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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Protect the Corporations; Damn the Consumers

I ran across this article today and after reading it, I am incensed. Here's the headline: U.S. government fights to keep meatpackers from testing all slaughtered cattle for mad cow.

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease. The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef.

This President of ours and this Agriculture Department of ours are supposed to protect the American public. What do they do instead? They protect the conglomerate corporations that line their pockets with dollars. Why do they do this? Apparently, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef decided to voluntarily test all of their beef for Mad Cow Disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Well, the large meat companies think that having well-informed consumers is a bad idea. If consumers know that Creekstone beef is free of BSE, they may opt for that over the meat of the conglomerates forcing the big companies to also test their beef and assure us that it's safe. And that costs money, which will cut into their margins, resulting in less profit and smaller bonuses for the already-fat cats running these companies.

So the Agriculture Department has sued Creekstone Farms, but a federal judge ruled that Creekstone must be allowed to voluntarily test its herds. And now we're in the appeals process, which keeps the ruling from taking effect. Yes, that's right - our very own Agriculture Dept is suing a company that is trying to inform its consumers that its products are safe! It is appalling. During the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln declared our government to be "of the people, by the people, for the people." Unfortunately, everyday it seems that, contrary to Mr. Lincoln's declaration, that government has perished. We are now ruled by a government (and this isn't a problem that's come about only during the Bush administration) that is more concerned with corporate interests than those of "we the people". We seem to be "of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Forbes' Picks for "Healthy Desserts"

With great anticipation, I opened this article on Forbes about Healthy Desserts. I anticipated bowls of berries with coconut and cinnamon and other fruit concoctions, sufficient to satisfy the sweet tooth, but without loads of sugar. Boy was I wrong. Ok, I really didn't anticipate that. I anticipated pretty much what was in the article. Let's look a bit deeper into these options for eating dessert without adding pounds to your waistline.

  • MaggieMoo's 16-oz Creamy Mango Zoomer - 2.5g fat, 400 calories - So let's do some simple math here: 2.5g fat * 9 calories per gram = 22.5. Subtracting that from 400 gives us another 388 (rounded) calories to account for. If we assume, very conservatively, that the remaining calories are half from carbohydrates and half from protein, we are left with 188 calories from carbs or, dividing by 4 calories per gram, 48.5 grams of carbohydrates, mostly from the sugar and fruit. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet that there's relatively little protein in this treat, so it's probably somewhere more like 70-80g of sugar. In 16oz. That's probably worse than a Coca-Cola. But it's low-fat, so it's "healthful". At least it is made with real fruit.

  • Yogen Fruz Non-fat Frozen Yogurt - 0g fat, 120 calories - Rejoice! This one is fat-free! We can eat it to our heart's content and gain nary an ounce! Excuse my cynicism. 120 calories is 30g of combined carbohydrates and protein. Any bets on which one dominates this frosty treat?

  • WholeSoy & Co. Creme Caramel Frozen Yogurt - 1g fat, 120 calories - Nearly identical nutrition profile as the Yogen Fruz above. But wait, this one is made with soy! Needless to say, I'm unimpressed.

  • Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Light Ice Cream - 6g fat, 200 calories - More of the same. Light. 54 calories from fat and 146 from carbs/protein or nearly 40g. Bet ya it's sugar.

  • Cold Stone Creamery's Birthday Cake Remix Creation with Light Cake Batter Ice Cream - 6g fat, 220 calories - Light, light, light! It must be alright. Oh look, I can rhyme. Add 5g of carbs/protein to the Ben and Jerry's above.

  • TCBY's 16-oz., Beriyo Smoothie - 2g fat, 230 calories - 2g of fat equals 18 calories. So the other 212 probably come predominantly from SUGAR! That's 53g of carbs/protein for those keeping score at home. I bet once again that it's not protein giving us most of those calories.

  • Stonyfield Farm Organic Raspberry White Chocolate Chunk Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt - 1.5g fat, 120 calories - Low-fat. Bleh....still 106 calories, mostly from sugar.

  • Dreyer's and Edy's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Slow Churned Yogurt Blends - 3.5g fat, 120 calories - Let's just go ahead and make it clear that anything with the words "Chocolate Fudge Brownie" in its name is unlikely to ever be good for you. And for the low-fatters, over 25% of the calories in this one are from fat.

