stewed with onions; chicken roasted with garlic; and tropical fruit drinks, especially with rum. The Bacardi family also migrated to America after the rum industry was nationalized in Cuba.

The Revolutions

Millions of people in the world were starving. Technology’s answer was food that was genetically engineered like soy and dwarf rice that had a short growing time, a phenomenal yield and would grow anywhere in Asia. It could produce two crops a year and yielded more rice per plant. This was the beginning of the Green Revolution. People began to eat more consciously after the book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring was published. Her book spoke of the consequences of using pesticides which led people to be more aware about where food comes,

The Blue Revolution involved aquaculture or fish farming. Both these revolutions have pros and cons, critics and proponents. Aquaculture nevertheless is probably the world’s fastest growing form of food prodution and some believe that by 2030, aquaculture will supply most the fish people eat.

Counterculture Cuisine

Some people took it a few steps further by growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs, milked farm animals and revolted against white foods – Minute Rice, Cool Whip, instant potatoes, white sugar, white bread. Hippies dominated the culture and brought with them a return to unprocessed foods. They baked their own bread, made peanut butter tahini and hummus, ate brown rice and brown eggs. They brought to our attention cooperatives, vegetarianism, and fresh food markets and health food stores. Food quickly evolved from French cooking to “back to the earth” attitude. Earth Day was first celebrated to raise environmental issues on April 22, 1970.

Thin Is In

photo

In the 1960’s overabundance, fast foods and processed foods led to the beginnings of the obesity problem in America. On the diet front, Jean Nidetch and several friends met in her apartment in 1961 to counsel each other about dieting. Her support group eventually became Weight Watchers. The sugar free soft drink Tab is introduced in 1963. In 1967, Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing just 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and influenced thousands of young women to rethink their body image to try to meet her standards. The slogan “thin is in” quite possibly led to a resurgence of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia that saw its roots in the Victorian days of the 19th century.

Sources: 

Linda Civitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, 2nd Edition.

Carolyn Wyman, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat, 2004

Susan Yager, The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight , 2010