Let’s continue the trend of using lyrics in titles, although many of us will start singing just from the title line alone. Let’s see if this helps:
You know I love that organic cooking
I always ask for more
And they call me Mr Natural
On down to the health food store
I only eat good sea salt
White sugar don’t touch my lips
And my friends is always begging me
To take them on macrobiotic trips
Yes, they are
Tonight’s collection of news chum has to do with the intertwined topics of food and medicine, including some studies that indicate that some of what we thought might be completely wrong:
- Oil Me Up. Oil Me Down. For years, what has been the mantra: Vegetable oil good. Butter bad. Grapeseed oil good for high heat. Olive oil best raw. Oh, and never never never go for that palm or coconut oil. Turns out, what we know about cooking with oils may be completely wrong. Based on some recent studies, scientists are now warning against the dangers of frying food in sunflower oil and corn oil over claims they release toxic chemicals linked to cancer. These leading scientists are now recommending food be fried in olive oil, coconut oil, butter or even lard. Scientists found that heating up vegetable oils led to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia. This goes along with some other research that is showing that whole milk may be much better for you than low-fat or skim.
- GMO Salmon Safe. This week, the FDA approved consumption of genetically modified salmon. Now, I love salmon as much as the next guy, but even this gave me pause. Do I want to eat it? Turns out, genetically modified salmon appears actually to be safe to eat. The article goes through a number of the fears, including the complaint that it endangers consumers’ “personal health,” that it “could cause human allergies,” and that it’s been approved based on “insufficient safety testing.” In the case of GE plants, these scary what-if arguments are unfalsifiable, based on speculation about chemical properties and ever-expanding demands for longer study periods and bigger samples. The GE salmon was initially submitted for FDA approval 20 years ago. The agency declared it safe in 2010 and then spent another five years reviewing objections. Thursday’s statement says the FDA has concluded that the salmon is “safe to eat” and is “as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon.” It also says the genetic change is “safe for the fish itself.” There are loads of links in the Slate article, so decide for yourself.
- Overweight Bad? Here’s another study of interest that shows that being moderately overweight may not be as bad for your health as once thought. I’ll emphasize moderately. Being overweight is now believed to help protect patients with an increasingly long list of medical problems, including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease. Researchers who have tried to show that the paradox is based on faulty data or reasoning have largely come up short. And while scientists do not yet agree on what the paradox means for health, most accept the evidence behind it. “It’s been shown consistently enough in different disease states,” says Gregg Fonarow, a cardiology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. They aren’t sure why. My thoughts: it isn’t being overweight — it is really that we’re miscalculating what a healthy weight is. In fact, it could very well be that, just as in the next item, what is a healthy over- or under-weight value may vary by the individual.
- Diets are Individualistic. It turns out that what may be the best diet for one may not be the best diet for another. Researchers Eran Elinav and Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science have just published the results of a large, comprehensive study in the journal Cell that found people can metabolize the exact same foods in very different ways. What this means is that a healthy diet for one person may not be healthy for another person. Rather than recommend a cookie-cutter solution to weight problems, the researchers say, doctors could be more effective by recommending a personalized nutrition plan to a patient, based on the way that patient metabolizes certain foods. Again, this doesn’t surprise me: obesity and health is increasingly being shown to be dependent on our individual gut biome, which we’ve been systematically destroying.
- Bed May Be Bad. We start to move away from the food a bit now. Here’s an article on a study that sleeping in (as you do on the weekends) may be bad for you. Disruptions to routine sleeping patterns can increase the danger for developing metabolic diseases for example diabetes and heart disease, according to a brand new study. New research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrates that societal jetlag as basic as getting up late may also be bad for health. Social jetlag refers to a mismatch between an individual ‘s socially-imposed sleep program and their natural circadian rhythm. Researchers said societal jetlag is understood to relate to obesity and other cardiovascular conditions, yet the connection to healthy individuals is fresh. Doesn’t surprise me at all: I tend to get less migraines if I keep my sleep cycle regular.
- Potential New Migraine Preventative. Scientists may have finally come up with an effective migraine preventative. This is wonderful news. We’ve started to have drugs that can stop an attack in progress. Prevention? We’ve adapted blood pressure drugs (which I use), depression medications, epilepsy meds, and even Botox to try to prevent them. It doesn’t always work (I know I go through periods where I’ve got light migraines almost every other day). However, neurologists believe they have identified a hypersensitive nerve system that triggers the pain and are in the final stages of testing medicines that soothe its overly active cells. These are the first ever drugs specifically designed to prevent the crippling headaches before they start, and they could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year. If they deliver on the promise they have shown in studies conducted so far, which have involved around 1,300 patients, millions of headaches may never happen. The work focuses on the trigeminal nerve system, long known to be the brain’s primary pain pathway. Studies in animals indicated that in branches of the nerve that exit from the back of the brain and wrap around various parts of the face and head, overactive cells would respond to typically benign lights, sounds and smells by releasing chemicals that transmit pain signals and cause migraine. The heightened sensitivity of these cells may be inherited; 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of the disorder. This makes sense to me: when my migraines started, I could touch near my nose and feel it around to the back of my neck — in other words, the trigeminal nerve was over-sensitive.
- Addressing Blood Pressure. Another concern of mine is blood pressure. I’m on a combination of meds to get it down, but I’m still routinely in the 140-130/90-80 range, and they now want a target of under 120/80. Here’s a great article I ran across on other things to do to lower blood pressure. I’m trying to lose weight and exercise, but it is hard when you’re getting home at 5:30p and want to have dinner by 8pm.
- The Brain GPS. I’ve always said that everyone is experts in remembering something, and my particular expertise is spatial and temporal. I can remember the layout of rooms I haven’t been in for 20 years. I have maps in my head and innately know where I am (except in the twisty maze of roads near John Wayne Airport). I invariably come back in the kitchen when there is just 10 seconds on the timer. Turns out: there is a brain GPS, and it helps with our memories. A recent animal study found that special brain cells that track an animal’s location also can track time and distance. This could explain how rat and human brains are able to organize memories according to where and when an event occurred. The cells, called grid cells, appear to be “laying down the sequence of space and time that provide a framework for events that are unfolding,” says Howard Eichenbaum, an author of the study and director of the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University.
Going back to the song, have you figured it out yet. Perhaps some more will help:
Oh, but at night I stake out my strong box
That I keep under lock and key
And I take it off to my closet
Where nobody else can see
I open that door so slowly
Take a peek up north and south
Then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie
And I pop it in my mouth
Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me
Speaking of Junk Food, how about a run for the border. In this case, I’m talking a specific Taco Bell, “Numero Uno”, which was saved from demolition and moved last night from Downey to Irvine. That is south of the border. Well, at least south of the Orange Curtain.