Nutrition Reviews

I intend in this post to discuss various news reports on nutrition, interspersed with comments on nutrition based upon what we know happens physiologically in the body. I will assume that most readers will have learned a lot of the basic physiology mentioned in this post, and will not just re-iterate the dogma about nutrition that is rampant on the news broadcasts and popular literature. Some of the statements made by doctors and researchers, as well as news reporters, are based on good science but most of them are not, and are conclusions made on assumptions that have never been shown scientifically to be accurate or applicable to what is being stated. I will try to point out all the assumptions made by researchers that I review. However, since the nutrition research has a very long record of assumptions, this will take time for me to find and report all of them. Many of these assumptions are in the textbooks, which notoriously do not cite the original research that lead to the conclusions upon which these assumptions are made. This is how myth perpetuates and multiplies.

The following topics are reviewed under news reports from NPR:

  • Dietary Supplements
  • Gluten-Free
  • Doctor Talk
  • Hormones and Obesity
  • Proteins

This post also will be updated in the future as more news reports on nutrition come out. Please see my post “Nutrition and Chemistry” for more in-depth discussion of the physics and chemistry of nutrition and the role of the brain in regulating eating.

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Recipes for Healthy Eating

Comment on “How To Make Healthy Eating Easier On The Wallet? Change The Calculation” reported on Morning Edition on May 17, 2012 where I describe the most nutritious way to prepare beans for a meal. I also describe how we should be choosing our foods for their chemistry because that is what our bodies do when it signals hunger. I go into much of the chemistry of specific foods and why we need each of the components. I explain how food chemistry can be used to get rid of toxins. I found that if you put together a meal based upon what you need chemically, you will create really delicious and very satisfying meals without stuffing yourself.

Summary

NPR reporter Allison Aubrey interviews Andrea Carlson who, with others at the USDA, looked at 4,000+ foods, comparing price per calorie (food energy), price by weight, and price per average amount consumed. She and her colleagues found that fresh produce, especially vegetables, are actually less expensive than the less-healthy foods (potato chips, processed cereals, and foods high in fat like cookies and pies), because “you get more bang–like vitamins and minerals–for the buck.” She suggests eating legumes (lentils and beans) because they can be very cheap. She also says to check labels for sugar because many foods have added sugar (yogurts sweetened with jam, sugary cereals, and granola bars). She also found that the cheaper meats often have more fat in them. Fat melts away when the meat is cooked, leaving less meat than the “more expensive” but leaner meats. If you weighed the cooked meat in each, you will find that the “cheaper” meats may end up being more expensive. Furthermore, she suggests to buy veggies frozen because you get the same nutrition but you do not have to eat the entire package all at once.

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Nutrition and Chemistry

posted:  20 Nov 2011
updated: 15 Sept 2012

How do nutritional needs of the body translate into chemical needs? How does the brain mediate this process by finding ways to satisfy those needs? This seems like a simple process, but any time the brain is involved, complexity is increased. The brain has to determine what nutrients we need using ALL of its resources. Since the brain stores more than just physiological information about the body, like emotional needs, memory of past evens associated with certain foods, it also affects motivation toward what, how, where, when and why we eat.

Much of what I present here has not been discussed in either the professional literature, or the news and represents a viewpoint of how the body works that I am presently developing for a book. This viewpoint is critical for understanding how nutrition works and clearly is not understood by the researchers since it has no effect on what and how nutrition is studied.  Names of many centers in the brain that I use here are not being used by other neuroscientists, nor are most of them even understood as separate centers or have been located by researchers. All of what I say is a guess by me based upon a theoretical map of the brain that I am presently working on. See my blog post “Nutrition Reviews” for closely relevant information to this post.

I also include comments on relevant news reports.

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Sweetness Preferences Change at Puberty

Comment on “Kids’ Sugar Cravings Might Be Biological” on Morning Edition Sept 26, 2011 where it was reported that sugar cravings are not an indicator of tendency toward obesity, but are found naturally in all children. Thus controlling obesity in children will not be successful if the only method used is an attempt to change the motivation of children toward sweets. The report relates sweetness preference instead to pain relief and to helping to promote growth in height.

