The Pandemic and the Mind

The pandemic is making us depressed and anxious – can healthy food provide relief?

To the average person, it may seem eminently reasonable to assume that food affects our brains along with the rest of our bodies. But only within the past decade or so have researchers begun to establish the crucial link between diet and the mind.

The U.K. Mental Health Foundation reports that food plays an important role not only in depression but in schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including our eating habits. Comfort food was made for times like these, and it seems the healthy food trend that took root in recent years is reversing, at least for the time being. Shopping habits have shifted in favor of old processed favorites like frozen pizza, toaster waffles and canned spaghetti. These are convenience foods with long shelf lives that are designed to deliver pleasure. The typical American diet is often loaded with processed foods, pizza, fast food, white flour and sugary sodas.

Money is tight in many households, and busy parents are putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table instead of home cooking and using whole food. Open a box and there is dinner.  Besides, convenience foods are engineered  by the food industry to taste good and make us feel good at least in the short term.

But wait – there’s more. That’s because a growing body of research is showing that our food choices don’t just affect our waistlines. What we eat also may affect our mood and behavior. In other words, there may be something in the food we’re eating (or not eating) that’s influencing our state of mind.

The emerging field of nutritional psychology contends that modern western diets have contributed to increased rates of mental illness, particularly depression. Diets that follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and olive oil, have been linked to lower rates of depression. A diet change of just a few weeks has been found to lift moods. In a 2010 study, women who ate diets high in vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains were less likely to suffer from depression.

As a third of all Americans are reporting that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health, we might now need nutritious foods more than ever. One way to start is to simply cut down on “junk” foods and look for simple ways to prepare whole nutritious foods.

Source: Discover Magazine, September/October, 2020

Chronic Disease: Can Your Lifestyle Make a Difference?

 

Lately in the literature, lifestyle medicine has been mentioned as an effective practice that influences our overall health and risk of diseases in general. Many of the  leading causes of death in developed countries have been referred to as chronic diseases and ways to prevent these diseases is to practice a “healthy lifestyle”. But what does that exactly mean? Some research has suggested that our susceptibility to Covid-19 may even be altered by our lifestyles, obesity being named a risk factor.

In 1999, a Harvard-trained cardiologist, James E. Rippe published a textbook entitled Lifestyle Medicine in which he expressed his hope for a “new emphasis in medicine related to the links between daily behaviors and outcomes”. The idea slowly took root. In 2006, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, a Seventh Day Adventist institution in California, debuted the country’s first lifestyle medicine education program. A few years later the School of Medicine Greenville at the University of South Carolina went a step further, integrating lifestyle medicine into every facet of the curriculum and requiring prospective physicians in medical schools to spend 50 hours over two years covering the ways in which diet, nutrition and exercise impact the various organs and systems. Several other medical school programs have followed, that have been dedicated to the principals that healthy food, rich in nutrients, healthy fats, and lean protein, can be a potent weapon in the doctor’s bag.”

“How much a role does nutrition play in health? “It is the thing, says Jennifer Trilik , an associate professor at USC Greenville who directs the schools lifestyle medicine program. “if we’re talking about obesity, cardiovascular disease,  cancer, there’s so much evidence that saturated fat and trans-fat cause chronic inflammation, damaged the DNA and create growths in an adult body that shouldn’t be there. On the other hand, apples and blueberries have so many healthy antioxidants. We were made to eat whole foods and plant based foods, not processed ones out of a bag.

CLICK HERE.

Ultra Processed Foods to Avoid

Ultra-processed foods are often thought as the nemesis of healthy eating. However, they are so ubiquitous in our food supply, it is so difficult to avoid them in the supermarket (they are displayed for our convenience and capture our cravings for sugar, salt, and fat as well.)  The problem: If we tried to avoid all processed foods, there would be few choices in the supermarket. The best way for starters is to try to cut down on snack foods — they are highly processed and offer few nutrients.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

The Best Advice on Eating Red Meat

The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

 

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Two NYT articles are presented here to that addresses this issue and helps to clarify how to deal with this ongoing issue.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.