So what is being touted as "healthy" is more of the same low-fat/fat-free gibberish that we've been hearing for 20 years. It's obvious by the fact that they list nothing other than fat and calories. This is the same gibberish that has 2/3 of Americans overweight. Unfortunately, people still have this notion that if they don't eat fat, they won't get fat. The reality is that all of the sugar is cranking up insulin and burning out insulin receptors, leading to Type II Diabetes. All of the insulin has the body in fat storage mode, so it's impossible to lose the pooch around the middle. And to make sure we're eating "healthy," we take away the fat, which serves to keep the sugar from entering the blood as quickly ( i.e., lowering the insulin response and helping to negate the effects I described above).

If you want an ice cream treat, don't trick yourself into thinking that it's going to be healthful; it's not. So enjoy the full-fat ice cream. The full-fat stuff is likely to have less sugar and because it has fat, it will satiate you much better, meaning you'll eat less of it. The blood sugar/insulin spike will be lower, wreaking less metabolic havok on your body. Those of us fighting the low-fat dogma have a long road ahead of us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Some Fun Links

Regina Wilshire did it again with this review of the findings of the 15th Annual European Conference on Obesity. Check out those very interesting stats on fat and saturated fat. I can't wait to see the low-fatters scramble to cover their rears again. I bet they'll claim that all of those Eastern Europeans a) drink red wine/beer/creek water/fruit juice/some other common trait that amounts to absolutely jack, b) are genetically predisposed to be obese, or c) some new version of nonsensical ad-hoc hypothesis.

Ross Enamait briefly talks about food additives.

Here is a cool article about The History of Mealtimes that I found a few weeks back. I don't have any profound wisdom to draw from the article. I just found it very interesting.

Even Da Vinci knew how to live well: Da Vinci's Guide to Healthy Living. Pretty well spot on. And he doesn't advise avoiding fat or carbs; just advises using real ingredients.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Trying to Hack the Body Again

...and I have my doubts that this try will be more successful that previous attempts. Animal research raises possibility of end to fat-free diets.

I'll just go ahead and lead off with a comment that logic should have put an end to fat-free and low-fat diets long ago.

A new study in mice raises a tantalizing possibility – that humans may one day be able to eat any kind of fat they want without raising their risk of heart disease.

"We deleted an enzyme in mice and they could eat any type of fat and not get heart disease," said Lawrence Rudel, Ph.D., a professor of comparative medicine. "If you're a mouse, it's great. Of course, we don't know yet if it will be the same in humans."

Yes, you read that correctly. They are wanting to delete enzymes to protect against atherosclerosis. I'm sure plenty of problems will arise from this. For one, enzymes don't usually control only one function. They are usually involved in several bodily processes. You can't just delete them and expect no downstream effects. Unfortunately, too many people are perfectly fine with popping a pill or undergoing weight loss surgery and putting up with the side effects (like cosmic pizza grease), rather than adjusting their lifestyle. Popping a pill is easy. Cutting out sugar and processed carbs isn't easy. Eating more fruits and vegetables isn't easy. Getting up off of the couch and moving around more isn't easy. Oh sure, it's simple, but for the majority, it isn't easy. We're all victims looking for science to save us rather than realizing that humans were lean and healthy for hundreds of thousands of years. Here is a simple solution: stick to the perimeter of the store - produce, meat and eggs. Grab some olive oil and nuts and go home. If a food product is in a bright package with a cartoon character, put it back on the shelf. If it has a celebrity advertiser, put it back.

This is still in animal testing stages and may never come to fruition, but we don't need to tamper with the human body! The body is perfectly capable of maintaining itself if given the proper fuel, rest, and activity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Review: Death By Prescription

I just finished an excellent book by Dr. Ray D. Strand called Death By Prescription: The Shocking Truth Behind an Overmedicated Nation. Dr. Strand opens the book with an examination of the very chummy relationship between the FDA, the organization charged with protecting consumer health, and the pharmaceutical companies. This relationship results in huge conflicts of interest with the FDA groups that approved a drug also being the ones in charge of removing a harmful drug from the market. Dr. Strand also discusses how and why drugs are released much quicker than previously (hint: pharmaceutical companies can pay for "fast track" status). Reading just the first section, you'll realize that the FDA is more on the side of the pharmaceutical companies, who help finance the organization, than it is on the side of the medicated public.