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Toxins and the Eyes

What is going on when a baby is shaken? A recent report suggests that shaking a baby can cause a subdural hematoma, which can lead to death. Some parents may be wrongfully accused of shaking their baby, when toxins running under the skin might have caused the hematoma.

NPR logoThis is a comment on “Rethinking Shaken Baby Syndrome” on Morning Edition 29 June 2011.

You do not have to swallow or breathe in toxins to get them inside the body. They can enter through the eyes.

Fig. 1. Shaken Baby Symptoms

Summary

This is part of a series of reports on child deaths, done in collaboration with ProPublica and PBS Frontline. NPR reporter Joseph Shapiro discussed findings on Shaken Baby Syndrome with Dr. Norman Guthkelch, who wrote the paper defining Shaken Baby Syndrome (Guthkelch 1971). He was trying to explain an odd symptom that appeared in babies who died suddenly without any evidence of abuse.  He explained its possible occurrence from the observation that parents at that time in Northern England often punished their children by shaking them. He found to his horror that prosecuting attorneys were using his paper as evidence against a person accused of shaking a baby to death. Even though most prosecutors use subdural hematoma as evidence they also use two other symptoms, bleeding behind the retina and brain swelling.  However Guthkelch is still alarmed that a cause of death as Shaken Baby Syndrome is reached based upon only this triad of symptoms. Some experts think that there is already too much science so that abusers get away with killing their infants. Continue reading

Food Tips for Weight Loss

Do potatoes cause weight gain? A longitudinal study following people and their lifestyle choices (foods, exercise, smoking, etc.) so concluded. Theoretical and methodological reasons can be used to dispute their conclusions, since the researchers never investigated cause and effect with a controlled experiment.

NPR logoThis is a comment on “Trying To Lose Weight? Study May Have Some Pointers” on All Things Considered on 23 June 2011.

Updated: 4 Sept 2014

Summary

In an epidemiological study, Dr. Mozaffarian, et. al. (2011) followed 120,877 people over a period of over 20 years to see what they ate and if it was associated with whether they gained or lost weight.  They were not obese at the start of the study.  Lifestyle factors were also followed: smoking, physical activity, alcohol use, sleep cycle, TV watching.  It is an important epidemiological study which helps give us basic information that could help us devise better experimental studies on what causes weight gain.  Every four years an evaluation was made.  Results: participants gained an average of 3.35 lb every four years which was most strongly correlated with eating potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened drinks (1 lb), and meats (0.93-0.95 lb). Weight loss was most closely associated with eating vegetables (-0.22 lb), whole grains (-0.37 lb), fruits (-0.49 lb), and nuts (-0.57 lb) and yogurt (-0.82 lb). [So those commercials are right, after all?] The other lifestyle variables were also associated with gain or loss of weight. Continue reading

Preventing Breast Cancer

Normal Breast with empty ducts (purple circles/ellipses), by Itayba at Wikimedia
Normal Breast with empty ducts (purple circles/ellipses), by Itayba at Wikimedia
Breast cancer (fibroadenoma) which has infiltrated the duct (large purple regular or irregular circles), by KGH at Wikimedia
Breast cancer (fibroadenoma) which has infiltrated the duct (large purple regular or irregular circles), by KGH at Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does “risk” mean when they say that some behavior is a “risk” for some health disorder? How do the latest breast cancer surveys stack up in our quest for answers?

This is an extended comment on “Drug Shows Promise In Reducing Breast Cancer Risk” posted on NPR for 6 June 2011. No experiment shows that the drug prevents breast cancer, only a survey suggests a link between exemestane and lower breast cancer rates. Much of what was said in this report suggest causes of breast cancer have never been studied in a controlled experiment. By not doing so, the doctors can only suggest that exercise, eating healthy meals, losing weight or taking this drug might be good for the patient.  We just do not know what exactly these factors have to do with the occurrence of breast cancer.

