mellowtigger: (food)
Scientists may have finally discovered why red meat is bad for humans.  Vegetarians score a big win with this new discovery, because the consequence is inescapable for any of us. Given that this genetic change appeared 2-3 million years ago as the Homo genus made its appearance in the world, it seems that we (unlike modern apes) are designed specifically not to eat red meat.

We already know that red meat is associated with poor health in humans, linked to conditions as varied as arthritis, heart disease, and different cancers.  Nobody, though, had a clear and concise explanation for these associations. I figured it was mostly our modern livestock production system (antibiotics, chemical-laced foods, inhumane conditions, etc.) that was to blame, but it turns out that humans evolved a unique biological difference from other mammals... and it leaves those other mammals noxious to us as food sources.

Most other mammals (including other apes) produce a kind of sugar whose long name is N-Glycolylneuraminic acid and whose shortened name is Neu5Gc. This simple sugar ends up in their meat and their milk. Humans, however, are incapable of producing this molecule. It is thought that we evolved this deficit because it made us immune to a form of malaria while other mammals are still susceptible to infection. Neu5Gc is a natural substance and non-cancerous in itself, but it is now foreign to us. When we eat this food, our immune systems develop an antibody response to it. That antibody reaction then produces inflammation, and the chronic inflammation from daily exposure leads to cancers and other ills.

Researchers created mice with the same Neu5Gc deficiency that humans have, then they fed them with Neu5Gc.

When such mice were challenged with anti-Neu5Gc antibodies, they developed evidence of systemic inflammation. Long-term exposure to this combination resulted in a significantly higher incidence of carcinomas (five-fold increase) and an association with Neu5Gc accumulation in the tumors. Similar mechanisms may contribute to the association of red meat consumption with other diseases, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes, which are also exacerbated by inflammation.
- http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/12/25/1417508112.abstract

Chronic exposure with antibodies caused tumor development, and those tumors were rich in Neu5Gc deposits even though the mouse cells could not produce the substance. It appears that they discovered the "smoking gun" that explains why red meat is bad for human health.  I look forward to the human trials that can conclusively show the same link.

I've been semi-vegetarian for many years already. I have many meatless days by happenstance. I did not choose this lifestyle for humanitarian concerns. I am the only person responsible for my food, and I simply don't trust myself to store and cook meat properly for safe consumption. Instead, I eat meat when I go out to restaurants. It's not clear at this point what amount of Neu5Gc exposure is safe (unlikely to trigger antibodies), if any at all.

Like the Whos down in Whoville, maybe it's time that we switched to a healthy (but humane) roast beast?
mellowtigger: (dna mouse)
Most people know that they get half of their dna from their mother and half from their father. What most people don't know, however, is that they also inherit another kind of dna exclusively from their mother. The mother provides the "egg", and the egg is very special. It includes extra material that every cell needs to survive and replicate. One vital feature inside our cells is the mitochondrion, a small factory that produces the chemical energy that we need to thrive. Mitochondria have their own dna, separate from our regular dna, and we inherit it entirely from the egg.

Without mitochondria, we would slowly die. Our cells individually would simply run out of fuel to function. I kept up with news in the early 1990s about medical trials because I knew college students who participated in this "job" sector as volunteer medical test subjects. I remember that one study was terminated prematurely because its participants died. They discovered that the drug was destroying human mitochondrial dna (although it did not harm dogs in previous tests), so their test volunteers were slowly starving to death, cell by cell, throughout their bodies. The point being that the health of our mitochondria affects our bodies profoundly, so our maternal heritage of mitochondrial dna is an important part of our genetic lineage.

One side-effect of these powerhouses doing their normal function is the production of hydrogen peroxide, H2O2. As any child who's seen hydrogen peroxide bubble on their wounds would know, this chemical is highly reactive. Since mitochondria produce it, our cells need a way to harness the chemical before it reacts with other chemicals in our cells (like our dna) and causes harm. This destructive reaction by oxygen-containing molecules or free radicals is known in a very generic way as "oxidative stress". We need antioxidants to defend against that damage.