CLICK HERE.

November 5, 2015

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases. Hint: Life is a risk.

CLICK HERE.

There’s A Supplement for That!!

By Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,Ph.D

In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act that loosened the regulation requirements that ultimately favored the manufacturers and led to an explosion of the dietary supplement market.
As a result, the FDA now has minimal regulation over testing prior to marketing concerning the safety or effectiveness of any supplement. Any testing is the responsibility of the manufacturer so it becomes difficult to “prove” any safety issues that may be present.

Since 1994, the FDA has taken action against many products because they contain prescription drugs or contaminants. Most of the products under scrutiny were labeled for use as sexual enhancement, body building, and weight loss.

Dietary Supplement Labeling:

Fortunately, what goes on the label is regulated. Structure/function claims can advertise  how the product affects normal body structures (such as “helps maintain strong bones”) or functions. Claims such as “improves circulation”, “prevents wrinkles” “supports the immune system”, and “helps maintain mental health” can be used, whereas “prevents heart disease”, “cures depression” cannot be.

If a function claim is made, the labeling has this warning: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” So who needs them?

Take the Case of Robert
Robert is 70 years old and has always been healthy. Recently, he experienced a few episodes of forgetfulness but thought nothing of it and attributed it to old age. Then he began feeling tired and having tingling in his hands and feet, difficulty walking, and diarrhea. He finally made a doctor’s appointment.

His blood test revealed he had a vitamin B12 deficiency and after a diet history, the doctor noticed he ate very little meat or dairy.  Due to his age, the doctor explained the deficiency could be caused by a condition common in older adults that reduces the ability to absorb  the vitamin and suggested he start to take a daily supplement containing the vitamin. He also gave him an injection of vitamin B12 in case the vitamin was not being adequately absorbed by Robert.

Who may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements? 

  • People with a diagnosed vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies
  • Newborns (vitamin K)
  • Vegans (vitamin B12 and D)
  • Pregnant women (folate and iron)
  • Elderly persons on limited diets (multivitamin/minerals)
  • People on restricted diets (multivitamins/minerals)
  • People at risk for osteoporosis (calcium, vitamin D)
  • People with alcoholism (multivitamin/minerals)
  • Elderly people diagnosed with vitamin B12, vitamin D and/or folate deficit

Guidelines for Using Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Purchase products with USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia or the CL symbol (Consumer Laboratories) – tested for purity, ingredients, and dose.
Choose supplements containing 100% of the Daily Value or less.
Take supplements with meals.
Tell your health care provider about the supplements you take. Some may affect your prescription medications.

Nonvitamin NonMineral Supplements

Fatty Acids: Omega-3’s, fish oils, DHA and EPA, flaxseeds

Claims: To reduce heart disease and enhance brain function. This claim has recently been disputed and needs further research as to its effectiveness.

Omega-3s compete with omega-6s (vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, safflower seed oil) for conversion to eicosanoids that help regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and blood pressure in the body.
Problem: We have far more 6’s in the food supply than we have 3’s. They work best at a ratio of 4:1 but instead we have 20:1 in favor of 6’s.

Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic fatty acid that can be be converted to EPA and DHA in the body; but this is not very efficient in humans and decreases as we age. EPA and DHA are the active forms which can lower inflammation and blood clotting factors. That is why we should eat EPA and DHA directly from fish instead of relying on their conversion in the body from alpha-linolenic acid.

Bottom Line:

  • Found to not be very effective in reducing heart attacks in supplement form.
    Best to get them eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week. (salmon, trout, tuna)
    Possible problems with mercury and contaminants in fish (farmed and wild-caught
    Fish oil supplements not recommended for anyone taking blood thinner medications.

Enzyme Supplements

Enzymes are proteins that are  broken down in the small intestine to amino acids; thus, the original enzyme and its functions are not intact – so little if any effect can be gained from taking them in their enzyme form.

One exception: Some are made to work in the digestive tract before they are broken down. For example, lactase breaks down lactose and is helpful to people who are lactose intolerant.