Summary

A study in post-menopausal women found that a hormone-blocking drug, exemestane, which helps prevent re-occurrence of breast cancer may help prevent it.  It cuts “risk of invasive breast cancer” by 65%. NPR reporter Michele Norris interviewed Dr. Otis Brawley.  Exemestane will not work in pre-menopausal women.  Tamoxifen and raloxifene do seem to work in pre-menopausal.  This study lasted only three years.  Most of these drugs only work to reduce risk while women are taking it, so none are a cure. Tamoxifen increases risk of uterine cancer, blood clots and pulmonary emboli, but all of these drugs have serious side effects.  So it is critical to understand the risks of taking any of these drugs. Most women may not want to take it for the prescribed five years, and most must also take drugs for osteoporosis. Continue reading

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Functions of cholesterol. Hedgehog is a gene important for embryos. By Spevvy at Wikimedia.

Sometimes we need to think outside of the box” when it comes to finding answers to many of our health questions. The case of cholesterol, heart disease, and the medications used to combat it illustrates this principle very strongly.

Comment onStudy: Boosting Good Cholesterol With Niacin Did Not Cut Heart Risks” on All Things Considered 27 May 2011.  It appears there are multiple causes for cardiovascular disorders.  There is strong theoretical work that suggests cholesterol is a response by normal cells to an assault on cell membranes. So people who continue to claim that high cholesterol is a cause for cardiovascular disease are misinforming the public, and putting research on the wrong track. We need to use our understanding of basic chemistry to study what may be the cause of disease. By recognizing multiple causes of high LDL (low density lipids, a type of cholesterol), we can treat it in multiple ways, like diet, exercise, taking niacin and calcium supplements, and getting rid of toxins.

Updated: 2 Sept 2014

Summary

A study of Niaspan showed that it did raise “good cholesterol” (HDL, High Density Lipids), but it did not lower the rate of heart attacks. Patients on Niaspan were more likely to have a stroke than those on placebo.  NIH halted a big study of this drug early as a result.  NPR reporter Scott Hensley tells us that even though earlier observational studies (not experimental) show that high levels of HDL in people have been associated with “a lower risk of heart attack,” this does not mean that HDL helps to get rid of a cause of a heart attack. Based upon the assumption of causation, the HDL hypothesis states that raising HDL cholesterol should lower the risk of heart disease (it is hard to avoid thinking that “risk” does not mean “cause” in this hypothesis). More than 3400 patients were studied and all were also taking cholesterol-lowering drugs to control LDL (Low Density Lipids).  However, the FDA wants more studies, and does not recommend that patients stop taking niacin. Continue reading

Adolescent Blood Pressure and Obesity

Obese Woman (1612), page 377 from Michael Stolberg: ‘Abhorreas pinguedinem’: Fat and obesity in early modern medicine (c. 1500–1750). In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (2012), pages 370–378. Taken from PD at Wikimedia
Obese Woman (1612), page 377 from Michael Stolberg: ‘Abhorreas pinguedinem’: Fat and obesity in early modern medicine (c. 1500–1750). In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (2012), pages 370–378. Taken from PD at Wikimedia

Does high blood pressure cause heart disease? Or does something else cause both? Shouldn’t we be using the best methods that science can offer to answer this question?

Comment on “Nearly 1 In 5 Young Adults Have High Blood Pressure” on Morning Edition on 26 May 2011. This is a report on some of the results of a 13 year survey of adolescent lifestyles, attitudes, nutrition, and health outcomes. I caution the reader against reaching the same conclusions as the researchers did about high blood pressure being caused by obesity. No one has tested the possibility that something else might be causing both, since both conditions involve a breakdown or foul-up in cellular metabolism.