Oxidative stress is now linked to a great many disorders, from Parkinson's to Autism and more. Of particular interest to me is the realization that it can trigger mitochondrial dysfunction in some people with autism, separate from the known long-term dysfunction comorbidity. Mitochondrial dysfunction would leave me feeling tired, unfocused, and thoroughly exhausted by physical activity... which matches nicely with my symptoms.  We've ruled out multiple sclerosis to explain my own health problems, so I've separated the symptoms of muscle twitches/cramps (which is responding very positively to a gluten-free diet) from the symptoms of exhaustion, brain fog, and apparent dopamine depletion. I am considering oxidative stress as an explanation for this second set of symptoms which has not responded to Ropinarole.

I've spent a lot of money on medical bills this year. Now that I'm earning a poor person's wages again, I have to get my spending under control. There are expensive tests for objectively measuring mitochondrial dysfunction, but doctor visits will have to wait while I slowly accumulate more discretionary funds. Instead, I'm experimenting more cheaply by taking supplements that affect mitochondrial function and oxidative stress. Most diet supplement pills are known to be ineffective, so I'm trying to stick with ones already proven to have some effect in reputable journals.

I bought some pills containing:
  • glutathione,
  • coenzyme Q-10,
  • vitamin E, and
  • selenium.
I can get more vitamin C and beta-carotene just by eating some carrots. I'll try adding plenty of turmeric spice to my meals too. I hope this combination will improve my energy level, memory/concentration, and dopamine. In theory, it should; but in practice, we'll see.
mellowtigger: (MrFusion)
I'm ready to invest money in a juicer to make it easier to make quick meals that are healthy and cheap.  The Jack LaLanne model has been recommended to me as one that does not roar loudly.  Unfortunately, it is not truly a food processor, and it does not allow milk products or ice to be added.

Can anyone recommend a product that "does it all" to make smoothies or hot soups?  If there must be a trade-off between noise level and versatility, then I'd much rather use the quiet product.  There is always the Vitamix that can grind up just about anything, but it certainly costs a lot more than I can justify spending, and the demonstrations I've seen have always been very loud.

I'm not yet ready to commit to a Primal diet (no seeds of any kind), but I keep learning more about how unhealthy modern foodstuffs can be.  I want to consume a few less carcinogens.  Maybe the nutrient-rich diet would help boost my energy level too, while I'm recovering from B12 problems.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I've never once experienced a craving for a pill of any kind, not even multivitamin or B12. I'm lousy about taking pills on any schedule. I recently discovered that my multivitamins expired back in July 2010. The bottle is almost full.

The problem, I think, is that my body has no reason to crave these morsel-sized supplements. It has no cue on which to make an association to learn that pills are "good". So why not give it such a cue? That's how we learn that natural gas is an unsafe odor, after all. It's because we artificially give it that odor.

I think that vitamins should be chewable, flavored pills. Each kind of supplement should be assigned specific flavors (regardless of brand manufacturer) or odors, and each flavor should be unique so as never to be confused with an actual food dish flavor. For instance, what if multivitamins all tasted like broccoli-grapefruit? What if B12 pills all tasted like carrot-grape? I think our brains/bodies could learn to associate the flavor with the benefit, thereby giving us cravings for a pill when we were in short supply of a nutrient.

In semi-related news, it appears that people are making progress on production of vat-grown meat. I've written before that I would very much like to add such humane meat sources to my diet. These researchers recently conducted a comparison of production requirements based on their current process.

The researchers based their calculations on a process, using Cyanobacteria hydrolysate as a nutrient and energy source for growing muscle cells, that is being developed by co-author Dr Joost Teixeira de Mattos at the University of Amsterdam. At the moment this sort of tissue engineering technology is confined to the laboratory, but the researchers estimated what the various costs would be for producing 1000kg of cultured meat using a scaled-up version of the technology compared to the costs associated with livestock reared conventionally.