So, if these are not specially coated to protect them as they are in cystic fibrosis, most enzyme supplements are totally useless to the body.  Healthy people make their own digestive enzymes in the pancreas and small intestine.

Hormone Supplements
Many marketed to athletes to replace the desirable steroid hormones that enhance muscle growth and strength and can be dangerous, like growth hormones. Again, without putting them to the test, there is no way to measure their safety or effectiveness.

Melatonin:
Not a protein, but a steroid hormone made in the pineal gland in the brain.
Marketed as a sleep aid and help with jet lag.
Claimed to improve sleep duration and quality
Somewhat effective
Dose is important – start low.

Coenzyme Supplements:
Coenzymes are enzyme helpers, such as coenzyme Q10.
Needed as an electron carrier in the final steps of energy (ATP) production
Are often claimed to be needed when statins are taken. .
This can cause side effects of statins of muscle pain and weakness.
Some studies show benefits of reduced pain – but not all

Herbal Remedies
As with all supplements, they are only as good if they are effective and safe (some are not). Human studies with herbal remedies have helped identify which herbals and supplements lack beneficial effects or have adverse effects. Some can pose a health risk. Results of most studies are mixed.

Guidelines for Herbal Use

  • Don’t use for serious, self-diagnosed conditions.
    Let your doctor know what herbals you take.
    Clear the use of herbal remedies with your doctor if you take prescription meds.
    Do not use if attempting or are pregnant.
    Don’t mix herbal remedies.
    If you are allergic to certain plants, make sure the same is not true of the chosen herbal supplement.
    Buy herbs with the USP label or have the CL label.

Functional Foods
Generally taken to mean food or food ingredients that may provide a health benefit beyond the effects of traditional nutrients it contains

Examples of functional foods with proposed health benefits include:

  • Stanol and sterol fortified margarines, psyllium fiber, whole oat products – reduced blood levels of LDL cholesterol
  • Omega-3 acids – reduce blood triglycerides – must be in high doses
  • Cranberry juice extracts – decreased urinary tract infections
  • Folic-Acid fortified breads and cereals – decreased neural tube defects
  • Probiotics – decreased risk of infections, lactose intolerance, diarrhea

DISCUSSION:

According to Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truths, and Food Politics – Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University, Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell:

“I wrote extensively about the paucity of evidence for the value of dietary supplements for anyone who eats enough of a reasonably varied diet. The supplement industry funds many studies that demonstrate health benefits from taking one supplement or another, but studies funded independently usually do not – and sometimes suggest that taking nutrients in pill form can be harmful.”

Don’t be fooled by the claims made by the purveyors of dietary supplements – In my opinion, most are more than likely no better than the remedies peddled by our ancestors, i.e., the snake oil salesmen. Lately some supplements have become very expensive (my opinion) and the consumer has the right to know whether to spend hard earned money on these products or not. To put it simply – Buyer Beware,

 

The Pros and Cons of the Paleolithic Diet

The Paleolithic diet has been around for a few years and in my opinion is a pretty good diet, but alas as with every restrictive diet, there are caveats.

The following article comprehensively covers the pros and cons of this eating pattern. It is based on the facts (as we know them) that our ancestors only had access to certain foods and that our genetic development is presumed to have evolved from inclusion and exclusion of these foods into our current dietary pattern. Evidence for this is presumed to be accurate – however, we truly do not know what our Paleo ancestors really ate.  Our ancestors lived in diverse environments; therefore, their diets were dependent on the foods found there. There is a great deal of controversy about the possibility that some ate a diverse plant-based diet, e.g. hunting was not so reliable.

Most evidence is based on our contemporary hunter-gatherer societies which exhibit less chronic disease than those populations that follow the current American diet. For example, there are no Hadza adults diagnosed with diabetes in Tanzania, while the Tsimané people in Bolivia have an 80 percent lower rate of atherosclerosis compared to people in the U.S. The Maasai community in Kenya that relies on red meat, blood and milk is also known for little to none cardiovascular diseases.

The Pros and Cons

Our ancestors and modern-day hunter-gatherers ate more animal-based foods, which contain good amounts of high-quality protein, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B12 and K2. Such nutrients are commonly found in seafood, red meat, pastured eggs and liver.