Updated: 2 Sept 2014

Summary:

NPR reporter Patti Neighmond interviewed sociologist Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina, one of several researchers (Nguyen et al., 2011) who found that the prevalence of hypertension (>140/90 mm Hg blood pressure) was greater than previously thought–one out of five 24-to-32-yr-olds (most recent data was from 2008). This report was one of many reports using data gathered on 14,000 teenagers, starting in 1995, as part of a larger study on health and social aspects of life in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health, NIH). The findings in this study are serious because high blood pressure eventually can make the body more vulnerable to ruptured blood vessels, blood clots, internal bleeding, diabetes and heart disease (Dr. Steven Hirschfeld, NIH).  In 1995 only 11% of 12-19-yr-olds were obese.  On follow-up five years later (study population =17-24), 22% were obese. By 2008, 67% of all young adults (which reflects national trends for all young adults) were overweight or obese. Patti Neighmond says that obesity “is known to cause high blood pressure”. However, a note of caution–other federal studies show less than one out of five young adults had hypertension, so more study is needed. Dr. Hirschfeld says that everyone should have checkups where their weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar and other measurements are made.  However, a typical 20-something won’t get regular checkups or check their blood pressure. Continue reading

The Brave New World of Egg-Freezing

In vitro fertilization method. Eggs are taken from the woman at their peak of production, placed in a petri dish, sperm (from the sperm donor) are injected into each egg with a hollow needle to mechanically fertilize the egg. A narrated animation is available. Made by BruceBlaus at Wikimedia, where a natural fertilization video is available.
In vitro fertilization method. Eggs are taken from the woman at their peak of production, placed in a petri dish, sperm (from the sperm donor) are injected into each egg with a hollow needle to mechanically fertilize the egg. A narrated animation is available. Made by BruceBlaus at Wikimedia, where a natural fertilization video is available.

What are the latest reproductive technologies, and what is their impact on our social systems? It has been a complaint for many years that technological innovation often surpasses the capabilities of our social system to adapt to it. Is this the case also with new methods of reproduction?

Comment on “Egg Freezing Puts The Biological Clock On Hold” on Morning Edition 31 May 2011. This report on the latest reproductive technologies of egg-freezing did not address the sociological and psychological effects of such technology. Instead, it informed how it was done and what the success rate in fertility was for the women who chose this method. I also discuss sperm donation, and the social effects of sexual selection in China.

Updated: 2 Sept 2014

Summary

NPR reporter Jennifer Ludden interviews women who froze their eggs and had children later in life, and doctors who use or do research on fertility methods involved with egg freezing. They speak about whether it is possible to get pregnant from frozen eggs, what kind of child is born as a result, success rates of pregnancy, age limits for donating eggs.  Nothing was said about the lives of children born to women having children late in life. The implications of genetic engineering could also be considered. Continue reading

Calcium Supplements

Calcium Supplements, by Kham Tran at Wikimedia
Calcium Supplements, by Kham Tran at Wikimedia

When it comes to the chemistry of what we eat, we need to understand the chemistry of our own bodies. A calcium supplement is not the same from one form to the next. We never take “elemental” calcium. Instead we can take a supplement made of calcium bonded with some other chemical element(s). Which are appropriate? News reports do not tell us much about that.

Comment on “Extra Calcium May Not Do Older Women Much Good” on All Things Considered 25 May 2011. I raise questions about this study in an attempt to show how important our understanding of physiology is to the planning of studies. This was not an experiment reported on but a survey, with the lack of controls inherent in such a method of inquiry. Thus we have to be careful about the conclusions reached in the title to the study above.

Updated: June 19, 2011

Summary:

NPR reporter Nancy Shute reports on studies of the benefits of calcium supplements on bones in women. A recent study in the British Medical Journal followed 61,000 Swedish women over a period of 19 years and found that they gained no benefit in their bones by taking more than 750 mg of calcium per day.  Other studies in the US and other countries appear to find little benefit either, but this did not stop the Institute of Medicine from recommending that women over 50 take 1200 mg per day, regardless of no signs of bone loss. There are also problems with taking large amounts of calcium, leading to kidney stones and possibly cardiovascular problems. Continue reading

Coffee and Prostate Cancer

Cup of Coffee by Julius Schorzman at Wikimedia
Cup of Coffee by Julius Schorzman at Wikimedia

The latest report on coffee and prostate cancer may mislead those who cannot tell the difference between causation and correlation. Beware of observational studies that propose “preventions” of any disorder.