In comparison to conventionally-produced European meat, the team estimate cultured meat would involve approximately 7-45% lower energy use, 78-96% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82-96% lower water use depending on the type of meat.

- http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-lab-grown-meat-emissions-energy.html

I'd like daily pig ham for breakfast, chicken breast for lunch, and cow steaks for dinner, please!  All without harming any creature at all.  Nice!
mellowtigger: (Daria)
It's just absurd how many reality television food shows are produced. Actually, I'm not sure the quantity of them matters so much as the concept.

The idea of Americans watching manufactured drama on reality tv food programs when over 10% of all Americans are on food stamps is just offensive to my concept of social equality. There are more Americans on food stamps than the entire population of Canada.

"We help put healthy food on the table for over 40 million people each month."
- http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/

"2006: 31,612,897"
- http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/hlt/97-550/Index.cfm?TPL=P1C&Page=HDWELL&LANG=Eng&T=99

 "Let them eat cake!" as the famous saying goes.  Yes, actually, we have shows for that too.

food showsAmericans on food stamps

I feel so superior by spending my television-watching minutes on more useful programs like Full Metal Alchemist, Doctor Who, Family Guy, and Harry Potter movies.  *dejected sigh*
mellowtigger: (Default)
I knew that "organic" foods hadn't been proved to actually make a health difference in humans, leaving them basically just as a marketing gimmick.  A 2-year-old study, however, is finally making the rounds being reported on websites.  It took some digging, but I found the original source (I think).

In the Netherlands, a birth cohort study tracked mothers and children for 2 years.  They measured whether the family was using an organic, conventional, or mixed diet.  They looked for trends in eczema, asthma, and allergies.  They found a link.  Although organic meat and vegetables had no effect, they did find a correlation with organic milk.  The organic milk babies (but not the conventional or mixed diet) had lower rates of problems with eczema.  They are unable to explain the mechanism by which this difference is produced, but they suggest a few ideas for later investigation.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=1700500&jid=&volumeId=&issueId=&aid=1700496

Webpages are claiming that a milder association was found with organic milk and lower rates of asthma and allergies, but this study made no such finding.  It's possible that I still haven't found the source being mentioned on these webpages.
mellowtigger: (Default)
Here's a followup to my earlier post about modern food production in a changing climate.

Popcorn is a popular product in this house.  I'm curious to know just how much of it is eaten here in a year.  You'd think popcorn would be the model of simplicity for a food product, wouldn't you?  It's just a seed.  No special processing, no additives, no preservatives.  You grow it, dry it, then stick it in a jar.  Can't get a more natural food than that, right?  Well... we still manage to mess it up.

The Popcorn Board produces a handbook that details the wide variety of substances that can be used on popcorn crops and what their acceptable level of residue can be according to the USA's Environmental Protection Agency or the World Health Organization.  You should take a look at the variety of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fumigants that are permitted while growing that simple popcorn seed.  If this is what goes into an exceptionally hardy food product, then what awful stuff goes into the plants that produce far more delicate foods for our table?  Strawberries, grapes, or lettuce?  How are they kept fresh and enticing for our purchase?
http://www.popcorn.org/handbook/handbook.cfm

I understand that we're talking extremely low concentrations, but these health risks are measured in isolation.  How do they interact with the hundreds (thousands) of other chemicals that we intentionally or unintentionally put into our bodies?  I've never been an "Organic" fiend, but reading material like this handbook does push me that direction.  I expect to grow more popcorn in the garden this year to see if I can displace the mass produced stuff that my roommates normally eat.

Similarly, Scientific American recently reported on the possible consequences of using coal ash as a part of fertilizer.  While its benefits are easily noticeable, they're finding that coal ash includes some much less desirable ingredients like mercury, arsenic, titanium, and radium.
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-in-soil

Maybe it's finally time to encourage everyone to return to "victory gardens" and grow portions of their own food supply at their house.  Tear up part of the grass lawn and put in veggies, grains, and herbs in its place.  Maybe the bad economy will be a good excuse to get people back to tending gardens.

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