An ancestral diet removes refined sugar, grains and seed oils from one’s daily meals. Avoiding these modern products helps reduce markers of inflammation, leading to improvements in blood pressure, waist circumference and lipid profiles, components of the metabolic syndrome.

One study showed that people who consumed less added sugar, refined grains and processed foods could significantly reduce weight in 12 months. The ancestral diets provide foods that are more satiating, which help people consume fewer calories.

The Paleo diet excludes extremely calorie dense foods (starchy foods) as well as many processed and snack foods.

However the diet eliminates two major food groups (dairy and grains (enriched or whole).  This puts at risk adequate vitamin D and calcium levels as well as the other nutrients found within these foods.

The Paleo diet provides some essential nutrients and may appeal to some people that are not interested in a total plant based eating pattern, i.e., dedicated carnivores.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

The Pima Indians: A Study of Lifestyle and Obesity

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, Ph.D

The Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in North America. An estimated 50 percent of Pima adults are obese, and of those, 95% have diabetes type 2.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The story is not new – it more than likely began in the 1500’s when the Spanish explorers made contact with them in the New World. They and most Native tribes of that time were hunter-gatherers. They were lean, active and healthy people.

Pima Indians are believed to be descendants of people who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia to the Americas. Their traditional diet included meals made from the crops they cultivated including corn (maize), kidney beans, sunflower seeds, pumpkins and squash.  Small game such as rabbit, was a staple part of their diet together with meat from their livestock such as sheep and goats. Larger game was also available such as deer, elk and bear. As they were in close proximity to rivers, fish, duck and many different types of shellfish were major elements of their diet, which was also supplemented with herbs, acorns and roots. Sadly, as the years went on, the Arizona group met with some unavoidable circumstances that changed their way of life considerably – especially their traditional diets, economics, and well-being.

  • In 1859, the Arizona Pimas’ land along the Gila River was taken away by the U.S. government which left them to live on what land was left known as the Gila Reservation.
  • In 1866, new settlers began to populate the Pima region and diverted the water from the Gila River for their own use.
  • By 1869, the river had dried up and the Arizona Pimas were left with no water and less land to grow their food and crops resulting in an on – and – off – 40-year-old famine. As a result, the government exacerbated the problem again by providing subsidized foods to the tribe consisting of white flour, sugar, lard and canned goods, a far cry from their traditional diets of corn, beans and squash.

The timing of these significant changes in lifestyle and livelihood of the Arizona Pima population coincides with their development of diabetes type 2.  At the turn of the nineteenth century, studies recorded only one case on the Gila River Reservation. In 1937, a study documented twenty-one persons with diabetes. By the 1950’s, however, the prevalence had increased ten-fold and a study initiated in 1965 documented in the Arizona Pima Indians the highest prevalence of diabetes ever recorded.

THE PIMA INDIANS IN MEXICO

The Pima Indians who had settled in Mexico resided in the small town of Maycoba. For decades they had been isolated until 1991 when a paved access to the town was constructed.  Before that they grew a majority of their own food and still adhered primarily to their traditional diet that was similar to the Arizona tribe. Since they are genetically similar to the Arizona Pima, they present an opportunity to study and compare the two-lifestyle patterns of both tribes (diet and exercise) on their health statistics.

What Has Been Learned from Various Studies of these two Populations?

An Abstract from one study in 1994 that compared the two groups gives us the following details:

OBJECTIVE The Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest reported prevalence of obesity and diabetes type 2 In parallel with abrupt changes in lifestyle and the incidence in Arizona Pimas have increased to epidemic proportions during the past decades. To assess the possible impact of the environment on the prevalence of obesity and diabetes type 2, data were collected on members of a population of Pima ancestry living in a remote mountainous location in northwestern Mexico, with a lifestyle contrasting markedly with that in Arizona.