Comment on “Coffee May Lower Risk Of Deadliest Prostate Cancer” on Morning Edition 18 May 2011. This study shows there is a link between people who drink coffee and not dying from prostate cancer. I discuss how news media reports have distorted the findings to suggest that drinking coffee may prevent dying from prostate cancer. I discuss possible controlled experiments that could be done to show the latter conclusion, as well as the kind of thinking that must be done before doing a study like this to make sure that the methods are based upon well-grounded physiological theory.

Updated: 2 Sept 2014

Summary

NPR reporter John Knox talked with Harvard researchers who took information from almost 50,000 male health professionals about their coffee-drinking habits and found that those who drank at least six cups of coffee a day formed a statistical group that developed prostate cancer at a level of 60% below that in a statistical group of men who drank less.  This is a very clear restatement of what John Knox said.  He, and the researcher he interviewed, used the term “risk”, which implies that to avoid the likelihood (“risk”) of developing prostate cancer, you could drink six cups of coffee per day, thus reducing the “risk” of prostate cancer. They cite a study done by Wilson et. al., (2011). The study did not find any difference in the occurrence of or presence of sub-lethal stages of prostate cancer. Continue reading

Science Says Diets Cannot Fight Chronic Pain

Fakir on bed of nails (1907), from Wikimedia
Fakir on bed of nails (1907), from Wikimedia

Updated: 01 Sept 2014

Pain. We all have it at some time. Headache, joint pain, back ache, muscle cramps, stomach ache. You name the organ, and we can feel pain there under different circumstances. Many solutions have been suggested for getting rid of the pain. Should we get rid of it totally? or are we missing the point of having pain at all? Most would agree that we have to treat chronic pain, or we could “go crazy.” It is more than just a nuisance for many. Is there a difference between chronic pain and acute pain? What can we do to alleviate pain?

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Surgical Approach to Sleep Apnea

Is surgery necessary or even better than alternative treatments for sleep apnea? Is it appropriate even if we don’t know the cause?

Comment on “How to Beat Sleep Apnea? Cut It Out (Surgically)” on Morning Edition on 14 March 2011,  where I discuss how doctors need to consider environmental causes other than germs, like toxins, as a cause of sore throats. Toxins can damage tissue, attracting predatory microbes. They can also interfere with nerve transmission, preventing proper muscle contraction, gland secretion, and control of fluid flow in the subcutaneous tissues of the nose and throats.


Updated: Aug 16, 2011

Collapse of Pharynx during sleep can cause apnea, by Habib M'henni & User:DMY on Wikimedia
Collapse of Pharynx during sleep can cause apnea, by Habib M’henni & User:DMY on Wikimedia

Summary:

This report described cases of sleep apnea in adults.  NPR reporter Patti Neighmond interviewed Dr. Erica Thaler, an eye, ear, nose and throat surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. She describes a patient, Daniel Sheiner, who had  an obstruction at the back of the throat which caused his sleep apnea.  He tried different methods to allow him to sleep through the night, but none worked, so she performed a type of robotic surgery that removed excess tissue that had built up in the back of the throat that included swollen tonsils.  Another doctor, Rashmi N. Aurora, says surgery should be suggested only for younger patients, and describes several other techniques that can be used. Continue reading

Treating Sleep Disordered Breathing in Kids by Tonsillectomy

Collapse of Pharynx during sleep can cause apnea, by Habib M'henni & User:DMY on Wikimedia
Collapse of Pharynx during sleep can cause apnea, by Habib M’henni & User:DMY on Wikimedia

A tonsillectomy is now being used to treat sleep apnea and snoring in kids. They did away with that operation to treat infection. Will they discover it is not wise even for obstructed breathing during sleep?

