Archive for the ‘Food in the News’ Category

On obesity and diabetes

December 8, 2009

Prompted by this link

Obesity and diabetes (T2DM) are close to my heart; I carry too much weight, was diagnosed with T2DM several years ago, and have struggled to regulate BG. That said, I have successfully kept the important variables within satisfactory limits (just) and avoided recommendation of drug prescription by my GP.
There is no doubt in my mind that primary causality for the diseases of affluence lie rooted in food and with dietary contrasts between past and present. Additionally, I have first hand experience of a strong link between food and mood.
Casting the net a bit wider causality and explanation for proliferation of chronic illness, particularly so called diseases of affluence, lies in the contrast between past and present habitats. So far as I am concerned the dietary influences and inputs of western developed nations falls under the coverall term of habitat.

The trend towards weight gain is readily observable and manifests itself quite prominently in even young teens. Diabetes UK recently issued a release that seven million people are now reckoned to be ‘pre-diabetic’. (“Risk factors include having a close family member with type 2 diabetes, being overweight and having high blood pressure.” Really helpful, that!)

100,000 new cases of T2DM were recorded in 2007; 150,000 in 2008. Off the back of an envelope one would expect 230,000 in 2009. I have the envelope before me; crude maths extrapolates the diagnoses of 7 million cases of T2DM in the period 2009 – 2015.

Genetics may have a part. Genetic evolution is the mechanism behind the evolution of our species. Human genetic evolution is ongoing and it is in response to habitat.

I’m sorry, IMHO one doesn’t get to 32 stone without ingesting more food than is good for you. However, I do not believe it is simply gluttony or lack of willpower that takes a person there. Evolution is a factor because at no time in the human evolutionary past was it ever so easy to ingest so many calories for so little energy expended. Human evolution has simply not prepared us such a surplus in the caloric subsistence economy. The same can be said for domesticated cats and dogs.

I’m so with Ted. I believe enlightenment lies in the development of an ‘inflammation hypothesis’ underpinned by the ‘eicosanoid hypothesis’. Inflammation at cellular level would influence cellular expression because inflammation disrupts which of the chemical messengers can reach the cell. I would anticipate inflammation may influence genetic expression. If you catch a cold or flu you feel ill, but it is the bodies’ defensive inflammatory responses and disruption to eicosanoids (hormone-like chemicals with regulatory function) that makes us feel so rough. (Save for the symptoms of the respiratory tract the other symptoms of flu are not so dissimilar to poor BG regulation in T2DM.) Put simply, the problem is a breakdown in (physiological) regulation, (.. hmmn.)

I’m guided by author Barry Sears on the following. He knows his eicosanoids; important as eicosanoids are he labels some of them as being ‘bad’ or perhaps bad in excess. Eicosanoid imbalance results in inflammation. Sears calls it ‘slow inflammation’. In ‘The Anti-Aging Zone'(p175) Sears tables the conditions associated with eicosanoid imbalances;
Heart disease
Type 2 DM
Inflammatory diseases
Auto-Immune diseases

While obesity is not in the list Sears does believe his zone diet, controlling insulin and balancing eicosanoids, can aid weight management.

What causes eicosanoid imbalance?
The building blocks of eicosanoids are Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs); omega 6 and 3 in the main. Important as they are it seems you can have too much of a good thing. Either too much omega 6 or too little omega 3 can result in omega imbalance that in turn precipitates eicosaniod imbalance. Too much insulin also precipaitates eicosanoid imbalance, and eicosanoid imbalance may lie behind cravings for carbs.

Too much omega 6 can arise from consumption of too much of certain vegetable oils, generally the cheap and stable ones preferred by the food industry. Wild meat can be a source of omega 3 whereas intensively reared cereal supplemented husbanded meat is significantly lower in omega 3.
John’s book ‘The True You Diet’ is excellent with a terrific chapter headed, ‘Oil Crisis’, which catalysed my interest.

The scandal of our time is the dietary preponderance of high GL carbohydrates coupled to increase in consumption of omega 6 PUFAs from vegetable oils; IMHO it’s the origin of metabolic dysfunction.
It’s worse, because Margarines, high in omega 6, can be supplemented with plant derived (cheap) omega 3 (ALA =- alpha-linoleic acid) and marketed with reference to the functionality of the ‘unique blend of omega 6 & 3’. There’s a catch. Humans have a limited capacity to convert ALA to to ‘good’ eicosanoids. The omega 3 (ALA) trumpeted on certain margarines and even ‘healthy’ oils do not compare with omega 3 of mainly marine origin.