RESULTS  The Mexican Pimas were significantly lighter and shorter with a lower Body Mass Index. They also had a significantly lower plasma total cholesterol level than the Arizona Pimas. Even more startling was that diabetes type 2 was less prevalent with only 2 women (11%) and 1 man (6%) in the Mexican group compared with a prevalence of 37% and 54% in male and female Arizona Pima Indians respectively.

CONCLUSIONS This preliminary investigation shows that obesity, and perhaps type 2 diabetes is less prevalent among people of Pima heritage living a “traditional” lifestyle than among Pimas living in an “affluent” environment. These findings suggest that, despite a similar potential genetic predisposition to these conditions, a traditional lifestyle, characterized by a diet including less animal fat and more complex carbohydrates and by greater energy expenditure in physical labor, may protect against the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors, obesity, and diabetes type 2.

DISCUSSION:

These results indicate that a more traditional lifestyle of the Mexican Pimas protects the group against obesity, diabetes and kidney disease, even though they may have a genetic predisposition for such health problems.

What explains the results of experiences of the Arizona Pima?  One popular theory is one thing that drives obesity is a switch to a diet of highly refined carbohydrates that are so common in the Standard American Diet (SAD). When the Pima replaced traditional, unrefined carbohydrates with refined (sugar and flour), they became obese. It may not be the amount of food we eat but what kinds or quality we consume.

The lessons learned here support the theory that lifestyle factors appear to significantly influence the prevalence of obesity and diabetes type 2 in a population predisposed genetically to these conditions. Their story gives us all the opportunity to reassess our own current diets and lifestyle factors that may lead to healthier food environments and ultimately prevent our current situation of the diabesity dilemma.

SOURCES

Stephen Guyenet, Lessons From the Pima Indians. Whole Heath Source: Nutrition and Health Science.

Leslie O Schulz, PhD, Lisa S. Chaudhari, PhD. High-Risk Populations: The Pimas of Arizona and Mexico. Curr Obes Rep. 2015 March 1; 4(1): 92-98

Ravussin, et al. Effects of a Traditional Lifestyle on Obesity in Pima Indians, Diabetes Care 1994 September 17(9): 1067-1074

Dining Through the Decades: 1930’s

Stock Market Woes: The Depression

The Great Depression affected the U.S. more than other industrialized countries. Unemployment affected many including the middle class. Many people lost their homes, ate garbage and food scraps and lived in empty lots or in shacks made of cardboard.

The Great Depression lasted for most of the 1930 decade forcing people to conserve food and come up with innovative ways to limit food waste and making do with less. Popular dishes of the period were inexpensive, one-pot meals such as macaroni and cheese, chili, casseroles of all sorts. To maintain the illusion of an abundance of beef, meat loaf was stretched to its limit with filler. Accompaniments were usually inexpensive vegetables such as carrots, peas and potatoes. Others on the other hand, city dwellers were surviving on cheap meals of hot dogs and hamburgers at automats that had survived since their inception in the 1920s.

More Americans are hungry or ill fed than ever before in the nation’s history. The usual weekly relief check for a family of five in NYC is $6.00 in May, and the average weekly grant in Philadelphia that month is reduced  to $4.39. Philadelphia’s relief funds will soon five will soon give out completely, leaving 57,000 families with no means of support.

The average U.S. weekly wage falls to $17, down from $28 in 1929, and 28 percent of households have no employed worker. U.S. employment reaches between 15 and 17 million by year’s end, 34 million Americans have no income of any kind and Americans who do work average little more than $16 per week.

 

 “Saint” Al Capone? and Soup Kitchen

Private soup kitchens and bread lines were available for those in need. Ironically, the gangster Al Capone set up the first soup kitchen to paint himself as the “savior of Chicago”. However, they still sent him to jail for tax evasion. Accepting charity in those days was seen as shameful, so people did not relish standing in line for food and often hid their faces from public view. In 1930, New York has 83 breadlines, Philadelphia 80. Small towns in Arkansas and Oklahoma have food riots with hungry crowds shouting “We want food!” ” We will not let our children starve.”