Modified comment on “Say Aaa! Then Zzz: Tonsillectomy Helps Kids Sleep” on Morning Edition, 14 March 2011,  where I discuNational Public Radioss how doctors need to consider environmental causes other than germs, like toxins, as a cause of sore throats. Toxins can damage tissue, attracting predatory microbes. They can also interfere with nerve transmission, preventing proper muscle contraction, gland secretion, and control of fluid flow in the subcutaneous tissues of the nose and throats.

Updated 16 Aug 2011

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On “Healthy” Ice Cream

Ice Cream Cones from Lee Wardlaw: My Books
Ice Cream Cones from Lee Wardlaw: My Books

What is “healthy” ice cream? Is it healthier without the fat of a “real” ice CREAM? We can use knowledge about the chemistry of our foods to help us choose better foods when we feel hungry.

Modified comment on “Does Healthy Ice Cream Taste Good?“, reported on Morning Edition 14 March 2011, where I discuss what healthy eating is and how our chemical needs dictate what we want when we eat.

Updated 21 May 2011

Summary

Researchers at the University of Missouri tried to make an ice cream healthier by adding fiber, antioxidants and probiotics (bacteria that can survive freezing). This was a very short report that left out other critical information, e.g. milk instead of cream? Sugar or sugar substitute? Continue reading

Sleep: What it Does

Why sleep and why dream? Why do some of us insist they do not just because they cannot remember what they dreamed? How does sleep apnea fit into the functions of dreaming?

National Public RadioSleep apnea is reported in Eight Is Too Much For ‘Short Sleepers’, (Saturday Weekend Edition 16 April 2011). So why is apnea more likely in those who get what has been called the recommended amount of sleep? The real functions of sleep and dreaming might explain how damage elsewhere in the body could be responsible for sleep apnea. The amount of sleep that a person needs might demand a more complex study than just its association with apnea. There may be better tests of hypotheses which could determine how short sleepers are different from long sleepers.

Updated: 08 Aug 2016

Sleeping Baby from New Baby and You, http://www.newbabyandyou.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/sleep_hours-300x181.jpg

Summary

A team of scientists at the University of California at San Francisco found an association between certain genetic mutations and a propensity toward ‘short sleeping’, where people routinely sleep only four to six hours a night and seem to function as well or better than those who needed longer sleep times. They found that short sleepers tend to be very active, have faster metabolisms, to be thinner, are more energetic, have more positive attitudes, and a higher tolerance for pain than the ‘long sleepers’.
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On Finding Cholesterol in Egyptian Mummies

Egyptian Mummy, Third Century, from Louvre Museum, by Zubro Copyright © 2002, at Wikimedia (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mummy_Louvre.jpg)

Does cholesterol in arteries come from what we eat? How does cholesterol relate to environmental stress? To toxins?

These comments are on a report, “Egyptian Mummies Diagnosed With Clogged Arteries” on NPR’s All Things Considered for 9 April 2011, where I dispute the assumption made by the scientists interviewed here that cholesterol in arteries comes from diet. There is a lot of evidence that it does not and that all cholesterol is produced by the liver in response to environmental stress (coming from the internal environment). I suggest that blood vessel cells make more cholesterol to protect them from the toxins.

Updated: June 20, 2011

Summary:

Dr. Greg Thomas and a team of scientists thought that if they observed, with a CT scanner, a population of people from an earlier historical period when most were active, ate a variety of fresh foods, and mostly low in fat, and did not consume tobacco, that they would show healthy arteries.  The scientists chose Egyptian mummies because they were bodies with soft parts that were readily available for examination because they came from a privileged population who were unlikely ever to have suffered from starvation.  They were surprised to find evidence of atherosclerosis, and some very severe cases of high cholesterol. Continue reading