The trouble with attributing causality to genes is adoption of the view, ‘I’m fat because of my genes’, or the false hope of a satisfactory and consequence free genetically engineered intervention or therapy. That said, what passes between our lips will determine genetic expression. Inflammation will determine genetic expression (in concurrence with Jamies’ view on Epigenetics). Without doubt aspects of western diet are directing human genetic evolution. What is not known is whether such direction reduces or increases the potential incidence of obesity and/or T2DM for successive generations.

In the field of Paleoanthroplogy there are finger posts to carbs (high GL) and EFA imbalance. Within the mirky waters of epidemiology are pointers to carbs and EFAs. And the functional understanding of EFAs and eicosanoids has pointers to high GL carbs and EFA imbalance.
It can never be too late in life to address EFA imbalance but possibly there are indicators that dysfunction from former EFA and eicosanoid imbalance may linger. Feeding kids toast spread with margarine looks like a bad start to life.

What is it that stands in the way of mainstream appreciation and progress?
Might, the problem be a breakdown in satisfactory regulation?

Pie in the sky ..

September 8, 2009

Appearing recently in the media have been submissions from scientists tabling possible worse case scenarios and last resort tactics to avert catastrophic global warming.

Some of the propositions involve deflecting solar radiation by placing mirrors or reflective dust in the upper atmosphere with the intent of deflecting solar radiation and thus with the hope of countering rising temperatures. Are they kidding?

As with other 21st century problems we need to address climate change with an appreciation of causality and addressing that at the root rather than treating symptoms by dispensing some additionally constructed human remedy. There is scope for greater insight into this as may apply to climate change as there may be from delving into the same basic flaw in the way mainstream human health-care is delivered.

Climate change and sustainability are complicated issues with diverse and often in-congruent arguments from various camps. However, I can simplify matters somewhat..

Try drawing two circles on a piece of paper to loosely represent Sun and Earth. What does the one give the other? It is child’s play, isn’t it? The Earth is reliant upon the Sun for energy, right? Rub out our circle that represented the Sun and what are the implications?

The Earth is an energy system subservient to the Sun. Life upon Earth in all its’ diversity is/are energy (and nutrient) systems subservient to the whole Earth. Humans are entirely subservient to those energy and nutrient hyper-cycles that nature has constructed by the process of evolution and all made possible by the Sun.

Through Defra and one of its’ offspring FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) the government, via Hilary Benn, the minister responsible, recently launched a consultation document upon future food security and entitled, I think, ‘Food Matters, part 2′. This is a document that questions the future of food security on a number of lines.
Concerns are expressed about rising global populations, increasing wealth in developing nations and anticipated change in dietary expectations of wealthier people, further concerns are declining fertility, dependency upon finite fossil fuel reserves for agrochem’ production, falling water tables, and potential changes to weather patterns, temperatures and precipitation. In short it is concern about energy and nutrients and whether we are fast reaching the limit of the total capacity of the Earth to feed a rising population. The problem lies rooted in conventional agricultural methods as applied by western civilisations because inherent in the practice at a number of levels is the principle of deferred accountability. Conventional agriculture practices with complete deference to natural energy and nutrient hyper-cycles. 21st century challenges are the consequences of carrying on without any regard for these natural constraints. One such constraint, somewhat fundamental, was illustrated by drawing our two circles.

Food is produced by capturing solar radiation and nutrients through the life giving process of photosynthesis. So if we register already concern over ability to meet demand then one might deduce that we need to capitalise upon all the solar radiation we can capture, and in the face of passing peak oil we acknowledge we may have to produce increasing amounts of energy for our domestic and industrial needs from renewable sources. The primary capitals here are Sun, Moon (tidal) geothermal, and morphological (fission/fusion). Factor in that energy production may have to be carbon neutral or even carbon negative (and soon) and photosynthesis looks increasingly attractive to produce energy for requirements other than simply and primarily for food.
Such a strategy would place a huge burden upon the suitable agricultural regions of the world. We’ll need several things to meet this burden but not least will be plenty of solar radiation. Best not to pin too much hope upon launching reflective material of any kind into space. I mean, its’ hardly rocket science..

Hot Potato

July 30, 2009

“.. British milk has been marginalised by price pressure from leading supermarket(s) to the point that British dairy farmers cannot make any money out of the raw product -they are paid little more than the cost to produce it. The recent collapse of DFoB (3,4) illustrates that even the processor cannot make money out of the raw product without investment in value added lines.
For sale in a leading supermarket in the northwest of England is milk distinguished on the label as ‘North West Milk’. Arla Foods closed the Manchester Dairy shortly after being awarded the contract to supply this milk. So, it is collected from northwest farms to be trucked to Arlas flagship plant at Leeds for process, to be trucked back to shops in the stated region. I doubt this is contrary to any law or CoP, but it is a deception. I cannot see how instances such as this are consistent with the need to reduce carbon emissions. ..”

The comment can be read in full on the Food Standards Agency website here ;