The Ice Age

The most influential appliance during this decade was most likely the refrigerator. Until its appearance, people kept food from spoiling in streams, cellars, snow and ice. Food poisoning in the warmer months was rampant. The ice box was commonly used since the 1800’s. Harvested and cut ice was hauled home to home on a horse-drawn cart and put in the family’s icehouse where it lasted for months. City dwellers would place a card in the window to order their ice for delivery from the iceman.

By 1920, there were some 200 different refrigerator models on the market, but they were not for everybody, if anyone. The motors were so large that they were kept in a different room and cost about $700. The coolants were a problem that often leaked and killed people. In 1930, Frigidaire began cooling with chlorofluorocarbons and people began to use the small machines with more frequency. Before the refrigerator, “frozen desserts and frozen salads were nonexistent or just for wealthy people” wrote Sylvia Lovegren, author of Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. By 1937, more than 2 million Americans owned refrigerators.

Stuckey’s and Route 66

Williamson George ? Stuckey was born in Georgia in 1909. In 1929 he dropped out of college for lack of funds and in 1930 his grandmother loaned him $35. and with this money, he began buying and selling Georgia pecans. In 1936 he built a roadside stand on a two-lane highway in Eastman, Georgia. There he sold his pecans and later added pralines made by his wife, Ethyl. The first Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppe opened in Eastman, Georgia in 1937, selling pecan and praline products. Later he sold souvenirs, food and beverage service and much later gas pumps. By 1964, there were 160 stores and by 2002 Stuckey’s had two hundred franchises in nineteen states from Pennsylvania to Florida along interstate highways and travel plazas.

“When U.S. Highway 66 was completed in 1938, it became a vital 2,450 mile artery between Chicago and Los Angeles through eight states. It traveled along routes that did not bypass many rural communities in an effort to link them more with larger metropolitan areas. Thus, farmers had a pipeline to ship their food to the big cities. Along the route, it provided gas stations, motels, and quick-stop stores like Stuckeys to take care of the traveler’s needs.

Chain restaurants like Steak and Shake first served its steakburgers, milk shakes and shoestring french fries in 1934 in Normal, Illinois. As more Steak n’ Shake restaurants opened along the route, customers were happy to see a familiar name in an unfamiliar location, much like present day McDonalds along many interstate highways. You could see those Golden Arches somewhere in the distant along many of the unpopulated areas they served.” Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

The Dust Bowl: Agriculture Gone Wrong

The dust storms that terrorized America’s High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were nothing like ever seen before. Timothy Egan has written a compelling  book, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. The book graphically depicts a gritty piece of forgotten history.

In 1935, Western dust storms in May blow some 300 million tons of Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma topsoil into the Atlantic. At least 30 million acres lose all their topsoil, another 50 million are almost ruined, and 200 million are seriously damaged. The Western dust storms are an aftermath of imprudent plowing during the Great War, when farmers planted virgin lands in wheat to cash in on high grain prices. The dust storms were so severe that they stopped highway traffic, closed schools, and turned day into night. “Oakies” and “Arkies” from the dust bowl begin a trek to California that will take 350,000 farmers west within the next 5 years. The description of one of the worst days named Black Sunday (April 14, 1935) was heartbreaking. “it took an hour for the Black Sunday duster to travel from the border towns to Amarillo. At 7:20 P.M, the biggest city in the Texas Panhandle went  dark, and its 42,000 residents choked on the same thick mass that had begun to roll in the Dakotas, clawing the barren plains, charring the sky in five states, producing static electricity to power New York, a fury that has never been duplicated” Source: The Worst Hard Tiime, Timothy Egan.

“The high plains never fully recovered from the Dust Bowl. The land came through the 1930’s deeply scarred and forever changed. After more that sixty-five years, some of the land is still sterile and drifting. The Indians never returned, despite New Deal attempts to buy range land for natives. The Comanche live on a small reservation near Lawton, Oklahoma”

America’s Greatest Treasure U.S. News and World Report

The hamburger’s origin is fraught with controversy as where exactly it evolved; some historians even  trace it back to Genghis Kahn’s Mongolian warriors  in the 13th century. Most offer more reasonable explanations that relates it to a seasoned ground beef dish popular in Hamburg, Germany in the early 1800’s. Americans like to attribute it to at least four credible creation ideas that involve Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Texas. It’s prominence was associated early on to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. But after that, its history fades. In 1921, it makes its presence again with the advent the first burger chain, White Castle in Wichita, Kansas that drew many imitators in the fast food business.