The other sections of the book discuss over-the-counter medications and herbal concoctions, drug combinations, and the problems resulting from our reliance on specialists instead of a family doctor. And he even gives some guidelines at the end to maintain a healthful lifestyle and avoid prescription drugs. Unfortunately, he's a doctor, not a nutritionist and advises the same low-fat stuff we commonly hear about avoiding saturated fat and worrying about cholesterol levels. Regardless, if you just avoid the health guidelines chapter, Chapter 14 (or read it for a good laugh), you'll get much out of the book.

Through it all, he regales the reader with stories of individuals (both healthy and unhealthy) killed, nearly killed, or crippled by adverse drug reactions. When you combine adverse reactions to properly prescribed medications and adverse reactions to improperly prescribed medications (such as a screwup at the pharmacist), adverse drug reactions are the third leading cause of death in America. It sure makes me want to avoid pharmaceuticals more than I already do.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'll Take "Feed the Cows Grass for $1000, Alex"

Here is an article from last week's New York Times: Scientists Look to Vaccines in the War on E. Coli

E.coli 0157:H7 has been in the news quite a bit of late. This is the particularly virulent strain that causes humans so many problems, up to and including death. When the news first broke of E.coli-tainted spinach, the FDA went after the spinach growers and there was talk of irradiating produce to ensure no bacteria survived. What a typical response to look for a proximate cause instead of the ultimate one. Then it was green onions at Taco Bell. I mean, as if Taco Bell food couldn't be bad enough for your health, there was the threat of picking up something more viscous than the typical "next morning" response.

Well, now people are starting to look to the ultimate cause of E.coli 0157:H7, namely cows. Here's a brief primer: all mammals have E.coli in their digestive tracts. You do, I do, my dog does, your cat does, the horses that ran in this Saturday's Kentucky Derby do, and the little mouse that makes you shriek in fear does. It's all well and good until you go intermixing E.coli strains; 0157:H7 comes from cows. It is then passed out through the manure where it taints ground-water, which is sprayed on crops, and is used as fertilizer, mostly on organic crops since commercial agriculture uses chemicals. "So we should monitor produce suppliers to make sure they are not using E.coli-tainted water and manure!" Not so fast. Sure, there should be some burden on the produce growers, but let's look for the ultimate cause, not just a proximate one. The ultimate cause is the root; eliminate it and you eliminate the proximate ones. This strain of E.coli comes from corn-fed cows. The corn acidifies the stomach, which kills nearly all E.coli except this acid-resitant strain, which proliferates in the gut of the cows. An easy way of getting rid of E.coli 0157:H7 is to take away the acidic environment that it thrives in, by feeding the cattle grass. It has actually been shown that taking a cow off of corn and feeding it grass for only 5 days reduces E.coli 0157:H7 levels 1000-fold. Sounds pretty simple.

Too simple in fact. Oh, it would work, but that would be too easy of a solution. We need vaccines for the cows and for humans! Why do something simple like feed the cows a natural diet, even if only for 5 days, when we can simply pump them and ourselves full of more drugs? Ridiculous! I can't imagine the cost of 5 days of hay feeding being that prohibitive, especially when it comes to consumer health. And this my friends is the ultimate cause: corn. If we switch the cows to hay for 5 days (or better yet forever, as in grass-fed cows), the incidence of E.coli-illness would drop off drastically. We can vaccinate and irradiate and otherwise treat the symptom, or we can go to the source and eliminate it there. Would you cut down a tree by chopping off it's branches or would you cut off the trunk and destroy the roots?

We'll never learn until all Americans are vaccinated and drugged to the moon and back.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

HFCS Is Everywhere!

Just a short rant/observation from today:
I stopped by the grocery today to pick up a few things for the Kentucky Derby party this weekend. Near the bakery (had to get bread for the wife's spinach dip) is the deli and lots of fresh-made foods. I spied some deviled eggs and out of curiosity, I took a look while waiting for the fella behind the counter. And what should appear in the ingredients list? You guessed it...High Fructose Corn Syrup! In deviled eggs! For pity's sake, is nothing sacred? You take a quite healthful food like an egg in all of its delicious goodness and you add sugar. Why?! I wish I had continued reading beyond that point to see if there were any yummy hydrogenated oils.

As far as I know, deviled eggs need only eggs, mayonnaise, perhaps mustard, salt, pepper, some other spices, and if you're using Kate Welch's recipe, bacon. No trans fats, no added oils, and for Pete's sake, no high fructose corn syrup. I await the day when I pick up a package of chicken breasts and see an ingredient list containing high fructose corn syrup.