Americans have always had a taste for a sandwich and for meat – this satisfied both of those. Since it came wrapped in a bun with lettuce, meat and tomatoes, it fit the definition of a “meal” and a convenient portable one at that. There are other advantages – it comes with many creative with culinary construction. These are often under the supervision of a chef or a short-order cook. In a book by food writer, John Edge.  Hamburgers & Fries he writes: 

“Finding the right diner, and a burger isn’t just a meal – it’s dinner and a show. Dressed up or down, or tarted up with foie gras or truffles, ‘what we are left with is an abiding respect for the basic burger’.

Post Prohibition

America’s drinking habits did change during the prohibition age of the 20’s but not deterred. Home drinking became more prevalent and more women participated in the habit than ever before. Bar tenders found a niche at the patron’s favorite speakeasies and were put on the same level as master chefs. While Rural America and the temperance movement applauded its inception cleaning up the nation’s crime and brothel-infested cities, in the cities even the cops had grown accustomed to ducking into some saloons after work and enforcement was spotty. By 1928, the NYPD had counted nearly 32,000 speak-easies. Liquor quality was stretched as owners stretched Canadian whiskey with water and food coloring and home brewers produced crude – and sometimes toxic – bathtub gin.

It is likely that Prohibition’s most lasting damage was damage to the cocktail culture was the closure of America’s premier hotel bars. Some bartenders had become famous by inventing new drinks with fresh ingredients and embarking on international tours to London or Capri. Those so inclined complain that bartenders still haven’t recovered their pre-20’s artistry.

All in all, the results of prohibition had not produced the desired cultural results as expected by society – actually it was a big mistake.

TIDBITS and TRIVIA

Vitamin D is isolated as calciferol and will soon be used to fortify butter, margarine, and other foods. There are few natural food sources for this fat-soluble vitamin. This saves a lot of children from the dreaded cod liver oil, a common source of vitamin D given by parents. 1930

Hostess Twinkies are introduced by Continental Baking. A St. Louis sign advertising “Twinkle Toes Shoes” inspired the bakery manager, James A. Dewar at Chicago to call the cakes Twinkies. 1930

New York’s first White Castle hamburger stand opens with virtually no competition since its inception in 1921. Some restaurants serve them and hamburger sandwiches are sold also at carnivals, fairs, and amusement parks. Housewives who want to serve them to their families order top round or some other cuts of beef and ask the butcher to grind it for them. 1930

Physical culturist Bernarr MacFadden serves 1 cent meals called Penny Restaurants at his New York and Boston restaurants. 1931

Kraft rolls out Kraft Dinner – a boxed meal that sells for 19 cents with an advertising slogan of “A Meal for Four in Nine Minutes.” At the end of the century, 1 million boxes a day of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese are sold in the U.S. 1937

The diet movement picked up a little in the 1930’s. In 1930, the Hollywood Diet (aka the Grapefruit Diet) is introduced. The diet involves eating 585 calories a day for 18 days, only dining on grapefruit, hard boiled eggs, green vegetables and melba toast. Diet guru Victor Lindlahr inspires thousands of radio listeners to tune in to his regular broadcast, “reducing party”. 1936

The shopping cart makes its debut. 1937

Some 150 of the city’s dogs, augmented by a pet racoon and a Brazilian marmoset, took their mistresses and a few masters to a cocktail party at Jack Dempsey’s restaurant yesterday. It was all for a good cause, this first canine cocktail party in New York, for the Bide-A-Wee Home for destitute dogs received and estimated $300 from the proceeds. Predominant among the guests were Scotties and wire-haired terriors. The guests were exceptionally well-behaved, tirelessly posing and refraining from biting even one of the numerous photographers who keptThey confind flash bulbs popping. They confined their refreshments to cocktails of warm beef broth and canapes of minced meat and cottage cheese, tastefully stuffed in egg whites.”150 Dogs are Hosts at Cocktail Party”. New York Times, November 18, 1937.

Vitamin Frenzy:  Nicotinic acid (niacin is found to prevent pellagra. Enriched bread contains thiamine, Vitamin E is synthesized and found to be an effective antioxidant, vitamin A was found to prevent night blindness. 1938 

People began drinking again after 1933 and by the end of Franklin Roosevelt’s first year in office, all alcohol was legal again. The wine industry had suffered, and many had gone out of business or had been closed for thirteen years. In 1933, there were about 130 wineries left in California and 150 in the country down from 1,000 pre-Prohibition. Equipment rusted and casks rotted. The wine produced in 1934 so was terrible that it was often still fermenting when first shipped; some blew up on store shelves. All this affected the reputation of the quality of wine and it took decades to recover from it. 1939

Bon Appetit!

 

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

 

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

Over the past few decades, it has been reported that a lifestyle pattern of poor dietary choices is linked to a growing disparity between life span (longevity) and health span, defined as years of healthy life.  Globally, lifestyle-related chronic diseases constitute an enormous and growing burden of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, all of which involve diet in some manner.

What are these dietary patterns that often claim successes over another pattern? This comparison offers a brief description of each pattern as well as the rationale for the claims.

 

Dietary Pattern Primary Characteristics Rationale
Low Carbohydrate Restriction of total carbohydrate to less than 45% calories

High protein or either animal or plant origin

Has recent and widespread interest. Can include a popular variation called the ketogenic diet (highly restrictive)
Low Fat (Vegetarian and traditional Asian) Restriction of total fat or 20% of daily calories. Some can include dairy and eggs, limited meat such as chicken and seafood Long-standing use, extensive research backup. Popularity is weak due to limited appeal; lack of taste

 

Low glycemic (blood sugar) Limits the glycemic load of certain vegetables and many if not all fruits. Relevant to diabetes and pertains to carbohydrate quality as to effects on blood glucose in the body.
Mediterranean Emphasis on olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, limited meat, moderate wine included Mimics the traditional diets of Mediterranean countries. Associated with extensive research that emphasizes “healthy” fats

 

 

 

 

Mixed Balanced

Includes both plant and animal foods that conform to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, DASH and Diabetes Prevention diets Long-standing, widespread use. Associated with extensive research and intervention trials to address chronic diseases.

 

Paleolithic Focus on diet of our Stone Age ancestors. Avoiding processed foods with emphasis on fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats.

Dairy and grains are excluded.

Native human diet emphasis with substantial research. Emphasis on lean proteins.
Vegan Often exclude all animal products, including dairy and eggs. If ill-conceived, can include plant-based junk food leading to nutrient deficiencies. Relevant to ethics, animal welfare issues, environmental sustainability

 

Claims for other dietary patterns exist in abundance. Many such practices such as juicing or fad dieting does not meet the requirements for a healthy diet pattern. Add to these raw food eating, detoxification schemes that enjoy media attention in the popular culture but only contribute to the confusion of those who seek existing  legitimate dietary advice.

Can we say what diet is best for health? It would be difficult based on individual needs for one thing. Ideally, It is often said that the best diet is one you decide for yourself based on some basic knowledge and your particular lifestyle. The diet should focus on health and weight control, not just weight loss.

Even if the healthy diet claims are made clear, we must learn somehow to navigate our way through the supermarket that constantly appeals to our senses with a myriad of some 40,000 products with the majority of them processed in bags, boxes, bottles, jars, and cans. Many are loaded with fat, sugar or salt. Often, many Americans are drawn to the appeal of convenience that many of these foods offer.

Here is what we think we know.  From assessing the diets presented in the table above,  compatible elements of these diets include: Limited refined starches, added sugars, processed foods, limited intake of certain fats, emphasis on whole plant foods (nuts, seeds, legumes) with or without lean meats, fish, poultry, and seafood.

To put this in its most simplest form,  Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivores Dilemma says:

Food, not too much, mostly plants.